How To Spin The Golf Ball
You have no doubt seen TOUR pros on television, or any good golfer for that matter, hit shots into the green that end up spinning back like a rocket, particularly in wet conditions. You might note how that never really happens when you’re out on the course, and you wonder how exactly they do it! So, how do they put backspin on the ball?
Being able to spin the golf ball is actually something that most amateurs, and even some seasoned golfers, cannot control.
It is something that comes with experience and a certain degree of proficiency. It requires you to know how to make solid, “ball-first” contact with the golf ball, and do it with sufficient speed for the grooves to do the work.
There are, of course, many instances where it would be quite useful to be able to put spin the ball.
Often, it’s from a tight lie off of the green, with rough, a bunker or another obstacle between you and the flag. In such a case, you would typically want to fly the ball close to the spin and have it stop dead or even spin back a little bit.
The focus of this article is to discuss what exactly backspin on the golf ball involves, when you can spin the ball and how it is actually accomplished. Hopefully this can help some of you who want to take your game to the next level!
How is backspin generated?
Backspin (spinning away from the direction of the target) occurs when the clubface makes contact with the ball and the grooves on the face of the club “grab” the ball, imparting a spin before it takes off. There are several key factors which affect how much the ball spins, and they include:
- The effective loft of the clubface at impact. The higher this loft is, the closer the clubface becomes to pointing directly up towards zenith, and the easier it is for the grooves to grab the ball and “roll it up” the face. For example, it’s much easier to impart backspin on the ball with a 9-iron as compared with a 3-iron, and you get relatively little spin with a driver.
- How clean the strike is. If there is grass, mud, sand or any other matter between the clubface and the ball at impact, some or all of the grooves won’t be able to make contact with the ball to create spin. This is why you generally cannot spin the ball out of the rough — grass gets between the clubface and the ball. You generally want to hit the ball before the ground in order to get solid spin.
- Clubhead speed. It is important to accelerate through the ball if you want a good backspin. The faster the face impacts the ball, the more time the grooves have to grab the ball and create spin before the ball “rebounds” or “rockets” off the face.
It is widely believed that the steepness of the clubface path coming into the ball, or the angle of attack, affects the spin of the ball given a fixed loft. However, there exists evidence, particularly from TrackMan, that is contrary to this claim. In general, hitting “down” on the ball does appear not affect spin rates. The three factors bulletted above are the primary determinants of golf ball spin.
What can I do to spin the ball?
Based on what I mentioned above, you should do the following if you want to maximize the amount of backspin you generate:
- Use a quality golf ball with a high spin rating, like the Titleist Pro V1/V1x.
- Use a higher-lofted club, or open your clubface. The shorter clubs — 7, 8, 9 irons, and wedges — will naturally produce more spin than longer clubs. If you do open your clubface, just be sure to make the necessary adjustments in your alignment.
- Hit from a tight clean lie, like from the fairway, fringe or even a bunker. As I touched on above, you cannot expect to spin the ball out of the rough, especially if it’s sitting down or the grass is long.
- Make sure your clubface is clean, hit the ball solidly, and take the divot after the ball. This will allow the grooves of the face to make full contact with the ball. Unfortunately, many amateurs often neglect to clean their clubs even when they’re caked with dirt; what they likely don’t realize is that they’re either partially or completely preventing the club from creating backspin.
- Accelerate through the ball at an appropriate speed. If you feel that you’re swinging too slow and it may be hindering your ability to put spin on the ball, take a look at my speed article for some clarity and tips.
Note that the firmness of the golf course typically determines how far balls spin back. On wet grass (fairways, greens), there is less rollout and most of the spin will go into bringing the ball back. In other words, the result of spin is much more obvious in soft conditions.
Hopefully, after reading and understanding the concise information presented above, you’ll be well on your way to developing a firm control of the spin on your golf ball.
See the product reviews page for details on clubs and golf balls that will help you be more successful in your spinning endeavors.