After a round of golf we had one of those discussions about why a ball that is hit with a draw (right to left for a right-handed golfer) rolls farther than a fade. As is usual in this kind of discussion, one person suggested that it was “topspin” that caused the draw to roll so far, probably related to tennis strokes where a player can truly put top or over spin on the tennis ball by swinging from low to high and brushing the ball with the racket strings.
But, really aren’t all golf balls hit with backspin on them, perhaps some right to left backspin or left to right backspin but backspin never-the-less? Can you help us understand the physics of the golf ball and how little it is related to baseball, tennis and other games played with a ball?
P.S. I have all of your books and intend to come visit you sometime to improve my putting, maybe next year.
Thanks for the e-mail and I’m pleased you have read all of our books.
The Fundamentals of Putting is one of our most popular books and one of my favorites as it is an extremely informative book and unique in that it is based on scientific principles, and you can apply the fundamentals immediately after you have read about them. It is a structured systematic approach to learning, allowing the body to do what it wants to do.
Regarding your question about topspin off drivers, you are right in that all balls hit with a driver have backspin. If the ball had topspin, it would travel (carry) about 20 yards or less in the air.
A ball with no backspin will carry 130 yards. A ball launched with the same launch angle and ball speed but with backspin will travel about 260 yards in the air. Backspin creates lift forces whereas topspin will create a dive because of the negative lift forces. If you have ever topped the ball, you have experienced topspin and it isn’t pretty.
A draw is generally hit with a more closed face than a fade and as a result, the backspin may be a little less with a slightly lower trajectory than a fade.
For this reason, the incoming landing angle for a draw is shallower and will therefore have more roll or run, which will generally give the ball a slight distance advantage.
Theoretically, the reason for a draw or a fade is the that the resulting spin axis of the ball is tilted to the left or right of horizontal – with a horizontal spin axis the ball will fly straight — so the forces creating a draw or fade are mirror images of each other, and both will travel the same distance.
However, when the golfer draws the ball, compared to a fade, he has applied different launch conditions i.e. launch angle, sidespin, and maybe even ball speed, to the ball because of the face angle and path at impact, thus the difference in distance.
Bill, I hope this helps and hope to see you at the Putting Academy soon.
May the Frog be with you.