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.
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.
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.