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How to hit the low spinner

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One of the most frequent questions I get about the short game is how to hit the low spinner — you know, the one that hits the green, takes one big hop and stops. It is the only shot amateur golfers seem to want as much as a 300-yard drive, and there’s good news. Unlike a 300-yard drive, the low spinner is a shot that most golfers can actually learn to hit.

To pull it off, you need to know how to hit the shot and why it flies the way it does. To show you both, I’ve used a tool called BodiTrak’s Balance System that will show you where my weight and center of pressure was during the swing. I’ve also used my Trackman, so you’ll be able to see what the ball was doing as well.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 3.56.01 PM

As you might be able to see in the image above (click to enlarge it if you can’t), I’ve altered my normal set up for this shot.

  1. The ball is a touch back in my stance.
  2. My spine is more centered at address, and it’s not as tilted to the right as it would be for a normal shot.
  3. My hands are a touch more forward than normal, but not so much that would make the shoulders point too far to the left.
  4. My weight is 55 percent on my front foot.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 4.10.37 PM

From here I make my normal backswing. Please note a few things at the top.

  1. The arms are around chest-to-shoulder high. This ensures that I will move from “short to long” and accelerate through the ball.
  2. My head has stayed centered to the top (look at the photos on the wall behind me). I don’t want it to move forward or backward in route to the top because that can cause a faulty pivot motion on the way down.
  3. The rear leg knee has straightened a touch, which has caused the forward leg to bend toward the ball. This helps the weight stay on the forward foot during the backswing.
  4. Most of my weight (77 percent) is on the front portion of my left foot at the top, not the heel. As you can see above, 67 percent of the weight on my front foot is on my toe while 33 percent is on my heel. If you are too “heel heavy” at this point, you will have a tendency to swing too much out to in on the downswing.

Here’s how you should transition into impact to hit the low spinner.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 4.11.24 PM
Note: I have left the double frame in the photo on purpose so you can see what the shaft lean was before impact as well as just past impact.

  1. My head has not moved backward through impact — if anything it has slid a touch forward. Be careful with head motion, as this side-to-side motion can alter your low point at impact.
  2. My head, sternum, zipper and hands are all “stacked” at impact. This shows that everything has and is moving together through the downswing.
  3. Before impact, the shaft is lagging behind the hands and through impact it is leaning forward. That delofts the club as it hits the ball.
  4. As my left leg begins to straighten through impact, the weight is moved back toward the heel of my front foot — 61 percent heel vs. 39 percent toe. Your weight will naturally do this, but if you keep moving into your left toe through impact you will tend to have legs that are too “soft” through impact and that will alter your low point.
  5. I have a touch more weight on my left foot at impact (84 percent) than I did at the top (77 percent). This is due to my head moving slightly toward the target on the downswing.

Let’s examine the Trackman data for the shot above so we can see how our different pivot motion alters our impact relationships.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 4.12.16 PM

Note: For example purposes I really flighted this wedge down so you could understand how it’s done — thus the extreme numbers.

  1. When hitting these shots it’s your goal to NOT hit downward too much. You just want to “bruise” the turf as my buddy Andrew Rice says. Just hitting down more will NOT increase spin.
  2. My dynamic loft is 32.1 degrees at impact, showing that I have delofted my wedge from its normal loft of 54 degrees. Some of this is due to me hitting the shot low on the face, which through vertical gear effect lowers my loft even more at impact.
  3. The ball is launching at a very low 19.2 degrees, creating the desired low, penetrating ball flight. It’s height of 21.4 feet. The normal launch for a 54 degree wedge is somewhere around 28 degrees with a height of 75 feet for the average amateur.
  4. On this shot, which carried 60 yards, we have created a spin rate of 8187 rpm. That’s enough to stop this ball after a hop or so on the green.

The first time you do this, it probably won’t work like you want it to. Why? It’s all about your pivot and its control of your dynamic loft during impact. If you have a faulty pivot, as we’ll see below, your Trackman numbers will suffer.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 4.13.02 PM

Here is the correct top position we described earlier. We saw that the key to spin was to keep the weight forward so the low point was in the right place — then you can deloft the club without hitting the ball fat. Below is what I usually see when people struggle with this shot.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 4.13.31 PM

  1. The head has fallen backward as the weight moves into the rear foot from the top. I had 77 percent of my weight on my forward foot at the top, but now 54 percent of my weight has gone to my rear foot.
  2. When your weight moves from the forward foot to the rear foot, it will tend to move your low point backward as well.
  3. The right shoulder has moved too much “downward” as the weight fell back, moving the low point even farther backward.
  4. So what’s the net effect of this faulty pivot? In an effort not to hit behind the ball, the players will “throw” their hands into impact and as in the double-frame screenshot a few photos above. You can see the shaft pass the hands, which adds loft raising the ball’s launch and reduces spin.

Let’s look at the Trackman numbers on this swing.

Screen Shot 2014-12-09 at 4.14.24 PM

  1. Together the faulty pivot and the throwing of the hands caused the dynamic loft to go up from our earlier (extreme) example of 32.1 degrees to 46 degrees.
  2. With Angle of Attack being constant between the two shots, a dynamic loft of 46 degrees will raise the launch angle from 19.2 degrees to 35.2 degrees giving us a higher ball flight at almost 40 feet.
  3. When your dynamic loft goes up at a certain point the ball will begin to “slip” up the face on your wedge shots. This loss of friction lowers your spin rate as you can see above.
  4. This loss of dynamic loft and friction will hamper your ability to flight the ball down with spin. This shot above will come out higher and tend to roll out more.
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Tom F. Stickney II is the Director of Instruction and Business Development at Punta Mita, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico (www.puntamita.com) He is a Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher, and has been honored as a Golf Digest Best Teacher and a Golf Tips Top-25 Instructor. Tom is also a Trackman University Master/Partner, a distinction held by less than 15 people in the world. Punta Mita is a 1500 acre Golf and Beach Resort located just 45 minuted from Puerto Vallarta on a beautiful peninsula surrounded by the Bay of Banderas on three sides. Amenities include two Nicklaus Signature Golf Courses- with 14 holes directly on the water, a Golf Academy, four private Beach Clubs, a Four Seasons Hotel, a St. Regis Hotel, as well as, multiple private Villas and Homesites available. For more information regarding Punta Mita, golf outings, golf schools and private lessons, please email: tom.stickney@puntamita.com

65 Comments

65 Comments

  1. Dan H

    Jan 12, 2017 at 9:17 pm

    Here’s a cool video with a study on it comparing a new wedge to a one year old wedge using Trackman numbers: https://youtu.be/PeOboLZcUuY

  2. manlong

    Sep 15, 2015 at 3:01 am

    Nice article, now I understand why I can do the check, hop and stop….thanks Tom. I do not have all the equipment’s necessary for this test so I do not know how I can do this without learning all the techniques. At least I can direct my flight buddies to this article to understand it more.

  3. Pingback: BodiTrak Sports | Tom Stickney & GolfWRX: How to hit the low spinner

  4. Mike

    Jan 7, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    Please explain how “hitting the shot low on the face which through vertical gear effect lowers the loft even more”
    E.G. than hitting it in the middle of the face.

    Thanks,
    Mike

    “My dynamic loft is 32.1 degrees at impact, showing that I have delofted my wedge from its normal loft of 54 degrees. Some of this is due to me hitting the shot low on the face, which through vertical gear effect lowers my loft even more at impact.”

  5. Neil Murphy

    Dec 19, 2014 at 7:52 pm

    Great article Tom. I have the same setup using a Boditrak mat and TM. More articles correlating the two would be really good.
    Can I just clarify something? Did you use the bounce of the club or the leading edge when hitting the low spinning wedge?

  6. KK

    Dec 13, 2014 at 1:45 am

    I have to agree with the others, a short summary paragraph at the end would have been nice.

    • Ty

      Dec 14, 2014 at 10:11 am

      Guys, cmon…

      Why are you on this forum? TO learn and get better. Typically people on this site are taking a bigger interest in the game of golf and everything that goes along with it. So why are we never satisfied with FREE write-ups that people take a lot of time to put up. This was a well written article that if you take the time to read it, will appreciate. Like the shot he is describing if you don’t take the time and want the quick fix, you might pull it off now and again….orrrrr you could read, re-read, and re-read again if necessary to actually understand all that goes behind making this shot possible so that in your practice (this is required) you can consistenly pull this shot off and add it to your bag of tricks.

      In summary, read the whole articles, practice, and enjoy your new skills.

      Thanks Tom!

    • Tom Stickney

      Dec 14, 2014 at 8:19 pm

      Next time.

  7. Adam

    Dec 12, 2014 at 1:44 pm

    Look all you haters. Tom took the time to write a piece on how to skip/check a shot using science and tools to collect
    and show that data. If you don’t like or understand what he said I’m sure he’d be willing to break it down without
    people bashing him.

  8. MarkC

    Dec 10, 2014 at 4:09 pm

    Tom, great article, interesting tool, the BodiTrak’s Balance System. Very insightful data from it. I tried to work on this shot towards the end of last season and now I will focus more on where my weight is. But I also ended up digging the deep trench. Any tips on what I can do to get rid of that digging?

    • Tom Stickney

      Dec 10, 2014 at 5:56 pm

      Marc–try to sweep it a touch more. It’s hard to do while leaning the shaft forward but it’s necessary

  9. Shortgame85

    Dec 10, 2014 at 9:34 am

    This is a great and helpful article, very well written. The funny thing is, I have executed this shot by accident several times. Now, thanks to this excellent explanation, I can practice this shot with deliberation. I can’t wait for it to warm up a little so I can get to work!

  10. Science Nerd

    Dec 10, 2014 at 8:01 am

    Tom, Thanks for the instruction and data to show how certain shots “work.” Question: Someone posted a comment about the first shot appearing to roll out more than the second shot. Do devices like Trackman, Flightscope, et al accurately portray how a golf ball will act when it hits the green? I tend to think not as all of the monitors I have hit on (the ones at golfsmith, golf galaxy) shows tons of roll out on mid irons when I tend to see very little to none on the course in real life. -Doc Todd

    • Tom Stickney

      Dec 10, 2014 at 9:56 am

      Science– the rollout is based on PGA tour firmness fairways. I only look at the carry, landing angle, and spin.

  11. Nathan

    Dec 10, 2014 at 4:50 am

    I figured how to do this shot repeatably not so long ago.
    New wedge
    New 2015 prov1 ball.
    2 weeks practice total of 10 hours
    Even delicate shots, and all the way to half swing, low and one hop and stop.
    Simple.
    I think it’s the ball dude!

    • Tom Stickney

      Dec 10, 2014 at 9:57 am

      Nathan. Ball is key.

      • Ben

        Dec 10, 2014 at 10:14 am

        Agreed. Trying to hit this shot with a Top Flight or a Pinacle probably won’t work.

        • tom stickney

          Dec 10, 2014 at 1:35 pm

          Ben– if you could spin those back we’d all be impressed! 🙂

  12. Rod

    Dec 10, 2014 at 1:14 am

    I’m sure this is a great article, if I could comprehend it. That’s no disrespect to the author more about myself. As an enthusiastic but unaccomplished weekend golfer I would appreciate more pearls of wisdom about having as solid a game as most leisure golfers can expect. A high number of golfers take up the game in middle to later years and don’t have the physique, coordination, finances, etc but still want to enjoy their golf to a reasonable standard. Breaking 90 for example would be a great target for many. How can we achieve that given all our limitations would be a reasonable starting point.

    • Tom Stickney

      Dec 10, 2014 at 9:58 am

      Rod. It’s a tough game but fun.

    • Ben

      Dec 10, 2014 at 10:13 am

      Golf is not a game you can get better at without meaningful practice. The pearls of wisdom are no mystery. Take lessons and practice what you’ve been taught on the range.

      Scoring is in your short game. Spend at least %50 of your practice time chipping and putting not just banging balls on the driving range with your driver.

  13. butette

    Dec 9, 2014 at 11:52 pm

    The Trackman pictures look to me like it tells a different story. The second shot has less roll out than the first shot which is supposed to check/spin more.

    • Tom Stickney

      Dec 10, 2014 at 9:59 am

      But– the spinner shot was hit extra low to show the difference. Not 100% accurate. Roll out on tm based on PGA tour fairways not greens.

  14. Naru

    Dec 9, 2014 at 10:53 pm

    >Tom, thank you for the excellent article. I’ve been wondering for LONG time how PGA Tour players hit the low approach shot that stops after one hop on the green. It was fascinating when I first saw tour players routinely practice this shot from 45~60 yards off the green during practice rounds.
    **2 Questions**
    1) Is gap wedge (51~54 degrees) the ideal club to hit, producing the most spin rate and keeping low trajectory?
    2) Do you keep the follow through the same length as the backswing, or abbeviated?

    • Tom Stickney

      Dec 10, 2014 at 10:00 am

      Naru– thx. 54 is usually better. I go short to long.

  15. golfiend

    Dec 9, 2014 at 10:35 pm

    I think there will be a backlash against trackman among amateurs in the near future. Many things can be learned from ball flight and also how the ball reacts when hitting the green. If you’re flipping and trying to help the ball up, the ball is not going to bounce and check. Learn the technique on how the clubhead hits down on the ball — weight on leading leg/foot, shaft lean with hands in front of clubhead with a flat left wrist. Sounds simple doesn’t it. Not so easy to execute, but keep experimenting until the light bulb turns on.

    • Tom Stickney

      Dec 10, 2014 at 10:01 am

      Golf- tm is only a tool not the dictator

  16. Gus

    Dec 9, 2014 at 10:22 pm

    Lovin the Furyk pic. Dude’s an underrated master of spin and short game

  17. Pingback: The 'Big Hop, Stopper' Shot: How to Hit The Low Spinner | Golf Gear Select

  18. golfwb

    Dec 9, 2014 at 9:53 pm

    Why are you guys complaining?
    It’s a hard shot, lots of factors go into it.
    If y’all continue to complain, I’m sure Tom would have no problem never writing a piece again.
    If you really want to learn how to hit the shot, when his suggestions are “wrong”, how about you actually pay for a lesson.
    I’m younger than most of you posting and I can honestly say, grow up.

  19. Earl

    Dec 9, 2014 at 9:27 pm

    Nothing like snark and arrogance from a teaching pro. If you took the time to write the piece, answer them in a professional manner. But then again, no one here is paying you $100 for a lesson.

    • Tom Stickney

      Dec 10, 2014 at 10:04 am

      Earl– everything is inside the article. Just takes time to digest. Some of my articles are deeper than others; I write for all levels. Grow tired of people who want to skim the article and go…this is not one if those pieces. Hence the snarky comment. You are correct. I shouldn’t have reacted that way. Thx

  20. Doug Williams

    Dec 9, 2014 at 8:43 pm

    Way over my head, too! Never seen a Trackman and really don’t have an appreciation about spin and what it means. Or, if I were to be exposed to one – I don’t think I have a clue what the data means. I always enjoy your articles, but I guess it’s like when my daughters talk about the latest app for their smartphone – I just can’t relate.

    • Tom Stickney

      Dec 9, 2014 at 8:46 pm

      Guys…come on…look at the photos…keep your weight forward so you hit the gound in the correct place and lean the shaft a touch forward at impact without digging a trench. That’s it.

      • WILSON

        Dec 9, 2014 at 8:51 pm

        then why didn’t you just write that?

      • Jeremy

        Dec 9, 2014 at 8:54 pm

        Tom, I’m a busy man, I don’t have time for all your fancy egghead data. Just, please, in 10 words or less, teach me how to win a major. Kthxbye.

        • Tom Stickney

          Dec 10, 2014 at 10:05 am

          Jer- then skip it.

          • Tom Stickney

            Dec 10, 2014 at 10:06 am

            Jer– sorry hit the button…wrong reply! Shoot a really low score! 🙂

  21. cb

    Dec 9, 2014 at 8:22 pm

    love your articles as usual tom. quick question about the weight. is their a drill or tool that a person can use at home or on the range to really feel where the weight is? unfortunately the closest place with a balance board, like the one you’re using, is not really close to me. i know from my past experience with balance boards, that after looking at the info its interesting to see where your weight actually is despite where you thought it was.

    • Tom Stickney

      Dec 9, 2014 at 8:47 pm

      Try a slight downhill lie to feel what I’m describing.

  22. Eagle006

    Dec 9, 2014 at 7:42 pm

    Got to agree with the above comment, information overload for me I’m afraid. Tom, I enjoy your articles on here, but in this case the Boditrack stuff offers me very little of any practical use and just confuses the issue if anything. As suggested, some simple set up and swing keys to this would have been much better.

    • Tom Stickney

      Dec 9, 2014 at 8:07 pm

      Eagle- how can a tool that shows weight not help you?

    • Jeremy

      Dec 9, 2014 at 8:51 pm

      There are no simple fixes. This is an advanced shot. It’s a lot of information and very helpful for those who know how to use it.

      • tom stickney

        Dec 10, 2014 at 1:37 pm

        jer–thanks…written for the ones who want to know the how and why

  23. nikkyd

    Dec 9, 2014 at 6:59 pm

    Ok tom. Now the gear effect of the clubface actually tilting or de lofting makes absolute sense, but how does a wedge shaft make a difference in this shot? Softer tipped shaft or what? I play 37″ x100s in my wedges and cannot seem to keep the ball down. With the stock s flex shafts i could actually feel the face “folding over” , now my wedges are like rebar. But i guess i like that feel. So long story short, does the shaft flex affect this shot more or less?

    • Tom Stickney

      Dec 9, 2014 at 8:06 pm

      Nik– I would assume yes, but that’s not my expertise.

      • nikkyd

        Dec 9, 2014 at 9:19 pm

        Fair enough! Thank you for an honest answer mr. Stickney

        • tom stickney

          Dec 10, 2014 at 1:38 pm

          Contact Scott Felix at Felix Clubworks at Spring Creek Ranch in Collierville, Tennessee he’s my go to guy on club stuff- he’ll know

  24. Mikec

    Dec 9, 2014 at 6:54 pm

    Way too much scientific info and detail to consume for the avg weekend player. How about breaking it down in to no more than 4 simple steps, if you were teaching the shot. The info is all in there, but way too long a read. Good for the gear-heads, but how about a conclusion/take-away tips?

    • Tom Stickney

      Dec 9, 2014 at 8:05 pm

      Mike- not for the average player.

    • Derek

      Dec 10, 2014 at 12:08 am

      This and all the other comments like this baffle me.

      You clearly did not read the article.

      You don’t need to be a science expert or trackman genius to understand what Tom is saying. Frankly, I’ve never seen or used either of the machines he mentioned HOWEVER he does very clearly state that to achieve this shot you need to ensure you have a majority of your weight on your LEADING foot while maintaining some shaft lean and not taking too large of a divot – more “brusing” the ground as he describes.

      He also teaches you how to make a manageable backswing to achieve this shot. Morevoer he also mentions that this shot isn’t for the faint of heart.

      If you did not understand it the first time, maybe try re-reading it. This article was actually quite well written. The only missing piece of information was what club he used but he was clearly using some kind of wedge (Gap or PW) based on the distance…

      Try taking some responsibility in the information being provided to you by a person under no obligation to teach you anything.

      Well don Tom.

      • Mikec

        Dec 10, 2014 at 12:12 pm

        I did read the article.
        I know the shot and hit the shot (used to be a real staple in my bag, got away from me a bit) and am a single digit cap.
        My only point was for me (and I know it’s all choice, “don’t read the article”) is that I like Tom’s stuff and was excited to read about the shot, and then found it a frustrating read as it was like a puzzle to get all the bits out of how to hit the shot. There was no wrap or conclusion/take-away/sum-up of keys to how to hit the shot.As I said, it’s all in there, but it takes a long time to piece together with a lot of charts/a technical data/numbers, that I am not really interested in. That’s all. I have a right to comment about what I thought of the piece. This is why I love WRX, as you would never see an article that detailed in GolfDigest, all I am saying, is for the lesser gear-heads (me), but still proficient players (8 cap), give me a “wrap-up” in layman’s terms.

        • tom stickney

          Dec 10, 2014 at 1:40 pm

          mikec- keep your weight left, lean the shaft forward, bruise the ground, and it will fly lower with more spin. Enjoy

      • tom stickney

        Dec 10, 2014 at 1:39 pm

        der– thank you sir…at the bottom of the trackman screens in the article it lists the club used…should have mentioned it

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Clark: On learning golf

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“A true teacher will teach how to think, not what to think”

There are several versions of the above adage, but when you teach every day, you get to see this up close and personal. In my opinion, all a teacher can do is to guide you as to what happens when you hit a golf ball. The student has to discover what works for them to achieve better results. It is that simple. The internet is loaded with “how-to” info, and some of it might actually apply to your individual issue, but do yourself a big favor: Go beat some balls and see how it goes; try this, try that, repeat steps one and two!

Let’s take turning as a classic example. If someone were to ask a teacher HOW to turn, there could be a dozen answers. What the teacher, the data, video show is simply this: You are NOT turning. Let’s try this, let’s try that, no, how about this? There are an unlimited number of ways, but the student needs to: FIRST, realize the lack or incorrectness of turn, and SECOND, find a way to do it. Any way, YOUR way. This is called participating in your learning and discovering process. When Ben Hogan said: “the secret is in the dirt,” this is precisely what he was referring to. 

I have a short section each day in my golf school dedicated to the ballistics of impact. A student needs to know exactly what happens at impact. And when you know what produces good flight, then find what you personally are doing to violate those laws. How to correct an open and/or closed clubface means nothing to a student who doesn’t know what open or closed actually is, or does. Swing path and its relationship to clubface resulting in ball flight curvature is knowledge every teacher has, but is like rocket science to the student who knows none of this. I once had a student who thought his shanks were coming off the toe! When I told him that just the opposite was happening, he immediately moved away from the ball a little and stopped shanking (there were other reasons he shanked but just that much knowledge got him off the hosel!)

In order to correct anything, anything at all, it is first necessary to discover the problem and find a way, any way to correct it. No teacher, book, TV tip, or article can do what you can do for yourself. All the teacher might do is make you aware of the problem. But in the end, just go play and try this, that and the other thing. The answer is there, believe me, the answer is in you. You have to find it!

The problem, very often, is that golfers are looking for someone to offer them a light bulb moment, a flash of “aha,” the “I’ve-got-it-now” solution. The aha moment is the only way to get sustained improvement, but it must come from you, the individual. There is no universal “light-bulb moment,” it is uniquely-yours alone to discover.  As I’ve said before, “it’s not what I cover, it’s what you discover.” Discover what? That “thing” you can grasp and go hit ball after ball until you have, at least to a functional degree, internalized it!

Good luck on your personal journey!

On a personal note, this will be my final article for GolfWRX. I have written 100-plus articles over the last 10 years or so and I have thoroughly enjoyed helping all of you who read my articles.

If you read through them on some rainy day, you’ll notice a theme: “If this, then that.” Meaning: If your golf ball is consistently doing that, try this. The articles are all archived on this site, and I am writing a book about my life on the lesson tee. It has been a labor of love as my whole career has been. There is no greater joy in my professional life than seeing the look on a golfers face and feel the joy within them when they improve. The minute that slice straightens, or that ground ball goes up in the air, is a special bond and a shared joy in the student-teacher relationship.

But I’ve said most of what I think is pertinent and anything after this would be redundant. There is now a plethora of how-to info out there, and I personally feel the reader may begin to think he/she should do this or that as opposed to thinking “I should try to discover this or that through my own personal exploration.”

If any of you wish to contact me directly regarding help with your game, you know how to do so. But do remember this: You cannot learn golf from words or pictures. My advice is to get a good teacher to look at you a few times, then go out and find the answer in the dirt. Golf is a game to played. And in that playing, in that trial-and-error process, you will find things that will help you achieve better outcomes. No one owns this game: We only to get to borrow it from time to time!  

 

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