Most balls on sale today have about 300 to 450 dimples.There were a few balls having over 500 dimples before. The record holder was a ball with 1,070 dimples — 414 larger ones (in four different sizes) and 656 pinhead-sized ones.
All brands of balls, except one, have even-numbered dimples. The only odd-numbered ball on market is a ball with 333 dimples.
Officially sanctioned balls are designed to be as symmetrical as possible.A ball can have six rows of normal dimples on its equator, and very shallow dimples elsewhere.
This asymmetrical design helps the ball self-adjust its spin-axis during the flight. The USGA did not sanction it and changed the rules to ban aerodynamic asymmetrical balls. The ball supplier sued the USGA and the USGA paid U.S. $1.375 million in an out of court settlement.
The number of dimples on a golf ball varies, depending on the manufacturer and may even be different for different models made by the same manufacturer.
The dimples are usually the same size as one another, but some golf balls have several different sizes of dimple on the same ball. Any number between 300 and 500 dimples is reasonable, and 336 is a common number.
Not just any number will do. Golf balls are usually covered with dimples in a spherically symmetrical way, and for many values of N, it is impossible to cover the golf ball uniformly without gaps.
Symmetry is important or the ball will wobble or its flight will depend on which part of the ball is forwards or sideways as the ball spins. You can get an idea of how to space dimples uniformly around a sphere by thinking about the “platonic solids” — the tetrahedron, cube, octahedron, dodecahedron and icosahedron, and placing a dimple at the corners of an inscribed platonic solid.
Variations on this theme give the corners of Buckminster Fuller’s geodesic domes, and also the possible symmetrical locations of dimples on a golf ball.
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