We are at that time of the year that, in my opinion, is the best time to test and ultimately get fit.
It’s fall, your game is what it is, and the bag has been dialed for months. But what about next year? What can we do to elevate our games? I felt it was a perfect time to dive into what I think you should start looking at for next year.
So let’s tackle the title of this article in Part 1…..Chasing Low Spin.
I need to preface this whole article by saying that I have been a victim (my fault) of the low launch/low spin thing since the first time I got on a launch monitor. In my Friday IG Q&A, I get this question THE MOST, hands down.
Whats the lowest launching, lowest spin driver/wood combo?….
At times I’ll try and muster a head/shaft combo to satisfy, but ultimately I’m not doing any favors by addressing it in short form. It needs more context and a much longer runway. The truth of the matter is most people looking to optimize arent starting in the right spot.
Here’s a clue it ain’t the driver.
So…I’ll answer that question with my own cautionary tale.
I remember the day exactly; I lived in Los Angeles and tested new drivers with a fitter buddy of mine. At the time, the driver I was in was serving me well, but I’m a gear junky, and I was reading more and more about players chasing these unicorn numbers of 17 launch and 1700RPMs of spin. In no way do you ever get close to that, but every inch towards it meant 5, 10, 15 more yards. It was like taking a shot of adrenaline or rolling off the couch and running a 4.5 40yd dash.
At the time (2011-2012), we didn’t have the technology or components to amplify it as quickly as we do now, but I recall that first ball that flew out at 14 degrees of launch with 2100 spin….it was insanity. From there on in, I was hooked, fixated on that one ball. Every decision I made in regards to my bag was centered around hitting that shot. I played some good golf from there for a while, but I traveled down the rabbit hole like any gear head.
As the chase continued, little by little, my game went south—hard south. Working at WRX and having access to every toy you could imagine, amplified to the point of almost no return. What it looked like was not just a driver that had little to no consistency, but my entire bag (beyond the wedges) was a complete mess. I changed drivers, fairway woods, shafts, irons, balls, etc.
Looking back now, I realize I turned my back on the one thing that had always made my bag work. Spin.
Like Air, Water, or any other essential, spin is the lifeblood of good golf. Over the past 10 years, with the mass introduction of launch data, lowering spin has been something a great number of players seem to be obsessed with. In my opinion, we (the industry) seemed to have overshot the mark, and now little by little, the industry is slowly starting to turn this aircraft carrier around.
My path back to actual good golf started with a conversation with Kellen Watson on the Callaway Tour Truck. We were at the Players Championship (my first week), and he wanted to know a little bit more about my game. After explaining my trials and tribulations, he said one thing that completely spun my head around.
“Dude, your whole bag is begging for spin…”
Oddly Xander and I experienced something similar:)
Click the link to learn more:
Without even seeing me hit a ball he transformed the top of my bag into something I haven’t experienced consistently for at least 6 years. It was so simple…
He did three things:
- Gave me a bunch of CSX golf balls. I was in a much lower spinning golf ball previously.
- He built me a driver (for fun) at my loft but with a shaft that was barely tipped and put more weight to the back of the head. Softer tip, higher MOI meant more spin. Easy enough.
- He gave me some advice: Pick three shots, your stock, fairway finder, and cutter. Spin never dips below 2200 and never goes above 2700.
His point to #3 was that if my driver stays in that zone, chances are the rest of the bag will follow suit. And it did. The main difference? I have a miss with spin; that’s controllable. The ball is never really out of my hand. It was out of my hand for a good number of years, and I wasted a ton of time trying to dig my way out. With CSX I was now back to playing a ball that would respond to me and not the other way around. Curve and nuance found their way back into my bag and ultimately so did my confidence. I’m playing some of the best golf of my life.
What does that look like?
So what does introducing spin back into my game look like on a situational level? Actually its a number of things but ultimately there are three key factors that I’ve seen over the past few months…
- I softened all my curves: Playing with a lack of spin made a good majority of my shots turn hard left or right, there was little time for it to do anything else but straight where it wanted to go. IE Hooks were hard hooks, cuts were hard cuts and flushed shots went as far as they wanted to. I recall playing a few months ago on a hole that has been the bain of my existence. It’s a dogleg left that requires a draw, not a hook, a soft draw. Playing the old way I had to resort to hitting 5-wood off the tee (more spin) which left me 300+ into a 550-yard par 5. Hitting a driver wasn’t an option anymore, I didn’t have a soft draw with a driver in my arsenal although it has been my natural flight for 20+ years. With the new set up I have ZERO issues hitting a driver there. WHY? Because spin is buying me time. The ball flies soft, not violently.
- The ball flies out of my old windows: Since the chase for low spin began my flight windows changed dramatically. I would hit one flush, look forward (not up) and the ball would be 20-30 feet higher than I was used to. Once spin came back into my world the ball flight came down and once again the ball was in front of my eyes. It’s imperative the shot matches the intended swing you want to make. We all have certain feels and if you make a good swing with some intent to make the ball do something, it helps if the ball responds in kind.
- I got longer: Simple physics kept my ball in the air longer which meant it carries further. Simple. The ball isn’t diving out of the air anymore and off the driver and fairway woods the ball still runs out plenty. That’s always the fear with spin is ballooning and no run, it’s 2021, we are past those days.
This is where my eyes really opened. Players on TOUR are always managing spin. But not in the way you might read about in a forum. Spin management on TOUR is totally centered around control, not distance. I’d say there isn’t a driver on TOUR that’s built for distance. Yes, you heard that correctly. ZERO. They are optimized for control first, launch windows second, and distance third. More times than not I have seen drivers that flew further and faster that were tossed aside due to a lack of predictability.
This is a pretty cool testing session with Matt Wallace:
“Heel strikes are your friend, yah know for spin…”
I recall a testing session with a certain player where this played out. In that session with Kellen, he cycled thru driver shafts to find one that checked off the 3 shot boxes. In his case, stock (straight), fairway finder (low cut), and a draw. The goal was to find a setup that hit all those windows and stayed in a spin window of 2300-2800RPMs. There was more than one combo that he hit further than what he landed on, but the spin was always was missing. Even if he hit the same shot 5 times in a row, it was out if it dipped below the sweet spot. I recall one combo that was 5MPH faster went 10 yards further that got bounced quickly. WHY? Because the player knew that the distance spike was due to a lack of spin (2000RPMs), and he didn’t want a driver in play that he knew could dip that low, regardless of how well he was hitting it. I don’t recall a time in my life where I would turn down 10 yards. Its. Funny how that distance number makes you forget everything else…sound familiar?
This pursuit chases through the entire bag. If a player is all of the sudden a 1/2 club longer or the ball seems to be flying further but flat, thats when the red lights go up and spin is fed into fix the situation.
If you’re curious, this is what the average spin numbers look like:
AVG Club Head Speed: 114 MPH
Launch Angle: 11 degrees
Peak Height 98 Feet
Land Angle 38 degrees
These are also TOUR players, with TOUR speed and elite level control, and as you can see the spin numbers are still up there relative to what some of us would aspire to.
What’s the point?
The point is that golfers (including me) love hitting it a mile. It’s happening in every sport; hell, even baseball is now based on bat speed, launch, and spin. Look at the strikeout numbers, it has become an all-or-nothing atmosphere, yet each player needs to pay attention now more than ever. It’s easy to get lost in the data and very specific key numbers IE distance and ball speed. Unfortunately, it’s not the path to good golf. It helps if managed correctly but in no way will those lower your scores.
Like any good endeavor, it’s a team of pieces that make it great. Every good thing has a foundation, and in golf, it is the ball and how it relates to everything. Players like Rahm, Phil, Xander, and Burns build everything off the ball and its ability to SPIN in a playable window. Each of these players mentioned has 13 clubs in their bag built around the ball and living in a specific (to them) spin profile.
I have not once seen a player come onto any truck looking for distance. EVER. That’s what the gym is for. The work, our guys, do on the TOUR truck is centered around control. Pure and simple.
Now, this article may not apply to all, I get that, but from my own personal experience and the number of questions I get on the topic, I hope this information helps.
With as much as I have followed TOUR equipment over the years, you would think I’d have figured that out…so many tests and so many different club combinations. Still, the one thing I never gave up was my ball, call it ego fear, whatever but the moment that simple line that Kellen delivered to me literally changed my golf game. Who knew?
I got it now.
Find YOUR spin window and protect it as you would anything you hold dear. We all want the secret sauce; SPIN is literally secret sauce if you know what you are doing.
In Part 2 of the Fall Fitting Series, we will tackle how to build a set that works.
Check out how Xander and Rahm dial it in…