How to Put Backspin on a Golf Ball: Golf Instruction

The pin is placed near the front of the green which is protected by a deep bunker. Phil Mickelson takes out his wedge and lines up this 120-yard second shot. It sails over the bunker, over the pin and pitches towards the back of the green.

There’s a sigh from the gallery as they expect the ball to overshoot the green, but wait, it bites and spins back coming to rest just inches from the pin. The sighs turn to Oohs and Ahs, cheering and high fives, and you can hear the questions, “How does he do that?” We take a look at how to put backspin on a golf ball.

Getting backspin on a golf ball for this reason or to hold the green is a valuable lesson to learn, you just need to understand the dynamics.

There are three basic components to achieving good backspin, they are:


The 3 Steps To Putting Backspin on a Golf Ball

1. Speed

This relates to the speed of the clubface as it strikes the ball. The faster the speed the greater will be the spin effect. For this reason, you won’t be looking for spin on a chip shot a mere 20 yards from the green, because you will not be able to generate enough speed.

The ideal distance would be where you can hit a full wedge shot, up to say a 7 iron. Ideally, you want to see the clubhead accelerate through the shot, or maintain a steady speed.

If you decelerate on the shot, the ball rides up the clubface and loses grip and no spin results.

2. Spin Loft

To get maximum spin you want to hit down on the ball, you are not trying to sweep it smoothly and cleanly off the surface of the fairway. Place the ball bit further back in your stance than usual, hit into the ball before making contact with the ground, and follow through taking a divot of possible.

This steeper angle of attack plus the angle of the club will create the spin loft. By hitting down on the ball while maintaining speed or accelerating, the ball gets compressed generating the spin effect.

3. Friction

The third requirement is friction, sounds simple enough, but how do you make sure you get it right. The grooves on the clubface are there for this very reason, but grooves alone won’t do the trick. What you need is a good solid strike, or the result will not be what you were expecting.

There are however other important considerations to ensure good friction is obtained. The grooves need to be “fresh”, that is to say if your clubs are old or your wedge a bit worn, and the grooves are not as sharp as they should be, you will not get the best effect. The clubface needs to be clean of any dirt or grass and it needs to be dry.

The ball also needs to be dry and the ball itself is important. There are two basic types of golf ball, hard-core and soft or wound core balls. The softer premium balls are better for producing a good spin effect and are designed to get you better “feel”. More about the ball later.

There must be no moisture or grass between the ball and the clubface, for this reason, don’t’ expect to get spin when playing from the rough, or in wet or raining conditions.

Now that we have the three main fundamentals in place there are still other factors to be taken into account.

Additional Backspin Factors To Consider

When looking at golf balls, the hard-core type typically has a compression rating of 100, which is least favorable for achieving backspin. A compression rating of 90 is best for getting a good backspin.

Then you get golf balls with softer covers, these tend to grip better on the clubface grooves thus resulting in more spin, however, they also will be more prone to cuts and abrasions.

Club choice is important, you would not expect to get impressive backspin from a 3 iron. Your 7 iron is probably the longest club that you would use in this manner, the 6 iron upwards would not give you the required spin loft.

What you need for the spin effect is height, not distance. The greater the loft, the easier it will be to put spin on the ball.

The backswing should be adjusted for the spin effect. Bring the club back in an upright position to ensure that you increase the angle of attack as the club-head meets the ball, and meet the ball before hitting the grass. This increases the compression on the ball and you should take a small divot on your follow-through.

This video demonstrates these ideas quite well.

There are some things you should not do when considering a backspin shot.

  • Do not attempt to play backspin if you are playing downwind, it will not work and you will overshoot the green.
  • Always make sure you play this shot into a headwind as it will help with the height and elevation.
  • Do not attempt this if the green is sloping away from you, again you will be embarrassed by the result, safer to choose a green sloping towards you.
  • The green should also preferably be soft to allow the ball to grip and then spin if the greens are too hard the ball might not bite.

So now you have it all and you can spin like Phil. No, not quite.

Practice, practice, and practice some more, just like anything else in golf, enjoy it when you pull it off.

Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.

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