Analytics 101

Spin Rate of a Golf Ball: Learning How to Control Your Spin

October 18, 2021
6 min

With every golf shot you hit, spin rate is a critical factor.

Too much backspin will typically cause a ball to climb too far in the air, falling short of its intended target while also being more susceptible to going off-line. It’s also more likely to stop quicker.

Perils of low backspin numbers are that your ball won’t have enough lift to carry hazards and reach your intended distance. Approach shots can also be difficult to control because your ball will be coming in from a shallower angle and won’t stop as quickly once it lands.

In a previous post about interpreting spin rate, we touched on how spin is a major influencer of height and distance in a shot. This post won’t go over the basics of spin rate, so we suggest going back to the previous article if you need more of a foundation.  

Here we will talk about how to actually change your technique to alter spin.

The Driver Dilemma

Most golfers create too much spin when hitting a driver.

This means that the average golfer is not reaching their full distance potential. Their swing speed may allow them to hit the ball 280 yards, but their high spin rate stops the ball from reaching anywhere near that distance.

Two of the biggest culprits are an angle of attack that is too steep and making contact too low on the clubface — the latter being a common symptom of the former.

Let’s take a deeper look at this. For a PGA Tour player hitting a driver, their angle of attac (which is the angle at which the club is delivered into the ball) is -1.3 degrees. That means that their club is traveling slightly downwards as it reaches the ball. A downward angle of attack creates more spin. However, their combination of high clubhead speed, a lower-lofted drivers, a stiffer shaft and a more consistent contact on the center of the clubface brings their spin numbers down.

An LPGA Tour golfer has a much slower clubhead speed — 94 mph rather than 113 mph for the men — and because of that, they have an angle of attack that is 3 degrees upwards. When a player with a slower swing speed — which is most people relative to PGA Tour players — hits down on the ball, they are creating far more spin than a professional. The ball also has more sidespin, or curve. Coming into the ball steeply also means that the club is pointed more towards the ground and contact is often made with the bottom of the clubface first. The ball will roll up the face and add even more spin.

Changing Angle of Attack

If you are seeing a spin rate of over 4,000 RPMs with your driver, that is often a sign of hitting a slice, which is a left to right shot for a righthanded player. Hitting a slice almost always includes an unnecessarily steep angle of attack.

For this reason, the majority of golfers should focus on staying more level in their driver swing so they can create a slight upward move into impact. To attain this, it’s important to establish good shoulder and hip rotation, creating depth as the driver travels more away from your body on the backswing.

As your weight shifts to your right side in the backswing, it should stay there as the downswing begins. This allows the club to swing more level or slightly upwards as it gets closer to reaching the ball and your weight shifts to your left side.

Another change in setup that often helps is starting with slightly more weight on your trail side, which is the right side for a righthanded player. Go into your setup position, take your right hand off of the club and see if you can come close to reaching the outside of your right knee without changing anything else.

If you can only reach your thigh, you can benefit from starting with slightly more weight on your right side.

This is all meant to shallow out your path to the ball and reduce spin.

Spin Rate On Approach Shots

Spin is often talked about in the context of hitting a driver or fairway woods, but it has an equally important purpose on approach shots.

You know how the pros hit a shot that lands on the green and zips backwards? Or how they can hit a pitch shot that skips once and then grabs perfectly?

It’s all created by spin.

Let’s start with a shorter pitch shot that stops. Most people think the key to this shot is to hit down on the ball, but that isn’t the most vital part.

The key is the difference between your backswing and follow-through.  

Start with about 70 percent of your weight on your left side, the ball in the back of your stance and your feet slightly open to the target. On the backswing, hinge your wrists to create a narrow takeaway. And after you come through to impact, do the opposite — extend your arms and keep the clubface open while abbreviating your follow through.

If you clip it cleanly, the ball will have ample backspin and will stop almost immediately.

That same concept can be applied to a longer wedge shot, but the further away from the hole you are, the more you will need to extend your arms and release the club.

When it comes to full iron shots, the most important element of spin is clean contact. That means striking the ball first and the ground second, creating a “dollar bill” divot. If you do that, the loft of the club alone (and the speed generated) will help produce enough spin to make the ball stop quickly.

Reducing Spin Rate On Approach Shots

We don’t always want to create spin with approach shots.

Sometimes having too much spin can be a problem. Maybe there is wind in your face and too much spin hinders the flight of the ball. Maybe creating too much backspin is difficult to control once it lands on the green, and you are trying to create a more predictable outcome once the shot lands. Or maybe you want to hit a pitch shot that runs up to the hole instead of it stopping quickly.

But how do you hit a wedge shot with less spin?

Step one is to lessen the hinge in your wrists on the backswing. We want the backswing the follow-through to be similar as the wrists are more along for the ride and less active.

Step two is we actually want to take some speed off of the shot. Swing speed increases spin. This shot is more about control, like a grandfather clock swinging back and forth.

This is a great shot to practice into the wind. It usually is a lower shot with a boring trajectory — but boring in a good way. It’s more predictable and is a great way to learn how to hit a wedge shot with consistency.

Final Thoughts

Managing spin is a vital part of any golfer’s game.

Using a smart golf ball or a launch monitor can help you understand how different techniques affect your spin. Getting that immediate feedback can be a helpful resource.

There is no perfect spin rate for each club, but we do have ranges that can offer guidance.

And remember, equipment also plays a prominent factor in spin rate. Make sure you are fit properly for clubs and remember to check whether you are playing a low-spin or a high-spin ball.

Most amateurs will contend that they aren’t good enough for these things to matter, but it’s actually the opposite — getting these details right is what can help you improve!

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