Physics of Golf

Physics of Golf

The game of golf has been troubling people since the day the Scots invented it back in the 15th century.  How can hitting a little ball that isn’t even moving at a similarly still target be so difficult that golf experts say in order to play “bogie” golf it would take an average player six years of regular play and weekly lessons? (a bogie is one stroke above par)  Well, there are both mental and physical aspects that go into being a successful golfer; the physics behind the sport play a prevalent role in understanding both of those aspects.

The golf swing is a prime example of angular motion in action.  The faster a golfer is capable of getting his/her club head to go at the bottom of their swing, the more kinetic energy they will be capable of transmitting from the club head to the ball.  This is because kinetic energy is proportional to the mass of the club head and the square of its velocity.(1)  Similar to what I talked about when I described the physics of hitting a baseball, when a golf club makes contact with a golfball the ball is deformed at the point of contact.  This is where ball selection comes into play on the PGA tour.  Golfers who choose to hit balls with harder cores will not experience the same amount of deformation as the golfers who choose to hit softer balls.  The balls with harder cores provide a more efficient transfer of kinetic energy, causing the golfball to go further. At first glance it seems silly that any professional golfer would choose to use the soft cores but in order to maximize the amount of energy stored inside of the golfball professional golfers must relate the speed of their swings to what type of balls they choose to hit.

After a golfer makes contact with the ball there are three important factors that determine how his shot turns out.  The first factor is the speed at which the ball comes off of his/her club.  The reason Tiger woods can hit the ball so far is because the ball comes off of his club at a speed that is about 25 MPH faster than that of his competitors. (1)  The second factor is the angle at which the golf ball comes off of the club and propels through the air.  The final factor that has an affect on where the shot ends up going involves the spin put on the ball by the club at the point of contact.


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