How to Spin Your Wedges
Love to watch those wedge shots that the pros hit that land on the green and stop on a dime? Learn how.
Let’s face it. Amateur golfers love to watch those wedge shots that the pros hit that land on the green and stop on a dime, and in some cases, even spin backwards. The reason they find these shots so fascinating is because that’s something that almost never happens with their own wedge shots, and they’re left to wonder, “How do they do that?”
In this article we’re going to take a look at that and examine the factors that go into creating spin on a wedge shot. A heads up, though. Contrary to what you may think, generating maximum spin isn’t the result of one single secret move or technique. Technique matters, for sure, but high spin rates only happen when a number of contributing factors are present at the moment of impact.
The reason the pros can do it consistently, and most amateurs can’t, is because the pros understand what all of these various factors are and how they work together to make the ball spin. Oh, and their skill level isn’t too shabby either.
We’ll start by describing what those factors are, and later on, for those of you who may be looking for new wedges that are designed specifically for high spin, we’ll even offer our suggestions for the models that you should consider.
But before we do that, let’s make sure that you have a solid understanding of what spin really is and, at its most fundamental level, why spin happens.
Why Spin Happens
Put simply, spin on a golf ball happens when the bottom of the club head makes contact with the ball with a downward force. When this occurs, it causes the ball to be “compressed” against the club face and the friction between the face and the ball results in backward spin.
So, from a scientific perspective, what creates spin is friction. If you want to create more spin, you need to create more friction. And we’ll discuss the factors that cause that.
We should note that in fact, even now, amateurs are creating some spin on every wedge shot they hit. The laws of physics see to that. But the reason your ball doesn’t have the stopping power that the pros’ shots have, is not because you have no spin on your shots, it’s because you are not generating enough spin (i.e., enough friction). Our goal, therefore, will be to help you increase the amount of spin you currently create. And, although you may not start seeing your shots dance on the greens like a Tour pro, you should be able to get your approach wedge shots to stop or to at least prevent them from running out after landing on the green.
Factors That Create Spin
There are a number of things that affect the amount of spin that can be generated:
- The equipment that you use (both the wedge itself, and the golf ball you use)
- The lie that you’re hitting from
- The technique that you use
Let’s examine these in more detail.
It’s hard to overstate the importance of the equipment you use as it relates to spin creation. If you really want to start getting more spin on the ball, you should probably consider investing in a new set of wedges. Why?
Because one of the biggest contributors to spin is the quality of the grooves on your wedge club face. Premium wedges with fresh, sharp-edged grooves will simply create more friction with the ball. As contact is made, the grooves will “grip” the ball as it rolls up the club face, which imparts backspin. If those grooves have worn down over time (which they most certainly will), their ability to create that all-important friction is lessened.
Another important reminder regarding your grooves: whether your wedges are fairly new or more “experienced,” it is vitally important to keep the grooves clean and free from the dirt and debris that tends to accumulate on the club face. Understanding how important the grooves are in generating backspin on the ball, you can see that they will obviously be unable to generate friction if they are clogged with dirt. And less friction = less spin.
As far as spin is concerned, all golf balls are most definitely not created equal. Some golf balls simply spin more than others and, if you want to maximize the amount you generate, you’ll need to make sure that you are using a ball that is designed for that purpose.
Some golf balls are designed to maximize distance (typically these are harder-feeling, 2-piece balls), some are designed to maximize spin (usually softer-feeling golf balls), and some are designed to provide a combination of both attributes (premium, multi-layer golf balls).
Understandably, the advanced technology and engineering that go into the construction of the premium golf balls results in a corresponding premium price tag. Most of the balls in this category are in the $45+ range. If you can afford to play one of them (e.g., Titleist Pro V1, Callaway Chrome Soft, TaylorMade TP5, etc.), you’ll be rewarded with the best of both worlds, getting both spin and distance. But if these types of balls are a bit beyond your budget, and your primary objective is spin, you should at least seek out a lower-priced ball that advertises spin as its primary feature -- and not distance.
If you’re seeking more spin, using a distance golf ball will defeat that purpose. The way those balls get increased distance is by spinning less in the air, so you get one attribute at the expense of the other.
Anything that inhibits the grooves from making crisp contact with the ball will serve to reduce the amount of friction and, therefore the amount of spin. Maximum spin can only be imparted on the golf ball when the lie allows the club face to make ball-first contact.
That is why shots hit out of the rough will not spin as much as shots hit from a clean lie in the fairway. In the rough, grass gets between the club face and the ball as it makes impact, and all of that excess grass prevents the grooves from doing their intended job. The result: shots from the rough will spin less, and will consequently roll out more when they land on the green.
So if you’ve been discouraged that your wedge shots from the rough haven’t been spinning enough, frankly there’s really not too much that you (or even the pros) can do about that. What you need to do is to understand why and how spin is reduced on these types of shots and to then plan accordingly, by flying your upcoming shot a shorter distance in the air to allow for the extra roll out on the green.
As we said, there’s no one magic move that creates all that spin. But it is vital that you have the right set up, ball position, and angle of attack to maximize the amount of spin (friction) that you can produce.
To start, let’s dispel a flawed notion that many amateur golfers have about how to create spin. Contrary to what you may have been told, the way to generate spin is NOT to push the ball position far back in your stance and then to put your weight on your target-side leg and deliver the club to the ball on an extremely steep angle. Launch monitor tests have clearly shown that this method will actually result in LESS spin. So for those of you who have been hitting wedge shots using this technique, and wondering why you still aren’t able to get any “bite” on the green, you should begin by abandoning that technique.
Here’s the right way:
- Start with the ball position in the center of your stance, or perhaps just a touch ahead of that.
- Then place most of your weight on your target-side leg (about a 60/40 weight distribution).
- Move the handle of the club forward just a little bit, so that there is a little forward shaft lean. But don’t overdo the shaft lean. Having your hands just a little ahead of the ball is all that is needed.
- The club head should be set fairly square to the target line. Opening the club face up is not a good idea (unless you’re trying to hit a flop shot) and will work against your goal of creating spin. An open club face will tend to slide under the ball, which means that it is not compressing it and generating friction.
- At impact it’s important that the club mirrors its position at set up: hands leading, slight forward shaft lean.
- And, although you do want a descending angle of attack, it should not be so steep as to cause you to take a divot. Your club head should just brush the surface of the grass. Taking a divot means the angle was too steep which, as we’ve said, results in less spin being created.
- And, finally, it’s important that you accelerate through the ball. That’s not to say that you should be trying consciously to create speed in the swing, but rather to say that you should avoid decelerating through impact.
Assuming that you make crisp, ball-first contact, this technique will ensure that you will produce enough back spin to stop the ball on the green. Combine this technique with a high-spin or premium golf ball, and a wedge with clean, fresh grooves, and you will be amazed at how much more spin you will get.
How Much Does the Ball Actually Spin?
The way a ball’s actual spin rate is measured is by use of a sophisticated tool called a launch monitor. A launch monitor is an electronic device that measures various aspects of what happens to a golf ball when it’s struck by a club. One of the many calculations that launch monitors perform is how many revolutions-per-minute (RPM) the ball is rotating during its flight.
With a driver, where lower spin is generally desirable to increase carry distance, the rate will be relatively low, usually in the range of 2,000 – 4,000 RPM. By contrast, on short shots of 50 – 75 yards, where high spin rates are desirable, the spin on a wedge will likely be in the range of about 8,500 – 9,500 RPM.
The Controversy Over Groove Design
Many years ago, some of the club manufacturers decided to alter the design of the grooves on their wedges in an attempt to offset the spin disparity on shots hit out of the rough versus shots hit from the fairway.
Until that time, the grooves on all wedges were designed in a “V” shape. These crafty club designers decided to modify the grooves so that they were engineered into the club face in a “U” shape. Without going into too much of the technical theory, “U”-shaped grooves were able to impart much higher amounts of spin on shots from the rough than the “V”-shaped grooves could, obviously making those shots from the rough much easier.
To make a long story short, the United States Golf Association ultimately made a ruling (in 2010) stating that clubs with “U”-shaped grooves would no longer be deemed to be conforming and could no longer be used. They stated that they wanted to restore the challenge of wedge shots hit from the rough, and by extension, to restore the importance of driving accuracy.
Accordingly, there is now a list (a database) of wedges that are considered legal and conforming by the USGA. If the wedges you own are of recent vintage, it’s likely that they are in conformance with the Rules of Golf. But if you’re interested in checking yours to see if they are on the ”conforming” club list, you can look here to verify.
Wedge Models That Deliver High Spin
Wedge technology has advanced a great deal in recent years, so that there are actually many models that produce high amounts of spin. But there are a few that outperform the rest in this aspect, and we wanted to highlight them for our readers who may be looking for new wedges.
Here are a few of the current wedges on the market that have been tested and shown to produce exceptionally high spin rates:
Titleist Vokey SM8
The Titleist Vokey SM8 is the best selling and most popular wedge on the market. In addition to its proven high spin rates (launch monitor-tested at 8,894 RPM on a 50-yard shot), one of the things that separates it from other wedges is the incredible number of customizing options that are available. There are a wide range of bounce and sole grind options that can be selected based on a player’s swing shape and the types of shots they like to hit around the green. This wedge is highly recommended.
Callaway Mack Daddy 5 Jaws (MD5)
The Callaway MD5 wedge was specifically designed with a focus on spin creation (its launch monitor spin test on a 50-yard shot was 8,928 RPM). One of the ways they achieve that is a new, and totally unique, groove design. Where the previous model (the MD4) had a 5° wall angle in the groove, the MD5 boasts a 37° wall angle! This creates a much sharper groove edge – one that grips the ball much more aggressively. While still conforming and fully legal, Callaway claims that this is a feature that contributes to the very high spin rates it produces. The MD5 is also highly recommended.
TaylorMade Milled Grind 2
If you look in the bags of PGA Tour pros, you’ll notice that many of them carry wedges that appear to have rusted. In contrast to the shiny, chrome finish that you see on most wedges, these “raw” wedges are actually intentionally designed to rust over time. Why do the pros want rusted wedges? Because they want to generate as much spin as possible with their wedges, and the rust that develops from these “raw” finishes will generate much more friction when they hit the ball. The TM Mill Grind 2 wedge has a unique design in which the majority of the club head has a polished, chrome finish, but the face itself is left in a raw state so that it will rust over time.
Remember, achieving higher spin rates won’t come about simply by improving your wedge technique, although that is a critical part of the formula. To increase your spin rate, multiple factors must be present. In addition, you have to have the right equipment: wedges with sharp-edged grooves that are continually kept clean and dirt-free, and a softer golf ball that is designed to spin a lot. And pay attention to the lie from which you’re hitting. Maximum spin will only occur when the club face can make clean, ball-first contact.
If you can put these all together, you’ll definitely be able to increase the spin rate that you’re currently getting, and you’ll start seeing your shots stop on the green....just like the pros.