“Any fool can know. The point is to understand.”
– Albert Einstein
There are many things in the game of golf that might be considered “over analyzed.” Think about how much we talk about the swing, proper setup, grip, and all kinds of technique. The reason all of these things are talked about so much is because they are very important to playing better golf, so we MUST talk about them. Something that isn’t discussed enough however, and in my opinion is equally important, is the new data that is coming from all of the technological advances in launch monitor systems. We must talk to amateur golfers more about this data, because in developing a deeper understanding they will become better golfers. For example, what makes a golf ball spin more or less? This information is of the utmost importance because how we control our ball around the greens (and in the long game), and how we understand that control, is how we ultimately get the ball closer to the hole and score. Today I am going to start that conversation with something called, “Spin Loft.”
Even the term itself is a little confusing. What the heck is a Spin Loft? And why should I care? Well, here we go. Spin loft is the difference between Angle of attack and the Dynamic Loft of the face of the club at impact. And I care because it is what directly causes the ball to spin more or less, and my understanding of this better equips me to pick the right shot in each situation. Make sense? Good. Ok then moving on… Haha kidding! If you understood the above in a basic sense, excellent, but odds are most of us need further explanation. I will start with a practical example for you.
Imagine you are hitting a basic chip shot, but let’s hit it from the middle of our stance instead of the back like normal. This will make the Angle of Attack more level, and for the sake of the argument let’s make it exactly level (represented as 0 degrees). So now let’s hit a pitching wedge (represented as 48 degrees of Dynamic Loft given the 0 degree Attack Angle) from the middle of our stance with our 0 degree Angle of Attack. Based on the formula I gave above it would look like this:
DynamicLoft(48) – AttackAngle(0) = Spin Loft (48)
So let’s use the above as a baseline. A Spin Loft of 48 means the ball is definitely spinning, but will have some roll out after it lands. Hopefully things are starting to clear up a little, with further understanding coming after this next example. So now that we have a baseline, what makes the ball spin more/less? Well, we simply have to INCREASE that Spin Loft number for it to spin more. We can do that a couple of ways. One would be to increase the Dynamic Loft, and the other would be to decrease the Attack Angle. Let’s start with just the first example. This time we will use a 60 degree wedge instead of our 48 degree, but keep it in the middle of our stance and our 0 degree Attack Angle:
DynamicLoft(60) – AttackAngle(0) = Spin Loft (60)
Here by using a club with more loft we have increased the final number, thereby causing the ball to spin more and check up sooner after it lands. Now let’s give it even a little more spin. We will take our 60 degree wedge and put it back of middle in our stance. This will DECREASE the CLUB’S Loft, which you would think makes it less likely to spin the shot more. But it will INCREASE the Attack Angle enough to offset this, plus a little extra. It will look something like this:
DynamicLoft(56) – AttackAngle(-7) = Spin Loft (63)
As we can see, the ball spins more as we decrease the Angle of Attack but still maintain a sufficient amount of Dynamic Loft. So based on that, if we wanted the ball to spin LESS, we simply have to make those numbers closer together. Now let’s keep the ball in the proper position for a chip (off the back foot) but use a less lofted club like an 8 iron:
DynamicLoft(36) – AttackAngle(-7) = Spin Loft (43)
Hopefully you have found this article informative and helpful when it comes to understanding Spin. Go out and try this at your local chipping green and see if you can gain a more practical understanding of the subject. In future articles I will discuss how Spin Loft applies to the irons and, the one everyone wants to know about, the driver and how to get the most distance out of it! Good luck applying this to your game, and practice hard.