Golf instructors will tell you the request they get most often is, Teach me to make the golf ball back upon the green like the pros do.
The first part of the equation is simple, but crucial: Play with a tour-level golf ball. Every major manufacturer makes a ball designed for pros and low-handicappers, who demand lots of backspin on their shots. While these balls are more expensive than so-called “distance balls,” they're far more durable than in the past.
Next, producing lots of spin on short-iron shots requires striking the ball with a downward blow. Heres a good drill for hitting down with the irons, starting with the wedges:
1. Take your stance with the ball positioned at or near the middle of your stance; the hands should be ahead of the ball and the shaft tilted toward the target.
2. Lift your right heel off the ground, balancing on the toes. Make your normal swing.
3. From this position, the club will travel downward through impact. You should contact the ball first, then the ground, producing a clean divot and plenty of spin.
4. You can also practice with a ball under the outside of your right foot for a similar effect.
How to Create Wedge Spin – and Use It to Your Advantage
Hitting great wedge shots is one of the most important keys to scoring your best on the course. A good wedge shot that stops within a few feet of the hole can set up a par save or even a birdie chance – while a poor wedge shot could leave you with a long putt, or even another chip. Many amateur players struggle with the wedge game, and the results show on the scorecard. To make progress toward your golf goals, spend a little less time hitting your driver on the practice range and focus your efforts instead on the wedges in your bag. Hitting a wedge might not be quite as exciting as hitting a driver, but mastering your short clubs can go a long way toward shooting lower scores.
One of the skills that you need to possess in your wedge game is the ability to control spin. Using spin is a great way to get your ball to stop quickly once it lands on the green, but you have to know how to control it in order to actually get the ball close to the hole. For example, you could hit a great looking wedge shot that takes one bounce on the green and stops cold – but it wont do you any good if you were expecting a couple more bounces prior to the spin taking over. Only when you can plan on how the spin will affect the ball on the green can you truly use it to your advantage.
Many amateur players are jealous of the professionals when they hit a wedge shot into the green that lands, bounces once, and then spins backward dramatically. As cool as this kind of shot might look, professionals usually hate it when it happens. It is difficult to control just how far back the ball will spin, therefore making it hard to get close to the hole. Instead, most pros would prefer a shot that simply stops quickly after it lands. When you can impart just the right amount of spin to get the ball to stop in place after only one or two bounces, you will stand a much better chance of getting close to the target.
You might think that controlling the spin of your wedge shots is something that is too advanced for you at this stage of your game, but every golfer can work on this skill. No matter what your handicap happens to be, learning how to manage spin on wedge shots is a part of the game that can help you shoot lower scores. Since you will hit your wedges so many times throughout a given round, working on your ability in this area is a great way to invest your practice time. With control over the spin of your wedges, suddenly you will find yourself with more good birdie and par chances than ever before.
The instruction contained below is based on a right handed golfer. If you play left handed, please be sure to reverse the directions as necessary.
The Basics of Wedge Spin
Understanding how spin is created on your wedge shots is the first step toward being able to control it. There are countless golfers who don't understand what makes a golf ball spin – and therefore, they try to do the wrong things with their swing. The idea behind backspin is quite simple in reality, but it might be the opposite of what you have always assumed. Get a clear picture of the backspin equation in your head before moving on to working on your wedge game.
If there is only one thing that you know about backspin in golf, it should be this – you have to hit down on the ball to create backspin. When you hit down through the ball at impact, the ball will be compressed against the face of your wedge for a split second. During that time, the friction between the ball and the club face will create backspin. This happens because those two objects are moving in opposite directions – the club face is moving down toward the ground, and the ball is start to move up into the air. As the ball launches off of the club face, it will take the backspin with it and climb high into the air before hopefully landing on the green.
The basic equation is simple – hit down through the ball, and the shot will have plenty of backspin. However, there are several variables that influence just how much backspin is going to be put onto the ball. Those include the following –
- Club head speed. With all other factors being equal, a faster swing will equate to more backspin. As the club moves through the ball, the speed of the impact will not only determine how far the ball flies in the air, but also the rate at which the ball is spinning when it leaves the club. This is an important factor to understand, because you can work on controlling the speed of your swing as a way to regulate how much spin you are using.
- The ball itself. The type of golf ball that you use will also affect the spin rate that you achieve. A hard ball is almost always going to spin less than a softer ball, so you need to select the right model to use in your game. Remember, a soft golf ball might give you more backspin, but it will usually give you more side spin as well. That means that you need to be able to control your ball flights if you are going to use a high-spin ball successfully.
- The lie in the grass. A clean lie with no grass behind the ball is the best condition for generating maximum spin. When there is some long grass behind the ball, it can get trapped between the club face and the ball at impact, limiting the amount of backspin that is imparted onto the ball. When playing from particularly long and thick grass, you will find it is difficult to get any backspin on your shots at all.
- The condition of your wedge. Since the friction between the club face and the ball is what will create backspin, having a wedge that it is good condition is important. When your wedge face starts to wear down from use, it will become smooth and there will be less friction available to create backspin on your shots. Try replacing your wedges at least every couple of seasons to make sure you can continue to impart plenty of backspin.
On the surface, the idea of backspin couldn't be much simpler – hit down through the ball, and the shot will have spin. While that is true, the above variables make the equation quite a bit more complicated. Through practice and experience you should be able to learn how to predict the amount of spin you will put on a given shot based on the variables in play.
Creating Spin on Full Wedge Shots
It can be a frustrating experience to hit a good wedge shot into the green – only to watch it take several bounces and wind up over the back in the rough or a bunker. To hit good wedge shots on a consistent basis, you need to strike down through the shot so that you can impart enough backspin to stop the ball quickly. You don't need to spin the ball back after it lands, as this can do more harm than good. Find the right combination of equipment and swing mechanics that allows you to stop the ball quickly and you will love how many more short putts you have each round.
To achieve a good spin rate on your full wedge shots, follow the three tips below.
- Hands in front of the ball. In order to hit down through your wedge shots, your hands have to be past the position of the ball impact – there really is no other way to do it. That means that your hands need to lead the downswing, rather than pushing the club head down toward the ball first. If you struggle with this point, try to use your lower body more during the transition of the swing to get everything during quickly toward the target. Players who use their legs actively in their wedge swings tend to have an easier time creating backspin.
- Don't hold back. As mentioned above, speed is required to create backspin. If you are tentative through the shot, you might be wasting speed that could have been used to generate spin and stop the ball. Once you have picked your target and the right wedge, make a fearless swing and hit down through the ball aggressively. You aren't going to hit every shot perfect, but you will be successful more often when you take a confident mindset into your swing.
- Ball in the middle of your stance. Placing the ball in the middle of your stance is going to be just about right for almost every player. If you move the ball too far back, you will hit a lower shot that will take big bounces before it stops. If you move the ball too far forward, you aren't going to be able to hit down as aggressively and you will wind up with a shot that floats high into the air with a low spin rate. Practice aligning your stance so that the ball is right in the middle and you will be giving yourself the best opportunity to generate backspin.
Mostly, putting spin on your full wedge shots comes down to hitting the ball solidly. The same principles that apply to any other full swing on the course apply to your wedge game as well. If you are able to strike the ball clean and take a nice divot after impact, the ball will almost certainly have plenty of backspin to stop quickly on the green.
Creating Spin on Chip and Pitch Shots
Beyond using spin to stop your full wedge shots, you can also use it to help you get the ball close to the hole on chips and pitches. Since you aren't making a full swing when you ball is right next to the green, you arent going to get as much spin as you would from 100 yards away. However, you can still impart spin using proper technique to get the ball to check up and hopefully stop close to the hole. This is a valuable skill to possess on the golf course, as it will help you to escape from some difficult spots around the greens.
The first thing to know about using spin on your chip shots is that you only want to use it when you have to. If you are able to stop the ball by just letting it roll out to the hole like a putt, that should always be your preferred option. Why? Because it is more consistent, and more reliable. Even the best golfers can struggle with putting the exact right amount of spin on a chip shot to get it to stop next the hole. It just isn't that easy. So while it is a useful shot to learn and have available on the course, it should only be used when necessary.
With that said, you need to know what to look for when you are thinking about hitting a chip or pitch shot with spin in order to make it stop quick. The following three elements need to be in place for this to become a viable option.
- Clean lie. If your ball is sitting down in the long grass, you can forget about using spin to stop it on the green. Even a small amount of grass behind the ball will make it very difficult to get enough spin on the shot to make any difference – so only think about playing a spinning shot when you have a completely clean lie in the short grass. Most of the time, that means your ball will either need to be short of the green in the fairway, or around the edges of the green on the fringe cut. When this is the case, you can go ahead and consider the option of a spinning chip shot.
- Enough space. You need to have at least 10 yards between you and the hole to hit this kind of shot, and usually more. When you are too close to the target, you wont be able to swing hard enough to impart the spin and get the ball to stop. If you do find yourself left with a short chip shot, try using loft to get the ball to stop in time rather than spin. The spinning pitch or chip shot is best used when you are playing across the green and have plenty of room to work with.
- Confidence. This last point relates to you rather than the golf course. How are you feeling about your round? Are you playing well, or are you struggling? These feelings have a lot to do with whether or not you should try to hit the spinning pitch shot. You need confidence to play this shot effectively, because it requires a bold swing from a short distance. If your confidence is down, don't try to fake it – simply opt for another style of shot and use this one sometime later. Trying to hit this kind of shot without the necessary confidence is a recipe for disaster, and you are likely to end up with an outcome that is disappointing.
So, only when you have a clean lie, plenty of space, and plenty of confidence, should you try hitting a chip or pitch shot with a lot of spin. If any of the three of those conditions don't exist at the time, hit a more conventional chip and use the spin shot another time. However, if those conditions do all exist, you will need to know exactly what you are doing in order to hit the shot properly.
To start, use the most-lofted wedge in your bag. Even if you would normally hit your chip shots with a pitching wedge or gap wedge, reach for your sand wedge or lob wedge in this case. You need that loft to allow you to slide under the ball and impart as much spin as possible off of the club face. Next, take your stance so that the ball is right in the middle of your two feet. The ball position for this chip shot should be the same as when you are hitting a full wedge shot.
This is a point that many amateur golfers get wrong. The average player thinks that they need to move the ball way back in their stance in order to hit down and create spin. While that approach will create spin, it will also produce an extremely low trajectory. When the ball lands on the green, the first bounce will be so flat that it will take off most of the spin you achieved in the first place. To avoid that problem, put the ball in the middle of your stance. You will still be able to hit down through the shot, but the trajectory wont be so low as to rob you of your spin when the ball lands.
With your stance set, all that you need to do now is hit the shot. The key to hitting this kind of chip or pitch is confidence and trust. You will need to swing harder than you normally do on a chip shot, because you are going to fly the ball farther in the air (before letting the spin stop it). Making a bigger swing around the green takes guts, so practice this shot plenty before trying it during a round. As long as you hold your nerve, hit down through the ball, and make solid contact, you should be pleased with the results.
How to Pick a Ball
As mentioned briefly above, the ball that you use has a lot to do with how much spin you are able to achieve on your shots. If you would like to get a lot of backspin on your chips as well as your full shots, you may be tempted to purchase the softest ball you can find with the highest spin rate. That will certainly help you get plenty of spin on your wedges, but it might have a negative effect on the rest of your game. For example, you may find that a high spin ball costs you distance with the driver by climbing too high into the air. What you need to find is a ball that strikes a good balance between wedge spin and driver distance so that it works well for you from tee to green.
The best way to locate the perfect ball is simply by trying a variety of models. You will need to use them out on the course so you can see how they react to all of your clubs during actual golf situations. Try buying a sleeve of three or four different golf ball models so you can use each of them over the span of your next few rounds. It shouldn't take long to learn which of the balls is going to be the right fit for your game.
Controlling the spin on your wedges is a valuable skill to have on the golf course. The game of golf is all about getting your ball as close to the hole as possible, and spin control can certainly help you do just that. Of course, just like anything else in golf, it is going to take practice if you are going to become adept at managing how much spin you put on your ball. Use the tips and information contained above to spend some practice time learning how changes to your swing technique will affect the spin rate of your wedge shots.