How Many Dimples Are On a Golf Ball?

And does the number of dimples reveal anything about the ball?

Dimples shows on two golf balls and their reflection
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Golf balls are covered in dimples, indentations in the ball's surface. But just how many of those little dimples are there on golf balls?

The number of dimples on today's golf balls typically ranges between 300 and 500, with variations between make and model of golf balls.

Within that broader range, there is a narrower band from around 320 dimples to around 420 dimples that most golf balls fit into, and the majority of golf balls today have dimple counts in the 300s.

Prominently touting the dimple count of golf balls was something that golf brands once did much more than they do today. Still, companies often (but not always) tell golfers how many dimples are on golf balls: It's sometimes among the numbers printed on golf balls, or it might be listed on a company's website or in advertising.

What Determines How Many Dimples Are on a Golf Ball?

Where do those numbers come from? Does a golf ball manufacturer decide to shoot for a particular number of dimples? Or is the specific number on a ball more happenstance?

Think of it this way: There's a finite amount of space on the surface of a golf ball. By rule, golf balls have a minimum diameter of 1.68 inches; occasionally a ball will be manufactured larger than that, but if so, it's larger by a very, very small degree. So virtually all golf balls are 1.68 inches in diameter.

Given that, how many dimples will even fit on a golf ball?

That depends on how big the individual dimples are. Dimple size is a consideration in golf ball design. Or, to state it another way, designing your dimples is a step in designing your golf ball.

The final number of dimples on a ball is determined by:

  • The golf ball's size and surface area;
  • The size of the dimples themselves;
  • How the dimples are arranged on the ball (the "dimple pattern").

A manufacturer that uses larger dimples, or more space between them, will, obviously, wind up with a golf ball that has fewer of them compared to balls on which smaller or more tightly arranged dimples are used.

So how many dimples are on golf balls is definitely not happenstance, but manufacturers don't start designing their golf balls with a dimple number in mind. The dimple count is the outcome of other design choices in the manufacturing process.

Does the Number of Dimples on a Golf Ball Indicate Anything About Quality or Performance?

How many dimples are on a golf ball doesn't tell the consumer anything about the quality of the ball, or whether it's a good buy for the price.

But it does, very generally, indicate something else. Today, most golf balls aimed at better golfers (low-handicappers) have lower dimple counts - closer to 300. And many of the golf balls aimed at higher-handicappers - golf balls that focus on distance - have higher dimple counts (in the 400s). But again, that's a generality and is not true in every case. And it's not because 300 is better than 400, but rather the result of the size and shape of the dimples and the flight characteristics for which the designers were aiming.

Which leads us to another question ...

Is There a Way to Know Whether a Ball's Dimple Pattern Is Right for You?

Yes, and it's those things we mentioned earlier: The size, shape, and depth of the individual dimples, and the dimple pattern.

But here's the thing: Even if you know the physics of golf ball dimple design, what good does it do you? You're not going to carry around a ruler or compass or protractor and start taking measurements of those little pock marks.

However, the golf ball companies do, indirectly, let consumers know something about the dimples on their golf balls. Dimple design influences such things as how high a golf ball flies, whether the trajectory is flatter or more ballooning, and spin rates.

Check the packaging. Most golf ball companies tell golfers on the packaging about the flight characteristics of the ball on sale.

Turn the box over and look at the back - you might even find diagrams illustrating the ball's flight properties.

Another place to look: Company websites. Many companies include information about the dimple design - beyond just the number of dimples - on their website's product pages. Some even include ball-fitting tutorials that help golfers select the best golf ball for their skill level and type of swing.