WHAT MAKES A GOLF BALL FLY? The aerodynamics of a golf ball involves two pairs of opposing forces: lift and weight (the pull of gravity), and thrust and drag. Hitting a golf ball creates a forward thrust. It also creates a rapid back spin on the ball as it travels. This forces the air flow downward and produces lift. Lift occurs whenever the air pressure beneath an object, like an airplane's wing, is greater than the air pressure above it. But a golf ball can't travel in the air forever: the force of lift is countered by the equal and opposite force of drag -- the result of air friction on the ball's surface -- and the pull of gravity (since the object has weight). Eventually these forces become greater than the lift and thrust, and the golf ball descends to the ground.
DIMPLES ARE SO CUTE: The dimples on a golf ball are also important when it comes to keeping the ball in the air longer. Dimples allow air to flow over the ball's surface more easily, with less friction, and therefore less drag. Changing the pattern of dimples alters the amount of drag on the ball as it flies through the air. The researchers developed a computer algorithm that could quickly and accurately analyze the interactions that happen as the dimpled ball cuts through the air.