Science of Golf: evolution of the golf ball

Baseballs have their stitching. Soccer balls have their black-and-white pentagons. And golf balls have their dimples! All have the potential to aerodynamically affect the balls’ movement through the air—to the players’ advantage when they know how to use it.

Sometimes I think I should just be hitting a solid ping pong ball because I can’t hit the ball hard enough with my shorter irons to take advantage of the dimples. Or, in golf parlance, I don’t generate enough club head speed for many of my clubs to enable the dimples to do their thing. While it makes sense that the harder you hit a golf ball the farther it goes, having dimples on the ball can make it go even farther with the same swing. Take a look at the Science of Golf: Evolution of the Golf Ball to see why.

The Science of Golf series, produced by NBC Learn in partnership with the United States Golf Association (USGA) and Chevron, can give you STEM tools to engage your students in science and engineering processes as the school year begins and your class roster is still in flux. The videos are available cost-free on The companion NSTA-developed lesson plans give you a lot of ideas for how to use the videos as a centerpiece, or simply incorporate them into what you already do.

Give them a try with students, and then let us know what worked and what didn’t. Just leave a comment.

–Judy Elgin Jensen

P.S. Found this cool video bit while ambling around the ‘net. Get students to think about innovation as part of the engineering process with this video as inspiration: Dimpled Car MiniMyth. Ask students to suggest other applications of dimples that might enhance a feature of a product in existence.

Image of a fractured golf ball courtesy of Tim Sheerman-Chase.


SOG: Evolution of the Golf Ball discusses the history and physics of golf balls, along with ongoing research and development aimed at producing optimal distance and spin properties.


STEM Lesson Plan—Adaptable for Grades 7–12

The lesson plan provides ideas for STEM exploration plus strategies to support students in their own quest for answers and as well as a more focused approach that helps all students participate in hands-on inquiry.

The SOG: Evolution of the Golf Ball lesson plan describes how students might investigate a question about the design of golf balls.\

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One Comment

  1. Gina Alexander
    Posted March 29, 2017 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    Golf is like life in a lot of ways. All the biggest wounds are self-inflicted.

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