Ball Flight Laws #3 – Spin

Ball Flight (17)

 Introduction

The topic of the day is spin.  I’ll address how spin is created, how to maximize spin with your wedges, and how to minimize spin with your driver.

What Creates Spin?

To create spin, you need spin loft, speed, and friction.  Speed is pretty self-explanatory (more speed = more spin), so we’ll focus on spin loft and friction.

Spin Loft Definition

Spin Loft

The primary factor in creating spin is spin loft.

Spin loft is defined as the difference between the Dynamic Loft* and the Angle of Attack**.

So, for example, if I hit a wedge shot with a DL of 45° and an AoA of -5° (a negative AoA means a downward strike), my spin loft would be 45° – (-5°) or 50°.

If I hit a driver shot with a DL of 13° and an AoA of 3° (a positive AoA means an upward strike), my spin loft would be 10°.

*Dynamic Loft is the loft of the club at impact

**Angle of Attack is the angle at which the club is traveling at impact.

Max Spin Loft Less Spin Loft

Maximizing Spin

“So to maximize spin, you maximize spin loft, right?”

Not so fast.  Remember that I said you also need friction to create spin.  When the spin loft exceeds 45°, you lose friction and, thus, spin.  Said another way:

To maximize spin, you want a spin loft of 45°.  More or less spin loft will reduce spin.

This is why most players will create more spin with their pitching wedge than their lob wedge.

Minimum Spin Loft More Spin Loft

Minimizing Spin

With the driver, the problem is not how to create more spin but how to scale it down.  We want just enough spin to keep the ball airborne.  This will give us maximum carry (especially in the wind) with the potential for lots of roll.

Since friction is not an issue with the driver, and we don’t want to reduce speed, our only means of reducing spin is reducing the spin loft.

To reduce spin loft with the driver, we want to get a positive angle of attack (hit up) while keeping dynamic loft relatively low.

This means we’re going to want to tee the ball high and try to keep from adding too much loft to the club at impact.

True False

Myth Busting

With your new understanding of spin, you can now dismiss some of the myths about spin.  Let’s run down some of the common ones:

1) “You have to hit down more to make it spin.”

Yes, hitting down (having a steep angle of attack) will increase your spin loft.  However, if that spin loft exceeds 45°, the spin is actually reduced.  Many people would spin their wedges more by hitting down less.

2) “More loft means more spin.”

Again, this is true only to a point.  For most people, the club that spins the most will be their pitching wedge or gap wedge.  With a 56 or 60 degree wedge, it is very hard (maybe impossible) to get the spin loft down to 45°.

3) “Big grooves make the ball spin.”

Sort of.  The function of grooves is to channel away moisture, grass, and dirt so that the ball and club face can come together without interference.  If you were to hit a clean, dry golf ball off of pavement, it wouldn’t matter if you had big grooves or none at all.  The underrated aspect of wedge design, so far as spin is concerned, is having a rough club face to increase friction.

Bottom line: grooves are great, but remember that the goal is clean ball-club face contact.  Clean and dry your wedges before every shot.

Conclusion

I hope you’ve found this lesson helpful.  In future lessons, I’ll address the techniques that will help you to spin your wedges and bomb your drives.  If there are specific topics or shots you’d like to see addressed, please feel free to leave a comment below.

Understanding Ball Flight

Part 1: Start Direction

Part 2: Curve

Part 3: Spin

Part 4: 3D Club Path (Resultant Path)

Part 5: Gear Effect

Watch the Video

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Matt Saternus

Co-founder, Director of Instruction at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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8 Comments

  1. Also hitting the ball a groove or 2 thin on wedge shots can really help increase spin due to gear effect. That is partially how tour players hit the elusive low spinning wedge shot

  2. Pingback: Build Your Best Bag Part 3: The Driver - Plugged In Golf

  3. Pingback: Build Your Best Bag Part 6: The Wedges - Plugged In Golf

  4. Matt, You do a great job making difficult concepts easy to understand. I will recommend to my clients to visit your site. Thank you , Paul Mindel

  5. Hello, You mentioned in “Ball Flight Laws #3 – Spin” that in future lessons, you will address the techniques that will help to spin wedges and bomb drives.
    Is there any link at your homepage to this topic?
    Kind regards
    Thomas

    • Thomas,

      If you hover over “Instruction,” you’ll see categories for full swing, fitness, short game, etc. There are a number of articles in the full swing and fitness categories that should help with hitting the driver farther. As for wedges, I probably haven’t hit on that in the way that I had planned, but I do think that the info here and in the gear effect post (Ball Flight Laws #5) pretty much gives you the tools to spin it.

      Best,

      Matt

  6. Great info thanks