How To Put Backspin on a Golf Ball
I get a lot of questions about how to put backspin on a golf ball. I think this comes from watching the pro tours and seeing balls stop miraculously on the green, hesitate for a microsecond, then roll back obediently towards the hole. This is indeed golf artistry at its finest. Let’s look at the fundamentals first.
Backspin is imparted to a ball when the club face strikes it with a descending blow. It is most effective when the club concerned is a short iron. This is because the short irons have a far greater face angle which allows the ball to roll slightly up the face immediately after contact thus imparting more backspin on the ball. Because we are striking the ball with a descending blow, the ball is slightly trapped between the ground and the club face and this allows it to momentarily adhere to and thus grip the moving club face, thus translating club face movement into spin. See Take a Divot for a great tip to assist you in achieving this.
This shot must be played with the ball slightly back in your stance to facilitate a descending blow. Your swing centre (the point at which you club head is at its lowest position) will now be at a point about 2 inches in front of the balls position. It will be in the centre of the divot you are about to take. In other words the club face is still travelling downwards when it contacts the ball.
When playing the shot pick the club up quickly on your back swing by cocking your wrists. Don’t take it away low and slow. Play the shot with a descending blow and have your hands slightly in front of the ball position when it makes contact. By slightly delaying the release you can also accentuate the steepness of the club head trajectory down to the ball.
This shot must be played quickly and with conviction. All things being equal, the quicker the club head is travelling, the more spin you will impart to the ball. The pros try and place the ball at a specific distance from the green so as to be able to play a full shot with a particular club for that distance onto a specific point on the green. They need to play a full shot to get maximum spin.
A certain amount of backspin can be put on the ball with virtually all the clubs. With your driver and long woods you certainly do not want backspin so don’t even try. With all your irons a little backspin helps and a descending blow is generally sound golf practice. See Hit down on the ball for more on this subject. Remember that backspin also plays a big part in getting the ball into the air
When playing little finesse shots around the green you can achieve some backspin using the same principles. Again the shot must be played crisply. Remember though that if there is any grass between the club face and the ball you will get almost no spin.
When it comes to equipment for backspin two things are crucial. Firstly you have to play a soft ball with a soft skin. A hard ball will never give you backspin, it just does not grip the club face. Soft balls are more expensive and don’t last as long. Try and buy a ball which has a mixture of both characteristics. The Titleist ProV1 is still a great choice and no, I don’t get paid to say this.
Secondly, the cleaner and fresher the grooves on your club are, the more backspin you will achieve. The pros replace their clubs often for this reason. For those of us who cannot, make sure your grooves are clean. Wipe them with a damp cloth after every shot. If you wipe them before the shot you will leave moisture on the face which will not help. Wipe along the grooves, not across them. I carry an old toothbrush for when there is mud in the grooves.
To conclude, its all very well to know how to put backspin on a golf ball, but unless you can get the ball to land where you want it to stop on the green it can even work against you. It will however provide you with a better ball flight so is always worth attempting.
One last thing. Even if you are not playing with a soft ball try the above principles on all your full iron shots. You won’t get much spin but have a look at your club face after every attempt. If you see a white “smear” on the club face the shot you just played would have put backspin on a soft ball.
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