Physics Van 3-site Navigational Menu

Physics Van Navigational Menu

Q & A: Golf Ball on Ramp - How far will it go?

Learn more physics!

Most recent answer: 10/22/2007
I am trying to design a project to see how distance rolled down an inclined plane and the angle of inclination changes how far a ball will roll. I would like to use a golf ball in the project. Any ideas, suggestions or modifications you can think of? At first I wanted to see how different surfaces related to ball speed but I wan’t sure how I could set up the project. I would appreciate any suggestions on what cold make this a better experiment and research project
- Kathleen
IWA, Parma Hts., Ohio
Kathleen -

Sounds like a good setup. In terms of the construction, you may want to consider using 2 flat boards with a hinge in the middle and something to hold the top one up. If you have problems with the ball rolling off the side of the board, try giving it guard rails using cardboard or 2 smaller boards. A regular protractor should be fine to measure the angle of inclination with. Also, you may want to consider using a racketball or a tennisball instead of a golfball because golfballs have an uneven surface which may affect your results.

As for different surfaces, it's a lot more straightforward than it may seem. In addition to just rolling the ball down a flat board, you can try covering the board with sandpaper, wax paper, and other things which will provide more or less friction. Make sure that if you do this, though, you should do your tests for each surface by using the same set of angles. (I.e. do sandpaper at 20, 40, 60 degrees, wood at 20, 40, 60 degrees, and wax paper at 20, 40, 60 degrees.) This way, you'll be able to compare them more easily.

The other thing which may be worth looking at is starting the ball at the same /height/ while changing the angle of the board. You can do this by standing a ruler up next to the board and starting the ball at say 10 inches up from the table regardless of the angle of the board it's rolling on. I think you'll find that the results of this will be pretty interesting.

And as always when doing scientific experiments, make sure that you do every test more than once. (For example, using sandpaper at 40 degrees, measure the distance that the ball will roll at least 3 times.) This way, if something goes wrong in one test, you'll be able to tell by looking at the other values you've collected. 3 or 4 tries for each scenario should be a good number. Then you can average these values to get an even better one.

Good luck!


(published on 10/22/2007)

Follow-up on this answer.