Follow Suzann Pettersen’s example
Suzann Pettersen is a prime example of how to get backspin on a golf ball. Her shots at the Solheim Cup were very impressive.
Backspin is all about ball-turf contact. Suzann Pettersen would’ve used a sand iron or possibly a 60-degree wedge to hit the ball and she had the courage to hit it straight behind the flag.
She knew if she made good ball-turf contact, that would give her maximum backspin and this would bring the ball back down below the hole, giving her an easy putt. She just needed to execute it and she did, brilliantly. She left herself with the easiest putt on the hole for a birdie.
There was still a lot of pressure, let’s not forget that, but she gave herself the best chance of success by achieving great backspin.
There are two reasons Suzann Pettersen got maximum backspin on this occasion. Firstly, she used a pro ball which has a cover. Secondly, she was on the fairway and was able to make contact cleanly without any grass between the clubface and the ball. Amateur golfers should always remember the importance of this.
Consider your clubs
The textbooks will tell you that the more loft you’ve got on an iron, the more spin you’ll create. However, the ordinary handicapped golfer who uses hybrids instead of long irons and a two-piece ball won’t impart a lot of backspin.
Going back to Suzann Pettersen, she knew her clubs and she knew just how much spin she wanted to put on the ball. She had the perfect wedge to allow her to execute this spin and we saw the end result.
If I was trying to achieve maximum backspin, I’d use either use a sand iron with a loft of 56 to 58 degrees, or a lob wedge with a loft of 60 to 64 degrees.
The pros use a lob wedge for chipping and this gives you as much backspin as you can get from the turf. It’s more slotted and has 12 degrees of bounce on the sole to help the ball bounce on the sand. Therefore, a 60 degree-wedge is ideal for thick rough around the greens.
By contrast, a 52-degree wedge only has six degrees of bounce, so you wouldn’t use this if you wanted to put backspin on the ball.
Choose your balls carefully
It’s give and take with the balls you use. If you’re using a solid ball you can get more distance, but you’re sacrificing feel around the green. The pros make this sacrifice quite a lot – you wouldn’t think so, but they do.
Low handicap players are looking for maximum feel around the greens, but most handicapped players can’t afford to give up the distance from tee to green.
If you rely more on your short game than your long game, you should use a soft ball which comes off the club with a lot of backspin and doesn’t cut as easily. However, if you’re a very high handicapper and need some distance off the tee, you would use a ball which doesn’t spin as much and sacrifice a bit of control around the green.
Stance is essential
How you set up to the ball is vital in generating backspin, especially for wedge shots. You’ve got to play the ball in the middle of your stance, and you’ve got to have your weight slightly on your left foot to give you a more descending strike of the ball.
Your hands should be slightly ahead of the ball and remain ahead of the clubhead in your downswing. Your stance needs to be slightly open, from your feet to your shoulders, so that you can hit the ball left to right with an open clubface. Doing all of this gives you the best chance of putting backspin on the ball.
Hit it cleanly
Suzann Pettersen hit her shots so cleanly at the Solheim Cup. The cleaner a connection you make with the ball, the more backspin you’re likely to get. It really is that simple.
The only shot in golf that doesn’t carry backspin is a putt, because you hit a putt with a clockwise spin so that it travels forward in a straight line. With every other shot in golf, you get anticlockwise spin because of the loft on the clubface, whether it’s a driver or sand iron.
When you hit a golf ball, it gets up in the air because it’s spinning anticlockwise. A club imparts anticlockwise spin and the air travels across the dimples. The more spin you put across the dimples, the higher it goes.