The golf ball didn’t always look like it does today. Early golf balls were actually made of leather and stuffed with wet goose feathers! These balls were called “featheries.”
Over time, manufacturers began making golf balls with the gum of the sapodilla tree. The gum was heated and formed into a perfect sphere. These golf balls were called “gutta-perchas.”
Golfers believed that smooth golf balls would travel farther through the air because a smooth surface would create less wind resistance. But they were wrong!
Golfers quickly noticed smooth gutta-perchas did not soar through the air as well as featheries. Over time, however, they began to notice that scuffed, scratched and dented gutta-perchas covered a greater distance than smooth ones.
Like many inventions, the golf ball dimple was discovered accidentally. By 1930, the dimpled golf ball had become the standard in golfing.
A golf ball with dimples can travel almost twice as far as a smooth golf ball. By adding dimples to the ball, golf ball manufacturers minimize drag forces that pull back on the ball or slow it down.
Dimples also help lift the ball by forcing airflow downward, which pushes the ball upward. These are the same principles of aerodynamics that airplanes use to fly.
There are no rules about how many dimples a golf ball has to have. Most have 300 to 500 dimples. The most common number of dimples is 392.
It was once thought that the more dimples a ball had, the further it would travel. This theory has been disproved, but that hasn’t stopped golf ball manufacturers from creating all sorts of dimpled balls.
Golf balls can have dimples that are deep, shallow, large or small. Some golf balls have different sizes of dimples on the same ball. Dimples come in all different shapes, including circles, ovals, teardrops and even hexagons like a soccer ball.