Posts Tagged ‘spin loft’
One of the most important aspects of great ball striking is compressing the golf ball. Now, we’ve all heard that statement and we know the feel of a purely struck shot, but what really is compression and how can we do a better job with it? Let’s start by understanding the photograph below. This is a simulated shot where the clubface is just about to reach the back of the golf ball. The red line indicates where the loft or upward face angle is at impact and the blue line indicates the direction the clubhead is travelling during impact. The white line connecting the two represents the amount of compression “experienced” by the golf ball.
The narrower the gap or closer the two lines are the more compression will be exerted onto the golf ball and assuming a decent strike and appropriate launch, the ball will travel further. TrackMan refers to this gap as spin loft and without being too detailed it is the difference between where the face points at impact and where the clubhead travels at impact.
Fredrik Tuxen – one of the founders of TrackMan refers to spin loft as compression itself. To get a better understanding of how the numbers work let me give you a few examples: Jack hits a 5 iron with the face pointing at 16 degrees and the clubhead moving 2 degrees down. Bob swings at the same speed as Jack with his 5 iron and he gets the face pointing 15 degrees up and the clubhead moving 6 degrees down. Jack has a spin loft of 18 and Bob has a spin loft of 21. Both shots are hit well, so which goes further? Jack’s does because he has a narrower spin loft gap and thus compresses the ball more than Bob. What spin loft would create the maximum compression? Zero! However, as we will learn spin loft is in large part responsible for the amount of spin imparted on any shot and a golf ball needs some spin to keep it flying in the air. I have found that a spin loft of 11 is very good for a driver.
Some interesting points about compression or spin loft:
- Hitting down will not increase your compression of the golf ball or the spin on the shot. Invariably this only leads to a shot where the face angle and the clubhead direction both move downward – there is no change in spin or increase in distance.
- A higher spin loft increases spin and generally slows down ball speed.
- If you have similar swing speed, but hit your shots far shorter than your playing partners – this is due to a lack of compression on your shots.
- Shots with a lower spin loft will curve in the air more easily than shots with less compression. That’s why it’s easier to keep a 7 iron straighter than a driver.
- Custom club fitting can help to improve your spin loft simply by delofting either your irons or driver.
Now that we really understand what true compression is we can start to look at methods to help us improve our own ball striking. There are two ways we can compress the ball better – deloft the face angle more at impact without hitting down any more or hit down less without increasing the the loft of the face during impact. Ideally we need to deloft the face without hitting down any more. Notice how in the Jack and Bob example I used above – Bob’s face was delofted more than Jack’s, yet he hit down more and this limited his ability to compress the ball.
To get a good sense of what is required:
- Get in front of a mirror with a 7 iron.
- Grip the club and facing the mirror get the clubhead about 3″ off the ground two feet back from where the ball would be.
- Now slowly glide the clubhead through impact while maintaining the 3″ space between the clubhead and the ground noticing that as you go beyond impact how much your hands need to stay in front.
- When you start hitting balls – start small and hit soft shots off of a tee.
- There should be no ground contact, try to leave the tee in the ground and see how low you can hit these little 7 iron shots.
This is the feel you want! Delofting the face without slamming the club into the ground. And believe it or not this applies to the driver as well. I know it may sound strange and it took me a while to wrap my brain around this, but it is entirely possible to hit up on the ball with the handle/hands in front of the clubhead.
If you have gained something from this article please share it with a friend. Let’s be honest, they could most probably do with the help….
For years golfers have asked me how to hit low, spinning wedge shots and I’ve never been able to give them a confident response. After the research I’ve put in over the past few weeks I can give them a certain answer – and perhaps even explain a few other interesting shots we encounter on the course.
In polling better golfers regarding what really good pitch shots look like, the response has almost unanimously been that they tend to be lower with more spin. Edoardo Molinari, the European Ryder Cup golfer and former US Amateur champion was kind enough to help with the research for this article and he stated,
I’ve watched Tiger, Mickelson and Ernie hit hundreds of 50 yds shots, I’ve played with them and they all seem to deloft the club without taking much divot.
Which I agree with by the way – the best pitchers always seem to have a knack for nipping the ball off the turf without much divot and then firing the ball in there low and spinning. The problem with this shot has always been how to hit it low, yet make it spin at the same time….
If you hit down on the ball you’ll be able to hit it lower, but hitting down more only lowers height and does not, as is commonly believed, make the ball spin more. So that option is out. If we take a more lofted club to spin it more then we may get a little extra spin (although that’s not a given), but now the shot will fly too high.
Here is where we need to get a little technical and talk about the forces and angles the club is imparting on the ball at impact. TrackMan uses a term spin loft and it refers to the vertical difference between where the clubhead is travelling at impact (attack angle) and where the clubface is angled at impact (dynamic loft). My research shows that good wedge players have a narrower spin loft (dynamic loft minus attack angle). Let’s get a better understanding of these important factors:
Attack Angle (angle that indicates if the clubhead is travelling up or down, relative to the ground at impact)
In studying hundreds of 50 yard pitch shots on TrackMan over the last few weeks I have found that good pitchers tend to not take very large divots. Yes, they always contact the ground, but the club ‘bruises’ the turf more so than cuts it. This would indicate that the attack angle is shallow – it is down but not hugely so. Now hold on for the following part, because this should not change the way you think about a club striking a ball: my research shows that the attack angle should be shallow enough so that the sole of the club (bounce) actually makes contact with the grass/ground before the ball. And this occurs even on ideal hits…..
Dynamic Loft (the angle of the face/loft at impact)
Really good pitchers have the ability to deloft the club without hitting down more. This means that the hands are in front of the ball at impact and the loft on the clubface is often more than 10 degrees less than the static loft. For example in much of the testing a 54 degree wedge would apply 41-44 degrees of dynamic loft to the ball.
Spin Loft (dynamic loft – attack angle)
This is a very important factor as it contributes to, but does not solely determine, how much spin and loft each shot will have. If you hit a pitch shot with 42 degrees of dynamic loft and you have an attack angle of -3 degrees (the minus indicates a downward hit) your spin loft would be 45 degrees. Common wisdom indicates that a broader spin loft (eg. 50 degrees) would create more spin and height, yet my research indicates that when it comes to chipping and pitching a slightly narrower spin loft (without much downward hit), coupled with clean contact between ball and face increases the golfers ability to hit low spinning wedges. An easy way to narrow your spin loft with pitch shots is to take a lesser lofted club. My students have had tremendous results by using the lob wedge less and getting a little more accustomed to hitting a variety of shots with the pitching wedge.
Friction Launch (the amount of grip between face and ball and how that effects launch conditions)
This type of strike on the ball leads to a scenario where the friction between the face and the ball is far higher than normal. This increased friction leads to a lower launch and trajectory with a substantially higher spin rate. This grip between the ball and face is what I call ‘friction launch’ and just like the term spin loft it addresses the friction and launch of any shot.
As golfers we’ve all hit that pitch shot that comes off the face very low and the moment you strike the ball you know it’s going to grab as soon as it hits the green. Your playing partners are yelling bite and as soon as the ball gets near the hole it comes to a screeching halt! You have just experienced high friction launch.
Please check back in a few days for the follow up post The Science Behind Superb Wedges: Part II where I’ll discuss friction launch in detail and show the results of much of the research I’ve done.
To get a much better look at the data be sure to read Part II HERE