Science of Golf: friction and spin

It’s the Sunday round on TV and the leader lands short of the green. He (or she) pulls out a wedge and gives the ball a mighty whack. The ball lands well past the pin, then suddenly starts spinning backwards! Before you know it, the ball has snugged up to the hole. How do they do that???

In a word—grooves. Find out more about the role of grooves in the Science of Golf: Friction and Spin. This NBC Learn video series, produced in partnership with the United States Golf Association (USGA) and Chevron, will fill you in on the science behind both amazing (and errant) golf shots. The series will also give you a leg up on the technology, engineering, and math associated with the sport for real-world, engaging STEM activities.

Like other NBC Learn video series, the Science of Golf is available cost-free on The companion NSTA-developed lesson plans give you a lot of ideas for how to use the videos as a centerpiece, or simply incorporate them into what you already do. This particular one includes guidance for both a hands-on inquiry and investigation using media resources.

We really look forward to hearing about how they worked for you in real-world classrooms. Just leave a comment.

–Judy Elgin Jensen

Image of grooves on a Cleveland wedge courtesy of dennisborn.


SOG: Friction and Spin discusses the importance of being able to impart spin to a golf ball and how friction with the club head is the force that makes this possible.

STEM Lesson Plan—Adaptable for Grades 7–12

The lesson plan provides ideas for STEM exploration plus strategies to support students in their own quest for answers and as well as a more focused approach that helps all students participate in hands-on inquiry.

The SOG: Friction and Spin lesson plan describes how students might investigate a question about how one might design a way to impart backspin and use this backspin to control the motion of the ball after it lands on a surface. A media research option guides students in exploring how groove technology became a point of controversy after a USGA ruling.


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