Spin Demystified

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Hello Frank,

Advanced players are able to hit chip shots that 'Drop, Hop, and Stop' on the green. Can you describe how they achieve these ball dynamics and whether there are multiple ways to create this spin on the ball?

Thank You,

Chris

Chris,
I think this is a question which is on the mind of millions of golfers.

We all like to fantasize and believe that if we only had the time, we would be really good golfers and able to make the ball dance on the green.

Some of us have decided – this is generally a function of age – that we are not going to make it on the tour and have become serene in that we have accepted the fact that there are some things we cannot and cannot change.

Getting more spin on your ball – more like the pros – is a function of the obliqueness of the impact, speed of impact and very little else. Yes, the USGA is trying to penalize some of the best players in the world for being in the rough by reducing the volume of the groove by about 40 percent and thus affecting the spin on the ball. The groove volume will reduce the spin for the same approach angle and loft of club, when struck from a specific rough density and type of grass. 

To counteract this decrease in spin, the golfers will select a different lofted club from the identical conditions or try to increase the obliqueness of the impact i.e. use a more descending blow. I think that a combination of both will happen but spin may still be reduced by the groove size change, so the target landing area will be adjusted allowing the ball to roll a few extra feet and the best gofers will still show up on the leader board whether or not they were in the rough.

Now, let me address how we mortals can generate spin. We need to understand that the spin we generate off the face of a wedge; for example, from a tee or a very tight lie where there is no grass between the clubface and the ball, is totally dependent on the obliqueness and speed of the impact and to a lesser extent, the type of cover material and thickness on the ball. So to get the same spin as those we aspire to be, we need to generate a little more head speed and a more oblique face angle.  

To increase the obliqueness of the impact – this means the effective loft that the ball sees – we can change to a more lofted club or develop a more descending blow – a technique most of us have not perfected as it requires an accurate impact where club meets the ball before club meets turf – the chunk or really fat shot.

Chris, a good teacher will help you improve your technique and ball position as well as the arm position through impact. You also need to increase your head speed and hit it with confidence because you can’t wish spin on the ball or whistle to make it dance.

Hope this helps.
Frank

 

Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com