I stumbled across this very old Straight Dope thread on a Google search about golf dynamics:
The crux of the thread, basically, is which will hit a golf ball farther, a golf club or a baseball bat. That’s exactly the answer I was after in my Google search.
I want to get back to that question, but in the meantime I want to ask about what seems to be a definitive answer in the thread to a sub-question, and an answer that doesn’t feel right to me.
Member **Omniscient **claims that a pitched ball (i.e., one moving with some velocity in a direction opposite the swinging bat) will travel further than a stationary ball hit off a tee:
How can that last line be correct? That ball speed in the opposite direction can add to the energy of the bat? That seems wrong on so many levels. For one, aren’t we dealing with a simple conservation of momentum problem here? Before impact the two objects have momentums with opposite signs. Doesn’t conservation of momentum say that a stationary object (momentum zero) will rebound with more momentum in the opposite direction (in the case of this collision) than one moving in the opposite direction?
I know that we are dealing with impact dynamics for objects–the club or the bat–that have very high coefficients of restitution, but I don’t understand how that affects the question at hand. You can’t get a COR over 1.0, which would seem to be the case if what **Omniscient **suggests is true.
I think I get where he is coming from, conceptually, when I imagine the case of a tennis player just “blocking” the incoming shot, and the ball rebounding back over the net with seemingly no effort of the player’s own. But…that ball is never going to come off the racket with more momentum than it had before (even if the signs are reversed).
Anecdotally, I know that I have hit softballs off a tee well over 300’, which was at least as well as I could do on a pitched ball…and I think I could guarantee that his “guarantee” is worthless, on MLB players not being able to hit a teed ball out of the park consistently. On the contrary, I’m sure that every person who ever played in the major leagues could do it. It ain’t that hard.
So…that’s my first physics question. My second one is the same as was offered in that old thread: Which would go farther: a teed golfball hit with an aluminum softball bat, or a teed golfball hit with a driver?
The one thing that was not addressed in the old thread (when talking about the distances the respective balls travel) is the difference in the masses of the balls. Softballs routinely travel over 300’, and up to probably 400’ or more for the biggest hitters. The softball has mass of 6.8 ounces. Golfballs routinely travel over 300 yards, and up to probably 400 yards or more for the biggest hitters. Golfballs weigh 1.6 ounces.
The aerodynamics between the two are different, to be sure. But the question I want to answer is this: Which one–the batter or the golfer–is transferring more energy to the ball?