Controlling Spin
With the new grooves rule getting lots of air time – the announcers can’t seem to go five minutes without talking about it – EIDOLON and The Wedge Guy are getting more and more inquiries about grooves and spin. So today’s post could be considered somewhat of a follow-up to the previous posts about this subject. But today, as I do on most Tuesdays, I’ve selected a question from one of you, and this week’s winner of a new EIDOLON wedge is Ryan M., who asked:
I have been playing golf for about 9 years now and I am kind of confused when the announcers during an event keep saying that “he put too much [or not enough] spin on that shot”. My question is, how does one “control” the amount of spin they put on a shot?
Well, Ryan, the first thing to understand is that tour players have a level of skill with their wedges that far surpasses what even the best short game player at your local club could even dream of. That comes from spending countless hours practicing the short shots and exploring their imaginations. I continue to “preach” that if you want 2010 to be your best golf year yet, spend lots of time chipping and pitching the ball, learning what you can do from inside 50 yards . . . or even 20 yards, and you will see scores come down quickly.

But today’s article is about controlling spin and reminds me of a day on the course with Ben Crenshaw when he was working with us at Reid Lockhart. Ben made the comment, “I don’t want my wedge to spin the ball, I want to spin it.” He then proceeded to hit half a dozen totally different shots into a flag about 80 yards away with the same sand wedge. One hop and stop; high soft lob that landed like a butterfly with sore feet; sizzler that hit, skipped and checked back about 8 feet; one that hit short of the hole and released and rolled about 15 feet – and the one that got me the most – a bump-and-run that hit short of the green and rolled at least 25 feet to the hole! The point is that Ben had spent enough hours with his sand wedge that he knew how to hit all those different shots.

But, back to Ryan’s question. I wrote a series of articles on the Science of Spin back in ’08 I think, but let me recap. There are three main elements of spin – the ball, the club and the swing. If you’ve been reading here, you know that I am a huge proponent of playing the softest ball you can find, so that it pays off on and around the greens. I just read that Titleist is covering the country with a ball-fitting system that preaches the same story. They also say that there isn’t four yards difference in driving distance in their entire ball line-up.

I’m also a huge proponent of playing modern wedges with milled grooves, so that you can maximize the spin your clubs help you achieve. Unless you play at a competitive level where the new groove rule is being enforced, you probably do not want to buy wedges with that groove geometry until you have to.

Any golfer can learn to further control spin to some degree with their technique, but it DOES take some practice time. The three basic elements of the swing that you can vary to impart different amounts of spin are swing path, swing speed and point of impact.
1. Swing Path. Generally speaking, the more downward your clubhead path as it approaches the ball, the higher amount of spin you will impart. There are certainly variables to this, but if you want a lower spinning shot, concentrate on making a lower back and through “stroke” with the wedge or short iron, and minimal wrist hinge or set going back. For shots with more spin, set the wrists a little earlier in the back stroke to create a more up-and-down swing path.

2. Swing Speed. Similarly, the faster the clubhead is moving, the more spin the club can impart to the ball. If you want to hit shots that have more spin, select a higher lofted club so that you will have to swing it a little faster. For less spin, obviously, choose a lower lofted club that allows you to hit the shot with less clubhead speed. This really ties to the first point about swing path. The shallower path produces a shot that is hit more directly, so requires less clubhead speed to carry the ball a given distance in the air, and the more upright path allows more clubhead speed at impact.

3. Point of Impact. This is the toughest of the three principles to master, but is possibly the most important. For high spinning shots, the ball has to be “trapped” into the turf, and hit very cleanly with the leading edge of the club making contact with the ball first, “pinching” the ball into the turf. The clubhead makes contact with the turf somewhere just in front of where the ball was sitting. I’ve written about this subject in more detail, if you will search the archives. When you want less spin on the ball, the proper contact is higher on the clubface, where the club makes contact with the ball and turf about the same time.
So, Paul, the good news is that anyone can learn more and more about the short game, if you will just allocate the time to practice. Take a bag or bucket of balls to the far end of the range and just chip them around the tee area, watching what the ball does with different techniques. Make it fun, and you will learn very quickly all the different things you can do with your wedges.

Thanks for reading and sending in your question, and I hope you enjoy your new EIDOLON V-SOLE wedge.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.


[ comments ]
MICGOLF says:
Thanks for choosing my question! I will definitely be using your advice with the new EIDOLON wedge!!!

One question...who's Paul? :)

Thanks again!

Ryan
2/16/10
 
bducharm says:
Greatest story I ever heard about spin was a guy playing with Sam Snead asked him how he put so much spin on the ball and backed it up. Snead replied by asking how far the guy hit his driver. The guy answered "225 yards". Snead replied, "Why the hell would you want to back the ball up then?" Classic....
2/16/10
 
bducharm says:
One way I control spin is to control the speed of my swing. I may use more club and swing a bit slower to control spin. The faster your swing, the more spin you create.
2/16/10
 
windowsurfer says:
Great article - thanks. The trapping segment was a really good summary. Any follow-up comments on hitting that trap shot on wet turf? In other words, is there a technique change for soggy conditions - is it possible?) Also, ball back in the stance?
2/16/10
 
KVSmith59 says:
Ok, will probably get hammered for this and must state first that I can't spin the ball...but, I think spinning the ball back is pretty over-rated. Yes it's very cool looking, and yes it helps stop the ball on those fast greens when you need it to check up, but if it's as difficult as it seems for the average Joe to control the amount of spin, then what's the point. A bump and run up to the hole, or just better placement with your shots, IMHO, would be more effective. I've seen pro's and amatuers hit a shot that looked for sure like it was going to hole out to only see it reach right before the pin, then spin back and off the green. I myself have unintentionally put so much spin on a ball on a par three that it hit within for sure birdie distance, then spun back off the green and into the pond. Just my 2 cents..
2/16/10
 
wedgeguy says:
Ryan, the "Paul" think must have been a senior moment. Sorry.
KV, I agree with the whole backing up thing. It's almost impossible to control how much a ball will come back, and I do think it is over-rated. The most controllable shot is one that hits with enough spin to make it skip once then check up with little roll. The goal of learning how to control your spin is so that you can make this happen on greens of varying softness and receptiveness.
2/17/10
 
brianshaffer32 says:
to continue on with what the wedgeguy was saying, to have a shot that spins helps when you are playing on a course that is protected by bunkers, or that is severely elevated. It is def. overrated in terms of how much commentators speak on it, but it is a necessity if you want to lower your scores on different types of courses
2/17/10
 
onedollarwed says:
Thank you for the phrase "exploring their imaginations." While it may have been breezed over and potentially lost to the world of jargon, it could not be more important. For whatever reason, golf (that's us, not the pros) has be populated by a very ill suited set of particpants, and we should all be happy for it. We are: impatient, unathletic, smoking, drinking, cursing, resistant to learning from our mistakes, unwilling to practice, unwilling to not just buy off the rack, with high expectations, and.... unimaginative. It's not like you meet Jack Kerouac, Patty Smith, and Jerry Garcia on the golf course.
However, it is a game of imagery, visualization, and creativity. If you took away the goal oriented thinking, and played purely for aesthetic purposes (like painting), you can envision wild swerving caroms, and majestic thrilling splash-downs.
2/17/10
 
onedollarwed says:
But seriously, most of us are just playing like cartoon robots, repeating technically vapid clunks and chunks, paralized like a deer in headlamps of a two dollar bet, or the looming double. Where's the Zorro in us? The Sushi Chef? The Bruce Lee, the Savior Glover, Picasso?
I am also reluctant to try to play with that much spin. After all, it seems to invite high risk. It reminds me though, other sport and games require it for control and deception. Which is the best analogy as to how to create it?
Ping pong, tennis, soccer, baseball, bowling, billiards.
I think for tee shots, tennis and ping pongs give the closest result - flat raquet, flight in the air. For short game though, I think the masse shots in billiards is closest. It really uses the trapping of the ball, incredible spins and bounces, and the all important striking down from a steep angle with incredible force. Perhaps if we played more difficult courses for higher stakes we'd get our butts in gear and find a way to practice it.
2/17/10
 
Muscle-OchO says:
If I had the game to be able to overshoot a pin by 6 yards to compensate for the spin I had on my wedge shot, I would not be posting this comment right now, I would be in Maya Rivera sleeping cause I would have a early tee time on Thursday morning..... Seriously though - I have tried *And Tried* to get consistent with my spin from my wedges, me still being a 11 handi tells the tale of my success... Good article, Def, something to think about when the 60 Degree is begging to be swung!
2/17/10
 
sepfeiff says:
Don't forget to take care of your grooves! If you are trying to compress the ball on the range with a 3/4 or full swing for spin, the dirt and grass will fill your grooves quickly. When your grooves are full of junk you will get an extremely low spin shot. I've been wetting my towel before practice and wiping my club after every swing recently. This seems to be really helpful when pitching from 30-70 yards for consistent ball reaction on the green.
2/18/10
 
Clint24 says:
Great article! One thing that I think could help would sometimes post a video to go along with your article. For someone like me, its hard to take all this and put it into a single swing either in my mind or on the course/practice range. If I can see a video I think its easier to see what to do and what not to do.
2/18/10
 
69ssrat says:
Well I hope these Eidolon's are good I am waiting for but with my past week experiance with them on the phone,that has not been good at sll. The fact I need two more wedge's well ,I am not sure no matter how good they could be worth it.
2/22/10
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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