“Should you hook or slice your pitch shots?”
It’s a question that pops up especially with better players who are trying to generate the greatest amount of backspin possible on less than full shots. Imagine the frustration when you’re able to drive close to the green but not have the ability to stop the ball on your approach.
So I did an experiment at South Point with my Flightscope radar. I hit both hooks and slices with my 55 degree sand wedge to a 50-yard target. Why the sand wedge? Only because it’s my “go-to” club.
At this point, it’s important to note that the balls I used were a mixed bag. Two-piece distance. Multilayer remium. Soft. Hard. And everything in between. So I wouldn’t call this a completely scientific process. But safe to say, the spin numbers would’ve been much higher if I were hitting all premium balls.
As far as spin is concerned, the spin averages were similar at over 6000 rpm. The difference is in the consistency. The deviations (dark blue) for carry, spin and launch angle were 3 times worse with the slice.
Now I don’t pretend to have the most consistent short game. Nor am I claiming that this will apply to everyone. But the results above do support the theory that beyond a certain spin loft, it’s more difficult to create consistent friction between the ball and the clubface. Spin loft is the difference between the dynamic loft and angle of attack, and slicing tends to increase spin loft.
As far as contact was concerned, I was able to hit it consistently lower on the face when hooking, resulting in a lower average launch angle (29.6 degrees). In case you missed the post on gear effect, click here.
I took this test a little further by hitting hooks with a lob wedge to see if I could generate more spin.
Yep. More backspin. Close to 8000 rpm. And deviations were not as bad as when slicing with the sand wedge. Notice the launch angle? 31.1 degrees with a 60 degrees of loft. That’s due to the fact that I’m still hitting it low on the face. Again, vertical gear effect.
Lastly, I tried slicing it with my 50 degree gap wedge.
To be honest, I was a bit surprised. The backspin was roughly the same as the hooked lob wedge, but the deviations for carry and launch were much better.
I mentioned earlier that if spin loft were too high, there’s less friction between ball and face. In this case however, the increase in spin loft caused by the slice was just right. At least for me.
Going back to the original question, thr curvature is not the real issue here. As far as backspin is concerned, my advice for you is to choose the type of shot and club that will allow you to hit itlow on the face and create the greatest amount of friction consistently. Rule of thumb: use less loft if you prefer to slice it and use more loft if you prefer to hook it.
Based on experience, it is easier to control your distances by flighting it down. But instead of hitting downward on the ball, trust vertical gear effect to accomplish that for you.
In other words, what’s bad for the driver is good for pitch shots.