Physics on the Golf Course
Your great drive on the golf course depends as much on physics as your skill. The smooth balls which were used until the early 1900's would only travel about 70 yards, even when driven well. A good golfer today can drive dimpled golf balls over four times farther.
Why do about 400 dimples, less than a quarter of a millimetre deep, make such a difference? It's all to do with air drag. The moment a golf ball leaves your club, air begins to impede its trip to the green. A thin layer of air clings to the surface of the ball at the front, and then passes over the ball as it moves, eventually breaking away from the surface at the back of the ball. This sets up little currents of turbulence behind the ball which slow it down. Dimples on the surface of the ball cause the air to cling to it longer. When the air finally breaks away from a dimpled ball, a narrower stream of turbulence is produced, which causes less drag.
In addition, since a golf ball spins backwards when you strike it, the dimples carry air over the top of the ball, where it travels faster than air underneath the ball. This causes the air pressure above the ball to be lower than the pressure beneath it. So the dimpled ball experiences a greater lift, keeping it flying through the air longer.
So next time you get a perfect drive onto the green, give some of the credit to the dimples on the ball, and to the laws of physics.
It’s amazing to think that those dimples on the golf ball can make such a difference in performance. Surprising because what we don’t readily see is the effect the design has on the air through which it travels. We don’t see air drag and turbulence, resistance and air currents. What we do see is the result of these laws of physics as our ball lands in a trap or on the green.
Of course these laws were there all along. It’s just that we couldn’t identify them despite the fact that we have experienced them routinely in various ways. Cars and jets are aerodynamically designed to make best advantage of energy and speed. Athletes run at a forward incline. Fishermen cast their line with a degree of lift so that the lure travels a greater distance over the surface of the water. We work with laws we cannot see but know to be true.
Physics is just one kind of law under which we operate. There are other types of laws, many of which, to be sure, are not as unchanging as natural laws. For example, if you have ever lived in another culture, you will know that there are social and cultural laws which are just as strongly held and enforced. If you have owned a business, you have discovered the law of supply and demand. We all live under various kinds of written, as well as unwritten, laws.
In the spiritual world, there are also laws that operate. We don’t necessarily see them. Nor do some people even acknowledge their existence. Yet a refusal to acknowledge and work within physical laws won’t change the fact of their reality or their influence on one’s life. However, one’s golf game may well suffer on account of it.
Spiritual laws have to do with one’s relationship to the giver of law, the Creator and Source of life. Humankind’s spiritual quest is as much a part of our history as our desire to understand the natural world in which we live. Sometimes we just don’t recognize that in all our striving we have been operating not only under natural laws, but also spiritual ones which have their own standards and goals.
David Humphreys and Debbie Hughes
© August 2004