Topspin vs Backspin Golf Ball Meaning (Physics Behind Spin Rate)

Topspin golf definitions have gotten confusing haven’t they?

This article is the ultimate guide on figuring out how spin affects your golf ball during its flight to the fairway and green.

I’ll answer each question you might have on the topic, and even break down some of the physics for you 🌠😎.

Topspin vs backspin golf courses with a wedge

Table of Contents

What is Topspin and Backspin?

Backspin vs topspin golf ball on fairway being hit by a driver

Also referred to as overspin, topspin is the process of making the ball spin away from the golfer, meaning the top of the golf ball will move away and towards the ground as the ball spins forward.  The golf ball’s underside spins back toward the player. Most times, this happens intentionally. When you hit a putt with a topspin, it’s sure to roll true and remain on the designated line.  This move was created by Jack Nicklaus, a legendary PGA Tour golfer.

There is only one club in a golfer’s set that has the possibility of putting topspin on the golf ball and that club is the putter, or sometimes known as the “flatstick.” In order to strike a putt on a relatively flat surface, the golfer will stroke the golf ball with a flat stroke, thus putting topspin on the ball as it moves towards the golf hole.  

It is possible to put a backspin or reverse direction to the spin on a putt, but that would cause the ball to skid at first on the putting surface which would be considered very poor putting form for a golfer. This should be avoided by keeping the putter low when striking a putt.

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"Backspin Effect"

Topspin vs Backspin Golf Wedge Spinning Golf Ball for Tell Me More

What is the backspin definition? In golf, when you strike a ball with a golf club, any club, you will impart spin on the ball as the ball moves away from the club. It’s a natural process that causes the ball to rotate in a single direction as it moves towards the target.

This spin can either help a golfer control the ball toward the intended target or conversely, it can make the ball veer off direction and land in an unexpected place. This bad ball spin is a source of many problems for golfers on the course. This is what is known as the “backspin effect”.

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What Does Backspin Do in Golf?

All golf balls (be they the most expensive or the cheapest options) have a dimple pattern. These dimples create sufficient lift that gets the ball airborne. They do so by reacting to the grooves of the golf club upon contact by generating spin. 

If there’s insufficient backspin, the dimples will fail to produce enough lift. Consequently, the ball won’t travel farther. However, with sufficient spin, you can control your ball’s movement and direction. 

Backspin also helps control your golf ball’s landing. This is a big deal, especially in short games whereby you’ll need your shots to come to a sudden halt. With a sufficient amount of spin, you’ll be able to strike the ball knowing that it won’t move away from its landing position. That means you’ll gain an upper hand in regards to precision and accuracy.  

The clubs that create backspin in golf are all of the golf clubs in a player’s bag, except the putter.  Different golf clubs create different amounts of backspin.

The woods will create the least amount of backspin, while the playing clubs that are closer to a wedge will create the most amount of ball spin.  Backspin can move the golf ball straight in the air, left or right, depending on how much a club imparts spin on the golf ball.

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Backspin Physics

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When a golf ball spins in the air, the two sides of the golf ball are spinning in opposite directions.  The side that is moving towards the rush of air slows because it is creating a more condensed mass of air on that side.

The side of the ball that is moving away from the rush of air speeds up because there is a lack of air pressure.  The golf ball will always move in the direction of the less pressured air.

This concept is the same for the rush of air under an airplane wing and explains why airplanes can fly and don’t change depending on the ball type, as even used golf balls fly the same.

How to Put Topspin on the Golf Ball when Putting?

Topspin on a golf ball when putting is considered desirable since the ball will track a straight line better and drop into the hole more often than not.

To accomplish this consistently, you need to make sure you are taking the putter back in a low position and return the putter back to the ball strike also in a low position. The effect will be to maximize the topspin on your putts and make more putts in general.

How to Eliminate Side Spin on a Golf Ball:

If a ball can spin forward and backward, it also can spin to the sides.  Is that a bad thing? Actually, only sometimes.  Many times a golfer will put a slight left to right or right to left spin on the ball to control the direction of the flight. This is a good thing! If a player has to hit a golf shot towards a target and the wind is blowing slightly right to left over the target, a player might want to put a slight right to the left spin of the ball so it will keep the ball from veering off course in the direction of the wind.

But, sometimes a golfer will put too much golf side spin on a ball that will cause it to move violently to the right or left, ending up way off target, even over a fence or in a lake. Too much of a golf ball spin rate can cause many, many problems for a golfer! This is a bad thing!

Keeping the direction of the club in line with the target at impact will impart a more straight backspin and controllable desirable golf shot.

How to Spin a Golf Ball with a Wedge

Spinning a golf ball with a wedge accomplishes two things.  One, it causes the ball to stop quickly, or even spin backward on a golf green after it lands.  This helps a golfer control their wedge shots, but also looks very impressive to your friends, making you look just like the pros we see on television. Believe me, spinning a wedge shot in front of your friends never gets old!

There are three keys to getting a good spin-off of your wedge shots: speed, strike, and the type of golf ball you choose to play.  Wedges impart more spin on a golf ball the harder you hit it, so to get spin, first, you need to hit it hard.

By “hit it hard”, we don’t mean that you take each chance you get to crack your ball. Do so, but try to maintain a reasonable level of control. Work on increasing the clubhead speed that you’ll use to hit the golf ball and achieve the right amount of spin. 

Secondly, you need to strike the ball slightly before you hit the ball. This gives the wedge a chance to dig into the cover and begin the spin early. Try hitting the golf ball in the middle of the clubface. Ensure you have an unsoiled lie in which your club will hit the golf ball with zero contact with the greens. Our experts at Tell Me More Golf recommend that you take lower face shots. The lower your shot, the better. This drives the ball higher to produce a better, solid spin. 

Secondly, you need to strike the ball slightly before you hit the ball.  This gives the wedge a chance to dig into the cover and begin the spin early. 

Lastly, not all golf balls have the same ability to spin at a high rate. The premium balls are designed to spin at a higher rate than the cheaper versions. Go with a more expensive ball to achieve a spin that rivals the pros!

Frequently Asked Questions: Spinning Balls

Is backspin good in golf?

The answer is that it depends on how advanced a golfer you are.  Beginners and intermediate golfers tend not to hit the ball very straight, so a high spinning golf ball will cause their slightly off-shots to be even more off-target.

They will benefit from a lower spinning golf ball.  Advanced and professional golfers actually benefit from having a high-spinning golf ball due to the fact that it helps them control the shapes of their shots and allows the ball to stop quickly on the greens.

Backspin also assists to create a higher lift on the golf ball, thereby enhancing a longer ball flight. Golf balls have multiple dimples that help to create lift which, in turn, enables the ball to travel further. It also has a positive impact on the golf ball’s flight and direction. 

For the short game, backspin helps to control the golf ball when it lands on the grass. Because you want to stop the ball abruptly, the spin will help you hit it on the grass, and rest assured that it will stay in place.  

A high spinning golf ball is what more advanced players need to be successful!

What is the difference between topspin and backspin?

Topspin is when the top of the ball moves away from the golfer and is only found when putting a golf ball.

Backspin is when the top of the ball rotates towards the golfer in the air and is found when striking all of the clubs except the putter.

Which golf club is designed to hit the ball with the highest launch angle?

The club designed to hit the ball with the highest launch angle would be a 60 or 64-degree wedge. 

Both of these clubs will hit the ball up high and induce a lot of backspin when it lands on the putting green.

Lob wedges have the highest loft of any golf club in the bag. They usually range between 58 and 64 degrees, thereby boosting your chances of hitting the ball with an impressively higher launch.

Does backspin make a golf ball go farther?

In general, no. Backspin makes the ball climb higher in the air and with a shorter distance overall. Backspin, however, gives the ball a better chance of returning to ground level a lot faster.  

Why does my golf ball go so high with driver?

There are three reasons a player might be hitting their driver too high into the air.  One, a player is swinging up at the ball when hitting a driver (learn to swing level at the ball when driving or lower your tee height).  

Two, you are hitting a golf ball that has too much spin (find a lower spinning golf ball). Three, you have too much loft on your driver (either adjust the loft down on your driver or buy a driver that has less loft than your current club).

Conclusion: Types of Golf Balls: Tests and Research by tellmemoregolf.com

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Topspin and backspin of a golf ball can be your best friend or your worst enemy on the course depending on your skill level.

For how to put a backspin on a golf ball; beginners and intermediate golfers should be inclined to stay away from high spinning golf balls. The softer golf balls that are labeled distance balls will make your game much more enjoyable. 

As far as advanced golfers, a high spinning golf ball will enable you to control the flight shape of your shots and enhance the ability to stop the golf balls on the greens. 

At TellMeMoreGolf, we strive to bring you the latest and greatest in golfing equipment.  Our team thanks you for stopping by and benefiting from our exhaustive research on all things golf!

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