The game of golf has always been an uneasy mixture of tradition and technology. Few sports can match the historical significance of a place like the The Old Course at St. Andrews, that could be played while using the cutting edge materials and equipment that has been the hallmark of golf equipment manufacturers.
Although the historical element of the game can always be appreciated, the actual performance part of the game that is usually affected by technology is often debated. That debate could reach new levels according to a recent article in The Telegraph, which previews an upcoming presentation about golf that will take place at the Edinburgh International Science Festival on March 30 at the National Museum of Scotland.
Former NASA scientist Dr Steve Otto, who is now the Director of Research and Testing at golf’s world governing body The R&A, will give a presentation about the fundamental physics of golf and discuss current research insights into shaft dynamics, metallurgy and ball construction. Otto has suggested claims such as hitting the ball with top spin can make it go further, have no basis in physics. Dr. Otto will use specially commissioned video evidence to help prove that golf is a simpler game than some golf equipment manufacturers present.
In “The Science of Golf from Tee to Green”, Dr. Otto will describe how at impact the golf ball accelerates from zero to 180 miles per hour in less than 1,000th of a second. In that time, where the ball will land has already been determined by the parameters of spin, velocity and the dimple pattern on the ball itself.
Otto will also argue that it is a myth that golfers today can hit the ball further than ever before. “It’s one of those things that people will rely on a single shot to make a case, that I saw this player hit the ball 360 yards. They can do that, but they don’t do it all the time and they forget to mention there was wind behind them” said Otto. “In fact, there are fewer players hitting the ball over 300 yards now then there was back in 2005.”
“Even the best golfers in the world may not fully understand the details of striking a golf ball and there are many common myths and misconceptions surrounding the process,” said Dr Otto. “Golf is a fascinating game and people are always curious about the golf swing. In this lecture I will explore some of these myths surrounding it and show what actually happens when a golfer hits a golf ball.”
Tickets to “The Science of Golf from Tee to Green” are available online at sciencefestival.co.uk.