Dimples breakthrough!

Boffins claim they could cure a slice or hook

Bob Warters
Tue, 2 Dec 2008
Dimples breakthrough!

golf ball dimples
Dimples on a typical golf ball - this is the Titleist DT Roll

Choose your golf ball to correct a slice or a hook - that could be the next golf technology revolution according University computer engineers in the US.

While manufacturers are currently revealing equipment where the golfer can select a shaft, a clubhead, a loft or can screw in an insert to change the shape of a ball's trajectory, the next generation of club designers are seeking a more simple method.

The dimples on a golf could hold the secret to stopping those most destructive of golf shots - the slice and the hook.

While most of us believe you can hardly improve on the best-selling Titleist Pro V1 ball or the Nike, Callaway and TaylorMade balls used by Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson and Sergio Garcia respectively, the researchers claim extra yardage and control could be on the way for even the shortest hitters and slowest swing speeds merely by closer examination of the dimples. They say it could dramatically change the game.

golfball dimples
Selection of ball flights that differently-dimpled balls might encourage or cure

It's common knowledge among golfers that dimples reduce drag, allowing the ball to fly farther than if it had a smooth surface. But there are so many dimple pattern combinations that it's nearly impossible to know which gives us maximum distance and most control.

It seems the university professors are now delving into what they claim is 'taking some of the trial and error out of the equation,' as well as unveiling 'more efficient air flow ideas.'

And the Rules of Golf won't stand in their way because there are no Rules concerned with dimples.

While a golf ball cannot weigh more than 1.620 ounces, it must pass through a 1.680-inch ring gauge in fewer than 25 of 100 randomly selected positions at a room temperature from 71.6 to 75.2 degrees. Furthermore, it must be spherically symmetrical, have an initial velocity and its combined carry and roll must not exceed precise limits. Also the ball must be tested using equipment specified by the R&A or USGA.

But in terms of size and number of dimples there are no specifications in the Rules, which is where the University boffins are intrigued and determined to press on with their research to find the perfect design.

“We have a reasonable understanding of the effect of the dimples and the way they change local air-flow distribution around the ball,” Kyle Squires, a professor of mechanical engineering at Arizona State University told the New York Times this week. “We’re now beginning to do some simulations where the ball rotates so that we can begin to understand what the ball does in real life.

"The design of the dimples also affects the direction a ball takes so it's conceivable that we could design dimples that would lower the risk of a hook or a slice,” he says.

“There are an infinite number of patterns, and we can’t test all of them,” he said. “But we’ll certainly be able to come up with a better pattern. Why would we expect that the best pattern is on the shelf right now?”

golfball dimples
Dimple design shown above left, is an Octahedral 392 dimple configuration and an Icosahedral 432 dimple configuration (left).

But while the university engineers believe they can find the ideal dimple pattern and possibly one to cure a hook or slice, the manufacturers aren't convinced.

Steve Ogg, Callaway's golf ball research and development chief, is dubious.

“We design experiments that vary the geometry of the dimples systematically,” he's reported as saying. “It’s not trial and error — it’s a scientific experiment. Computer simulation is a resource, and they’ll end up learning something from it, but it would be very difficult to design a golf ball with it.”

What would you pay for a golf ball that can cure your slice or hook? Or are you still attracted to the idea that it's the 'not knowing' what shot you're going to hit next that is part of the attraction of golf and the vast array of golf equipment? Tell us on the forum.