When golfers talk about controlling distance or gaining distance, that conversation can’t happen without knowing how much spin each shot produces. With spin rate being one of the core metrics golfers analyze to better understand their games, it’s important to have context for what those numbers mean. Most golfers will admit to not knowing how many thousands of RPMs are needed to have a successful golf shot — we understand the struggle, and hopefully this post will simplify everything.
Here are some important things to remember about spin before we get into the numbers.
Higher amounts of spin will generally lead to shorter distances and a higher ball flight, while lower amounts of spin will usually result in longer distances and a lower ball flight. This is why golfers hope to marry low spin rates with high launch angles when it comes to hitting driver and fairway woods.
There are caveats to this because, as you would guess, golfers have a variety of swing speeds.
Many golfers with low swing speeds will want to actually increase spin with their driver because that will help the ball get more airborne. For faster swing speed golfers, the opposite is usually true.
Most golfers produce too much spin with their driver. This is often because they are hitting down on the ball too much while coming “over the top”, meaning that the club approaches the ball from the outside.
Knowing that your spin rate with a driver is too high, you can make adjustments and monitor improvement.
There are similar changes you can make with other clubs throughout the bag. Depending on your ball flight, swing speed and desired trajectory, you can potentially make alterations to your technique or equipment.
One example would be if you find that your wedges and short irons are going too low, too far and are not stopping quick enough once they land. If you evaluate your spin rate for those clubs and see that it’s too low, you can problem solve. Some solutions could be practicing hitting down on the ball, altering your setup to put the ball further forward in your stance, or changing shaft types to launch the ball higher.
Let’s start with a driver since that is the most talked about club as it relates to spin.
If you see anything over about 3,300 RPMs, that is likely too much spin for any consistent success with your driver. This isn’t a perfect rule obviously — and it will vary depending on swing speed — but one of the main goals for most golfers should be to get driver spin near or under 3,000 RPMs.
A PGA Tour player average about 2,700 RPMs of spin with their driver, while a 5-handicap male player is around 3,000 RPMs. The average golfer is closer to 3,300 RPMs. This amount of spin is sacrificing too much distance. An increase of spin at this rate, it should be mentioned, also makes it harder to be accurate off the tee.
Solutions will generally involve technique improvements, such as shallowing out your angle of attack into the ball. However, it’s very possible that loft or shaft adjustments could be necessary.
A strong player with faster swing speeds is usually around that “1,000 times” benchmark for spin. A 7-iron, for instance, has an optimal spin rate of around 7,000 RPMs. You can just about do this for every other iron — a 5-iron being a 5,000 RPMs, a 6-iron being at 6,000 RPMs, etc. — to get a gauge of where you should be at if you are among the faster swing speed players.
However, most players are naturally a few hundred RPMs below those marks.
This is slightly confusing because we just talked about how faster swing speed players usually have a lower spin rate for drivers than other amateurs. Stronger players will typically have lower lofts with a driver, and hitting the sweet spot on a driver reduces spin greatly when compared to mishits. This is different than other clubs where the speed generated by a fast-swing speed player leads to more spin when compared to slower swing speeds. Of course, pros often want more spin on their approach shots to ensure the ball stops quickly.
A professional will have about 6,200 RPMs for their 6-iron. Well, most amateurs will just not have the speed to generate that much spin. There is nothing wrong with that at all.
The most important part is to establish consistency in spin. That will lead to consistency in distances, which is the key to control.
We highly recommend getting advice from a trained PGA professional or a club fitter who can provide more detailed information about how your spin rate affects your game.
While there are always general ranges you can look at, so much of evaluating spin rate depends on the speed you generate, the clubs you play and the tendencies you have in your swing.
You can have success with keeping your spin rate above or below the typical average, as long as its within reason. You can even plan for lower or higher spin rates if they are consistent.
The big message we wanted to get across in this article is to be weary about outliers in spin rate data. Driver spin rates that jump up well above normal range are great indications of an issue on that shot. At the same time, if you are seeing a 7-iron with something like 4,000 RPMs, that is also a warning sign that either the contact is not right or there could be an equipment error.
Trust what you see in the ball’s flight, as well as what you feel off the clubface. And as we like to say here at Graff, trust in your data.