I’m writing about a frustration I have had for quite sometime and that is reference to topspin in golf shots other than putts. I can’t give you a specific example but if you are like me (and my assumption of the notion of topspin full shots is correct) I am sure you have made note of them as well. Frequently, folks talk about hot clubs or shots that have topspin and roll out a long away as a result. Could you first confirm that no normally hit shot with any club other than perhaps a putter (and even then most times there is backspin with that club too) that topspin is both not desired and would be a quite rare phenomenon.
I am not a physicist but I believe backspin is what creates lift in a golf ball, along with the dimples of course, and contributes to length of carry. Excessive backspin of course produces more lift than desired generating a flight path that diminishes overall length, as there would be less or sometimes no roll out. Focus now is on optimal backspin along with launch angle and initial velocity to create the most carry and roll out.
Am I correct?
You are right. Every ball is hit with back spin, even a putt which is minimal but it does have back spin unless struck with an upward stroke which takes a lot of talent. Don’t be fooled into believing otherwise.
For all other shots the only way a ball can stay in the air for any length of time is for it to have a lift force equivalent to or greater than the weight of the ball (the force being applied by gravity).
The dimples on the ball create a rough surface resulting in a turbulent layer of air which, believe it or not, decreases the resisting drag force after about 50 mph and also, because of the back spin creates an airfoil section similar to an aircraft wing. This produces the lift forces, a result of a higher pressure on the underside of the ball than the top side.
A ball with top spin may cover a distance of about 35 yards in the air compared to 250 yards in the air with a similarly struck ball with back spin.
This Q&A is an excerpt from Dear Frank…Answers to 100 of your Golf Equipment Questions.
Leave top-spin to the tennis enthusiasts. Topspin only happens on a putt after a ball hits the ground and rolls. Topspin with a driver means you hit it above the equator and drove it into the earth anyway. A popular commercial shows a ball coming off the driver with topspin and it drives me nuts!