Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

For Seattle's Pacific Science Center The U.S. Open Golf Championship Is Teachable Moment

Gabriel Spitzer
Xiaojiang Hei of Kennewick and her two-year-old daughter measure the force needed to putt a golf ball at the Pacific Science Center.

  Many will tune in to the U.S. Open golf championshipin University Place for the grace of a perfect swing or the elegance of a golf ball’s arc. But people at Seattle’s Pacific Science Centerhope you will also watch for the science at the heart of the game.

At the Science Center’s exhibit, “Learning Science through Golf,” you can see how much force it takes to make a four-foot putt or measure the volume of a golf club head by dunking it in a beaker of water. You can even learn what it takes to maintain healthy turf grass in the northwest climate.

“Oh, there’s so much science in golf. Science, technology, engineering and math,” said Anne McMahon, Vice President of Science and Education at the Science Center and an aerospace engineer by training.

“For instance, have you ever wondered why a golf ball has all those little dimples on it? Well, there’s science behind that.”

Those dimples change the way air wraps around the ball as it sails, she explained. That’s thanks to something called the Bernoulli Effect, which also helps keep airplanes aloft.

She demonstrated on a row a ping-pong balls suspended on strings at one of the exhibit’s stations by gently blowing air in between two of them. The balls swung inward, toward each other.

“You would think they would move apart. But what this demonstration shows is the Bernoulli Effect. Air that is moving exerts less pressure than air that is not moving,” said McMahon.

That effect reduces drag on the ball, and helps it travel much farther.

The Learning Science through Golf exhibit, created by the United States Golf Association, runs at the Pacific Science Center through June 15 – the first day of the U.S. Open.

Gabriel Spitzer is a former KNKX reporter, producer and host who covered science and health and worked on the show Sound Effect.