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You don't create backspin the way you might think—and you're making the superintendent angry

October 03, 2023
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Illustration by George Retseck

Every week, hundreds of tour players peel off huge divot pelts as they hit wedge shots that spin back several feet. It’s cool to watch, but it gives many amateur players the wrong idea about what it takes to get some of that sauce on their shots. It sends them back to their home courses, chopping down on the ball like Paul Bunyan.

“The best players in the world do hit slightly down on the ball, but that downward hit isn’t what’s producing all that backspin,” says Paul Wood, Ping’s vice president of engineering. “They’re doing it with clubhead speed and friction from clean contact.”

The problem with swinging aggressively down is that it often results in hitting the ground before the ball, piling a bunch of dirt and grass between it and the club.

“Don’t be distracted by the size of the divot,” Wood says. “Pros are hitting the ball first—cleanly—then taking the divot, and its size is usually because they have a lot more speed than average players do.”

The term to understand is “spin loft,” Wood says. It’s the difference between the dynamic loft of the club and its angle of attack as it reaches the ball. Peak spin comes when you have 50 degrees of spin loft, and it can be achieved without tour-pro speed. Just make ball-first contact with a slight downward blow, Wood says.