golf drivers

Driver Backspin: Is It Worth Worrying About?

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How many times have you heard about “dialing in” your backspin when looking for a new driver or trying to maximize your drives?

 

I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but… yes, you’re wasting your time looking for the “right” amount of driver backspin.

Monkey doesn't comprehend that driver backspin doesn't matter

Confused Monkey is confused.  Source

Yes, you read that right.  It’s a complete waste of time.

Blasphemy, I know.  I’m not really shaking in my spikeless golf shoes about it, though.

Now’s the time you’re wondering “But why?  Why is it a waste of time?”, right?

For starters, it’s very simple:

You don’t do anything the exact same way every single time.

No, you don’t.  You’re not a robot.  Even the most monotonous tasks aren’t performed exactly the same way every.  Single. Time.

You may have a job that’s repetitive.  Typing the same documents day after day after day.  Bending the same kind of pipe day after day.  But ask yourself honestly: do you do your tasks the exact same way, every day?

Sure, there are things you can do to fight monotony in the workplace, but this is golf we’re talking about.

So how does this apply to you?  Well, you don’t hit the ball the same way every time.  You can’t.  The reasons are many:

  • Your flexibility level is different daily
  • Your attitude is different daily
  • Your mechanics are different daily
  • Your physical condition is different daily
  • Your setup position is different daily

You will rarely if ever, attack the ball the same way twice.  This will have a definite effect on your driver backspin numbers.

Your ball position can change, the bottom of your swing arc can change, your swing speed can change.  All of these factors- and many more- will affect how much backspin you put on the ball.  Not just your for your driver, but for ALL of your clubs.

They don’t even have to be big changes to have an effect on your shot outcomes.  Those differences I bullet-pointed?  Some can be so minute you don’t even notice, but they will have an impact.

Think about that a second.  Backspin on your drives (well, all clubs, honestly) is a function of three things:

  • Loft of the club
  • The angle of attack
  • How fast you swing the club

If your flexibility isn’t up to snuff, or you don’t feel your best, you won’t have as much swing speed as you normally do.  You may do everything else the way you normally do, but without the extra swing speed you get from your normally bigger backswing, you won’t put as much backspin on the ball.

Now ask yourself this: will that have that much of an effect on how you play?  Are you so dependent on how much backspin you put on your drives that it would hurt your scores that much?

If I may be so bold, one thing that irks me as a fitter is the golfers that go to one fitting, get their specs, then go to another just to find they need different specs.

Of course, they do- they don’t swing the same way all the time!

A fitter can use all the fancy equipment, high-speed cameras, and whatever to find out on Monday you need a certain kind of specs… but if you come back on Friday, you might need something different.

OK, so maybe it’s not that extreme, someone going to two different fittings in a single week, but the point’s still valid: you, me, everyone, we all swing differently on a day-to-day basis.

No one is out to get those golfers.  It’s just human nature, and it isn’t always the fitter or the golf club’s fault.

Thanks for letting me get that off my chest.  I needed that!

Back to the article:

Then there are the supposed differences between different models of drivers. 

Someone will say that a certain brand or model “spins less for me”, or “it spins too much”.  Ever heard something like that before?  Gawd, go to Reddit or a golf forum if you hadn’t… but don’t say I didn’t warn you.

How in the hell is that information supposed to help you?  Especially now that you know that everyone swings differently every day?

But let’s suppose, for argument’s sake, that a certain driver does have more (or less) backspin than another driver.

What could cause that?

The specs, for starters.  If you have two drivers, and they both say “10.5” on the sole, they’re gonna put roughly the same amount of backspin on a ball.  If (and big if here) they’re the exact same in every single way.

But that’s not always the case.  Hell, I have an OEM driver and its “clone” model, and they’re different in almost every way, yet so close that from a playability standpoint, they should be the same.  But they aren’t; they both produced different results.

I even went back and tested the OEM against my (at the time) gamer, and while it performed better, it was different from my first test against the clone!

A Deeper Dive Into The Specs

Here are some fun little factoids:

If a driver has a more closed face, it actually has more effective loft at impact.  Depending on how closed it is, that 10.5 driver could be 11, maybe even 11.5 degrees at impact.  It’s only natural that it’ll spin more!

Conversely, if the driver has a more open face, it’ll have less effective loft at impact.  That 10.5 driver will be more like 10, or even 9.5 degrees.  Physics dictates that it has no choice but to create less spin.

Keep in mind that this is just talking about how it was designed to sit at address, and doesn’t take any manipulation on the golfer’s part into account!

Yes, the golfer can eff it up themselves, even if the driver was designed to sit at address with a square face.

Let’s take a break and watch a video from Tom Wishon about these adjustable hosel drivers:

The gist of it is: you have to ensure that the driver’s face is square to the target at all times to ensure that the loft stated in the “window” on the hosel is true at impact.

How many of you know someone who can’t stand the look of a square face?  Are you that someone?

Let me ask one more question, honest and raw: do you even know what a square clubface looks like?

If you don’t, honestly, you’re not alone.  These issues have been a thing for many, many years.  Long before adjustable hosels became a mainstay.

In the case of not knowing, how are you supposed to if no one tells you?

It doesn’t change the fact that, through unnecessary manipulation on your part, the loft of the driver is going to change.  

  • If you open the face at address, less loft and less spin at impact is the result.
  • If you close the face at address, more loft and more spin at impact is the result.

What’s a golfer to do?

First of all, you need to stop obsessing over backspin numbers.

It’s all based on your ball and clubhead speed, your angle of attack, how you present the clubface to the ball.  There’s no one ideal number.

It’s true that slower swingers need more spin to help keep the ball in the air for as long as they can, to maximize their drives… but even that needs a qualifying statement:

If you play in windy conditions, on hardpan surfaces, or a combination of the two, you’ll actually want less spin.

The reasons:

  • In windy conditions, you need to keep the ball low.  If you get it too high, you’ll end up with what’s called a “balloon shot”; the ball will climb up, up, up… and then fall right out of the sky!
  • If you play on hardpan, a lower ball flight will cause the ball to come to the earth on a shallower angle, which will allow you to use that hard turf to maximize the roll-out.

What would make the “ideal” backspin numbers then?  Your driving distance numbers will be “off”, but so what?  They’ll be playable.

You also need to realize that the old saying “there’s more than one way to skin a cat” applies. 

Check this infographic out:

In the infographic, there are four different ball flights: the tour average and those of three different pros.

It’s safe to assume that all are creating different backspin numbers.  Their driving distance numbers are all pretty good, even for the shorter-hitting Sabbatini.  It should be noted that all three have had pretty decent careers.

What that means for you is, while you may have an “ideal” backspin number proposed for you, if you’re making squared, centered contact on the ball, managing your misses, and shooting lower scores, who cares if the backspin numbers with your driver aren’t what some consider to be “ideal”?

That’s what matters.  It always comes back to custom fitting, but you don’t need to do most of the fancy stuff.  Focus on the basics:

  • Length
  • Loft (driver, woods)
  • Lie Angle (irons, wedges)
  • Shaft (flex, weight)
  • Swing Weight (head heft)
  • Total Weight
  • Set Make-Up

Nail these specs, and it’s more than enough to help you get around the course efficiently!

FURTHER READING:

 

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