Last week, I gave an overview of all the factors that I believe affect spin and promised to dive deeper into the dynamics of impact this week.
But first, thanks to all of you who chimed in with your comments. Those keep me going, whether you totally agree with me (or completely disagree) I enjoy reading what you all have to say. I will be the first to admit that the science of golf is unsettled…we continually learn more and more about the dynamics of swinging a golf club and striking a ball. And that’s a good thing.
In today’s post, I want to share what I believe to be true about impact – lessons learned from observing thousands of golfers of all skill levels, interacting and analyzing over 50,000 wedge-fitting profiles from our online engagements, and analyzing data from Iron Byron testing of wedges of all lofts, makes and models over the years.
So here goes.
From all that input I’ve gained over the years, I believe that some golfers are just always going to spin the ball better than others. I also believe that anyone can learn to spin the ball better, if they are willing to invest in instruction and practice, but that is what it takes. Ever since the USGA and R&A changed the rules on groove geometry in 2010, and eliminated those sharp-edged square grooves, spin just isn’t “for sale” anymore.
So, let’s first dive into the dynamics of the wedges you play. But we’re not going to address clubhead speed, as I believe we all agree that faster speed results in more spin. While that doesn’t mean you should try to hit your wedges harder, it is a piece of information you should know. What you can do with that is try to leave yourself lay-up shots that give you more full-swing wedges into the green than those dreaded ‘half-wedges.’
There is no question that very new wedges, with fresh grooves and no face wear yet, will help you spin the ball better than an old worn out wedge. But is it realistic to think that all of us can just run out and get new wedges every 40-50 rounds, as one major wedge manufacturer suggests? Probably not.
The next best thing is to keep your wedge face and grooves as clean as possible for each shot. After you take your practice swings on that wedge shot, give your club a good wiping down with a towel to get it as clean as possible – that will definitely help.
Likewise, I have learned that softer shafts will help you spin the ball better, as will graphite over steel in my opinion and observation.
One of the most critical factors of wedge spin as a result of impact is the exact point on the face where impact is made. We’ve all heard “thin to win,” and that is truer with wedges than any other club. Generally speaking, the lower on the face you make contact, the lower launch angle you will get and the more spin the ball will take on.
In the many Iron Byron tests of wedges of all makes and models that I have analyzed, I’ve learned that spin will dramatically drop off as impact is moved higher on the head and toward the toe as well. In a recent test, we saw top-brand wedges deliver spin variances as much as 35-45 percent from impacts as little as 3/8” from center. When we measured the range from maximum spin (low face) to minimum spin (high face and toe), most wedges would see variances of as much as 55 percent!
I will tell you that tour players and top-level amateurs generally strike their wedge shots lower on the face than most recreational players. So, if you want to learn to spin your wedges better, practice making impact lower on the face. Impact tapes are a good way to see your own results and the effect of your practice. The two photos below are from a well-known tour player’s wedge (above) and that of a low-single-digit player’s wedge (below). That lower impact pattern of just 2-3 grooves gives the tour player a lower launch angle, more distance and much more spin on a consistent basis.
The other element of impact that you can learn and improve on is your angle of approach to the ball, and the quality of your impact. To get maximum spin from your skill set and strength profile, you must make absolutely sure you contact the ball before the turf, and that your clubhead is moving slightly downward at impact. You don’t need to dig up “beaver pelts,” but you do need to make clean contact with the ball first. A very good amateur golfer I knew well would never take much divot at all, he just nipped the ball clean and “shaved” the grass with each iron shot. But darn, he spun the ball and controlled his trajectories as well as anyone I ever saw that didn’t do this for a living.
So, I hope this helps those of you who would like to learn to spin the ball better with your wedges. To recap:
- Make sure your grooves and face are clean before the shot that counts.
- Learn to make contact lower on the face consistently.
- Learn how to make a clean descending path through impact (A tip I can offer that works for most golfers is to focus your eyes on the forward edge of the ball for all wedge shots – the side toward the target. It really does work)
I hope you all enjoyed this two-part series on spin. I would also appreciate you sending me an email with ideas of things you would like me to address in future articles. My knowledge, insights, and opinions are yours for the asking. Just send that email to [email protected].
The 19th Hole Episode 170: Grassroots golf and Darius Rucker
Host Michael Williams talks about the benefits of grassroots golf programs in growing the game. Also features a reboot of his exclusive interview with Hootie and the Blowfish.
The Wedge Guy: Have a ‘Plan B’
One of the things that I think is very interesting and fun about this game is that there are a number of ways to play every hole you encounter. And sometimes a hole offers “better” ways to play it than you might think. Let me explain with a couple of experiences from my own golf life.
ONE. In my thirties and forties, I played at a club outside of San Antonio – Fair Oaks Ranch. The 18th hole was a tough par 4 with a very small landing area and a gaping bunker at about 175 out. The skinny fairway left of that bunker wasn’t more than 15 yards wide, and there was a little mott of trees on the green side of the bunker that you would have to carry with your mid-iron bunker approach. Tough, to say the least.
That hole drove most of us nuts, and double bogeys were more common than birdies, for sure. Par was always a great score and bogey wasn’t “bad” at all.
So, one day it hit me that if I hit 4-wood off the tee, I would have an elevated fairway look at the green from about 200-210, giving me another soft 4-wood or 3-iron to the green, and the fairway was about 40 yards wide back there. Being a good long club player, I began to play the hole that way. Doubles disappeared entirely, pars became the norm and I even made the occasional birdie. Hmm.
TWO. At my recent club, the ninth hole just didn’t fit my eye or my game. I play a fade off the tee most of the time and turning over a draw was just not reliable for me at the time. That ninth is a dogleg left, with a bunker on the right side of the fairway that runs from about 160-125 from the green, right where the prime driving area is. What makes this hole so tough for me is that the prevailing wind is left to right, and trees just 60-100 yards off the tee keep me from starting the ball out left and letting it ride the breeze. This is another one where birdies are rare for me there, and bogies and doubles way too frequent. So, it dawned on me one day, finally, that I could hit 4-wood right at that bunker and not get to it, leaving me a 5- or 6-iron into the green, rather than the short iron the rare proper drive would leave me. So, that became my new strategy on that hole. I’m a good mid-iron player, so I’m fine with that, and that damn fairway bunker never caught me again.
THREE. My new club puts a premium on accurate wedge play. Most of the shorter holes have the smallest greens I’ve ever seen, so distance control with your wedge approaches is critical. And I find that reasonably full-swing wedges are easier to control distance than those awkward 60- to 80-yard partial swings. So, I’ve learned to put a premium on club selection off the tee on those holes to leave my approach shots in the 85-115 range, so that I can “dial in” my approach shotmaking.
My point in all this is that sometimes a hole gets under your skin or just doesn’t set up well for your game. When that happens, design yourself a Plan ‘B,’ and change the way you play it, at least for a while. Quite often you will find a solution to a problem and your scores and attitude will improve.
Club Junkie: Mizuno T-22 wedge and Cuater Moneymaker shoes review!
Mizuno’s new T-22 wedges are forged from the same 1025 carbon steel with boron as the irons, giving them an extremely soft feel. Very versatile, the sole grinds allow for hitting any shot your heart desires.
The Cuater Moneymaker shoes might be some of the most comfortable I have worn in years. Tons of cushioning, exceptional traction all over the course, and they are even waterproof!
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