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Get a better understanding of spin loft

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One of the most misunderstood facets of the Trackman is the measurement of “spin loft” and what it means for a golfer’s game. I want to take a few moments of your time to help you understand some of the points about spin loft that will help you put it in perspective for your game.

First let’s get a few definitions out of the way:

  • Spin loft: The difference between dynamic loft and attack angle at impact.
  • Dynamic loft: The loft of the club at impact.
  • Angle of attack: The vertical angle at which the club is moving at impact.

Spin loft on Trackman

In the example above, the dynamic loft at impact for this iron shot is 19.8 degrees. To calculate spin loft we also need the angle of attack, which is -5.3 degrees. Taking the dynamic loft and subtracting the angle of attack [19.8 – (-5.3)] gives us a spin loft of 25.1 degrees.

So now that we know the spin loft variables and how it is calculated, you probably want to know what it actually mean in the real world? Below I’ve listed a few things to keep in mind.

Obviously golfers cannot measure spin loft without a Doppler radar launch monitor like FlightScope or Trackman, but as more people gain access to these machines the term of “spin loft” will become more common. Get ahead of the curve and understand why spin loft actually matters.

  • Spin loft, or the difference between the dynamic loft and your angle of attack, can help you determine your compression of the golf ball.
  • Compression is NOT determined by your smash factor. Smash Factor only shows the ratio between club head speed and subsequent ball speed at impact.
  • The greater the spin loft you have, the more the ball will spin, but only up to 45 degrees of spin loft. After that, the ball begins to “slide” up the face and friction is lost between the blade and spin is reduced.
  • The lower the spin loft, the more compression is felt by the player within reason, as there are ranges that each club should fall within.
  • Hitting downward does NOT create more spin, as commonly thought. Only increasing spin loft can create more spin.
  • You can spin the ball more by maintaining a consistent angle of attack and maintaining the club’s static loft at impact (up to a 45 degree spin loft).
  • Usually when people try and hit “down,” they also reduce dynamic loft as well, thus reducing spin.
  • The less spin loft you have the greater the ball’s spin axis will tilt right or left.
  • Drivers have less spin loft and curve offline more than wedges, which have greater spin lofts and won’t curve as much.
  • Gear effect and a very narrow spin loft can increase the ball’s spin axis outside of the normal ranges produced through the face-to-path relationship.
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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: [email protected]

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Jason Hawk

    Jun 23, 2014 at 10:29 am

    So if the ball starts to slide after 45 of spin loft, with a 60* wedge (assuming a very shallow attack angle) the clubface should be leaned forward to 45* for maximum spin?

  2. Jim Benjamin

    Jun 10, 2014 at 10:47 am

    I find this very interesting. I have a Swingbyte analyzer which is fairly cheap and it shows my loft at impact 31.7, attack angle -9.1 so my dynamic loft is 40.8 with a 7 iron. I checked and my Ping I25 loft is 33 degrees. I hit the ball very high. I thought my left wrist was breaking down at impact but maybe not. I only hit my 7 iron about 150. I’m a big guy and don’t have a good lower body move. I get more speed with a releasing arm swing than with a pivot. My forward shaft lean was 15 degrees. I guess I just need more swing speed.

    • tom stickney

      Jun 10, 2014 at 2:32 pm

      I would assume you are “throwing” it a touch at the bottom…increasing your dynamic loft at impact thus causing the high ball flight, but it’s hard to say without seeing you.

      • Jim Benjamin

        Jun 10, 2014 at 8:17 pm

        If you equate “throwing” with “releasing” you’re probably right. When I tried out my I25’s the pro said I was holding on through impact trying to release the club with my body which was slow. It’s hard to get 360 pounds to turn fast. He wanted me to release the club through impact more. I then started more of a Jim Flick swing the arms and let the body respond and hit the ball further and more solid.

  3. cody

    Jun 8, 2014 at 11:53 pm

    question. you said “You can spin the ball more by maintaining a consistent angle of attack and maintaining the club’s static loft at impact (up to a 45 degree spin loft)”.

    Can you go a little more into what you mean here? thanks.

    • tom stickney

      Jun 9, 2014 at 11:54 am

      Sure…once the difference between the AoA and the DL becomes greater than 45 degrees, friction is lost and the ball won’t spin as much. See http://www.andrewricegolf.com and purchase his wedge project for more on “spin loft mountain.”

      • Mike

        Jun 10, 2014 at 6:55 am

        Andrew is the director of instruction at the club I belong too and he really knows what he is talking about.

  4. Philip

    Jun 8, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    Ok, cool! That explains better why my low spinner works as well as it does. I thought it was because I was coming down on the ball and trapping it due to playing it back in my stance and using my LW. However, when I compare my LW (60) played back in my stance to my PW (46) they are very similar in loft.

    So if I want to maximize my spin into greens I should be playing my PW more than my GW, or when I play my GW/SW/LW I need to play them further back in my stance when I need maximum backspin.

    • tom stickney

      Jun 9, 2014 at 11:55 am

      You’ll have to experiment, it all depends on the amount of dynamic loft you have at impact…some players can’t deloft the higher wedges as much thus they need less loft for more friction and thus more spin

  5. KK

    Jun 8, 2014 at 9:59 pm

    Good stuff! Thanks.

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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)

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Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned

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With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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