Science of Golf: dimples

Think of it as a linear particle accelerator, but instead of atoms, golf balls are propelled at speeds up to 200 miles per hour through a corridor that is 70 feet long and banked with infrared sensors. That’s the tool the United States Golf Association (USGA) Research and Test Center uses to test golf balls. The USGA regulates the diameter and weight of a golf ball, and places standards on speed, distance, and aerodynamics.
Find out more about the sport of golf and those uniquely dimpled balls with the video springboard Science of Golf: Why Golf Balls Have Dimples, produced by NBC Learn and the USGA. Lesson plans focused on engineering processes developed by NSTA help you take the videos into your classroom, exposing your students to not only another sport, but to the science and engineering behind it.
To find out more about what engineers and others do in “real life,” visit the USGA Research and Test Center. It might be a career path for some of your students.
In the meantime, grab your favorite beverage and give the videos, available cost-free on, a quick overview. While Martin Kaymer dominated the U.S. Open and Michelle Wie made a clutch birdie to secure a win in the Women’s, there’s more excitement still to come this summer at the U.S. Senior Open, played July 10-13, played in Edmond, Oklahoma.
Find out for yourself what the game—and the science—is all about.
Exotic image of a pink golf ball courtesy of Aftab Uzzaman.
P.S. And although color is not addressed in the video, know that pink balls undergo the same rigorous testing, as do the yellow, blue, green, and fluorescents. As long as it has dimples—it’s fair game!
SOG: Why Golf Balls Have Dimples is about how small depressions on the surface of a golf ball make it unique and especially suited for the game.
STEM Lesson Plan—Adaptable for Grades 7–12
SOG: Why Golf Balls Have Dimples guides students in designing and testing a dimpled golf ball according to criteria and constraints established by the class. It also provides ideas for STEM exploration plus strategies to support students in their own quest for answers.
You can use the following form to e-mail us edited versions of the lesson plans: [contact-form 2 “ChemNow]

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