Monday, February 22, 2010

The Physics of Golf

The Physics of Golf, is a title that a popular book goes by on the subject. Theodore Jorensen's book provides players with a guide to how physics relates to the game. Ultimately, it relates to the ball & club design, ball trajectory (or flight) and swing dynamics.

Looking at the swing itself first which is a great example of angular motion. Here, study of the swing has pointed to some sound swing principles that allow for better shots. Ultimately, club head velocity (speed) will determine a good amount of the distance. For, with greater velocity, greater kinetic energy will be transferred to the ball. Little wonder that golf pros with 100-mph swings can get the ball further than players who have slower swing speeds. Ultimately, the formula: distance = mass x acceleration, is a good summary.

The angle by which the club strikes the ball can also have an important effect. Some research carried out has suggested that there is also an optimum lie angle between club shaft and face for ball striking, relating to club head speed.

Another issue relates to ball contact itself. Optimum club head contact with the ball will also allow for greater distance. This is sometimes referred to as the sweet spot of the club, and is actually a central point where ball contact is ideal. Striking the ball on this spot will transfer best into a longer, and more accurate shot, due to greater backspin imparted on the ball.

In addition, there we have that key term known as backspin. Without it, the ball will not go very far! Ultimately, backspin allows the ball to gain loft and stay longer in the air. At any rate, different backspin applied to the ball, will indeed, translate to different ball trajectory. For example, with insufficient backspin it will drop sooner, and not go so far. Ultimately, backspin relates to ball aerodynamics.

Moreover, with that, you cannot ignore the design of the ball itself. Today, golf ball design is dimpled.  As such, a dimpled ball will travel a good deal further than a smooth one. This is because the ball dimples create turbulence, which prevents air pressure behind the ball from dropping.  So better golf balls can give players an advantage.

Golf clubs also have more advanced designs too. Their lighter-weight shafts, such as graphite, can allow for faster swings, and those long distance clubs do tend to have big club heads. Remember the part of mass in the distance formula?

In fact, the USPGA (United States Professional Golf Association) now give guidelines on golf ball as well as club design. Simply because, while the study of physics has greatly enhanced the design of clubs, it must remain the case that one club does not provide too much of a disparity over another club. As such, things like balls have a distance measurement.

Overall, golf physics make an interesting study for any golfer. For more on the subject, Jorenson's book could be well worth a look.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for making my morning a little bit better with this great article!!

Matthew said...

Your welcome!