Tiger Woods v Barry Bonds
February 24, 2009 5:16 PM   Subscribe

So, which would go further, a golf ball hit by a world class baseball hitter with a baseball bat, or a baseball hit by a world class golfer?

Details about type of bat, club, specific golfer/batter are up to you. Basically I need to know the general best case scenario for each. Physics majors?
posted by ian1977 to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My instinct wants to say that the baseball hitter, given the optimal conditions (a perfect strike, no curve or rotation to the golf ball) would be able to impart more energy into the golf ball with the large bat and small ball size, compared to a golfer trying to impart the same energy via a smaller club to a baseball sitting on a tee.
posted by Meagan at 5:19 PM on February 24, 2009

It's the rare world-class golfer, I imagine, that could even hit a major-league fastball with any consistency, let alone for distance.
posted by box at 5:20 PM on February 24, 2009 [1 favorite]

I'm confused.

A golf ball hit with a baseball bat will go farther than a baseball hit with a golf club, if that's what you're getting at.

Mostly because the golf club might snap if you tried to hit a baseball with it.

But if you're saying that both people are using a baseball bat ... and the baseball player is hitting the golf ball, and the golfer hitting the baseball ... the baseball player will be more successful, if only out of familiarity with the bat, and the relative weight/density of the golf ball.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 5:23 PM on February 24, 2009

box: I assume the OP means "a baseball hit [off of a golf tee] by a world class golfer".
posted by aheckler at 5:23 PM on February 24, 2009

Is the world-class baseball player hitting a golf ball that's been pitched to him, then?

Please elaborate a little about what you have in mind, ian1977.
posted by box at 5:28 PM on February 24, 2009

Best answer: Well a baseball weighs more than three times as much as a golf ball and has a diameter approximately twice as long. Golf clubs are longer than baseball bats too, for maximum leverage. Add to that the fact that a wooden baseball bat weighs slightly more than a golf club, and things start to come together.

The golf club is designed to move as quickly as possible and hit a very small, light, stationary object. Maximum speed, minimum force, because the target is so light. Baseball bats are designed to hit larger, heavier, moving objects with sufficient force to deflect them, sacrificing some speed for power. I would imagine that hitting a pitched golf ball with a baseball bat would send it some distance, though the batter would probably barely feel the impact. But hitting a teed-up baseball with a golf club sounds like it would hurt quite a bit, sending it almost no distance at all.

My money is on the batter and the golf ball for a triple and the golfer with a sprained wrist.
posted by valkyryn at 5:36 PM on February 24, 2009

Neither the skill set or the tools will translate to the other sport. If you tried hitting a baseball with a golf club youre not getting any distance and vice versa.
posted by damn dirty ape at 5:36 PM on February 24, 2009

Response by poster: Sorry...

The golfer his hitting the baseball off of a golf tee. The batter is hitting the golf ball off of a super easy lobbed pitch.
posted by ian1977 at 5:37 PM on February 24, 2009

Best answer: If I understand correctly, you're asking which will go further (provided all other things considered relatively equal):
A. A golf ball hit by a baseball bat; or,
B. A baseball hit by a golf club.

I'd say scenario A.

The swinging baseball bat has more momentum and will impart more energy to the golf ball than the golf club would to the baseball. Also, a golf ball has less mass than a baseball, and is therefore easier to accelerate. Also, the ratio of mass of bat vs. mass of golf ball is much higher than mass of golf club vs. mass of baseball -- which means that the bat will slow down less when it hits the ball.

But I haven't done the math to prove all this. That's your homework. :)
posted by Simon Barclay at 5:43 PM on February 24, 2009

A golf ball, hit from a stationary tee, can easily be propelled 900+ feet (300+ yards) by a professional golfer...with accuracy. A baseball, when thrown by a professional pitcher at close to ~90mph, can be hit ~450+ feet by some professional baseball players (think All Star Home Run Derby).

The golf ball is going to fly farther than the baseball regardless of who hits it, and regardless of whether it is hit with a club or a bat.
posted by mosk at 5:46 PM on February 24, 2009

Doing some basic web research, Barry Bonds generates a bat speed of about 68 mph (30.4 m/s). Tiger Woods can swing a club about 125 mph (55.8 m/s). Let's make a few assumptions to even the conditions a little bit and say that Bonds is hitting the golf ball off of a tee with a regulation wooden bat and Woods is using a 10 degree driver. A regulation bat weighs 33 ounces (936 g), and a driver weighs about 200 g, give or take. A regulation golf ball is about 46 grams, and a regulation baseball is 142-149 grams (let's average and say 145 g for simplicity).

So what this question boils down to is a conservation of momentum question. Let's assume that we have a perfectly inelastic collision - that is, as soon as the club/bat touches the ball, they have fused together and are moving at the same velocity in unison. As the follow-through progresses, the bat/club slows down, leaving the ball to travel at that same initial velocity.

The total momentum before the collision must equal the total momentum after the collision. Ignoring any losses (which would occur from imperfect hits, vibration in the striker or the target, friction, noise, etc...), then mbat*vbat + mball*vball = (mbat + mball)*V. Since in both cases the ball is stationary before the collision, then mbat*vbat = (mbat+mball)*V. Then, V = mbat*vbat/(mbat+mball). For the baseball hit by the golf club, that's about 32.3 m/s (72.3 mph) and for the golf ball hit by the baseball bat it's about 29.0 m/s (65 mph).

First half done. Now some more assumptions. Let us assume, for comparison's sake, that Bonds hits the ball at a 10 degree angle, the same angle that the driver would launch the baseball. Also let us assume that the range is large and flat, so we are ignoring the curvature of the earth. The distance traveled by a ballistic projectile over a flat field is V^2*(sin (2*theta))/g. However, this does not take into account that Bonds is hitting off of a tee, which is three feet off the ground. Let's ignore that for a minute and see what the answer is if they both launch from ground level.

The baseball, with initial velocity 32.3 m/s, travels 36.4 m, or about 120 feet. The golf ball will travel about 29 meters, or 96 feet. If we assume that the loft is higher - 45 degrees, say - then the baseball travels 106 meters (348 feet) and the golf ball travels 86 meters (281 feet).

The extra three feet of height that Bonds gets won't matter too much, but we are missing one more important point - the spin on a golf ball induces lift, which allows it to travel farther. Golf clubs impart that spin, while a dead-on crack from a bat will very likely not, or at least be nearly as effective as the club. Again, keep in mind that these were both idealized systems, and that the weight of a baseball will very likely cause a golf club to bend, which means that it will lose some of the energy that a very rigid club would otherwise impart.

(Feel free to tear in if I managed to bungle this.)
posted by backseatpilot at 6:06 PM on February 24, 2009

Like The World Famous above, I've tried both and can vouch for the results. However, to add an air of sophistication, we can use conservation of momentum to show the same thing. Note that the assumptions involved are so great as to make this worthless for just about everything but some friendly BS.

For simplicity I will assume the baseball and the golf ball are both perched atop a tee of some sort and are stationary before being struck. I will also assume that the golf club and baseball bat are swung hard and impart ALL of their energy to the ball being struck (i.e. they stop dead in their tracks -- unrealistic, I know, but hey, this is a silly question).

I will use the following measurements: Golf club mass is .2 kg. Baseball bat mass is 1 kg. Golf club swing velocity is 72 m/s. Baseball bat swing velocity is 31 m/s. Golf ball mass is .045 kg. Baseball mass is .145 kg.

So we use:

m_b * v_b0 + m_s * v_s0 = m_b * v_b1 + m_s * v_s1

(where m is mass and v is velocity, b is "ball" and s is "striker" for bat or club, and the 0 is before and the 1 is after).

Hitting the golf ball with a bat:
( 0 + 1 kg * 31 m/s = .045 kg * v_b1 + 0 ) -> v_b1 = 689 m/s

Hitting the baseball with a golf club:
( 0 + .2 kg * 72 m/s = .145 kg * v_b1 + 0 ) -> v_b1 = 99 m/s

So it's not even close. The distance the ball goes will be proportional to how fast the ball is going (neglecting air resistance), and the golf ball's speed of 689 m/s is much, much greater than the baseball's speed of 99 m/s.
posted by losvedir at 6:14 PM on February 24, 2009

So it looks like backseatpilot did the same thing as me, but with different assumptions. backseatpilot's idea that immediately post collision the ball and the thing hitting it are traveling the same speed seems more reasonable than mine where the bat/club stops dead with the ball flying away with all the energy. So I guess you should go with his or her numbers, although the conclusion is different from what happens in reality.

Since the conservation of momentum assumes no energy lost, it must be the case that there is considerably more energy lost when the golf club strikes the baseball than when the baseball bat strikes the golf ball. I suppose that makes sense, as it hurts like hell when you hit something big with a golf club, with it vibrating like it does.
posted by losvedir at 6:30 PM on February 24, 2009

I'm late to this, sadly, because it made me smile. I also hit many, many pitched golf balls for what seemed like miles in my youth. We would do this with my father's "ruined" golf balls, and they went far enough that it was pretty much disposal, or littering. Unfindable.

I did not ever attempt to drive a teed up baseball, though, so my hat (and plaid cap) is off to The World Famous, above. That does sound like a great way to hurt your wrists.
posted by rokusan at 6:47 PM on February 24, 2009

backseatpilot - I don't think you can realistically do the calculations ignoring any losses during the collision of striker and target, because the losses are quite significant. A baseball in particular doesn't "bounce" very well, so the total momentum after collision will be a lot less than the momentum before.

Also the calculation of how far the baseball and golf ball travel seems to be neglecting drag from the atmosphere. Unfortunately that is also pretty significant for these objects and their typical velocities. Which makes this a much harder physics puzzle to do computationally.

There's something to be said for empiricism in this case. I remember hitting a golf ball with a baseball bat when I was a kid too, and boy did it ever go a long way!
posted by FishBike at 6:49 PM on February 24, 2009

Let me add myself to the list of people here who've hit a golf ball or two with a baseball bat, and while I don't have any fancy formulas to back myself up, I'll just say that, yeah, them things go real far.
posted by Venadium at 6:52 PM on February 24, 2009

The baseball will get no elevation from off the golf tee so it won't go hardly anywhere. You don't say whether the golfer is hitting a baseball from the golf tee with a golf club or with a baseball bat, but if he's using a baseball bat, then the baseball is going straight forward along the ground and hence will be stopped by friction pretty soon. You can't scoop under the baseball with a bat from a tee. If he's using a golf club, I still can't see it working with a baseball. I don't know exactly what the physics of a golb club hitting the ball looks like, but as far as I know, a golf club's head is slanted at a certain angle to come up under the ball and drive it up slightly. I can't imagine this working on a baseball.
posted by creasy boy at 12:52 AM on February 25, 2009

Back when I lived in Pittsburgh for a couple of years, I volunteered with the high school youth group at my church. The youth director guy lived with his family on a house right at the edge of a huge bluff that overlooked the Ohio River. About 500 feet below, on the same side of the river as the bluff, was a major 4-lane road leading down towards town and bridges crossing the river. Then the river, then on the other side, train tracks. I'd estimate that the other side of the river was a good quarter mile away from his house.

Anyway, he used to love golfing balls out of his back yard into the river (supposedly), when his wife wasn't looking (she was convinced we'd hit one not hard enough and it would land on a car on the road and kill people). One day we got it in our heads to try the golfballs with the bat - someone would just lob them to the batter and crack - another golf ball into orbit. Well that eventually lead to a "which one could get it over the river" debate - bat vs. big bertha. This eventually lead to a few of us in full lacrosse gear down there on the other side of the river watching for any splashes that got close, or even potential impacts. We even had 2-way radios, so someone up on the bluff would alert us of the hit and then we'd count a few seconds. Nobody ever got it all the way across but we did see a few splashes. The only splashes we ever saw close to our side, however, were the batted ones.
posted by allkindsoftime at 5:24 AM on February 25, 2009 [1 favorite]

allkindsoftime, your story is eponysterical.
posted by Simon Barclay at 2:05 PM on February 25, 2009

A baseball is much spongier than a golfball as well. Even if you corrected for everything else, the golf ball would still go farther.

I would enjoy seeing a golf club made with the appropriate mass to hit a baseball off a tee. That would be ... something.
posted by gjc at 6:36 PM on February 25, 2009

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