What is backspin on a golf ball? It is all about the physics of the golf ball and how it behaves as it travels through the air. But the critical factor for us is what happens to that spin when the ball comes down to earth.
When the ball hits the ground the way it is revolving causes it to move backward, towards the player. It is useful when you need distance to get the ball onto the green. For example when you need to overcome a hazard to get near the pin safely.
How to put backspin on a golf ball
Everyone loves seeing those shots which hit the green and then spin back towards the pin. Professional coaches say it is one of the skills they are most frequently asked to teach. Many run special classes to teach this skill. Videos which show the professionals putting backspin on the ball are especially a favorite; it is something we all love watching the professionals do. Here is Phil Mickelson making it look easy.
If you are entirely new to golf, you may feel that you can never achieve this marvelous trick. Well, I have a surprise for you. You are already doing it. The very fact that you can get a golf ball into the air means that you are producing backspin. As the ball gains height, it spins. That is just the way it is.
Unfortunately, your shot will not yet travel backward when it hits the ground. But you can get there with a bit of practice. The trick is to spin that shot even faster. If you want to see the ball coming back towards you, you will need to get more revolutions on the ball. It will mean higher spin rates on the ball, and that creates backspin when it lands.
An overview of the backspin
We are going to go into this in more detail later on in the article, but here are the headlines.
- You need to get friction between the club and the ball to create backspin.
- You will require a good wedge club with good grooving and a good quality golf ball with a soft outer layer.
- If you start on smooth, soft grass you will get the best backspin
- A flat lie is essential. You should hit most backspin shots from the fairway.
- The shot angle is all important. You need a solid downward angle when you come into contact with the ball.
- Make sure the ball and the club face are dry. Any moisture will reduce friction.
The amount of loft is also essential. A wedge with a high loft will work well here, fifty-two or fifty-four degrees are useful. Do not be tempted to go too high though. The ball will slide over a very high lofted club and not achieve the outcome you want. Try out wedges in this range to see which suits you. I would start at fifty and go up to fifty-six or even fifty-eight. Your ideal will be somewhere in that range. It will, of course, depend on conditions as well, but this should give you an idea.
To get backspin, you will need speed. Speed plus a good downward stroke with a lofted club will give you lofted spin. The difference between the angle your golf club when it comes into the golf ball and the dynamic loft at impact is called spin loft.
Angle is all important. This angle means you will almost always dig into the ground and form a divot when you are attempting a backspin shot. If you are getting the shot just right, then the divot should be relatively shallow. If it is very deep, that is dug right down into the ground then you are probably striking at too sharp an angle.
When to use backspin
There a variety of reasons to put backspin on the ball. The most usual is to avoid hazards.
Here is a typical scenario. Imagine there is a sand bunker between your ball and the pin. The easiest way to avoid going into that bunker and losing valuable shots is to sail over it with an excellent long shot. You will need a reasonable amount of height.
That all sounds like a good strategy, but there is a problem. The length and the height of the ball will take you past the bunker. But it is also going to carry you beyond the pin. You are going to waste valuable shots coming back from that distance beyond the pin.
Luckily, there is a solution. That solution is to put backspin on the ball. Then you can hit hard and high enough to escape the hazard. But by putting backspin on the ball, you can recoup the distance you would otherwise lose. That’s the theory. To put it into practice, however, takes a lot of skill. You need to learn one of the hardest shots in golf.
Let us look forward and begin to learn what skills you need to put that simple theory into practice.
What clubs do I need to get backspin on the ball?
You can get backspin using irons, even very long irons, but it takes a lot of skill, an incredible amount of talent. It is one of the most challenging shots you can make on the golf course. Some experts would even say it is a shot best left only to the professionals. It is not the place to start.
Let’s give ourselves a head start and concentrate at first on how you get backspin using your wedge clubs. Wedge clubs make getting backspin possible because with a wedge it is easier to get height on the ball. And you cannot get backspin unless you can get height. So, using a wedge means you have won half the battle. You’ve got the height already.
For practice start with a lob wedge. If you can get your backspin going on lob wedge shots, it will give you the confidence to try the same with other lower lofted clubs later. With a lob wedge, you can probably get the spin but at the expense of distance. Even so, it is an excellent place to start and get the practice.
Ball position and backspin
Ball position is significant. Make sure your golf ball is nearer to your back foot than usual. That is nearer than for most shots you make. So, the best place will be slightly off center from your normal stance and closer than usual to your back foot.
The reason you need to do this is physics once again. It is about how the club will make an impact on the ball. If you position the ball like this, then the laws of physics will force you to hit down on the ball. And you need to hit down on the ball to create backspin. You need to be confident and decisive and hit down hard. You will almost certainly take a divot in front of the ball after you have made contact.
Can I get backspin from any lie?
If you watch the PGA tour live or on the TV, you may have seen your favorite player stuck in the rough. Then he makes a fantastic shot where he escapes the rough. But more than that, the ball goes straight past a bunker onto the green. It lands past the pin, and then it gently rolls back to land in the hole. Genius. But this magic is probably best left to the professionals. For us mere mortals it is best to stick to making our backspin shots from the fairway.
Unless you are brilliant, you will need a nice smooth lie to get good backspin on the ball. As we have said, professionals can get backspin even when they are hitting out of the rough, but it is very tough indeed. The long grass makes it hard to get friction and the speed necessary. For most amateurs getting backspin is something to be done strictly from the fairway.
But it is still lovely to watch backspin from the hard places. Here is a bit of magic out of the rough. Backspin or fairy dust? You tell us.
Does the golf ball matter to backspin?
Yes, it does. To get good backspin, you need to right sort of golf ball. Go for a ball with a wound center rather than a hard center. The compression of the golf ball matters a lot. A ninety compression is generally the preferred option for maximum backspin. But try out balls in this range and see what suits you best.
Weather conditions are another factor. To get backspin, you need to be hitting into the wind, not hitting downwind. The is because when you hit into the wind, the ball will gain more height. And height is essential to backspin.
Backspin: the mysteries explained
Because it looks so beautiful, so counter-intuitive and like magic, it is easy to think that it is impossible. But it is not. Let’s demystify the backspin.
Firstly, it is not unusual. Backspin is just part of the physics of how the ball travels. If you hit an accurate shot, using the sweet spot on your clubface, then you will be putting some backspin on your ball. Every good shot has backspin.
But what we usually mean be backspin takes more than that. If you want the ball to land and then travel back towards you, it will need a lot of spins, or to use a technical term a fast spin rate.
What do I need to get backspin on the ball?
It is all about physics. You need to right ingredients to create the magic. The three key elements are speed, loft, and friction. And it is putting them all together if the right amounts.
We are talking about the speed of the club head here. That means the speed the clubhead is moving when it hits the ball. The faster the speed, the higher the spin rate.
There is one obvious thing we need to get that ball spinning. An excellent fast shot should do the trick. It cannot be every shot. It will require a smooth lie, the right weather conditions, suitable terrain, and perhaps a bit of luck. And we know that wedge clubs are the ones we need to put backspin on the ball. Lower loft wedge clubs, where you can get both speed and loft are the ones you need.
It is all about angle. The angle between the angle of attack and the dynamic loft.
A good golfer can vary the spin loft depending on what they want to so. If they’re going to make the ball go further then, they will want to decrease the spin loft and will use a driver to get that ball traveling. But if they’re going to put backspin on the ball, they will want to get the ball in the air. For that, they will use a wedge club.
It is the third important factor. And it is closely related to the other two. Especially noteworthy is the relation between spin loft and friction. If the spin loft is too high, then there will not be sufficient friction to create backspin.
To get good friction, you will need to hit a perfect shot which gets right to the sweet spot. But you will need more than that.
You will need an excellent wedge club with good deep grooves. Make sure you take good care your wedge clubs as those grooves need to be kept in pristine condition. If you play a lot, then change them when the grooves start to wear down. Professionals change their wedges clubs every few months. You may not have to go this far, but you will get better backspin if the grooves on your wedge clubs are spanking new.
Make sure you have the right golf balls and make sure they are dry. You will never get friction with wet clubs or balls. Get that towel out before you attempt the backspin.
A good smooth lie. As we have said, hitting backspin shots out of the rough is best left to the professionals.
What sort of conditions will increase the backspin on the ball?
Some days you will not be able to get backspin on the ball whatever you do. Rain is one obvious factor. You cannot get the friction you need in the wet. A windy day, if the wind is in the wrong direction, will make backspin impossible. You need to be pushing the ball into the wind, not have the wind behind you. The terrain characteristics are essential as well. You cannot get backspin if you are hitting in a landscape which is sloping in the wrong direction.
A checklist for your best backspin shots
Hitting a good backspin shot will require some luck and the right conditions on the day. It also requires proper equipment, both clubs and balls, and a lot of skill. Here is a reminder checklist to get your backspin spinning.
Good new wedges with firm grooves. The loft will be between fifty-two and fifty-six, practice to find which is best for you.
Keep your clubs pristine and dry. It will ensure you get the friction you need on the ball.
Go for the best quality and choose a ball with a soft core. Soft-core balls do not travel as far as hard core balls, but you can get more spin on a soft-core ball.
Stance and ball position
Note your usual stance and how you center the ball. Then move the ball nearer to your back foot. You will need the practice to get the stance precisely right for you. Remember it is all about physics. To get the right angle between club and ball, you need that stance slightly to the back
When you get your position correct, you will get the compression of the ball against the club face correct. You also need confidence and accuracy. For the club to create backspin, it must hit the ball at high speed. More speed will generate more spin.
Remember that spin loft. The routine is hit down on the ball, accurate and fast, with a wedge. Keep everything dry and start from a smooth lie.
With the club high bring it down sharply. Increase the angle of attack, so the clubhead hits the ball at a steep downward angle.
You will only get backspin on a green sloping towards you.
Rain is going to make backspin very difficult to achieve. Wind can be your friend or your foe. Hitting into the wind will increase the spin on the ball. But wind can force the ball off course. With the wind behind you, it will be challenging to achieve backspin.
How to create backspin on a golf ball conclusion
Getting backspin on the ball is a real skill. It takes practice and confidence. And you will need top-quality golfing equipment. But nothing beats the pleasure of seeing that ball roll backward.