Wedge Backspin – Create Backspin with Micro-Groove Wedge

Posted by on May 2, 2012 in Tips, Wedge Fitting | 11 comments

Who isn’t amazed at the ability of the men and women tour players to stop the ball on the green? Without question, elite players can generate more backspin first, because of their swing technique. When a slight downward angle of attack, when the face is dead square to the swing path, when the wrist cock angle is unhinged very late and when the clubface able to contacts the ball first before driving into the turf, more friction is generated between the ball and the clubface and more backspin will occur.

Unfortunately, not all of us can master these very precise, simultaneous swing movements to get more spin from our swing technique.

From an equipment standpoint, there most definitely are wedges which are manufactured with differences in the surface of the clubface and differences in the scorelines which can generate more backspin, even in the hands of a less skilled golfer. What actually causes backspin form the standpoint of the clubhead?

First and foremost, anything done to the face of the club that increases the friction between the clubface and the surface of the ball will increase backspin, no matter what your swing technique.

Number one is how rough is the flat area on the clubface in between the scorelines? Wedges made with a milled face create more friction than wedges without face milling. Wedges which are heavily sand blasted will create more friction than wedges with a smoother face treatment or wedges which are old, worn and used. Before 1990, the faces of most irons and wedges were sand blasted with aluminum oxide sand. Since then the industry changed to silicon glass bead blasting because it looked cleaner and more “pretty”. Bead blast faces simply are not as rough as were the old aluminum oxide sand blasted faces. So unless the face is milled, modern irons and wedges with glass bead blasted faces will not spin the ball as much as will wedges blasted with aluminum oxide sand.

If you have cast stainless wedges and you have a friend with sand blast equipment, tape off the areas of the head not to be blasted and have your friend do a fresh blast with aluminum oxide sand. You won’t believe the difference you’ll experience in spin. If you play a lot of golf, get him to re-blast the faces every 4 months because face blasting wears down quickly from hitting balls.

Second to the roughness of the flat area between grooves is the sharpness of the top scoreline edge as well as the number of scorelines on the face. Unfortunately, the USGA/R&A have a rule which limits how sharp the edges of scorelines can be. And clever that they are, this limit for groove edge sharpness has been changed to be very, well, UN sharp. Much more rounded in other words.

But it still is legal in the rules to change the width and the spacing of scorelines so that you can design a wedge with more scorelines on the face. What that can mean is more top edges of more lines in contact with the surface of the ball.

This is precisely why I designed the Micro-Groove™ scorelines for my company’s wedges. Normal scorelines are 0.8mm wide and spaced apart by either 2.6mm or 2.8mm. Do that and you get the edges of 3 scorelines on the surface of the ball at impact. But the rules allow us to make each line more narrow. In addition, the rules say the spacing between lines cannot be less than 3 times the width of the lines.

The Micro-Groove scorelines I designed are 0.6mm wide and spaced 2.1mm apart. What that does is put the edges of 5 lines in contact with the surface of the ball at impact. And that slightly increases the friction between the face and the ball, which in turn means a little more spin.

Bottom line – if you want more spin, use milled face wedges first. Use heavily SAND blasting on the face second, and third, use a more narrow, closer spaced scoreline design. Do that and you will spin the ball to the maximum extent your swing technique will allow.

11 Comments

  1. Glad you brought it up. It has been maintained by some that all the spin from a wedge comes from the direct contact by the ball with the flat surface of the club, and not from the effect of “grooves” or scorelines. This theory maintains that the function of the grooves is to provide spaces for moisture and grass to be channeled away from the club face to increase the quality of contact between the ball and the club face. Your article contradicts that theory. Can you elaborate more on the purpose and effect of the grooves.

    Dale

    • Dale:

      It was the USGA’s exhaustive study on scorelines in 2007-2009 that it was found that the TOP EDGE of the scorelines had an effect on spin, to contribute to the majority of the spin coming from the roughness of the flat area between the lines. While I definitely did disagree with the outcome of the USGA’s study, that being the new groove rule of 2010, their study itself was well done from a scientific study standpoint. So the data I saw from their study did to me verify that the sharpness of the top edge of the scorelines in contact with the surface of the ball did contribute to spin. But the majority of the spin comes from the roughness of the flat areas between the lines. This realization of some contribution of the top edge of the groove to spin is why the primary 2010 change in the rule was to make the edges of the lines more rounded, thus reducing their chance to contribute to spin.

      The grooves themselves have always served the primary function to channel moisture away from the interaction of the face and surface of the ball. Hence because the USGA wanted to decrease spin from the rough, this was why the 2010 rule also included a provision to reduce the area of each groove so the grooves would not be able to channel away as much moisture. However, we are talking about a VERY small difference in groove area versus all the moisture in the grass that can get in between the ball and the face for shots hit from the rough. Bottom line, hitting from rough caused a flyer before the 2010 rule change and it still causes a potential flyer shot after the rule change.

      The old theory that grooves meant nothing to spin and that all spin came from the flat area is VERY OLD. it was originated in a 1968 study in the Cochran and Stobbs book, The Search for the Perfect Swing and then repeated by Maltby’s 1972 book. Back then the methodology for separating the effect of the groove edge from the flat area was not very good. hence the USGA’s findings in 2007-2009 done with FAR more sophisticated equipment did usurp that previous old belief to show that groove edges do in fact contribute a little bit to spin.

      TOM

  2. Thank you for this great article.

    What do you think about dot pattern?

    • Theoretically, a dot only face scoring pattern could open the door to a tiny bit more spin than a line pattern, but you’d want to be a very straight hitter off the tee to take advantage of it. First of all, with dots, you leave a greater surface area of the face in a flat condition. On a dot pattern face, if you made all the flat face area with a strong milling and heavy sand blast, you’d have a little more flat surface area to contact the surface of the ball. More friction between face and ball means more spin.

      But the grooves also function to channel some of the moisture from longer grass away from the face to surface of the ball when you hit shots from rough. On most dot pattern clubs, the total area of the dots would be less than the total area of the grooves, so the dots would channel less moisture away which in turn could mean a higher probability for hitting a flyer shot from the rough.

      Not a huge difference here, but a fun one to think about and theorize based on the function of dots, grooves and clubface roughness.

      TOM

  3. Interesting topic! Thanks for sharing this information! “Wedge Backspin – Create Backspin with Micro-Groove Wedge” – interesting title Tom. Nice work Tom.

    • Thank you much for the kind words. We’re simply committed to trying to get the most truthful and helpful information about golf club performance out there to combat the loads of misinformation that abounds.

      TOM

  4. Hey There. I found your blog using msn. This is a really well written article. I will make sure to bookmark it and come back to read more of your useful info. Thanks for the post. I will certainly return.

    • Thanks very much for your kind comments. Much appreciated. Whether through our books, website or blog, we try very hard to share what I have learned in the 35+ yrs of research and experience in clubhead design, shaft design and fitting research because we believe it to be very important to offer the facts of what we have learned and know in this field.
      TOM

  5. Tom,

    What do milling marks left on the face actually do? I recently demoed a set of Taylor Made irons that had visible face milling left on. After purchasing and receiving the production irons do not have the visible milling marks anymore. They are claiming to have polished off the milling marks for a cleaner look. Does this make sense to you and will I notice any affect of NOT having the mill marks left on the face?

    • JAY

      Face milling is done to increase the friction between the flat areas between grooves and the surface of the ball. Spin is all about friction between the face and ball. The more friction between the face and ball, the higher the spin rpms will be for any golfer. The top edge of the grooves themselves do contribute a little to this but not nearly as much as aggressive face milling because the area in between the grooves is so much wider than the top edges of the grooves. That means more friction which means more spin.

      But today there are several different forms of milling for clubfaces. Bottom line is that the rougher and more pronounced the milling lines on the face, the more the friction with the surface of the ball, and the more spin you get.

      TOM

  6. Hi all,

    Firstly can I say I have used the PCF micro tour wedges for the past 6 months and they are incredible. I play in alot of nation R&A events and this sparked me to check if these wedges conformed to R&A standards. I am sharing the reply i received from the R&A as is may be of use to future buyers.

    Thanks

    Dear Ross

    Thanks for sending through this image – which looks as if it is copied from the catalogue. Can I ask if you already have these wedges in hand? Or, is your query pre-purchase?

    Basically, this image depicts a non-conforming version of the wedges. However, we have evaluated a subsequent version, which was ruled to conform. The conforming version can be distinguished from the one in this image, as there is a letter “C” next to the word “Tour” on the back of the head.

    So, if you already have the clubs and they are identical in marking to the ones depicted below – then I must advise that they are non-conforming.

    If you have not yet purchased the clubs, please ensure that the ones you buy are the “Tour C” version.

    I hope that these comments are of some assistance, but please let me know if you have any further questions.

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