How Backspin And Sidespin Affect A Golf Ball

Putting spin on your golf ball can be good for your game but it can also really hurt your game, it all depends on your skill level. The two types of spin your ball can have is backspin and sidespin, and in this post, we’ll be talking about how it affects your golf ball.

As a general rule, spin affects a golf ball’s flight shape and shot height. More backspin will cause the ball to go higher and stop quicker on the green while more sidespin will add curvature to your shots.

I’m sure you’ve walked up to the tee with high confidence, stood over the ball, taken your swing, and have the ball fly two fairways over. The reason is that your ball has a lot of sidespin. That’s why beginners and high handicaps will want a ball that has low levels of driver spin. See our golf ball spin chart here.

What Is Backspin In Golf?

Backspin in golf is when the ball rotates backwards (as though rolling back towards the player) after it is hit. This is crucial for stopping power onto greens and lifting the ball into the air properly.

When you watch professional golfers spin the ball around the green or hit a high arcing fade, it is caused by the manipulation of spin on the golf ball.

There are a number of factors that make a ball have more backspin than others. Part of the reason is how you swing, but other things could be the cover material (urethane vs ionomer vs Surlyn) or the construction of the ball (different types of golf balls compared).

What Is Sidespin In Golf?

Sidespin is nearly the same as backspin, except the ball rotates to the right or left instead of directly backward. No ball spins perfectly backward and always has some sort of sidespin, which can cause the ball to hook, slice, draw or fade.

When you see pros hit the green and the ball rips left or right, that is because they changed their swing path and club angle to produce more sidespin.

This isn’t always easy to control, but once you figure out how to do so, you have a lot more control with your wedges into the green. You’ll even be able to control your shots better from the tee box by shaping the ball to the left or right.

On the other hand, having a lot of sidespin can also hurt your game. Think about how often you hook or slice your shots. The reason for that is sidespin. Switching to a lower-spinning ball might help you out.

How Spin Affects Your Tee Shots

Controlling spin in all parts of your golf game will allow you to have more control. Once you figure out how to control the spin you put on the golf ball, the better shots you’ll be able to hit. Don’t get me wrong, that’s easier said than done.

Here are some general ways spin can affect your shots off the tee:

  • More backspin = higher shots.
  • Less backspin = lower shots with more rollout.
  • More sidespin = more curve on your shots.
  • Less sidespin = straighter shots.

Picture this, you are standing on a breezy Par 5 directly into the wind. You know if you hit your tee shot high in the air you may not have an easy hole on your hands because the wind will knock your ball out of the sky.

So, what do you do?

Many high-level golfers would tell you to swallow your medicine and tee that driver lower (resulting in less backspin) which will allow you to keep it lower and stay out of that brutal wind.

In hindsight, if you are playing a short par 4 and have wind at your back, you may want to tee it a little higher to generate more spin (getting the ball higher in the air) allowing the ball to carry further. Just remember, the longer your ball is in the air, the more time you have to get yourself in trouble.

RELATED: How Weather & Temperature Affect Your Golf Ball

How Spin Affects Your Short Game

Understanding how to control your spin around the green is vital to scoring and scrambling. Let’s face it, we all know that guy who is 50 yards out and hits it over the green or spins it really hard and winds up short.

When around those scoring yardages, you really need to swing with purpose and control, which will allow for precision and further accuracy.

Here are some ways spin can affect your wedge shots:

  • More backspin = higher shots.
  • More backspin = ball will stop on the green quicker.
  • Less backspin = lower shots with more rollout.

For example, let’s say we are playing together, and we are playing on a short Par 3 (100 yards) with relatively no wind. The green is massive and they have been rolling slowly all day, so I don’t want to leave myself a 30+ footer for birdie.

I’m in between clubs; remember we’re hitting wedges here. Save yourself the trouble, club up, swing a little smoother and put yourself in a good position.

Let’s fast forward and say we didn’t hit a good shot. We pushed it a tad and are now looking at a 20-yard chip shot to a flag on the opposite end of the green. We are chipping a little uphill and have plenty of green to work with.

You have two options, be decisive and commit. You can either go upstairs and carry it further to the pin. Or you can bump and run it, playing it like a putt. There are benefits to both!

When taking it low, you take away a lot of the risk of hitting a bad shot just because you don’t have to worry much about spin and can practically putt it (if you don’t have too much rough or fringe to carry).

Although, if the green has a lot of side-to-side breaks, carrying it the majority of the way there could be a better option. Once you learn how to control your spin around the green the more you will get up and down, have more birdie putts, and enjoy the game of golf by shooting better scores.   

What Causes A Golf Ball To Spin?

There are a never-ending amount of factors that can cause the ball to spin or have a lack of spin. Some of those factors include: clubface angle, club path, and even lie.

Let’s cover each of those topics more in-depth and find out how they affect the spin of the golf ball. We’ll talk about things from a right-handed golfer’s point of view, so if you’re a lefty, you’ll be the opposite.

First, let’s start with the clubface angle at impact. Clubface angle is when you have an open or closed clubface when the club meets the ball.

If it is closed at impact, the tendency will be for the ball to travel left (because the spin rotates the ball to the left), whether that is a pull, a draw, or a hook. Relatively, if your clubface is open at impact (causing the ball to rotate to the right), that can result in a push, fade, or slice.

The club path of the swing is the angle at which your clubhead is travelling before impact with the ball. If you have a positive path that means you are coming from the inside and swinging out (toward right field) and if you have a negative path you are swinging outside to in (over toward left field in baseball terms).

If your face is square at impact but you have a positive path you will always push the ball. If your club path is negative with a square face at impact you will constantly pull the golf ball.

Another factor is the lie you have, in other words, where your golf ball lies on the golf course. Think about this simply, the more of the club you can get on the ball, the more spin and control you will be able to utilize.

For example, if your ball is sitting down in the rough, the ball may spin less and travel farther (this is called a “flier lie”). Learn to control your spin and you will become a better golfer for it.

High Spin vs Low Spin Ball: What To Use?

Different types of golf balls are made for different types of golfers. Some balls spin more off the tee, some balls spin more around the greens, and some balls are somewhere in between.

What you need to ask yourself is what are you looking for? This question will mainly be answered by your skill level and what your current shot is like.

If you’re a beginner or high handicapper, you probably want a lower compression golf ball that doesn’t spin very much (off the tee and near the greens). All you need at this point is a ball that goes far, flies straight, and is light on the wallet.

RELATED: Best Low Spin Golf Balls

Even as you work your way into the 80s and 70s, a low spin ball could be the right choice. If you want your shots to go lower or you spin the ball too much with your wedges, they could be perfect.

If you’re someone who could use more height on your shots, a lower spinning ball will probably hurt your distance. They’re also not the best choice if you want more short game spin. If this is you, you can see some alternatives below.

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Hey, I'm Jon. I started Out Of Bounds Golf to share my findings after testing golf gear for the past 10+ years. My goal is to make the game a little easier to understand, whether that's with finding the right product or answering common questions.

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