The Loop

VIDEO: The mystery of the mud ball continues

June 14, 2013

The mystery of the mud ball continues...

Our Golf Digest Hot List panel of scientists is nothing if not thorough and diligent. So when the question of what is the effect of mud on a golf ball was put to them, each had intriguing answers.

But one of them, John McPhee, a professor of systems design engineering at Canada's University of Waterloo, wanted to know what actually was happening to the ball and the mud at impact. So he got out his high speed camera--and some mud--and got to work.

McPhee and his research engineer Aden Seaman took several high speed camera shots of impact with a 4-iron on a ball with mud on one side.

"As you can see, most of the mud gets blasted off at impact," he says. "But a thin layer remains, which may affect the aerodynamics (but not likely the mass distribution)." In other words, it seems likely that not enough mud stays on the golf ball to make it fly in a lopsided fashion.

We're not sure if this makes those wild shots at the U.S. Open easier to understand or harder to believe. And while we don't really have any evidence on how it affects shoes and sneakers of walking spectators, we're pretty sure after a full day at Merion they've been rendered useless.