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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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.
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.