One of the more popular questions when it working with students on their distance wedges or scoring wedges is “How do you spin it like the pro’s?”. This zone is from about 30 yards to around 100-125 yards depending on club head speed. In a previous blog “Spin Generation“ I discussed a few factors that help create friction. In this article lets look at strike location.
The most important factor when talking about spin creation is FRICTION. This is created from how well the strike was between the ball and club face. If you look at a good flighted wedge players wedge you will notice the wear spot is low on the face. The reason for this is to help reduce the chance of getting any interference between the club and ball. IF the club is coming in too low or shallow there is chance of the club face running into the grass and standing it up. Grass is like little water packets waiting to explode between the ball and club. In the photo on the right you can notice the contact point was lower on the club face.
If you were to hit a ball off of a tee the impact point does not matter as much. The tee raises the ball above the grass so if the ball was struck a few grooves higher there will still be a clean strike.
In summary keep an eye on the lie. The tighter and dryer the lie the more potential of a clean strike resulting in more friction. Make sure you are using a premium golf ball that has a softer skin for the club to grip. Last point is to make sure your wedges are newer, clean of debris, and dry. As a wedge ages with use the less spin it will produce.
You can disregard the 5.5* toe down in the above picture. Being 6.6 I tend to deliver all my clubs more toe down.
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Chris Como and Andrew Rice had an Instagram Live chat on May 2nd 2020 during his Lockdown Learning series where they were discussing a hypothetical hypothesis of a 3D flat Spot. The idea behind this thought is having more consistency or repeatability around the impact zone. Their conversation can be found here: https://youtu.be/un29EVrjDpE
I posted a few videos on Instagram with some thoughts. In the wedge game if the wedge is going to skim the ground instead of crash into the ground there will be more room for error on the skimming club. The one crashing into the ground has one chance before it is stopped or changed due to the collision.
I recorded a chip shot with my iPhone camera and traced the top of the club head blur. The video can be seen here: https://youtu.be/KM-6tj_Ihm4. Below is 3 frames through the impact interval.
What we need to take into account is the video is taken in 2D and the wedge also collided with the turf. As the wedge comes in contact with a firm surface like my carpet or firm conditions outdoors the wedge will slide or bounce off of it. Notice how the red line was coming down on the top image then flattened out with the ground as contact occurred.
You can see the hands and club head work in an arc. The handle is starting to travel slightly up as the club travels slightly down. If the club did not run into the ball and get deflected down or touch the ground and get deflected as well what would the club actually do? The high speed video I posted above had all of that going.
You might say the club would keep swinging in a smooth arc, as the handle is slightly going up and the head slightly down it could add a little flatter spot at the bottom of the arc, no true flat spot but it could get flattish or smoother, and due to the ball contact then the ground contact can appear to be flattish in video.
From the wide view the curve looks smooth. In the zoomed in image above you can see the white line dips down slightly at the ball to after it. With the loft running into the ball the club gets deflected down slightly, ball gets launched up, the club brushes the turf (slides or takes a small divot depending on turf firmness), then gets back on its way.
There might be some merit to this hypothesis as the grip is working up on its inner little circle as the club head is working down on its larger outer circle. If the club head did not run into the ball or ground the bottom of the curve could flatten out some. Some food for thought as you watch good players perform in short game and full swing.
Not a lot of golfers think when they are playing golf. They get use to hitting balls on the range where it is flat and mown tight. In playing lessons I see it often when putting students in a situation to see what they do and that is sometimes nothing different. They grab their normal club they would hit on the range and do not think about this. Let’s take a look at the results of the above lies using TrackMan where all the balls came out of the center of the club face. This writeup is covering the YouTube Video: Perfect Lie vs. Different Rough Lies
The above numbers were from the flat lie. There was no grass between the club face strike and the ball. The club was an 8i and first ball of the day after setting up all the filming equipment and TrackMan.
The above image is a comparison of the first ball with the clean strike and one of the middle two balls. Not going to put up both of the middle ball numbers because they were similar. If you take a look at the first image above with the lies although the balls look different there is minimal grass/debris between club face and ball strike. The grass is an overseeded rye in Arizona where the blades are thin and easy to get though but still get in the way of contact. Club speed was a mile an hour slower but with the grass interference the ball speed dropped 9mph (2-3 of those due to swing speed) but the carry was 6 yards longer. Why is the question? If you look at the launch angle it was almost 2* higher but the spin was 2469. This is like launching a driver off a tee. For optimal driver launch at that club speed and spin rate it would be around 17* and carry 197 yards or so. This is known as a flyer lie where the ball travels longer than expected.
Now let’s look at the bottom ball where it was sitting 1/2 way down in the rough. Did not have a thick piece of grass to drop the ball in but the deeper down in the grass the more the numbers will change for the worse. Think of grass like having pillows stacked out in front of your stomach and someone was about to deliver a blow. The more you have the less you would feel the strike. Same thing happens between the club and ball delivery which is known as the smash factor. That is the ball speed decided by club speed. The swing speeds were the same but the energy transfer dropped by .14 smash lowering the ball speed from 115.7 to 103.7. Now the ball speed is starting to come out slower with more cushion between the strike and the carry distance is starting to go down. Launch angle went up higher but at some point there will be too much grass to get through if the lie was thicker and deeper where the ball might not get airborne.
There is just a few examples of how grass starts to interfere with the flight. The more junk in the way the more unpredictable the ball flight and outcome can become. When it starts to get extreme the goal is to get the ball back to play where you can control the golf ball. Do not move it to another bad lie but take your lump and keep going forward. Start paying attention to your lies when you are out playing. The more you play and start recalling what lies looked like while recalling past memories of what happened in similar situations the more you will understand what the ball might do. This gives you either a green proceed like normal light, yellow cautious light, or red stop get back to play sign.
Accelerate, push the ball to the hole, or not? That has been a question in golf for quite some time. There are even steel training golf balls which requite a lot of force to move the ball. Let’s take a look at this concept closer.
Acceleration example: Now let’s say your goal was to hit 7.5mph (Green Circle) but your concept is to accelerate through the ball. Your putter would be speeding up to and through impact to an unknown speed. You could catch the ball anywhere around that speed that the blue arrows point to. This makes it more difficult to have the same speed at impact.
Using Capto to measure a stroke that is speeding up through impact looks like the below graph. The right side of the graph where the orange line is impact. In this example the putter was accelerating 8.3 ft/s^2 on the way to the top of the curve where it is accelerating 0. The orange line to the right side of the Capto graph is impact.
As the putter collides with the ball it takes energy and speed away form the putter. I went ahead and drew the top of the curve in the below graph. You can see the putter ran into the ball on the way up the curve as it was still gathering speed like the illustration 2 images above. On the bottom of the image it also shows you the length of the backstroke vs follow through. This one was short to long due to needing more speed to get the ball to the hole.
Now a 0 Acceleration Example: Let’s say your goal was to create 10 mph of speed with the putter at impact (Green Circle). If your stroke is setup to catch the ball around the 0 acceleration point your chances will be closer to that mark. You can catch it at any of the blue arrows and it will be between 9 and 10 mph.
In this example below using Capto the acceleration was near 0 (actually slowing down slightly). That means the speed was just after max speed for the given stroke. You would have 1 time the putter hit 10mph, 2 chances to hit 9.9mph, 2 chances to hit 9.8, etc..
In the below speed graph from Capto you can see the putter was not accelerating but starting to slow down slightly at -0.1mph. The result the putter collided with the ball at the top of the curve when the putter was traveling 3.7mph.
I will leave you with this last through. If you were asked to run your car into a wall at exactly 10 miles per hour would you get close to the wall and smash the gas or would you start further back, speed up to 5mph just before the wall, then coast into the wall? Your call.
The question was asked by Andrew Rice on social media and I put it up as a pole. What plays the bigger role in generating spin between the grooves and flat spot between the grooves?
When looking at spin the biggest factor is friction. That means how clean of contact there is between the wedge face and golf ball. Although spinloft matters we are just talking about what effects the spin more: face or grooves.
Chatting with PING engineers they created a wedge with no grooves on it. Their conclusion is that a flat wedge spins just as much as a new wedge with grooves in a dry controlled environment. Andrew Rice had access to the wedge and hit a few shots and put the findings HERE.
Let’s take a look in a different area: Racing. When the track is dry they use race slicks in order to get the most grip on the road. When it starts to rain they switch tires to the tread in order to channel the moisture and get better tire to track grip. That is where the grooves come into play on the wedge. They help channel the debris (moisture, grass, etc) away from the surface so there can be better ball to club face interaction.
When reading through USGA Equipment Rules there are parameters on area roughness and grooves for a wedge. My Golf Spy Article summed it up nicely with this quote “In simple terms, square grooves would have to be further apart than ‘v’ grooves because they can channel away more grass and moisture.” The roughness also helps channel some moisture so there is a limit on the face milling. The last area of grooves that are regulated is the sharpness of the edges. There needs to be a minimum of a 0.010″ radius. This rule is due to the sharpness of the top edge in the role of generating spin.
Conclusion is that in a lab where you can guarantee there will be no debris/moisture getting between the face and the ball then the flat surface between creates the most friction. As golfers we all play on a golf course where the situations are always changing from morning dew to grass heights. Even on a tight lie there still is a little grass that gets trapped between the face and the ball. The grooves are there in order to help move the debris away form the contact spot. The sharpness of the upper groove edge will help reduce the slippage as the ball works up the face resulting in a little more spin.
SO if you are looking to create maximum spin make sure your lie is dry, tight, and you are using a new wedge and premium golf ball. Take a look at a warn wedge compared to a new wedge below. You can see how smooth the surface is which would result in more friction and also how sharp the grooves are in order for the upper edge to add a little additional grip.
One last note is that companies are starting to come out with new finishes and coatings. This helps the moisture move off the face faster like a fresh wax on your cars paint. PING released their Glide 3.0 wedge with Hydropearl and tests are coming out with significant results. See image below from TXG’s Moisture Test Video
Do yourself a favor and go test your current wedge. See your local PGA pro and do a spin test. Check your wedges compared to a new wedge. First hit 3-4 balls off a small tee with your current wedge and the new wedge to guarantee a clean strike between face and ball. Next repeat the same process and add a little moisture to the ball and the club face. Finally hit a few off the turf. The numbers should speak for themselves. I like to replace my most used wedge once a year due to practice and play with the other wedges being replaced every 2-3 years. Depending on your playing and practice habits that might change for you.
There are different options in the sand. Bunkers require club speed, loft, and entry point control. The main 2 shots are either from a fairway bunker where you are looking to get out and go a distance or from the green side bunker where you are looking for higher, softer, and shorter distance. For the fairway bunker you are looking to have the club collide with the ball first just like off the fairway. That way the energy is transmitted to the ball without any interference. As for the green side bunker the club enters the sand first and the sand transmits the energy to the ball so there is a loss of energy. This is similar to the rough where the ball comes out slower. Lets take a look at a few scenarios:
Scenario 1: Taking out the PINK box. If you are trying to help the ball out of the bunker your club could be landing too far behind the ball. With this the club is going through the sand then coming out before it even reaches the ball. The club head will probably hit the top or the middle of the ball and the ball will not come out.
Scenario 2: Taking out the blue box. In this situation you have to remove a lot of sand before getting to the ball. This will need to have a lot of speed to remove that amount of sand. Then by the time the club gets to the ball there will not be much energy or if you catch it towards the end the box the blade can come in contact with the blade. This usually results in the ball staying in the bunker.
Scenario 3: Taking out the green box. This is ideal for a green side bunker shot. The goal is to remove a sliver of sand and have the ball be in the middle of that splash. Think of it as a piece of toast in size and would be the same depth and length. This would result in more predictable shots for your golfing career. Again remember the more sand you take the more speed you need. Also the less energy is transferred to the ball. That means if one shot you take is 1/2″ deep and the next is 2″ deep the difference of energy transfer varies.
Scenario 4: Taking out the red box. This is ideal if you are trying to advance the ball a good distance just like from the fairway. The club will interact with the ball and the energy transfer is not slowed down by sand or grass. If that red box was too far forward then the club head has a high potential of colliding with the middle of the ball and would result in a bladed shot or if it is higher up a topped shot. The goal is to have the club touch the ball then the sand so the loft will get it out.
For green side bunker shots I like the 2nd from top ball. The white line is your target line, the grey line is your entry point, and the ball if just ahead of that. when training draw these lines so your body does not get too open and you can have feedback from where the club entered the sand.
Quick Greenside Bunker Blog for today. I drew the below image for a student today in the bunker. The main line is where the club is entering (target is to the right of the photo). The goal is to take a piece of toast length and depth out of the sand. The top box was to show that portion of sand would not be there after the strike. Then with the ball I drew a little rectangle around the ball with the ball placed in the middle of the slice of bread (rectangle). We are not looking to dig holes and take loafs of bread out. Moving too much sand takes too much energy and is hard to control the outcomes consistent. So when you’re in there splash the sand out and let the ball go for the ride. Trust the loft and your entry spot to get the job done.
Just released a new video on YouTube which my mentor Martin Chuck calls the Fly Catcher. The goal of this drill is to learn how to pace the club and not use the arms to fling the club.
Arriving to the finish you have a position in mind you are moving towards. When starting you can go from a setup position and with no backswing learn how to turn the body, stand on the left leg, face the target, and arrive at the below image. The arms were moved into this position and not independently moving. Once you can find this spot move the club back to hip high and turn to the finish. Finally once you can make the motion put a ball in the way of the motion. Let the body motion move the club, the club will collide with the ball, and the ball will respond.
From down the line you can see that the club has not smashed through the noodle. The hips and chest are facing the target, the knees are closer to gather, pressure on the left heel, chest and eyes are up to the sky (or top of the hill in this photo). Nothing stayed down trying to hit the ball.
Let’s take a look at putting starting from the hole and going backwards. What is the average distance on the PGA tour for them to have a 50/50 chance to 1 putt? If you said 8′ you are correct. We will use Mark Broadie’s stats for a lot of this from his book Every Shot Counts. Take a look at the below insert I pulled from online. There are 3 keys to putting: Green Reading, Speed Control, and Start Line.
Short Putts: These are more on picking the right read and start line. A tour pro has a 50% chance from 8′ but that same percentage is found at 5′ for 90’s golfer. From those distances and moving out the percentages drop dramatically. Inside 20′ for the season a tour player must average a conversion rate of about 60% to keep their card. That means for every putt from 1″-20′ for the season they holed out 6 of 10. The average golfer expects to make a lot more than that and set their expectations too high and try to force the makes. Keep track of how many putts you miss inside 6′. When you work on the putting green work on making these putts.
Mid Range Putts: Will make some and miss some so expect to 2 putt often. Goal is to not 3 putt from 6′-20′. I do not recommend working on this area for the average golfer. For competitive golfers they need to work on their conversion rates from in side 20′.
Long Putts: The main key for these are picking the right read and then getting the speed to match. For the average golfer this is outside 20′ and for the pro’s 40′. The goal from 20′ and out is to stop the ball at the hole. Other than green reading and short putting practice I recommend players to spend most of their time in this zone from 20-50′. A good putt is 10% of the distance so for a 50′ putt within 5′ is good. Now when you are training, train harder so you can play easier. A great game/challenge is to set up 2 tees or coins 3′ apart as the goal and drop a ball starting at 20′ and another one ever 5′ going out to 40″+. Start at 20′ and if you roll it in the 3′ zone move back 5′ and putt from there until you stop it in and repeat the process out to your stopping distance or for 5 minutes of game time. Do this up and down hill where down hill will be harder to control the speed. Lastly play 9 holes from 30′-50′ with different starting spots to different holes with the goal to finish with 18 strokes. Not trying to make them from that distance but stop it at the hole and knock in the next putt.
For green reading I would recommend seeing your nearest AimPoint Certified coach and go through an Express Level 1&2 class. If you are picking the wrong spots then speed control gets difficult. Under reading the putt tends to get a ball traveling too fast towards the hole to keep the ball from dropping below the hole which results in a ball that finishes well past the hole.
The 3rd area of putting is start line. Best practice here is to putt down a 1″ wide yard stick. Set the yard stick so the end is going right into the middle of a hole on a straight uphill putt. Roll in 5-10 balls in a row depending on your skill level then move on. If you are a competitive golfer you will have more time to spend in all areas of putting. Most golfers need to use their time wisely and spending 15-20 minutes during each practice session on their putting. This is an area they can improve quickly and anyone can do it.
Let’s take a look at a 165 shot to a left pin. This could be any approach shot into the green but for this example it is a par 3. What would you hit and where would you aim?
Now let’s take a look at a Scratch Golfer 7iron and 15 HDCP 8iron dispersion patterns. They were asked to hit 20 balls towards a target and we used TrackMan recored the landing spots for all. The Scratch Golfer’s circle was 18 yards deep by 26 yards wide while the 15 HDCP circle was 43 yards wide by 46 yards deep. Also if you take a look the center of the balls is not exactly on the 0 line so I added a red dot for the middle of the dispersion pattern. Golfers are firing shotguns not sniper rifles. The better the ball striker and shorter the club the tighter the circle. Higher the HDCP and longer the clubs get the bigger the circles get.
Now that you are armed with this info would you still aim where you picked at the beginning? A lot of golfers see the flag and think that is the target. Let’s look at what would happen if these golfers were to aim for the pin and say their yardages were exactly the yardage as the shots above. You can see the scratch golfer has 1/3 or more of their circle off the green and the 15 HDCP golfer has 1/2 or more of their circle off the green. That is a lot of the circle in tough positions to chip from for an up and down attempt.
That might be interesting to see for the first time. Only issue with that example is a lot of golfers that visit with me do not know their average carry number. They like to use the solid struck shots and think that that is the number to use (represented below with the green dot). Below I moved the dispersion pattern down to where golfers think their ball will carry all the time. They do not take into account a miss hit which results in shorter shots. Most golfers will not hit it much further than their normal clean strike unless they catch a flyer (usually form the rough or landing the club slightly behind and getting a little debris between ball and club) but they will miss hit their clubs resulting in shorter carries. With this now more of the circle is off the green for both golfers.
Now let’s take a look at a good aim spot for these same dispersion patterns. Below I moved the Scratch Golfers aim spot to the center of the green and 5 yards deeper where the 15 HDCP pattern was moved more dead center of the green or slightly away from the trouble. Now if you look at the circles and not just the dots there is going to be the same amount covering the green around the pin but now 85% of the circle is on the green. With this concept when the scratch golfer misses the green now they have an easier chip to save their par vs the short sided bunker shot probability. The 15 HDCP golfer might flush it to the back of the green or miss hit it to the middle but the dreaded ones they don’t think about will be ok.
This takes patience and discipline to play golf like this and waiting out the odds for the ball to land where a flag happens to be close by. The higher the handicapper the more variance they have. Best bet for them is to hit the middle of the green yardage if they know their average carry or even back edge club if they play for their best balls in order for their scatter pattern lands over the green. Then putt to wherever the pin happens to be.
As the ball striking improves the back to front distance dispersion shrinks dramatically but the side to side reduces at a different rate. For that player they could have more options of pulling a club that would land in the first 1/3, middle 1/3, or back 1/3 of the green depending on if the flag is front, middle, or back. The back one they do need to be careful of not hitting it over the green and having a tough shot.
In summary if there is a hazard aim away form it by either shifting your target left/right or distance short/long to avoid it. You are waiting out the variances for that ball that happens to land where a pin happens to be. Take a look at the image below where your ball could be any one of those dots inside your dispersion pattern and putting to any one of those pins depending where it was at. This is how you lower your HDCP over time.
With a larger pattern (longer the club) imagine that the pin is not there and get your ball on the green. It is easier to putt than chip and easier to chip than pitch. Who knows maybe where one of the dots lands there happens to be a hole close by.
With a tighter pattern you have options but remember the flag is not your target. Here is the same pattern for the front, middle, and back and you will notice the black aim line moves around on this green for the most green coverage and trouble avoidance.
IF YOU WATCH GOLF REMEMBER THAT IS USUALLY THE HIGHLIGHT REALS OF GOOD SHOTS OUT OF THE FIELD OR SOMEONE THAT IS FIRING ON ALL CYLINDERS FOR A SHORT TIME AND THEIR DISPERSION PATTERNS HAVE GOTTEN SMALLER. Also remember these players are the best in the world! This might happen for a few holes, day, or more but if you pay attention closely their scores have swings in them as well. For more of an in-depth look at this there is a great system created by Scott Fawcett called Decade. It covers expectations, approach shots, trouble shots, and driving decisions.