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Technical Tips

October 2015

The science of adding spin to your wedge shots
By Tom Stickney II

For as long as I can remember, golfers have been fascinated watching the professionals hit wedge shots into the green — especially when their shots land past the hole on the green, hop forward, and then zip back toward the hole. It’s a sexy shot that every golfer wants to have at his disposal.

What I have learned from teaching golf for more than 20 years, however, is that relatively few golfers can actually hit a high-spinning wedge shot. One of the main reasons why? Few golfers actually understand how spin is created. The purpose of this article is to help golfers understand just that, as well as how they can improve their chances of hitting a PGA Tour-quality wedge shot.

How spin is created

Since I starting using a Trackman launch monitor, my understanding of spin creation has grown exponentially. It has taught me and other teaching professionals that spin is created by specific, measurable factors.

The main factor is called Spin Loft, which is calculated by subtracting “Angle of Attack,” or the amount of degrees a golfer hits up or down on a ball, from “Dynamic Loft,” which is the amount of loft (in degrees) on the club face at the moment of impact.

Spin Loft Formula = Dynamic Loft – Angle of attack

Yes, there are other factors that influence spin such as club head speed, face-to-path ratio, impact friction, and horizontal and vertical impact point, but they are relatively minor compared to the effect of Spin Loft.

Why you have trouble spinning the ball

The first mistake amateurs make when they try to add spin to their wedge shots is trying to hit the ball higher. Trackman has taught us that it is impossible to increase the spin rate of a golf ball while simultaneously increasing the ball’s landing angle. That means that most golfers won’t spin the ball more by hitting it higher.

The second mistake amateur golfers make is believing that an exaggerated downward hit on the golf ball more will create more spin. I’m here to tell you that this does NOT automatically increase your spin rate. When golfers hit more “down” on the golf ball, they also tend to lean the shaft more forward as well.

Remember the spin loft formula? Added shaft lean decreases Dynamic Loft, which either lowers Spin Loft or keeps it the same. That won’t give you the added spin you’re want. Here’s why.

Spin Loft in real life

Since we know that Spin Loft creates the spin we are looking, then what is the perfect Spin Loft value for maximum spin output?

Trackman studies have shown that once your spin loft values rise above a 45-50 threshold, the ball will begin to lose friction/compression and it will slide up the face of your wedge, reducing spin.

If you look at the Trackman screen shot above, you’ll see that my AoA was -5.7 degrees (that means I hit 5.7 degrees down on the ball) and my Dynamic Loft was 34.5 degrees (that means the amount of loft on my club at impact was 34.5 degrees at impact). Therefore, my Spin Loft was 40.2, which is in the range for maximum spin production.

Spin Loft (40.2 degrees) = Dynamic Loft (34.5 degrees) – Angle of Attack (-5.7 degrees)

To create optimal spin, you must hit shots within a certain spin loft range to be most effective. For better golfers, that means hitting lower-launching shots that give them the “hit, jump, and grab” on the green they want. This flatter launch angle, combined with a shallower Angle of Attack, will help them reach the apex of what Andrew Rice calls the  “Spin Loft Mountain.”

Increasing your spin rate without changing mechanics

Ok, so we’ve covered the technical part of spin creation. I know that a lot of golfers might need to work on their mechanics with an instructor before they can start to effectively tweak things such as their Dynamic Loft and Angle of Attack. And since this is GolfWRX, I also know that a lot of you are already spinning the ball like Tour players with your wedges.
For both types of players, here are my tips on increasing your wedge spin without changing your mechanics.

  1. Use a premium golf ball: To create maximum spin, you must be using a premium ball. If you’re not willing to spend $30+ per dozen on your golf balls, know that higher-compression golf balls tend to spin more on wedge shots that lower-compression golf balls.

  2. Use a versatile wedge: Most equipment companies sell two types of wedges: those that “match their iron sets,” and specialty wedges such as Titleist’s Vokey and TaylorMade’s Tour Preferred EF models, to name a few. Generally, specialty wedges have sole grinds and groove designs that encourage more spin, particularly on partial shots around the green.

  3. Use fresh grooves: Over time, the faces and grooves of your wedges become less effective due to loss of friction. For that reason, newer wedges will generally spin more than older ones. If you play or practice a lot and you’ve had your wedges for more than a season or two, it may be time to change. I don’t recommend that golfers use groove sharpening tools, as they often make wedges non-conforming in tournament play.

  4. Clean your wedges in between shots: If your wedge faces and grooves are caked with dirt and grass, you will not be able to achieve maximum spin. The only exception is if there is sand on the face of your wedge from a past bunker shot. It actually helps the ball spin more, but for consistency reasons you should clean your wedges before every shot. Better players may even want to do this between shots when they practice.

My last bit of advice is to understand how course and wind conditions will affect spin, and to have realistic expectations about the shot at hand. If you’re playing firm, fast greens, it’s going to be very difficult to get your wedge shots to spin back. Plan accordingly. The same is true for wedge shots that are downwind or shots from deep rough.

Finally, remember that wet conditions will decrease your ability to add spin to shots, as moisture reduces the friction between the ball and club face at impact. For that reason, make sure your club faces are as dry as possible.

 

 




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