Originally Posted by logman
So I was looking at some manufacturers blurb about their new irons and one of the selling points was "lower spin design". Yep more distance through lower spin.
WTF.....I would have thought that the last thing anyone would want in an iron is low spin. Am I completely wrong here? I would have thought that in an iron trajectory, the most advantagious ball flight would be high launch, high spin. Wouldn't that mean that the ball spins up and lands with a more "straight down" trajectory, so the ball stopped on the green and didn't kick on like a more low spin ball flight would do.
Just recently one of the members here posted some trackman numbers relating to which shaft was the best. The figures were interesting. Shaft A was like 150 meters, 3500 spin, more vertical descent angle, and 4 yards run on.
.Shaft B was165 meters, 2900 spin, less descent angle, and 8 yards run on.
. PS. these aren't the numbers but you see what I'm saying?
I think the choice should be shaft A.
If you've got 8 yards run on your in the back bunker. And I know in Melbourne at the moment you have to hit high sand irons to get them to stop( I exagerate) but you know what I mean. It'd mean 6 iron up to 3 iron would be virtually unusable because they'd just run through the green.
Low spin irons, I'm confused!
This is a good question, so for anyone who is curious:
Players who generate a high ball speed and high spin certainly don't want or need more spin. They back the ball off the greens sometimes, which is never good. Kyle Stanley lost the Farmer's insurance Open in 2012 because he did this. But even the best iron players on tour, hitting off a tee, rarely get the ball to stop with anything over a 5 iron. The best they can do is usually like 12 feet of roll depending on the greens, and anything that stays on is considered good. This is the ball's fault and not the players. Back in the days of balata, you could check up longer irons easier, but it's worth the loss of control 175-225y these days, since the driver is so important. That distance range is just really unimportant, since the short irons are the scoring clubs.
So the lower spin in that part of the set is designed to help with gapping, wind performance (both a lower apex and lower overall spin will keep it straighter in a crosswind), and to keep the flight and iron design consistent with the set. If you really want the ball to stop, there are shaft options, hybrids, and high spin balls to make it work. High speed players often get hurt by too much spin in the short irons, so many balls are designed to have just enough to check with about a 7 iron. After all, long hitters don't need more than a 7 iron on a 450 yard hole, and any time they need a long iron, you can bet their short hitting opponents will need a wood or something.
The other side of things is that, if you're a high ball speed player, you don't need as much spin to stop the ball. It's not the ball spinning like a tire that makes it stop entirely, a lot of it is the slope and the landing angle.
To illustrate this, take a golf ball on the practice green to a flat spot: throw it gently underhand with no upward arc from waist or shoulder height, getting it to land with a shallow angle. It will bounce softly and roll with 80% of its original momentum like a bowling ball. You could throw it soft or hard, it will still bounce roughly the same way as long as the landing angle is shallow, just roll farther. If you took it and threw it at a 45 degree or steeper downward angle though, it will make a pitch mark and a thumping noise, bounce, lose a lot of momentum, and roll only a bit. You could throw it gently at this angle, or you could hurl it with all your might (the greenskeeper might skin you with a rake), much of the speed will be absorbed by the ground regardless of whether it's spinning or not. So really the landing angle is a big deal, not just the spin itself. The catch is that more spin will result in a steeper landing angle as will a higher apex due to the ball slowing down and gaining lift from the dimples. But as you can see from this experiment, even a high ball speed with low spin can stop reasonably well as long as you get some height under the ball at some point.
Backspin can check up a ball mostly by itself, or even back it up. But you don't technically require that much of it necessarily to get a playable action on the greens. Bunker shots and fancy pitch shots are another matter since they're such a short range you can't generate as much height or ball speed, so the energy from the spin can actually give the ball some traction on the green.
If you hit it like Rory or Tiger, your 4000rpm with a 6 iron or so might get your ball to reach 120 feet or so of height because of all the ball speed. Any ball landing from that height will usually be slowed down from the air resistance and lose a ton of energy when it lands, especially since the ball gets so much lift. Joe Schmoe might get 4000rpm with that same 6 iron and only get 70 feet of height, resulting in a ball that doesn't slow down or have as much hangtime before landing. He'd need more spin to achieve a good shot, but Tiger would balloon, lose distance, and get his ball to tear off the front of the green if he had that much more.
That's why hybrids are popular; they could launch and spin exactly the same as the equivalent iron, but they produce much higher ballspeed. That alone will give the ball a higher and better flight. Of course, they often do have more spin and higher launch as well, given that most are marketed at weaker players. Good players can also hit an iron harder, especially the short irons, if they want more height and spin. It's very hard, however, to take spin off without losing power, so some might opt to set up for low spin. Tour players will often play a high spin ball to allow for shots around the greens (because there's really no substitute for a urethane ball 40 yards and in), so they might even need even less spin on their longer irons.
As far as the marketing side of things:
-Bad players who slice interpret spin to mean "sidespin" (which is really backspin on an axis), so they think wrongly that the irons will be somewhat anti slice. These players also often think backspin is a specialty shot when in fact it's incurred on every shot.
-Loft is still the number one source of spin and trajectory, so jacked lofts can be made to sound appealing by saying they're intentional to lower spin.
-Distance sells, so they prefer to tailor their mass market irons to max distance to make money. If you're good enough to worry about how your ball lands on the greens, not just praying you'll be able to find it, you're a bit higher calibur of player than they market to with these sets. That said, game improvement irons are usually high launching and produce higher ball speed than blades or players designs, so they do compensate for the low spin. The perimeter weighting that makes them forgiving also affects spin.
So long story short, you've got the right idea, but there are tradeoffs. You're trading one type of control for another at the end of the day, whether you have penetrating irons that fly straight and long in the wind or those that drop and stop. But there are other ways to get a slightly steeper landing angle without more spin.