The Traveler’s Championship wrapped up Sunday in thrilling fashion with Ken Duke claiming his first career PGA Tour win by way of a two-hole playoff victory versus Chris Stroud.
On the second playoff hole, Duke managed to do what few players down the stretch could do, and that was get his wedge to spin the ball enough to stop 3 feet from the hole. He would go on to make the putt securing the victory.
The question has been asked to me several times by my students about how to make the ball spin more and actually stop or back up on the green.
Here are some basic factors to consider when trying to add backspin to your approach shots:
• Play the right golf ball. Some balls are designed to spin more, increasing feel and control, while some spin less to maximize distance. If creating spin is more important to you than getting max distance, then make sure you read the back of the box on your next dozen golf balls to see if the ball will match your preferences. You can even sign up for a golf ball fitting with a PGA professional that will use launch monitor technology like Trackman to help determine which type of ball you should play.
• Create the proper impact position. Backspin is created with clubhead speed and quality impact. Hitting the ball first reduces the amount of debris (grass, sand, soil, etc.) that will get between the ball and the clubface which will reduce spin. Lofted clubs like wedges will spin more if you continue to accelerate through the shot. The biggest mistake I see that kills spin happens on shorter wedge shots when the club decelerates through impact.
• Assess your lie. The biggest reason player after player (including Chris Stroud) failed to stop the ball close to the hole on the 18th at TPC River Highlands was their lie. Several players had their tee shots end up inside 100 yards of the green. The only problem was that distance positioned their ball on a downslope. Hitting a less than full wedge from a downslope to a pin cut close to the fringe simply won’t spin enough, especially if it is downwind (like on Sunday). Ken Duke’s final tee shot was further back from the green, allowing him to swing faster from a flatter lie, creating more spin than his competitor.