Are you the kind of golfer who gets a bit lazy and doesn't clean your clubs at all, on or off the course? I was always curious how much effect a wet or dirty clubface would have on your spin rate (especially on wedges), so I decided to put it to the test.
The results might convince you to bring a towel out on the course!
Hitting great wedge shots requires trajectory and distance control, which are greatly influenced by how much spin you can put on the ball. To generate enough spin, you need clean contact with the clubface to create friction.
I was interested in finding out how much the factors we can control on the course would affect the spin rate. So I decided to test how a clubface with water on it, or dirt, would effect launch conditions.
Using my SkyTrak launch monitor to evaluate the ball flight, I was mostly looking for changes in spin rate, which I believe is one of the most critical factors to controlling your wedge distance and trajectory.
I hit a series of wedge shots from various distances. My control was a clean ball, and then I tested shots after spraying the clubface with water and others with dirt on the face.
I also tested on longer clubs like my 7-iron and driver to see if there was any noticeable effect. My theory was that any kind of debris or moisture would influence my ability to generate an optimal spin rate.
Here are the results from various distances with my lob wedge:
I saw pretty consistent results across the board with wedge shots. On the whole, a wet clubface had the most impact on the spin rate. On a 50-yard shot, I saw an almost 20% drop in spin.
Interestingly, dirt did not seem to have as much impact on spin rate as water, but there was still a noticeable drop. My guess is that soil conditions could change how much or how little it would influence the spin rate. But I still believe that dirt is going to limit your ability to spin it correctly (shocking, I know).
On longer clubs, there was far less difference. On my 7-iron there wasn't a noticeable change with a wet clubface and only a slight drop in spin rate with dirt. With my driver, I only tested with water on the face (who would have a dirty driver???) - there was also no difference in launch conditions.
What Does This Mean For You
In golf, you want to give yourself the best opportunity for success. It's challenging to control any wedge shot without the proper amount of spin on the ball. Some things are within our control on the golf course, and others we can't control. For example, if you're in the rough, it's going to be more difficult to spin the ball because you can't create enough friction due to grass interference. But that's your penalty for landing the ball there!
I think this test shows that it should make sense to wipe your clubface clean before hitting any wedge shot. Also, using a premium golf ball and not using wedges with worn out grooves have a significant impact on how much spin you can generate.
Long story short, I think it makes sense to carry a towel around with you and clean your clubs if there is any noticeable moisture or debris on your club before you hit your shot. You could be leaving a few shots on the table if you can't create proper contact with your wedges.