Golf balls have dimples — why?

2013-02-01 00:00

SOMEONE asked the other day, why golf balls have dimples. The answer is one of the following:

1. dimples grip the face of the club;

2. dimples give the ball a steadier and longer flight;

3. to make them easier to find in the grass as light hits the dimples;

4. the balls were originally covered in treated pig skin and the dimples replicate this pock-marked effect; or

5. not to confuse them with ping-pong balls.

Read on for the answer.

It is believed that golf balls were originally made from hard wood, but the earliest reference to them is of feather balls in 1618 during James VI of Scotland’s reign. They had a leather casing made in two halves, softened and sewn together leaving a small hole through which to stuff the feathers. To give the ball a smooth finish, the leather was turned inside-out and the rough seams were hidden. It was laborious work and a ball maker could produce only three featheries a day. It wasn’t until 1848 that the ball changed. It was discovered that the thickened sap from the Malaysian gutta-percha tree, a reddish brown horn-like substance, made perfectly good golf balls.

It wasn’t an instant success. It was too smooth and it tended to duck in flight. It was noticed that it flew better towards the end of a round than it did at the beginning. This was because of the cuts, nicks and dents. There was no knowledge of aerodynamics in those days. Eventually, steel moulds were made that produced a mesh shape.

The gutty was much cheaper than the feathery and reigned supreme for 55 years until it was superseded by the Haskell ball. Dr Coburn Haskell, an American dentist from Cleveland Ohio, developed a ball with strips of elastic wound around a liquid-filled rubber core with a casing of gutta-percha.

Dimples were developed and patented in 1905. The casing material evolved over the years, as did the inside section of the ball. A solid ball was developed during the seventies and was virtually indestructible, but they were as hard as stone.

Science and technology took over in the development of golf balls and its dimples. Materials like surlyn and a balata were used. We now have a ball that has never travelled so far, so perfectly round and blemish-free. The new synthetic balata is a hard-wearing urethane that gives the golfer a soft feel on the putter and club face.

A golf ball is a thing of beauty with its glossy, silky feel and it seems such a pity to place one on a tee and slog it into the bush.

The answer is 2.

From the 19th hole

A husband takes his wife to a disco for old time’s sake.

There’s a guy on the dance floor giving it his all. He is limbo dancing, break dancing, moon-walking, back flipping — the works.

The wife turns to her husband and says: “See that guy over there? Twenty-five years ago he proposed to me and I turned him down for you.

Husband says: “Wow. It looks like he’s still celebrating.”

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