The Physics
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Force of a Golf Club on a Golf Ball

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Cutnell, John D. & Kenneth W. Johnson. Physics -Third Edition.New York: John Wiley & Sons Inc, 1995: 190. "When a 0.045 kg golf ball takes off after being hit, its speed is 41 m/s. (a) How much work is done on the ball by the club? (b) Assume that the force of the golf club acts parallel to the motion of the ball and that the club is in contact with the ball for a distance of 0.010 M. Ignore the weight of the ball and determine the average force applied to the ball by the club." 3,800 N
Surprising Golf Facts. "During a collision between the ball and driver, peak force applied to the ball can be as high as 4000 pounds." 18,000 N
Haake, Steve. "The Physics of Golf." Science Spectra. Number 13 (1997). "The normal force rises to approximately 2,000 lbs. (9 kN) during the half-millisecond of impact." 9,000 N
"Figure 1: Typical forces experienced by a golf ball during impact with a golf club. [Graph ranges from 0 lbs to 2,000 lbs in 0.5 milliseconds]" 0–9,000 N
Unit 2 163 Your Turn Solutions. Glenbrook South Physics Team, 28 August 1997. "F = ma = (45 g)(1 kg/1000 g)(500 m/s) = 22.5 N [sic]" 22.5 N

While most players would like to believe that it is their natural talent that enables them to be great golfers, the laws of physics are what govern the game of golf. From the moment the golf ball is at rest on the tee to the the time it spends rolling along the putting green, the movements of the ball can be predicted and calculated due to the laws of physics. The force of the club hitting the ball is the leading factor in the distance the ball travels. The distance the ball travels is directly related to the force that is applied from the head of the golf club, the angle at which the force is applied, gravity, as well as air and wind resistance. The force of the club head on the ball causes the ball to compress and apply an equal amount of force on the club. The impact of this equal and opposite force has little effect on the continuation of the swing. This initial force of the club causes the ball to project off the club head.

The United States Golf Association regulates the mass of golf balls to keep it at a constant 45.9 g (1.62 oz.). Once the ball is in flight, several forces act upon it. Some of these forces include: gravity, aerodynamic drag, and aerodynamic lift. Each force acts independently on the moving golf ball. For a greater distance to be achieved, one needs to increase the acceleration of the ball by increasing the force with which the ball is struck or swinging the club faster. The golf club only comes into contact with the ball for approximately 1/200 of a second. The face of the club is grooved so that during contact with the ball it can grip the ball and create backspin which enables aerodynamic lift.

While searching for a measurement of the force of a golf club on a golf ball I found four different measurements. Three of the measurements ranged from 3,000 N to 18,000 N. However, one reference stated that the force of a golf club on a golf ball is 22.5 N. This reference consisted of review questions on topics that the author probably did not research. [Editor's note: The fourth entry in this table is definitely wrong. Force is the product of mass and acceleration, not mass and velocity as this source suggests. The irony is that this computation looks like it was a part of an answer key to some long vanished problem set. I hope this didn't foul up anyone's grade.]

Emily Accamando -- 2001

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