I’m sure you have probably seen a pro golfer hit a ball into a green only to have the ball sucked backwards like it’s defying the laws of physics. It’s not magic you are witnessing, it is called backspin.
We think that the ball should continue to move forward since that’s the direction it flew for over a hundred yards, but it magically stops and changes directions. Many people watch that happen and say, “I wish I could do that.” There’s good news, you can.
What is Backspin? Why do you need Backspin?
When we talk about backspin, we’re referring to the backward rotation of a golf ball as it flies through the air. All golf balls rotate in some direction, but not all do backwards (towards the player) or fast enough to be noticed one the ball hits the ground.
There are two main reasons why backspin is important for a golf shot.
The first, and probably more surprising of the two, is that it helps create lift on the golf ball, so you can hit it farther. If you look at a golf ball, there are a bunch of little dimples all over the surface. When the ball flies up in the air, these little dimples help create lift, which gets the ball higher and traveling farther. Without enough backspin, the dimples won’t create as much lift and you won’t hit the ball as far. Spin can also create a ball to go left or right, traveling in a different direction.
The second reason that backspin is important is that it helps control a ball once it lands on the ground. This is especially helpful in the short game. For example, if you are hitting a ball into the green, most of the time you want it to stop pretty quickly. Spin helps you to hit it on the green and trust that it’ll stay there. This is a huge advantage because you can fly the ball all the way to your target without risking it on the ground.
Think about it this way, if you were forced to land a shot short and let it roll up to the green, your risking it hitting something, like a bump, and going off-line. In the air, that doesn’t happen as much. You can trust that, if you hit it only through the air, it’ll avoid those other obstructions.
Also, if you didn’t have spin, but landed the ball on the green, you will probably notice that your ball will roll over the back of the green fairly often. It doesn’t need to be said, but that can be incredibly frustrating, so spin is important.
How to create more Backspin?
Let’s talk about how to create backspin on the golf ball. There are six main elements that impact backspin.
- Angle of Attack
- Club Face Angle
- Swing Speed
That may seem like a lot, but I know you can handle them all.
Angle of Attack
First, angle of attack. The angle of attack is the line your club head takes to make contact with the golf ball. The steeper (more vertical) your angle of attack, the easier it is to get more spin on the golf ball.
The next item is grooves. No doubt you’ve noticed that golf clubs have grooves on the face. These are important because they give foreign objects, like grass, water, and dirt, a place to go, so the ball can come into contact with the most surface area of the club face.
Make sure your grooves are clean (here are some helpful golf towels) and sharp in order to get the most spin. It’s not a bad idea to change out your wedges every couple of years to make sure you have fresh grooves.
Third, is club face angle. This is the direction your club face is pointing when it comes into contact with the golf ball. If your club face is open or closed, you’re going to put side spin on the golf ball. A ball that is spinning sideways cannot spin backwards, so you must have a square face at impact to create backspin.
The fourth element is club loft. This is the angle between your club face and the center of your shaft. A 9-iron, for example, has more loft than a 4-iron. Loft will not only make it easier to hit the club, but it’ll also create more spin on the golf ball. So, if you want more spin, take a club with the most possible loft.
Next, is cut of grass. When we talk about the cut of grass, we’re talking about how long the grass is around your ball. Similar to the “groove” paragraph says above, you don’t want anything coming in between your club face and the golf ball. Shorter grass, like the fairway, allows you to make more solid contact with the ball and spin it more. The rough will make it very difficult to spin the ball.
Finally, your swing speed has an effect on backspin. The faster your swinging, the more spin the ball will have when it leaves the face. That doesn’t mean you should try to swing as hard as possible, but instead, similarly to the “loft” paragraph above, know that if you choose a club that you have to swing 100%, it has the potential to create more spin.
Drills to increase Backspin
Here are some great drills for you to practice to increase your backspin.
This first drill is fairly simple, but incredibly effective. All you need is a couple extra tees.
- On the driving range, put a tee about ½” in front of your golf ball and push it all the way into the ground, so it’s flush to the rest of the ground, but you can still see the top of it.
- Then, take another tee and do the same except put this one just on the outside of the ball.
- Then, take your swing and try to break the first tee (the front one) with your club.
- The divot you make should start at the same point as the second tee (the outside one) and continue about 5 inches forward, while never getting deeper than an inch.
This drill does a couple things.
- First, it forces you to create a downward angle of attack at the golf ball, which, like we said above, creates spin.
- It also makes you hit the ball first, instead of the ground, because your divot will start after the ball rather than before it.
One of the big mistakes a lot of amateur golfers make is they try to get under the ball and lift it in the air, coming into contact with the ground first. Hitting the ground before the ball means that foreign objects get in between the ball and the clubface and reduce back spin.
Impact Bag Drill
- Take some swings, hitting the impact bag with your club.
- Pay close attention to the angle of your clubface when you hit the bag.
- You want to do this until you can consistently hit the bag with a square face.
I think you’ll find that you either leave the club slightly open or slightly closed a lot. Squaring up the face of your club will allow the ball to come off straight and spin back.
Weighted Club Drill
If you’ve ever watched much baseball, you’ve probably seen batters in the on-deck circle swinging a bat with a donut, or weight, around it. They swing this to get the feeling for a heavier bat. That way, when they step up to the plate, their donut-less bat feels lighter and they can swing faster. You can try the same thing with a golf club.
They make little weighted donuts that can be put on your club, weighted clubs, or you can swing two clubs at once. Whatever you do, make this a regular part of your practice routine. You’ll slowly begin to build more muscles that matter for swinging the club faster. You’ll see your swing speed steadily increase, which means you backspin rate will as well.
If you want to get more backspin on your golf ball, so you see the ball stop or even back up when it hits the green, just remember those six points; angle of attack, grooves, club face angle, loft, cut of grass, and swing speed. Once you get all of those things lined up, it’ll be super easy to hit a shot and see it land softly on the green.