Every golfer wants to hit the ball farther, but their driver spin is often too high to effectively gain distance.
This is particularly common for golfers who slice the ball. For a right-handed player, that means the ball starts left and peels hard to the right because they are cutting across the ball at impact, generating additional backspin.
While it often depends on the player, an optimal driver spin rate is usually below 3,000 RPMs (Revolutions Per Minute). When golfers have much higher spin rates, it means there is something wrong with their set up, technique or equipment.
While it's certainly possible to have too low of a driver spin rate, most golfers struggle with the opposite issue. Additional spin is a major killer of distance. Why is that the case? Backspin lifts the ball higher into the air, creates more resistance as it flies through the air and stops faster once it hits the ground.
So if you want to gain distance, don't start with swinging faster. That often just adds more spin and makes your drive go shorter. If you want more distance, you have to evaluate why you are adding spin.
Optimal Driver Spin Rates
Generally, those with faster swing speeds will want less spin with their driver.
Having said that, there is no one perfect spin rate number for someone to shoot for. It's better to compare your clubhead speed with a certain range of spin rate to see where you stand.
For swing speeds slightly above 105 mph, a spin rate range of 1,750-2,300 RPMs would be appropriate. For swing speeds from 97-104 mph, a spin rate range of 2,000-2,500 RPMs would be better. For swing speeds from 84-96 mph, a spin rate range of 2,400-2,700 RPMs is best. And finally, for swing speeds from 72-83 mph, a spin rate range of 2,600-2,900 RPMs would be appropriate.
You can see how slower swing speeds generally require slightly more spin to produce an optimal shot. This is simply because spin allows the ball to get airborne, which a slower swing speed player needs to carry the ball farther.
Two major generators of spin are additional loft and additional speed. A slower swing speed player should usually use a driver with more loft (often 10.5-13 degrees) to get more height, spin and carry. It should also be noted that players with extremely fast swing speeds are going to generate a ton of spin just based on their speed, which means that they need lower lofted drivers. Even in these cases, PGA Tour players still have spin rates around 2,500-2,800 RPMs. A lower spin rate at their speeds becomes more difficult to control, so it's a constant balancing act.
Where the average golfer gets in trouble is when they are a faster swing speed player and are producing spin rates well outside of these ranges. As mentioned, it's usually much higher than the range rather than much lower. Here is a breakdown of why that is the case.
Angle of Attack
Angle of attack is a measure of the vertical angle of the clubhead moving at impact. In other words, how steeply does the driver enter the hitting zone? Is it arriving to the ball on the upswing or is it moving down as it reaches impact?
This is important, because angle of attack is typically the leading variable for how much spin is put on a golf ball. A steep descent into the ball will cause more spin, and a shallower path to the ball will cause less.
Just like spin rate, there isn't one ideal angle of attack for all players. However, your swing speed and ability does inform what you should strive for.
A PGA Tour player has a slightly negative angle of attack, something just beyond 1 degrees downwards into the ball. But for most golfers, it is necessary to have a slightly upward hit into the ball. For instance, the average LPGA Tour player swings with 94 mph clubhead speed and has a 3 degree upward motion into the ball.
If you see an angle of attack that is down well over 3 degrees, that is an indication that you are bound to put way too much spin on the ball with your driver. Most golfers can benefit from a shallower motion.
What does that mean? The driver will be traveling closer to the ground and closer to your body as it reaches the ball.
You can tell how much spin you put on the ball just by seeing where you are making contact.
A great drive with optimal spin rates will be hit on the upper center part of the clubface — not exactly in the middle, but just slightly above that.
If there is one way to immediately take spin off of your drives, it would be making contact there. Of course, shallowing out your angle of attack is also the best way to repeatedly make contact in the sweet spot.
A pro tip is to take Dr. Shoal's spray and put it on your driver, creating a white film. There are other similar methods, but this is an easy one and the spray is easily wiped off. The goal here is to hit a drive and then immediately see where you made contact.
Anything in the lower portions of the clubface is a red flag for too much spin. When you have too steep of an angle into the ball, it's common for the bottom portion of the clubface to reach the ball first, creating an effect where the ball rolls up the face and produces backspin.
One way to promote healthy contact with your driver is to tee the ball up slightly higher than normal to give more room for hitting up on the ball. Also, having weight more towards your back foot, feeling pressure on the inside of that back foot, is a solid setup position.
Another key to round everything out is to visualize hitting a draw. A draw has less spin than a fade, so trying for that shot shape will allow for less spin.
Driver Spin Conclusion
Driver spin rate is a critical piece of how far you are able to hit a tee shot. The biggest culprit is adding to much spin, which usually happens when the angle of attack is too steep.
While slower swing speed players can benefit from adding loft to their driver and getting enough spin to have the ball get airborne, the majority of golfers want less spin by having a shallower path into the ball.
So if you are seeing too much height and not enough carry on your drives despite a faster swing speed, check your spin and see if there is something that can be done to address your spin rate.