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Force Vectors in Hitting a Golf Ball

By Ron Kurtus (24 November 2016)

Hitting a golf ball is a good example of applying force vectors.

(See Force Vectors for more information.)

When you hit a golf ball, the direction of motion of the club head determines the direction of the force vector. This vector can be broken into two perpendicular components that determine the direction of motion of the ball and its spin.

Golfers can use golf clubs with different club head angles to vary the vertical direction as well as the spin. They can also adjust the way they hit the ball to change angles and spin.

Questions you may have include:

This lesson will answer those questions. Useful tool: Units Conversion



Impact force

When swinging a golf club, the golfer wants to apply a force on the golf ball that will propel it in a specific manner.

Typical golf club

Typical golf club

The side view of hitting the golf ball is as follows:

(Note that the golf ball is drawn larger than normal size.)

Impact of club hitting golf ball

Impact of club hitting golf ball

Components of impact force

The impact from the force of the golf club is broken into perpendicular vector components. The main force component goes through the center of the golf ball, The other force component is parallel to the club head.

Impact force broken into vector components

Impact force broken into vector components

Results of impact

The golf ball is propelled in a direction from the point of impact through the center of the ball. The other perpendicular component of the force causes the ball to spin due to the friction of the ball on the club head. Dimpling of the ball and groves in the club head facilitate the spinning.

 

Ball is propelled and spins

Ball is propelled and spins

Golfer applications

A golfer might use a 8-iron or 9-iron that has a steep inclination angle, thus causing the ball to be propelled in a high arc and having a backspin that would prevent the ball from rolling after it hits the green.

Golfers use a driver that hits the ball more flush, resulting in a lower trajectory. Some golfers can adjust their swing to cause the ball to have a topspin, such that it will roll further.

Summary

When you hit a golf ball, the direction of motion of the club head determines the direction of the force vector, which can be broken into two perpendicular components that determine the direction of motion of the ball and its spin.

Golfers can use golf clubs with different club head angles to vary the vertical direction as well as the spin. They can also adjust the way they hit the ball to change angles and spin.


Study techniques to do your best


Resources and references

Ron Kurtus' Credentials

Websites

The Physics Of Golf - Real World Physics Problems

Physics of Golf - Optimum Loft of a Driver - PDF

Physics of the Club-ball interaction - The Physics of Golf

Forces - Physics Hyperbook

Physics Resources

Books

Top-rated books on Physics of Force


Questions and comments

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