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The truth about spin: How to spin it like the pros

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One of the things I’m asked most often by my students is “How to get my shots to back up like the pros?”

When this question was posed to Sam Snead, he asked the man how far he hit his 5 iron. The man responded, about 150 yards or so. Snead said:

“Well, then what the hell do you want it to back up for?”

Be that as it may, backspin remains the Holy Grail for many amateur players. I’m always quick to point out to them that as much as anything, backspin comes first and foremost from clean, crisp, well-struck shots hit under optimum conditions. A dirty golf ball struck from most public golf course lies, hit from grooves that have not been cleaned for a week has no chance of spinning.

So if you want to give yourself a chance to hit shots that spin, make sure your grooves are fresh and that you clean them before you hit your shots. If you want a more complete answer that covers the ballistics of spin, read on.

OK, so you use clean grooves and still can’t spin the ball. First, you need to know that spin on a ball is created by the following four factors: friction, dynamic loft, contact point (on the face) and speed.

  • Friction is the force between two surfaces when rubbing together. Two smooth surfaces create little friction, while two rough surfaces create a lot of friction. That is why golf clubs have grooves and golf balls have dimples — the grooves provide the necessary friction that is created as the golf ball slides up the club face. Any matter (dirt, water, grass) that comes between the golf ball and club reduces friction and therefore spin. This is why you will seldom see a professional spin a ball out of tall grass.
  • Dynamic Loft is the actual loft of the club at impact, which is much less than what is measured on a loft/lie machine. The reduction in loft is due to the fact that in order for a golfer to strike down on the ball, he or she must create some forward shaft lean at impact, which reduces loft. A typical 6 iron with around 30 degrees of loft will have as little as 20 degrees of dynamic loft when hit by an elite level player, but I have seen readings as high as 40 degrees from some amateurs with poor impact positions.
  • Contact point on the face: Even though there is less loft at the bottom of a club face and more loft at the top, a principle called vertical gear effect causes shots hit low on the face to have more spin than shots hit higher on the face. It seems counterintuitive, but think about how much more roll you get on tee shots you hit high on the face compared to the ones you hit low on the face. Now do you believe me?
  • Speed: All things being equal, faster club head speed creates more spin and slower club head speeds create less spin.

An example of what happens when a good player (Kevin Streelman is pictured) hits an iron

So those are the ballistics of spin. But there’s another important aspect — trajectory. Let’s examine in detail what causes the ball to launch at different angles, which is known as vertical launch angle. 

Attack Angle: In order to get the golf ball airborne with their woods, hybrids, irons and wedges, golfers must hit down on the ball to some degree. That’s why the PGA Tour average attack angle for a 6 iron is a negative 4 degrees, or 4-degrees down.

As I mentioned earlier, the shaft of the club must be leaning forward (toward the target) with the hands ahead of the club head to hit down on the ball. This action de-lofts the club. So a downward hit will always be achieved with a slightly de-lofted club.

The opposite is true for a driver, where many Tour players create a positive angle of attack, hitting up on the ball to launch the ball higher so they can carry it farther. If they couple their positive angle of attack with a contact point that is high on the face, they can reduce spin, which can create the optimal high-launch, low-spin combo that Bubba Watson has exploited to be one of the leaders in driving distance on the PGA Tour.

Note, however, that an upward angle of attack will not decrease spin — it takes a high contact point on the face to do that.

Bubba Watson launch monitor numbers

Spin Loft. This is a bit tricky, but follow along. Because different clubs have different lofts, they meet the ball with a variety of face angles. Spin loft is a calculation of these angles and is found using this equation: dynamic loft (actual loft at impact) – angle of attack = spin loft.

Now here is where it can get confusing: Spin loft does not mean spin rate per se. The rotations per minute (RPM) of a golf ball are the actual spin rate. Spin loft is one of the factors that causes spin rate, but it is not the only factor. A higher spin loft, however, will always increase spin and slow down down ball speed, and vice versa. If you look at the chart below, the gap between the red and blue lines is the spin loft. It is measured in degrees, not RPMs.

So let’s say a shot struck with a 6 iron has a dynamic loft at impact of 20 degrees and an attack angle of negative 4. The spin loft of that shot, 20 minus negative 4 (remember your double negatives?), is 24 degrees.

This is a very important point to understand because spin loft is also a matter of compression, which is a measure of how directly a ball has been struck. When the spin loft is low, the compression is high — the hit is more direct. When spin loft is high, the compression is low — the ball spins more and the ball speed is reduced. It is compressed less.

Look at the chart below: The narrower the gap between the red and blue lines, the more the golf ball is compressed and the farther it will go. In the example, there is no change in the gap, so hitting down did not spin the ball more; it simply launched it lower.

A zero spin loft would be the most compression we could have, but it’s not posssible because the golf ball would not have enough spin to stay in the air.

The latest scientific evidence shows that there is not an increase in spin per se when golfers hit down more on the golf ball. Here’s the reason — in order to hit down more a golfer has to lower the dynamic loft of the club, which causes the ball to be launched lower. There is no increase in spin loft or in actual spin rate.

So what does all this mean to the average golfer? Well let’s say, you’d like to learn how to hit a low wedge shot that comes to stop on a dime by the hole. Since you understand the dynamics of spin and launch, let’s go through the conditions that allow the low-flying, high-spinning wedge shot to happen:

To hit a low wedge shot, golfers need to get a low launch factor, which means they have to de-loft their wedge by getting their hands in front of the clubfacee. But you know that reducing loft, the biggest factor of spin, actually decreases the amount of spin, so the low-flying wedge shot seems like an anomaly, espcially when you add the fact that you can’t increase the speed on short shots because that would make the ball go too far.

So the magic of the high-spinning, low-flying shot is a low spin loft — remember the gap?

In order to have low spin loft, the angle of attack and loft have to be closer together. To make the spin loft as narrow as possible with a wedge, that wedge has to be delofted and have a very shallow angle of attack.

Think about it — if a golfer hits down too much, the spin loft “gap” would become wider and the compression would get lower. In those conditions, the golf ball does not “grip” the face as well; friction is reduced and spin goes down.

However, studies show that a very shallow attack angle (which is slightly downward with a wedge) and a defofted face produce the optimum friction, or grip of golf ball and club. The ball flies low, spins a lot and checks after two, sometimes three bounces. In short, you will be the envy of your foursome.

Here’s something else to consider: You should always keep not only your grooves clean, but the surface area between the grooves rough, a perfectly legal thing to do, because it to optimizes friction.

Friction

Final checklist for spin

  • Clean your grooves and keep the surface area between the grooves roughened.
  • Play a premium golf ball; one that allows for spin to happen.
  • Do not expect spin off any lie where contact with the golf ball first is impossible; example — shot from the rough, especially ones that are into the grain, as they limit friction with the ball.
  • While hitting down does not cause more spin, it is an essential element when hitting any ball on the ground.
  • Work on keeping your hands ahead coming into impact (flipping the club ahead of your hands adds loft), but keep a very shallow angle. This is the best way to get a low-flying, high-spinning pitch when close to the green.

Finally, remember this: Backspin looks great, but if it is beyond your skill set, you can always come in a little higher, softer and even allow for ye olde bump and run when there is enough green to work with.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at [email protected]

55 Comments

55 Comments

  1. Dan H

    Jan 12, 2017 at 9:18 pm

    Here’s a pretty 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. Terry

    Jan 1, 2015 at 3:03 pm

    I of course know how to clean iron groves but I don’t know how to rough up the surface area between the groves in order to create friction. Can you recommend a legal way to do that with a forged iron? Thanks.

    • Mark

      Jan 16, 2015 at 12:08 pm

      Dennis, just caught this article, very cool information but I am also wondering how to “keep the surface area between the grooves roughened”

      Thanks

  3. Slim

    Jun 10, 2014 at 5:32 pm

    How do you keep the surface area between the grooves rough? I’m picturing taking a metal file and “roughing up” the face, but doesn’t that goes against the Rules of Golf 4-1 b (altering equipment)? Am I missing something?

  4. Aaron

    Mar 23, 2014 at 9:21 am

    Hi Dennis,
    Can you please address these comments from above as I would like a little more explaination as well. Seems to be some contradicting statements that have some confused. So lower spin loft decreases spin but lower spin loft increases friction which would cause more spin, doesn’t this cancel each other out? Thanks Dennis for explaining this.

    “A higher spin loft, however, will always increase spin”
    “So the magic of the high-spinning, low-flying shot is a low spin loft – remember the gap?
    In order to have low spin loft, the angle of attack and loft have to be closer together.”
    confused…why would you want low spin loft for a high-spinning shot if the first comment is true??

    Read more at http://www.golfwrx.com/76915/the-truth-about-spin-it-might-be-different-than-what-you-think/#39Q8X1X7HJHt8E7V.99

    • Mike

      Jun 3, 2014 at 12:19 pm

      the same I asked me too … how is the answer?

      • Marc

        Jul 16, 2014 at 2:34 pm

        I wonder why he hasn’t addressed this contradiction??

  5. James

    Mar 13, 2014 at 12:57 pm

    Diminishing Returns. Just Remember 45 degrees and you might figure out why shallow with hands in front is important

  6. John S

    Mar 9, 2014 at 10:56 pm

    As a club fitter and one who has done it for about 5 years, I need to chime in. This kind of information is cool, but it’s too much. Way too much. My average client can’t break 100 on a good day, he or she doesn’t need to see this stuff. A better article for the golfing community would be “how to get the ball airborne, nearly all the time.”

  7. John Frizzell

    Mar 1, 2014 at 10:27 pm

    “make sure your grooves are fresh”
    What do you mean fresh?

  8. Steven McLean

    Jan 20, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    Interesting stuff but I do not agree with grooves making a rough surface. An iron with no grooves would spin more assuming there was no water etc. so in good conditions the grooves do not increases spin. However I concede that any groove dirt protruding out of the grooves would reduce surface area contact with the ball. A good analogy is soft tyres in f1 which have no grooves whereas rain tyres have grooves. The ball is dimpled to reduce spin in flight. Dimples reduce surface area contact with the ball and hence reduce friction and the resulting spin. A ball with no dimples spins more.

    • Dennis Clark

      Mar 2, 2014 at 6:14 am

      The grooves on the face of a golf club serve two purposes. First, they provide just a bit of “bite” for the golf ball as it’s sliding up the face, helping it to spin more rapidly. Next, if grass is trapped between the ball and club at impact, the water in the grass will be squeezed out by the nearly 3,000 pounds of force generated by the average swing. Like the tread on an automobile tire, the grooves on the club face give the water somewhere to go so that the ball doesn’t skid up the face without spinning.

    • Dennis Clark

      Mar 2, 2014 at 6:25 am

      If you want to get deeper into the aerodynamics, there are two types of flow around an object: laminar and turbulent. Laminar flow has less drag, but it is also prone to a phenomenon called “separation.” Once separation of a laminar boundary layer occurs, drag rises dramatically because of eddies that form in the gap. Turbulent flow has more drag initially but also better adhesion, and therefore is less prone to separation. Therefore, if the shape of an object is such that separation occurs easily, it is better to turbulate the boundary layer (at the slight cost of increased drag) in order to increase adhesion and reduce eddies (which means a significant reduction in drag). Dimples on golf balls turbulate the boundary layer.

      • Ben

        Sep 4, 2014 at 9:04 am

        Agreed! If a golf ball wasn’t dimpled, it would be a knuckle ball!

  9. Rob

    Dec 2, 2013 at 6:47 am

    I believe it was actually the irritable Ben Hogan playing in a pro am with a overly complimentary amateur partner who said that when asked how to spin/stop his 7 iron.

    • Dennis Clark

      Mar 2, 2014 at 6:18 am

      I played with Snead in an senior event in Atlantic City in 1988. He told us the story.

  10. Azman Long Hamid

    Nov 11, 2013 at 12:35 am

    Not sure all the jargon, but to have a low spinning into the green? Use a urethane ball, take one extra club hit it 3 quarter, with a faster swing speed. So far that is what I am doing to get the ball back.

  11. Eric Nordal

    Apr 1, 2013 at 9:22 pm

    Backspin is so overrated. Yes it looks cool but unless you know how to use it to your advantage it is a hindrance for most amateurs. It all comes down to distance control and consistency with your irons to make it useful. Most amateurs aren’t consistent and even if they do hit the ball well enough to generate backspin they aren’t consistent enough with their club yardages to use it to their advantage. 99% of amateurs don’t take enough club in the first place when hitting approach shots. So even if they do strike it well, chances are it’s not enough club and the backspin is just going to make it a longer putt for them. Now a PGA pro on the other hand knows his yardages and knows how far he can hit each club. Let’s say he’s staring at a 140 yard shot to the pin. He knows he can hit his 9 iron 150 yards so he’ll take his 9 knowing he’ll probably land it past the hole and spin it back 5-8 yards to leave him a 3-5 footer.

    I can generate backspin and for the most part I hate it. I’ve spun the ball off the front of greens, into water, sand traps, and other hazards. There have also been times where I’ve tried to play shots to land soft and release but check up because of spin leaving me with long putts. My advice, and this is just my 2 cents, worry about hitting it straight and hitting the green. If you can hit 14 out of 18 greens in regulation, then worry about generating backspin.

  12. Mateo

    Mar 31, 2013 at 2:39 am

    This article is so pointless………… if you want to spin it like a pro…………… BE A PRO.
    Which means practice, practice, practice.
    Because you have figured out a way to afford to practice and play ALL the time without a full time job or any job at all whether it’s through a sponsor or mommy and daddy picking up the tab (which is how a majority of them do it).
    All of these pros use different methods to put spin on the ball.
    Whether it’s steep or shallow, inside or outside, hands in front or behind, clean or off the toe, it doesn’t matter. They figure out how to do it because they are pros and have had time to do it.

    If you are an am who wants to spin it like the pros…………. stop reading this stuff and go to the nearest chipping green and figure out how YOU can spin it the most with your technique and ability with the time you have (without losing your job).

    If you want to spin it like the pros….. ignore this article and go practice. And before you practice, make sure you have the correct loft, lie, and bounce on your wedges.

    “How to spin it like the pros”. What a joke.

    • Pablo

      May 30, 2013 at 12:19 am

      When pros go out and practice tons and tons as you mentioned, what do you think they practice exactly? They practice proper technique and optimizing their games. Each pro might have a unique swing and technique, but they work on making the launch numbers better for their games so they can spin the ball as much as they need to. Pros also have the luxury of not just practicing alone but with their coaches and company reps who are their to analyze the numbers and help them hit their ideal launch conditions. For amateurs who can’t practice nearly as much but try to make time for it (tough to do when you have an actual job that’s not pro golf), the key is practicing the right technique. Instruction like this from magazines, TV, or online helps many players, but the best thing is getting a lesson from a PGA teaching pro to work on a golfer’s unique drills to improve their performance.

      In short, an amateur blindly hitting balls on a range or a chipping green like you seem to be suggesting won’t help most amateurs. While practice is important, the best way is to get lessons from an instructor. If not that, teaching tips from magazines, websites like this, or Golf Channel are the next best thing.

    • SBoss

      Mar 3, 2014 at 11:21 pm

      Actually, Mateo, your comment is useless. Many people here are interested in improving their golf and we’re willing to fit practice in around our schedules. Anything that I can read (like this piece) that adds information to my knowledge base is welcome.
      You don’t have to be a “pro” to appreciate the sport and want to get better…and you don’t need the time investment like a professional to be a really good golfer.
      There are times that you might not enjoy an article because it doesn’t interest you…there are other people that might enjoy it a lot. I’d also ask you to ponder the fact that some people don’t work the same hours or schedule as yourself…or, maybe their retired and have all the time in the world. I know it’s crazy…but there are other people and circumstances outside of your own. Try stepping out of your “personal box” and appreciate the time that it took to write the piece…and that other people might actually enjoy it.

      • Jack

        Mar 5, 2014 at 1:12 am

        LOL. I think he just might be one of those guys who practice all the time and don’t know why he’s not getting better. He just doesn’t have the time to practice even more. Either that or he’s a genius who just knows what to do. The rest of us mortals need some help to understand things.

      • Geno

        May 19, 2014 at 10:17 pm

        totally agree with sboss his hate comment is so ignorant it kills me.

  13. cwdlaw223

    Mar 29, 2013 at 6:22 pm

    Dennis –

    Thanks. Here’s a tough one for you (at least for me), how about a low launch – low spin shot with a PW, 9 or 8 iron around the green? I want my bump and run shots to run and hate it when there is a little check. Easy to do with a putter because the dynamic loft would be so low and not cause the noticeable “check” (I presume increased spin) when I try a bump and run with a PW, 9 or 8 iron there’s inevitably a check. Maybe the check is unavoidable because at a certain point there has to be some dynamic loft to get the ball on the green and rolling. Sometimes the bump and run shot can’t be hit with a 7-4 iron because there isn’t enough room for the ball to run out.

    • alexis

      Mar 30, 2013 at 3:44 am

      try hitting it on the toe. that would reduce the risk of your bump and runs checking up as you are purposely hitting it outside the sweet spot. remember Clark mentioned the importance of a clean and crisp strike of the ball.

    • Dennis Clark

      Mar 30, 2013 at 12:25 pm

      Here’s a shot to try….when you hit a chip that has to release try a little hook rollover release at the bottom. This shot was taught to me by a great player who was the head pro at Winged Foot for many years. It works really well when u get used to it!

    • jason

      Jun 28, 2014 at 11:25 pm

      Everyone who can spin the ball back (who I have talked to), actually don’t like it. All of them just want the ball to land and sit, so they dont have to worry about it spinning back off the green. If these players can’t control how much they spin the ball, I would assume that we shouldnt be able to either. If you’re going for a bump and run, with minimal spin, I would assume your best bet would be to take a lower lofted club and hitting a chip. Also I don’t really think you should be hitting a bump and run with a 7-4 iron, I would consider those shots more like small punch shots. And punch shots will always role out. Hopefully that makes sense.

  14. cwdlaw223

    Mar 29, 2013 at 12:29 pm

    Dennis –

    Doesn’t the picture of the “spin loft answer” have the low launch, high spin shot occur with the golfer hitting down (instead of a more shallow impact position)? That picture is causing some confusion for me. I agree with you, but the information in the spin loft answers indicates that hitting down will have a lower launch and the article was about a low launch, high spin shot.

    • Dennis Clark

      Mar 29, 2013 at 3:42 pm

      Yes I agree. That pic does illustrate a steeper angle than I am suggesting one play the low spinner with. Good point. I may remove that to avoid confusion.

  15. Gürhan Kaya

    Mar 28, 2013 at 12:14 pm

    Soon everybody will understand the secrets of how to hit the ball properly, :/

  16. Steve Pratt

    Mar 28, 2013 at 2:11 am

    Hi Dennis,

    Respectfully, I don’t believe it is possible to have a shallow angle of attack and deloft. One would deloft the club by leaning the shaft forward at impact, that necessarily steepens the angle of attack. Sure you can have a shallow divot with a steep angle of attack if you bottom out at turf level.

    A shallow AoA, say -2 on a SW would always result in a relatively high shot, not low.

    Some of your statements confuse me…low spin loft for high spin? What is a narrow D plane? Could you clarify further?

    Of course Bob, above, is incorrect, that all clubs have vertical gear effect. I’ll be happily corrected if I’m wrong here.

    Finally, spin loft has absolutely nothing to do with AoA. Fredrik Tuxen has written that spin loft is more or less constant in any individual club. Dynamic loft changes with AoA, not spin loft.

    • Dennis Clark

      Mar 28, 2013 at 8:51 pm

      Steve: Also respectfully, you can deloft the club and shallow the angle. Try putting your hands well in front of the golf ball, and swing UP at it. That move is very doable and what may elite level players work on. Andrew Rice has done some very extensive studies on this and even has a drill on his site you can work on. Spin loft is defined and arrived at by the formula, Dynamic loft MINUS the attack angle. Yes steeper AA will lower dynamic loft, but you will get a different spin loft reading when the AA changes. Dynamic loft 20, AA -5. spin loft 25. Dynamic loft 20, AA +5 Spin loft: 15 My top players get their driver in the 10-11 range on Trackman spin loft. Thx as always for your comments an interest. DC

  17. Lee

    Mar 27, 2013 at 9:53 pm

    Thanks. I’ll give it a shot!

  18. Dennis Clark

    Mar 27, 2013 at 10:32 am

    Low spin lift is greater compression, more narrow D plane and higher friction when played midsole de-lofted and shallow. A FRICTION spinner is a thing of beauty.

  19. Lee

    Mar 27, 2013 at 8:49 am

    “A higher spin loft, however, will always increase spin”

    “So the magic of the high-spinning, low-flying shot is a low spin loft – remember the gap?

    In order to have low spin loft, the angle of attack and loft have to be closer together.”

    confused…why would you want low spin loft for a high-spinning shot if the first comment is true??

  20. Bob Frost

    Mar 27, 2013 at 8:37 am

    Hi Guys,
    What a load of codswallop or BS you guys over the pond like to say, it just goes to show how missleading even well respected pros know about golf clubs and how they work. Three things only for backspin, loft, swingspeed and angle of attack, just some of the above remarks which are wrong, firstly the golf ball does not run up the clubface, irons do not have vertical gear effect the last time I measured my irons they had the same loft at the bottom of the face as the top! It is impossible to have your hands in front of the ball unless your trying to break your wrists see your own picture! The reason there was a groove change in the law was to stop pros getting backspin from the rough, there still getting it!. The above article is nothing more than if you do not know baffle em with BS. For the correct info on how back spin works and can be applied read Tom Wishon, a proper expert in club design.
    Bob F
    Clubmaker

    • Zak Kozuchowski

      Mar 27, 2013 at 9:42 am

      Bob,

      My experience, which includes in-depth conversations with top club fitters and OEM engineers (including Tom Wishon) tells me that you’re very, very wrong.

      You’re also being extremely rude to one of our most respected writers, who provided me with the list of his sources for this story before publication so I could check everything out.

      You think it’s impossible to have your hands in front of the ball at impact? That’s a picture of PGA Tour winner Kevin Streelman, who has very healthy wrists.

      It’s fine to disagree, but you’ve crossed the line into rudeness. And you’re needlessly confusing readers who actually want to learn how they can improve their games.

      – Zak

      • Steve

        Mar 27, 2013 at 5:30 pm

        Agree with Zak. “Cannot have hands ahead of ball”?? Gimme a break – I’m just an amateur 10 even I know better than that.

        Listen, THANKS!! to Dennis for the insight and great presentation! It has helped me clear up some mysteries and find my swing again after a log winter of struggling with my approaches! Keep up the great work!

    • John Frizzell

      Mar 1, 2014 at 10:49 pm

      Tom Wishon certainly know his stuff, what is he the only “proper expert.
      Hardly. Every OEM has guys just as qualified at club design, now do I believe the OEM advertisment hogwash, certainly not.

    • Adrian

      Mar 31, 2014 at 10:06 am

      The club face lays back when struck high on the face and rolls downward when struck low on the face so that will either add or take away dynamic loft of the club at impact. Your irons don’t have bulge and roll on them like your driver does but they still experience gear effect.

      • geohogan

        Jul 8, 2020 at 8:39 pm

        So called gear effect is a result of using shafts with too soft tip.
        If the tip is stiff (steel or graphite) there is no so called, gear effect.

  21. Dennis Clark

    Mar 27, 2013 at 7:59 am

    Guys, thx for the comments and feedback. A couple thing: Shallow is an attack angle decription; de-lofted is a loft description. You can absolutely have a wide, shallow angle with the hand ahead of the golf ball. It’s why many great wedge players “pick” the ball clean, take very shallow divits when hitting their spinners. Andrew Rice, fine teaching professional, has written extensively and researched this topic, read his take on it too. Its also why I said this shot is one known to very few but is clearly what they do. Secondly, spin loft is does control spin but it is a function of the differential of attack angle and dynamic loft. It IS the D plane and the measure of compression on the golf ball. Hitting down more increases attach angle but also lowers vertical lauch angle. No increase in spin. Remember the friction part, high friction spin is that third hop one we see among the elite players.

  22. derek

    Mar 27, 2013 at 4:04 am

    So what does all this mean to the average golfer?
    play a prov 1 and sooner or later you’ll have to play it 4 yards further

  23. Jerry Crowell, PGA

    Mar 27, 2013 at 12:00 am

    De-lofted club with a shallow angle of attack? Don’t follow that one. Where you put dynamic loft, you shoulda put spin loft (in your bullet points).

  24. Steve Pratt

    Mar 26, 2013 at 11:44 pm

    Dennis, I’m having a hard time understanding this.

    Dynamic loft doesn’t control spin – spin loft does, according to F. Tuxen. Along with speed, of course. Is this what you were saying?

    And please explain how you can get a delofted club with a shallow angle of attack? Leaning the shaft forward gives you a steeper AoA, as I understand it.

    So if I wanted a low skipper, I would open the face for more spin loft, swing more down and left for the low launch angle and correct D plane, and because I have more spin loft, I need more speed to get to the target, increasing the spin more.

    Is this a different technique than the way you explained it above?

  25. Ahaze

    Mar 26, 2013 at 9:51 pm

    Controlling the spin just becomes how hard you hit the shot.

  26. Ahaze

    Mar 26, 2013 at 9:45 pm

    You have to compress the ball into the turf. If you want to stop a 6 iron on the green you need club head speed and the proper angle of attack. Simple, nothing else.

  27. Matt Newby, PGA

    Mar 26, 2013 at 8:44 pm

    Dennis,

    I have a question for you on this just to make sure I am understanding your terminology correctly. Can you please e-mail me at [email protected] when you get a chance?

    Thanks,
    Matt Newby PGA

  28. yo!

    Mar 26, 2013 at 6:09 pm

    When I was learning to play golf, I always wanted to spin the ball back on my approach shots. When I started doing it, it became frustrating because it was unpredictable and sometimes rolled off of the green. I would rather have a shot that stops or move very little, forward or backward, after it hits the green.

  29. t

    Mar 26, 2013 at 5:14 pm

    back spin is largely overrated. i would rather my ball (as should other amateurs) hit, bounce and roll a couple feet.

    • John Frizzell

      Mar 1, 2014 at 10:28 pm

      All irons shots have backspin, some more than others.

    • Jason Burge

      Mar 5, 2014 at 5:43 pm

      I’m with you. Two feet in either direction is perfect.

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Instruction

What you can learn from Steve Elkington

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When you think of great golf swings from the past and present time, Steve Elkington’s golf swing instantly comes to mind. His playing career has included a PGA championship, two Players Championships and more than 50 weeks inside the top-10 world golf rankings. This article will examine not only key moves you can take from Elk’s swing but learning to take your swing to the golf course.

As opposed to looking at a swing frame by frame at key positions, viewing a swing at normal speed can be just as beneficial. This can give students a look at the sequence of the swing as one dynamic motion. Research also suggests learning a motion as one movement as opposed to part-training (stopping the swing at certain points) will enhancing learning.

When viewed at full speed, the simplicity of Elk’s swing is made clear. There is minimal motion as he gets more out of less. This swing pattern can correlate to a conversation he once had with five-time British Open winner Peter Thomson.

When asking Thomson keys to his golf swing and it’s longevity, Thomson explained to Elk, “You have to have great hands and arms.” Thomson further elaborated on the arms and body relationship. “The older you get, you can’t move your body as well, but you can learn to swing your arms well.”

So what’s the best way to get the feel of this motion? Try practicing hitting drivers off your knees. This drill forces your upper body to coil in the proper direction and maintain your spine angle. If you have excess movement, tilt, or sway while doing this drill you will likely miss the ball. For more detail on this drill, read my Driver off the knees article.

Another key move you can take from Elk is in the set-up position. Note the structure of the trail arm. The arm is bent and tucked below his lead arm as well as his trail shoulder below the lead shoulder – he has angle in his trail wrist, a fixed impact position.

This position makes impact easier to find. From this position, Elk can use his right arm as a pushing motion though the ball.

A golf swing can look pretty, but it is of no use if you can’t perform when it matters, on the golf course. When Elk is playing his best, he never loses feel or awareness to the shaft or the clubface throughout the swing. This is critical to performing on the golf course. Using this awareness and a simple thought on the golf course will promote hitting shots on the course, rather than playing swing.

To enhance shaft and face awareness, next time you are on the range place an alignment stick 10 yards ahead of you down the target line. Practice shaping shots around the stick with different flights. Focus on the feel created by your hands through impact.

Twitter: @kkelley_golf

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Instruction

Dennis Clark: Hitting from the turf

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I have seen as much as 4-5 MPH increase in clubhead speed when my students hit form a tee compared to hitting off the turf. Why?  Fear of FAT shots.

First question: Are you better hitting off a tee than on the turf?

Next question: When you play in a scramble and you have the option of dropping in the fairway or slightly in the first cut, do you choose the rough-especially when hitting over water or sand?

The answer to all these the same: Because the vast majority of golfers do not have a bottom of the swing arc safely in front of the golf ball consistently.

Consider a PGA Tour event, Korn Ferry, Champions Tour, LPGA Tour, whatever…You might see missed fairways, missed greens, hooks, blocks, etc. but we rarely, if ever, see a FAT shot. They simply do not hit the ground before the golf ball. Of course, there are exceptions, into the grain on short pitches, for example, but they are just that-rare exceptions. On the other hand, go to any golf course and watch average golfers for a while. Fat shots are not uncommon. In fact, they, or the fear of them, dominate most golf games.

The number one mistake I have seen on the lesson tee for over 35 years is unquestionably a player’s inability to control the bottom of the golf swing. I have seen everything from hitting 4 inches behind the ball to never reaching the bottom at all It has been my experience that that hitting fat shots is the number one flaw in most golf swings.

Let’s start with this fact: elite level players consistently reach a swing bottom (low point) some 3-4 inches in front of the golf ball-time after time after time. This happens for a variety of reasons, but the one I’d like to look at today is the position of the golf club at impact with the golf ball.

The club is leaning forward, toward the target, the hands are ahead of the club head, never straight up over it, never behind it-always, always leaning forward is the only way to consistently bottom out in front of the golf ball.   

A player cannot hit a ball consistently from the turf until he/she learns this and how to accomplish it. For every golfer I teach who gets into this position, I might teach 50 who do not. In fact, if players did not learn how to “save” a shot by bailing out on the downswing (chicken wing, pull up, raise the handle, or come over the top, (yes over the top is a fat shot avoidance technique) they would hit the ground behind the golf ball almost every time!  Hitting better shots from the fairways, particularly from tight lies, can be learned, but I’m going to be honest: The change required will NOT be easy. And to make matters worse, you can never play significantly better until you overcome the fear of hitting it fat.. Until you learn a pattern where the bottom of the swing is consistently in front of the ball, the turf game will always be an iffy proposition for you.

This starts with a perception. When first confronted with hitting a golf ball, it seems only natural that an “up” swing is the way to get the ball in the air-help it, if you will. The act of a descending blow is not, in any way, natural to the new player. In fact, it is totally counterintuitive. So the first instincts are to throw the club head at the ball and swing up to get the ball in the air; in other words, it makes perfect sense. And once that “method” is ingrained, it is very difficult to change. But change if you must, if your goal is to be a better ball striker.

The position to strive for is one where the left wrist (for a right-hander) is flat, the right is slightly dorsiflexed, and the handle of the golf club is ahead of the grip end. Do your level best to pay attention to the look and feel of what you’re doing as opposed to the flight of the golf ball. FEEL that trail wrist bent slightly back, the lead wrist flat and the hands ahead. It will seem strange at first, but it’s the very small first step in learning to hit down on your tight lies. If some degree of that is not ultimately accomplished, you will likely always be executing “fit in” moves to make up for it. It is worth the time and effort to create this habit.

My suggestion is to get on a Trackman if possible to see where you’re low point actually is, or perhaps you may just want to start paying close attention to your divots-particularly the deepest part of them. I’m sure you will get into a pattern of bottoming out consistently in front of the ball when you begin to learn to get the hands ahead and the club head behind. And best of all, when this becomes your swing, you will lose the fear of hitting the turf first and be free to go down after the ball as aggressively as you like.

Ok, so how is this accomplished? While many players are looking for a magic bullet or a training aid which might help one miraculously get into a good impact position, I dare say there is not one. It is a trial and error proposition, a learn-from-the-mistakes kind of thing achieved only through repetition with a thorough understanding of what needs to be done. The hardest thing to do is IGNORE the outcome when learning a new motor skill, but you must do it. A couple of things you might try:

  • Start with 30-50 yard pitch shots, paying close attention to the hands leading at impact. Again ignore the outcome, look only at the divot.
  • Hit a TON of fairway bunker shots. Draw a line in the sand 3-4″ in front of the ball and try to hit it.
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Instruction

What you can learn from the rearview camera angle

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We often analyze the golf swing from the face-on view or down-the-line camera angle. However, we can also learn how the body moves in the swing from the rearview or backside view.

When seeing the swing from the rearview, we can easily see how the glutes work. The trail glute actually moves back and around in the backswing. This means the glute moves towards the target or towards the lead heel. Note the trail glute start point and endpoint at the top of the backswing.

To some, this may seem like it would cause a reverse weight shift. However, this glute movement can enable the upper body to get loaded behind the ball. This is where understanding the difference between pressure, and weight is critical (see: “Pressure and Weight”).

This also enhances the shape of the body in the backswing. From the rear angle, I prefer to have players with a tuck to their body in their trail side, a sign of no left-side bend.

This puts the body and trail arm into a “throwing position”, a dynamic backswing position. Note how the trailing arm has folded with the elbow pointing down. This is a sign the trailing arm moved in an efficient sequence to the top of the backswing.

Next time you throw your swing on video, take a look at the rearview camera angle. From this new angle, you may find a swing fault or matchup needed in your golf swing to produce your desired ball flight.

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