Golf Ball Spin Science

HI Everyone;

I was recently asked this question in another forum on golf. So I figured it would be great education for everyone.

This post is purely academic, but it is actual science. And of course, there are always some sort of variables that can happen within the science and physics that would, could , or will make it different for everyone. This is one of the things in what makes golf so great.

The question was about ball spin, so here it is.

Ball Spin

Question: Could you please explain what ball spin is on a draw shot (as i watch the ball after the shot)?

Well to be simple about it. If you could see the ball spinning that is. There are primarily four types of spin, keep in mind I said primarily. And professional golfers on the PGA Tour and otherwise generate tons of spin on a ball. conversely, the know how to reduce spin as well.

So the four types of ball spin are as follows…

1 under (back) spin (tumbling backwards from the bottom up)(away from target)

2 over (forward) spin (tumbling forwards from the top down)(towards target)

3 side spin left (spinning counter clockwise)(draw spin or hook spin)(for right handed players)

4 side spin right (spinning clockwise)(fade spin or slice spin)(for right handed players)

Spin rates vary, but unless you hit the top half of the ball when striking it, all balls will initially spin of the club face with under spin. This actually creates lift on the ball to get it up higher in the air. And yes it is possible to have to much or too little spin. 99% of the time when a person hits any shot (excluding putting), the ball has under spin off of the club face but as the ball rises and falls back to earth and slows down it can begin to take on the properties of over spin.

There is a slight caveat here though. As the ball comes off the face of the club..there is automatically produced side spin, it happens at the same time as impact. And it also happens in various degrees of angle starting from the 12 o’clock position. Any you can only imagine as to how much data Titleist has compiled and composed over the years

There is another caveat here as well. The faster the ball spins, the more deviation either towards or away from your intended target happens.

And as we all know, dimples on a ball are there to create stability while the ball is in flight, but at the same time the dimples can also hinder a shot, it is all dependent upon spin rates.

So as you can see, depending upon your shot is what determines what type of spin you want to impart on the ball.

Technically speaking, other considerations to look for are club face position at impact, club head path, angle of club head approach to the ball, club head speed and of course, center of contact i.e., the sweet spot. As all of these are ball flight laws and affect both distance and direction.

Hope this answers your question.

Happy Golfing and have a great day

Robb Nunn, PGA Professional

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