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Wishon: The practical facts about spin and shaft design

by   (Senior Writer I)   |   January 11, 2013
launch monitor

It is a great education as a clubhead and shaft designer to scan through GolfWRX forum posts to listen to what golfers think about their equipment. One of the areas that seems to have developed momentum on GolfWRX is how many golfers react to a backspin measurement on a launch monitor. They try to find a shaft that can enable them to get their spin number lower without first taking the time to determine if they do in fact have a spin problem.

Here are the facts I’ve learned about driver spin in my career, in which I’ve spent countless hours designing clubheads, shafts and fitting golfers.

  • Spin outputs from some launch monitors can be inaccurate and inconsistent 

Only the TrackMan and FlightScope launch monitors have the ability to read the amount of backspin on a shot with reasonable accuracy.  Other launch monitors use various means of pickup (camera, ultrasonic, laser, etc) which simply cannot record spin with a reasonable level of accuracy ore repeatability.  Some just simply calculate the spin from the golfer’s ball speed!

Accurate backspin measurement on a golf shot is a highly complex operation.  The output for spin is in revolutions per MINUTE.  Yet a launch monitor has only a fraction of a second in which to measure how much the ball is spinning upon leaving the clubface. This means with every launch monitor, a math calculation has to be incorporated with the amount of spin “seen” in a fraction of a second to come up with the RPM measurement.

During the time the other launch monitors actually “see” the ball spin, the ball does not even complete one full revolution.  Therefore, the spin recognition means has to very accurately measure how much the ball actually rotated during the time it was being “seen.” If the device misses the amount of revolution by say, 10 degrees out of a full 360 degree rotation, by the time the math calculation is done to output an rpm measurement, the final spin measurement can be way off.

Click here for more discussion in the “Clubmaking” forum.

TrackMan and Flight Scope use phase array pulsing Doppler radar to measure spin. Both units shoot a radar beam at the ball from behind, and thus are able to pick up data from the ball’s movement for several feet after impact.  This is in comparison to a camera based system which only sees the ball over a couple of inches after takeoff, and explains why the TrackMan and FlightScope launch monitors are more accurate in their spin measurement.

  • Most golfers hit range balls on a launch monitors, not premium balls

When is the last time you hit premium quality golf balls on a launch monitor? The majority of operations use range balls with their launch monitor analysis.

Most range balls are one-piece and rarely have similar spin characteristics to the premium balls that golfers typically use when they play. Range balls also suffer more wear from getting hit a lot more times than premium balls. Add it all up and it is nearly impossible for a golfer to try to make valid conclusions about their spin measurements when hitting worn range balls on launch monitors that do not have the ability to accurately measure backspin.

There most definitely is a difference in spin between different models of premium golf balls. To get the most accurate and valid spin measurement for each golfer’s game, it only makes sense to use the ball you typically play and do it with either a TrackMan or Flight Scope launch monitor.

  • The best way to determine if you have a spin problem is to observe the flight of the ball, not by reading the spin output from a launch monitor

Just because a tour player’s driver spin is in the low 2000-rpm range does not mean that if yours isn’t, you have a spin problem that is harming your game. The optimum amount of spin for each golfer differs depending on clubhead speed and angle of attack.  The slower the clubhead speed, the more spin is needed to generate enough lift under the ball to help keep it in the air to carry farther. Likewise, the higher the clubhead speed and ball speed, the less spin is needed to generate enough lift under the ball to help keep it in the air to carry farther.

The following are data charts from TrackMan that show their findings for what are the optimum driver launch parameters are for different combinations of clubhead speed and angle of attack. From TrackMan’s research, it is easy to see that spin has to increase as clubhead speed slows and the angle of attack is more downward.  Charts are offered for optimum CARRY distance as well as for optimum TOTAL DISTANCE as per the conditions of the fairways and their conduciveness to more or less roll of the ball after landing.

TrackMan Page 1 TrackMan Page 23

4

Whether a golfer has too much backspin for his clubhead speed and angle of attack depends on the ball flight shape as the ball flies through the air. More serious, higher ball speed golfers need to learn how to visually identify what a shot hit with too much spin looks like rather than to make conclusions based only on a launch monitor measurement.

For shots hit with too much spin, the ball typically curves rapidly upward to a higher apex in flight, after which the ball seems to hang for a little moment at the peak of its apex and then fall more steeply to the ground. From a side view, an exaggerated graphic of the flight shape of the excessive spin shot looks somewhat like this:

Screen Shot 2013-01-11 at 11.09.44 AM

A more preferred driver ball flight shape would look more like this:

Screen Shot 2013-01-11 at 11.09.56 AM

There is nothing wrong with hitting the driver high, as long as the angle of descent of the ball to the ground is less than 40 degrees.

Screen Shot 2013-01-11 at 11.09.56 AM 1

TrackMan and FlightScope have features that allow you to see the flight shape of every shot.  Because they pulse the ball continually in flight from takeoff to landing and roll, its graphic rendition of the shot is accurate. This too can be a valid way to determine if your ball flight shape indicates that you hit the ball with too much spin for your clubhead speed and angle of attack.

Click here for more discussion in the “Clubmaking” forum.

Bottom Line: Learn to watch the flight of your shots and make conclusions about spin results from what you see before you make conclusions from what the launch monitor outputs for a spin number.

  • The vast majority of excessive spin situations are caused by swing errors far more than from playing the wrong equipment, and are more often cured by changes in swing technique more effectively than from changes in equipment.

What causes the excessive spin shot?  From our research and fitting observations, the two most predominant swing errors that result in excessive spin are:

  1. A downward angle of attack into the ball with the driver which requires the golfer to use more loft to achieve their optimum launch angle, which in turn increases spin.
  2. A breakdown of the wrist of the upper hand on the grip coming into impact which allows the clubhead to pass in front of the hands before impact, thus greatly increasing the dynamic loft of the clubhead and increasing spin and launch angle along with it.

The equipment change that can more effectively and more dramatically reduce higher spin caused by either one of these swing errors is a lower the loft on the clubhead.  However, in the first case of the downward angle of attack, lower loft, is not really a good solution because it lowers the launch angle as well. Of the two, launch angle and spin, it is FAR better to achieve the right launch angle for the golfer’s clubhead speed and angle of attack than it is to lower the spin.

In the second case of the clubhead passing the hands to cause the high flight, high spin shot, lower loft certainly helps reduce the problem. However, it is also true that you can only lower loft so much. Rarely will you find a 6-degree or 5-degree loft driver. At the end of the day, a golfer is much better off making the effort to get rid of the higher spin/higher launch by taking lessons to improve his angle of attack or his hand-to-clubhead position at impact.

  • What is a low launch/low spin or high launch/high spin shaft? 

Seriously, if I had a dollar for every time I have read, heard or been asked this question, I could pay for a really nice golf vacation! If you want to know the REAL ANSWER to this question, here it is:

Any shaft that is stiffer overall or is more tip stiff than what you currently play is a lower launch shaft, while any shaft that is more flexible or more tip flexible than what you play is a higher launch shaft. In short, because the golf swing controls everything with regard to the performance of a shaft, what is a lower launch/spin shaft to one golfer can be a higher launch/spin to another golfer and vice versa.

As I have written many times, a shaft ONLY acts to change launch angle and spin for golfers who have a late unhinging of the wrist cock angle during the downswing. So the higher your clubhead speed and the later you release the club, the more you can force the shaft to be flexed forward at impact, which in turn increases the dynamic loft of the clubhead to increase launch angle and spin.

So the stiffer the shaft and/or more tip stiff the shaft in relation to your clubhead speed and point of release, the less the shaft bends forward at impact and the more that shaft becomes a lower launch and lower spin shaft. Conversely, the more flexible and/or more tip flexible the shaft is in relation to your clubhead speed and point of release, the more the shaft can bend forward at impact to generate a little higher launch/higher spin shot.

I’m sorry to tell you this, but the ONLY way you will ever know if a shaft is going to be a lower or higher launch/spin shaft than what you play is to see and compare the full stiffness measurements of the shafts using something like my company’s TWGT Shaft Bend Profile Software. Many of you have seen graph and data chart images from this program that I have posted on WRX to explain the stiffness and performance and feel differences between shafts.

Click here for more discussion in the “Clubmaking” forum.

Below is an example graph and data chart from the TWGT Bend Profile Software. The following chart shows shafts for a golfer with a 100 mph driver clubhead speed who has an average transition/tempo force and a late release. The shafts are listed from top to bottom in the chart for highest to lowest launch/lowest spin characteristics so that you can see how the tip stiffness of the shafts becomes the key element for offering a progressive lowering of the launch and spin for the same driver head.

Screen Shot 2013-01-11 at 11.20.14 AM

In the above bend profile graph, the stiffness of all seven shafts in the butt-to-center areas is close enough that all seven could be rated for a golfer with a 100 to 105 mph driver clubhead speed with an average transition force and average tempo.

The measurements for the 21/16/11 are the tip section stiffness measurements. From top to bottom, you’ll see the tip stiffness become progressively stiffer and stiffer. Thus, among these shafts, for a golfer with a 100 to 105 mph driver clubhead speed with an average transition and tempo force, the UST HTD CB85-R will hit the ball the highest with the greatest spin. Then for each shaft that follows, this same example golfer would see a very gradual lowering of the launch angle and spin due to the increase in tip stiffness, while the butt-to-center stiffness remains the same for each shaft.

Now let’s say the 100 to 105 mph golfer with an average transition force and late release was using a Kusala Indigo 61-X, and he complained of hitting the ball with too much spin and wanted a recommendation for a low spin shaft to reduce his spin. Among these shafts, the only one that could even qualify is the Vista Tour 60-X because its tip section is stiffer. However, based on these tip stiffness measurements, the Vista Tour 60-X is only a little more tip stiff than the Kusala Indigo 61-X. The golfer using the Kusala Indigo 61-X probably would not see much of a change in launch or spin because the Kusala is already a very tip stiff shaft.

In reality, if a golfer using such a tip stiff shaft as the Kusala Indigo 61-X complains of too much spin, you could probably bet the farm that if he does in fact have a spin problem, it is because of a swing error and not an equipment deficiency.

Click here for more discussion in the “Clubmaking” forum.

Hard data like the above graph and measurement chart is how spin characteristics of shafts have to be analyzed. Anything else is a pure guessing game.

  • Is there such a thing as a high launch/low spin or low launch/high spin shaft?

To make this easy, the answer is without question is NO, it is impossible to make such a shaft because of the different ways different golf swings cause the shaft to bend. No, nada, nil, cannot be done. Period.

The later the unhinging of the wrist cock angle and the higher the clubhead speed, the more the shaft can arrive at impact flexed forward. The more the shaft flexes forward, the more the dynamic loft of the clubhead is increased. The more the dynamic loft of the head is increased, the higher the launch angle AND the higher the spin will be for the shot.

Since it is the forward bending of the shaft that influences the dynamic loft at impact, and since dynamic loft at impact controls BOTH launch angle and spin in the same way, it is impossible to create a shaft that is either high launch/low spin or low launch/high spin.

Conclusion and Key Points

  1. Be more concerned about finding the driver and shaft combination that achieves your absolutely optimum launch angle and ball speed before you worry about spin. Stop obsessing about the spin number coming from the launch monitor. Please take the time to carefully analyze the ball flight shape of your shots before you make any conclusions about whether you have a “too much spin” problem.
  2. You never want to choose a shaft with a stiffness and/or tip stiffness design that either feels too stiff or too flexible for your individual preference for the bending feel of the shaft.
  3. The No. 1 way to change the amount of spin and trajectory on a shot is to change the loft of the clubhead. No. 2 is to change the ball design. No. 3 is to change the shaft’s stiffness and/or tip stiffness design, but remember; a shaft that affect a change on spin only works for players with a later and later release.
  4. If you truly do have a “too much spin” problem as proven by a valid, accurate observation of the flight of the ball, first check to see if you have a downward angle of attack or if you are allowing the clubhead to pass the hands before impact.  If you do either one of these things in your swing, take lessons and practice hard to change these swing errors — do not buy a new club or shaft.

If you cannot overcome the swing error causing your too much spin problem, find a lower loft to help you reduce spin. If you cannot overcome the swing error causing your too much spin problem and the shaft you have fits your swing speed, transition/tempo force, point of release and preference for feel, don’t go shaft hunting to try to lower the spin on your shots. It will either have little to no effect you’ll like end up with a shaft that feels and plays too stiff.

Click here for more discussion in the “Clubmaking” forum.

 

About

Tom Wishon is a 40-year veteran of the golf equipment industry specializing in club head design, shaft performance analysis and club fitting research and development. He has been responsible for more than 50 different club head design firsts in his design career, including the first adjustable hosel device, as well as the first 0.830 COR fairway woods, hybrids and irons.

GolfWRX Writer of the Month: February 2014

Tom served as a member of the Golf Digest Technical Advisory Panel, and has written several books on golf equipment including "The Search for the Perfect Golf Club" and "The Search for the Perfect Driver," which were selected as back-to-back winners of the 2006 and 2007 Golf Book of the Year by the International Network of Golf (ING), the largest organization of golf industry media professionals in the USA.

He continues to teach and share his wealth of knowledge in custom club fitting through his latest book, "Common Sense Clubfitting: The Wishon Method," written for golf professionals and club makers to learn the latest techniques in accurate custom club fitting.

Tom currently heads his own company, Tom Wishon Golf Technology, which specializes in the design of original, high-end custom golf equipment designs and club fitting research for independent custom club makers worldwide Click here to visit his site, wishongolf.com

26 Comments

  1. Pingback: Driver Shaft | bweisbecker

  2. Joe Golfer

    February 22, 2014 at 12:02 am

    Always enjoy reading Tom Wishon’s articles.
    They are teaching tools.
    They are also very informative for making decisions when it comes to new equipment.

  3. Twister

    April 5, 2013 at 8:28 pm

    You forgot torque. The impact of the ball on the club face (at distance y from the center of the shaft axis) applies a torque force to the shaft about its vertical axis. The degree to which the head rotates away from the ball in an attempt to relieve that force will also impact launch and spin. In some cases, quite a material impact.

    • RC

      April 22, 2013 at 8:17 pm

      False. The ball is gone before the head starts to twist any appreciable amount. The “torque” of a shaft relates to how that twisting will affect the feel of the club.

      • Gilly

        May 14, 2013 at 3:34 am

        Wrong. It IS possible that the shaft twist RIGHT AT IMPACT with the ball causing the LARGE driver heads to twist away and therefore applying spin in various ways not wanting by the hitter. That is a part of the MOI (moment of inertia).

  4. RC

    March 8, 2013 at 3:09 pm

    A DOWNWARD ANGLE OF ATTACK DOES NOT LEAD TO INCREASED SPIN! That statement drives me insane, especially when made by someone who should know better. The other point that bothered me was that, a golfer should ignore spin and pay attention ball speed and launch angle…WTF? Thats like saying ” To make bread, leave the yeast out. Focus instead on the water.” The rest of the article is good though.

    • Dugan

      May 17, 2013 at 5:30 pm

      @RC. Ofcourse angle of attack has a direct effect on backspin! Even me being a 12 capper knows that. Perfect example would be with a wedge shot, a person who sweeps the ball will have about 5-10 feet of rollout when it hits the green. A person who hits down on the ball will usually bounce once and stop or bounce and spin back a little.

      • Socalpro517

        February 7, 2014 at 11:15 pm

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PMRYEXd4XGs

        Angle of attack is technically only half the equation. Say you “sweep” a 0 angle of attack with a dynamic loft of 47 degrees the ball will actually spin the same as if you had a -5 attack which in turn would most likely involve lowering your dynamic loft 5 degrees to match, thus taking an identical spin number and only aiming it 5 degrees lower. Hitting down on the ball DOES NOT produce more backspin. Unless the dynamic loft is maintained or increased, which rarely happens.

  5. Thomas Nevue

    February 20, 2013 at 8:53 am

    Great article, whatever to the haters, you know what your talking about and are one of the reasons I refer to this site daily to learn all that I can to improve as I practice.

  6. Cmac

    February 19, 2013 at 9:30 pm

    This is great info…becoming a good golfer is a balance of knowing and doing…you better believe good golfers know exactly how their equipment is supposed to behave relative to their swing for any given shot.

  7. Joe

    January 17, 2013 at 12:28 am

    Once again, excellent article. Kudos to you, Tom Wishon.
    I always really enjoy the technical articles you write, so thanks for taking the time to inform those of us with an interest in how these factors affect the shaft and swing, etc.

  8. GW

    January 15, 2013 at 12:09 pm

    I’ve heard a certain golf instructor on a major network describe still photos of a swing where the shaft appears to flex forward as “impossible.” Am I right in reading the article, that it IS possible and may contribute to higher launch, etc.

    • John

      January 15, 2013 at 1:39 pm

      The shaft flexes forward during the downswing for every golfer in the world, no matter what their club head speed… It’s physics and with this great emphasis on club head speed we should have already understood that the club head is moving faster than the hands which creates a “backward bend” in the shaft

      • Joe

        January 17, 2013 at 12:19 am

        Yes that’s true, John.
        Tom Wishon has written three previous articles about the shaft prior to this one, and one of them explains that facet very well.
        But the head isn’t necessarily leading the hands at impact.
        In a good swing, it is, as the player has a late release of the hands. But if a player has an early release, the club shaft has done all of its’ bending before getting to the ball, and is essentially straightened out at impact.
        If you don’t believe me, check out Wishon’s previous article which explains it all in superb detail.

    • Joe

      January 17, 2013 at 12:38 am

      Tom Wishon has written a previous article about shafts that describes this aspect. Look at Tom’s other articles and it will be explained to you in terms that are understandable.
      On the right side of the page, you can see his name listed under the “Featured Writers” section.
      See the article entitled “Facts about Shafts-What they do (Part 3).
      It will explain the “forward bend” of the shaft for you.

  9. OG

    January 14, 2013 at 1:38 pm

    Yeah it’s good stuff but how do you tell an ego-maniacal golfer that he’s got a SWING ERROR in a nice way without getting him all fired up? LOL hahaha hehehe

  10. Ken

    January 12, 2013 at 9:00 pm

    “Is there such a thing as a high launch/low spin or low launch/high spin shaft?

    To make this easy, the answer is without question is NO, it is impossible to make such a shaft because of the different ways different golf swings cause the shaft to bend. No, nada, nil, cannot be done. Period.”

    im pretty sure they do make a high launch low spin shaft.

    (EDIT: Shaft company listed and need a sponsorship to advertise)

    • Blanco

      January 12, 2013 at 9:27 pm

      If you read the article and understood it, you’d realize that those are marketing terms… marketing is what helps you come to terms with the several hundred dollars you spent on a piece of painted graphite.

  11. Ste D

    January 12, 2013 at 9:44 am

    The spin rate on my 10 degree driver with a regular shaft and 95mph club speed was 11000!!!!! I carry about 220yds+. Think I need to change something!! Any recommendations??

    • Gerry

      March 11, 2013 at 9:50 am

      I would say take lessons, I’m 155 pounds 5’11”, 4.2 handicap with about 40 games a year. I can crank my driver 310 at times(average about 280). Its all in your backswing/wind up, then transferring the weight forward properly.
      Proper balance is key! Finish with your knees touching. Light grip, like a 4 at setup. Should get to about an 8 when actually swinging the club. Let the club do the work. Follow through, finishing with the club behind your head; parallel to your ears.
      Visualize your shot, PLAY YOUR MISSES. if you fade it, then play your fade.. And one of the best things you can do is know the carry of your club… not just the distances.. so if you hit your 9 iron 135ish your carry will be like 128…

  12. tlmck

    January 12, 2013 at 9:06 am

    Excellent article.

  13. johnny

    January 12, 2013 at 3:42 am

    This site golfwrx, stated out with great intentions but you are giving way to much information to 15 handicaps, 5′s for that matter. I Give the technical stuff a rest and let the club fitters handle it. If i have one me guy tel me his specs as a 22 handicapl ill emplode. ” i need a diet with an x at y degrees and 3 * open,,arrghhhhh.

  14. Rufiolegacy

    January 12, 2013 at 12:26 am

    Solid read, I wish I could just print this out and hand it to customers when they ask for shaft recommendations lol

  15. Kevin

    January 11, 2013 at 6:58 pm

    Too many golfers buy driver after driver, get a great shaft for your swing and the results are unreal. Pretty similar in cost (Shaft and a new Driver that is).

  16. yo!

    January 11, 2013 at 5:06 pm

    good stuff

    • W. Scott

      February 16, 2014 at 11:52 am

      I really trust this author. This should be extremely valuable to an old guy like me if I could just afford to get a trackman fitting by a person that understands it all!

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