How to Put Backspin on a Golf Ball

Introduction

I don’t know about you, but every time I watch the best players in the world on television, I’m dumbfounded by the shots they hit inside of 100 yards.  Wedges that fly past the pin and zip back to the flag, pitch shots that take two hops and stop faster than my kids doing math homework. 

Every once in a great while, I’m able to put a little “action” on my wedges, but it always happens when I least expect it.  And when it does, I have no idea what I do to cause it.

Fortunately, I asked a couple of our Golfer’s Authority Instructors how they get their short irons and wedges to stop so predictably.

Almost in unison, they listed the keys that amateurs like most of us can incorporate to get our short clubs to stop where we want more consistently.

Setup

During our conversation about putting backspin on short irons and wedges, one of our instructors reminded me of an adage that I’d forgotten but is all too important.  He told me that your setup is just like the foundation to your home.  Without a solid one the walls are going to crumble down around you. 

In short, your setup (the things you do before you swing) dictates the likelihood that you’re going to hit a good shot.  It’s something the best players in the world get right every time, and there’s no reason you can’t too.

In order to make solid contact and generate predictable spin with your short clubs, ball position should be in the center or just slightly back of center in your stance.

Your hands should be ahead of the golf ball, the shaft leaning every so slightly toward the target. 

Having a little more weight on your front foot isn’t a bad idea either. 

When you do these three things right, you put yourself in a position that promotes a descending angle of attack at impact.  In other words, you’ll make contact with the ball first, then the turf.  This produces those crisp divots you always see from Tour Players on television.

Swing

Both our instructors agree that you shouldn’t be making a different golf swing with different clubs.  Trying to master a single motion is difficult enough for most of us. 

So, at all costs, you should feel like you’re making the same motion whether you’re hitting a driver or a sand wedge. 

When it comes to your swing with your short clubs, the most important factor to keep in mind is that speed creates spin.  The club needs to be traveling with some velocity through impact if it’s going to generate spin.

Another way of thinking about speed is the motion you use to strike a match.  No one ever made fire by slowly striking a match.  Speed is needed to create enough friction to ignite a flame.

Equipment

Like any other shot in golf, you need the right equipment.

To generate consistent spin with your short irons and wedges, make sure your grooves are clean and sharp.  Dirty and dull grooves don’t allow the clubface to interact with the ball as much at impact.  Even solid shots won’t spin nearly as much if your grooves are caked with dirt or dull.

Your golf ball plays an important role too.  Golf balls with hard covers are meant for distance.  As a result, they don’t spin nearly as much. 

If you’re looking to generate more spin, play a golf ball with a softer cover.  The Tour balls from companies like Titleist, Callaway, and TaylorMade all have soft covers and are designed to aid in spin, feel, and control.

Practice

Once you’ve mastered the setup position, the key to spinning your short clubs is all about achieving the right position at impact.  Impact should mirror the position you created with your setup – the shaft leaning forward, your hands ahead of the ball, and your weight transitioning to your front foot. 

Here are some useful drills to help you ingrain the proper impact position.

Impact Bag

If you’ve ever watched instructional shows on Golf Channel or read articles in Golf Digest, you’ve likely seen an impact bag.

Impact bags are really nothing more than an oversized bean bag that’s meant to absorb the shock of a club at impact without causing any damage.

To use the impact bag, assume your address position with the back of the bag situated where you’d put the golf ball (center of slightly back of center). 

Now, simply make your normal swing, striking the impact bag.  The club will stop here.  Done properly, the shaft should be leaning forward, and your hands should be ahead of the rear end of the impact bag.

Up On Your Back Toe

Even though this drill is meant for chipping and pitching, it’s a great way to get a sense for what proper impact feels and looks like.

Start in your normal address position.  Then, put all your weight on your forward foot and come up on your back toe for balance.

From here make some abbreviated swings (you won’t be able to make full swings and keep your balance). 

Once you get used to it, you should start to notice your hands and shaft leaning ahead at impact.  Contact should feel crisp with small divots being taken just in front of the golf ball.  This is that descending angle of attack we’ve been talking about. 

Conclusion

For most amateur golfers, creating the kind of backspin you see on television is a daunting proposition.

But it’s possible to for just about anyone to generate enough spin so that short shots are easier to control. 

Like anything else, it requires a lot of practice and the creation of proper habits.  If you follow the advice above and put in the time, you too just might be hitting those cool shots that end up close to the pin. 

Paul Liberatore

Paul Liberatore

Founder of Golfers Authority

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