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Wishon: What shaft weight should you play?

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When discussing the manner of fitting the shaft weight and total weight of a golf club, the conversation should also include fitting the swing weight, or better stated, the head weight FEEL of the golf club at the same time. This is because the two “weights” of a golf club are very much interrelated in their effect on the fitting performance of golf clubs for each golfer.

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In the interest of brevity, this segment will discuss the fitting of shaft weight and total weight, followed next by a conversation about swing weight/head weight feel fitting. So we’ll start with the meat and next week we’ll add the sauce to make it a more complete dish!

Fitting the golfer for the correct total weight and swing weight (head weight feel) is extremely important for enabling the golfer to achieve the highest level of shot consistency and swing repeatability. Too light or too heavy and the golfer struggles to maintain a consistent swing tempo, timing and rhythm. Match the weights of the clubs to the golfer’s transition force, tempo, rhythm and strength and a higher level of swing consistency happens, which also results in a greater on-center hit performance, better quality “misses” and fewer “off-the-world” shots.

All experienced clubfitters know when fitting the weight of the shaft that the total weight of the club is being fit to the golfer at the same time. This is because shaft weight is the No. 1 determinant of the total weight of the club. Yes, grip weight and head weight have an influence on total weight, but they aren’t as important as the effect of the weight of the shaft. In short, when the golfer needs a lighter or heavier total weight in the clubs, fitting the weight of the shaft is how that is done.

In fitting the golfer for the best shaft weight, experienced club fitters study the “force and strength” of the golfer and his swing. The more forceful and aggressive the transition move, the more quick and fast the swing tempo and the greater the strength of the golfer, the heavier the shaft weight should be to better match to these more powerful swing and golfer characteristics. Conversely, the smoother and more passive the transition, the smoother and more rhythmic the tempo and the weaker the golfer, the lighter the weight of the shafts and total weight should be.

Another way the good club fitters look at this matter of fitting the weights of the golf club is to understand that the total weight of the club is felt more on the backswing and the very beginning of the downswing while the head weight is detected and shows its influence on swing tempo consistency more from the beginning of the downswing to the release.

Without question, the golfer’s personal preference for the overall weight feel of his clubs takes precedence over any shaft weight recommendation done on the basis of strength, transition and tempo. Shaft weight fitting involves judgment by the club fitter based on experience from having fit many golfers and learning from what golfers of different strengths, transition forces, tempos and weight feel preferences preferred, along with what ended up performing the best for them.

As with any area involving judgment, it is always helpful to have a guideline as a starting point in the decision making process. The following chart can be used as a basic starting point in the shaft weight fitting process. As with so many parts of the fitting process, test clubs should be assembled with the shaft weight being recommended to be hit by the golfer to assist in making the final decision.

A starting point for shaft weight

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Click the chart to enlarge it

In the next segment in the series on club fitting, we will finish the discussion of fitting the weights of the clubs by brining in the co-important specification of head weight feel (i.e. swing weight or MOI).

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  1. What length should your clubs be?
  2. What lofts should your clubs be?
  3. Face angle is crucial for a proper fitting
  4. The best way to fit lie angle
  5. How to choose the right club head design
  6. Tom Wishon’s keys to set makeup
  7. Getting the right size grip, time after time
  8. What shaft weight should you play?
  9. What swing weight should your clubs be?
  10. What shaft flex should I use?

This story is part of a 10-part series from Tom Wishon on professional club fitting.

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Tom Wishon is a 40-year veteran of the golf equipment industry specializing in club head design, shaft performance analysis and club fitting research and development. He has been responsible for more than 50 different club head design firsts in his design career, including the first adjustable hosel device, as well as the first 0.830 COR fairway woods, hybrids and irons. GolfWRX Writer of the Month: February 2014 Tom served as a member of the Golf Digest Technical Advisory Panel, and has written several books on golf equipment including "The Search for the Perfect Golf Club" and "The Search for the Perfect Driver," which were selected as back-to-back winners of the 2006 and 2007 Golf Book of the Year by the International Network of Golf (ING), the largest organization of golf industry media professionals in the USA. He continues to teach and share his wealth of knowledge in custom club fitting through his latest book, "Common Sense Clubfitting: The Wishon Method," written for golf professionals and club makers to learn the latest techniques in accurate custom club fitting. Tom currently heads his own company, Tom Wishon Golf Technology, which specializes in the design of original, high-end custom golf equipment designs and club fitting research for independent custom club makers worldwide Click here to visit his site, wishongolf.com

35 Comments

35 Comments

  1. Nocklaus

    Apr 15, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    Whats the difference…?

  2. Pingback: How to Purchase a Custom Golf Shaft | The DIY Golfer

  3. Pingback: How to Hit More Fairways with a Custom Golf Shaft

  4. Nick N

    Feb 28, 2015 at 12:33 am

    sorry for the double post! I didn’t see the post was at the top…

  5. Nick N

    Feb 28, 2015 at 12:30 am

    First of all, AWESOME series you have going here Tom!

    On that topic of swing weight not being an absolute measure, might you be able to help me understand something I can’t figure out? Occasionally, I’ll build a club that’s a seemingly a heavy swing weight, yet it feels much lighter than expected based on the swing weight measurement.

    Are there extreme situations in the fulcrum measurement that distort the headweight feel?

    • Tom Wishon

      Mar 2, 2015 at 10:21 am

      Nick
      First off, a fitter would have to question you to find out in what way does the club with the high swingweight reading feel light – light in overall weight somehow or light feeling in the head. Length also factors into this because length has a huge effect on swingweight. Typically because of the way a swingweight scale works with a fixed fulcrum at 14″, if you go a lot shorter and then add weight to the head to bring the swingweight up, the measured swingweight at a shorter length usually has to be higher before the golfer starts to sense that the club is head heavy in feel. I.E. a 43″ driver at D3 is going to feel a lot more head light to most golfers than a D3 at 45″ or longer just because of the way the fixed fulcrum point on the scale works.

      This is why anytime a golfer changes shaft weight by more than 20+ grams or changes length by more than an inch, he has to throw his old preferred swingweight measurement out the window and start all over from scratch to experiment with the head weight to come to a point that the head weight feel will feel right to him. And then once you find that point, then you can put the club on a scale to see what the swingweight is for reference sake. But even then, that actual swingweight is only going to be pertinent to defining a specific head weight feel for that specific length AND that specific shaft and grip weight.

  6. NN

    Feb 28, 2015 at 12:15 am

    First of all, AWESOME series you have going here Tom!

    On that topic of swing weight not being an absolute measure, might you be able to help me understand something I’m perplexed with? Occasionally, I’ll build a club that’s a seemingly a heavy swingy weight yet it feels much lighter than expected based on the swing weight measurements.

    Are there extreme situations in that fulcrum based measurement that can cause this?

  7. John

    Feb 27, 2015 at 7:53 am

    Tom:

    Does heavier weight shaft usually mean “lower” ballflight and vice versa?

    John

    ps: Great articles BTW. Very well stated and concise. Many thank yous.

    • Tom Wishon

      Feb 27, 2015 at 11:05 am

      John:
      Shaft weight on its own has no relationship to launch angle or trajectory or spin. Those elements are affected by the stiffness design of the whole shaft from butt to tip, what we call the bend profile of the shaft. It is totally possible to find different bend profile stiffness designs among any of the levels of shaft weight that are out there. When we get to the fitting of the flex and bend profile, we will talk about this more. But for now, how much the shaft’s stiffness design affects launch angle, trajectory and spin depends totally on when the golfer releases the club before impact. The later the release and the higher the clubhead speed, the more a golfer can see launch angle, trajectory and spin changes from a change in shaft stiffness design. Golfers with an early to midway release do not see such differences among different shafts.

      • John

        Mar 1, 2015 at 11:33 am

        Thank you Tom. I’m a pretty late release swinger which explains why I have problems with “standard weight” shafts. Can’t feel the club on the downswing if the weight isn’t there in my hands.

        I’m still (at 40yrs old) getting fit for DGx100’s even though my swing speed isn’t as fast as it was 10yrs ago.

        What it your take on “soft/hard stepping” shafts to get a better fit? 1/2 club fitters I talk to say it’s effective, the other half say it’s not. Same goes with counter balancing.

        john

  8. Sébastien D'Amour

    Feb 27, 2015 at 7:18 am

    Hi,

    I am wondering if I put a lighter (8g lighter) shaft in my 3 wood. Will the head feel heavier? I love to feel the head more than overall weight.

    Thank you

    • Tom Wishon

      Feb 27, 2015 at 11:10 am

      Sebastien
      No, changing to a lighter weight shaft by only a change in weight of 8 grams is really not going to affect the headweight feel hardly at all because that’s just too little of a weight change to have such an effect. Providing the 8g lighter shaft has about the same weight distribution (balance point) as the current shaft, at the same length and with the same grip the club with the 8g lighter shaft will show a DROP in the swingweight of right around 1 swingweight point. Not typically enough for most golfers to detect. BUt if the 8g lighter weight shaft has a substantially different balance point, then you might feel a difference.

      When changing to a MUCH LIGHTER SHAFT, such as 20g or more lighter, the club will demonstrate LESS HEAD WEIGHT FEEL. So if you can’t feel the head enough during the swing, the way to overcome that is to add weight to the head, a little at a time, while hitting shots to note what you feel.

  9. Jay

    Feb 27, 2015 at 3:54 am

    Tom, I’ve been studying your information including your books, etc pertaining to Clubmaking/Fitting for almost 20 years. I access your Tech Forum almost every day to keep learning. I can tell you that I am a better clubmaker/fitter because of the information that you so kindly provide. Thanks for your informative articles here on Golfwrx. Five Stars *****

  10. Jonny B

    Feb 26, 2015 at 1:57 pm

    So basically this article is a waste of time, because feel preference trumps all. So in essence, I’ll sum it all up for you in one sentence: “Let the golfer play what feels good for him/her.” <-apply this little tid bit to basically all the other 11 parts of this series of articles and I've saved you hours worth of gear-head geek-reading…

    • Tom Wishon

      Feb 26, 2015 at 4:01 pm

      jonny b
      The vast majority of golfers do not really know what weight feel preference they prefer. Hence there has to be a starting point for clubfitters to be able to evaluate the swing characteristics that do have a bearing on the weight of the clubs and how that may affect the golfer’s swing tempo, timing, consistency. Experienced clubfitters all know that there are more golfers for whom they have to make the shaft weight decision based on their evaluation of the transition force, tempo and golfer strength than there are who walk in and tell the clubfitter “this is the weight feel I need”.

      Main reason I made a point to stress the golfer’s weight feel preference as being an important part of shaft weight fitting for some is because the articles are put here on WRX where the golfer demographic most certainly involves quite a number of players who have over time and experimentation, found the weight feel that helps them achieve their best tempo consistency. Were I not to have done that and simply offered only the shaft weight guideline starting point chart, I am sure many here would have come forth to say that the shaft weight starting point was not right for them.

      • JE

        Feb 26, 2015 at 7:40 pm

        Mr. Wishon, just wanted to say thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge and experience with our community. There are many of us who very much appreciate and look forward to reading and learning from you. Cheers.

      • Tom

        Feb 26, 2015 at 8:12 pm

        Tom;
        Do you find what clubs/shafts a person learned with affects their current preference?

  11. tlmck

    Feb 26, 2015 at 2:36 am

    I am looking forward to the swing weight article. Personally I think head weights and swing weights have gotten too light forcing you to use tip weights, lead tape, or something which throws off the COG. I remember head weights were a few grams heavier back in the 80’s and thus the clubs had more head feel. My current TM stuff is good because the irons are D3 and the woods are D4-6. I think this is mostly due to the ultralight M shafts though.

  12. Neige

    Feb 25, 2015 at 9:40 pm

    Not sure how to use the table. How to determine what’s average in some columns? A bit surprised also how this table seem to suggest everybody I play with has heavy shafts. Mine are 95g and I am being being laughed at as playing old man shafts. I am above average!

    • Tom Wishon

      Feb 26, 2015 at 4:15 pm

      Neige
      You work horizontally across the chart from right to left. Thus for example a golfer with a smooth/easy/passive transition and tempo who also is below average in strength and who also knows that he prefers a lighter weight feel in his clubs would then be a golfer with whom we would start the test club fitting session with a wood shaft that weighs 40 to 50g and an iron shaft that weighs in the range of between 55-65g. And then in the test club process one for sure also is working with different head weight increments to also fit for the swingweight along with the shaft weight/total weight.

      Of course the chart does not mean that this IS the right shaft weight for every golfer with these swing and strength and feel characteristics. It is a starting point for the shaft weight determination. But more times than not, it does end up being pretty much what happens when the test club session is done. Not always though. Hence why this is a starting point in the shaft weight determination.

  13. Neige

    Feb 25, 2015 at 9:29 pm

    I agree about the head weight feel. I change my grips from heavy to very light just for fun sometimes. It changes the swing weight, which means nothing to me, as the head weight feel is unaffected.

  14. KK

    Feb 25, 2015 at 6:31 pm

    No one would consider using golf equipment from 1980 to play his best golf today. And yet so many still play the TT DG golf shaft. Wake up.

    • Tom

      Feb 26, 2015 at 9:11 am

      Yes I’m sure the pro’s that use it are handicapped by it. 🙄 BTW: I was just fit for clubs and found DG S300 the best fit for my swing so it’s not just for pros.

      • KK

        Feb 28, 2015 at 9:11 pm

        Considering you used the word “pro” twice in two sentences, maybe it’s the best fit for your swing because you want something in common with the pros. Humans are, after all, beyond the facade and pretense, creatures of pride and emotion, not logic. Pros are human last I checked. And so are the folks running golf and the PGA. Why else would most caddies still lug around single-shouldered bags weighing 25 lbs+? Pride and emotion– our masters.

  15. Peter Astrup

    Feb 25, 2015 at 4:40 pm

    So you are saying that basically nobody should be playing with the most used shaft in golf history TT dynamic gold R300/S300 weighing in at 127/130 grams ?

    • theo

      Feb 25, 2015 at 5:23 pm

      I think the iron weights he is showing in the chart are “trimmed”. I think that is cut weight although I may have missed the explanation. I can’t imagine the chart being accurate for me if the weights listed aren’t trimmed weights.

    • Tom Wishon

      Feb 25, 2015 at 5:49 pm

      Peter:
      1. chart says +/- 5 grams
      2. chart is ONLY a starting point guideline
      3. Article says golfer preference for weight feel trumps everything else

  16. Chuck

    Feb 25, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    Tom I cannot thank you enough for the shared wisdom from you in this series.

    Would you be so kind as to specifically address your previously-stated concern about driver length (with the famed Wishon 43.5″ recommendation) and shaft weight? Drivers that short might ordinarily though of as requiring a heavier shaft to keep swingweight, balance, and general feel all within normal parameters.

    • Tom Wishon

      Feb 25, 2015 at 5:58 pm

      CHUCK
      An interesting thing that goes along with shorter length drivers is that they often end up heavier in the total weight than longer length drivers, especially if the shorter length driver is made to have a “normal” D range swingweight. Reason is that at a shorter length, it takes more headweight to achieve the same swingweight on a longer length club. And the drop in shaft weight from trimming a driver from say 45″ to 43.5″ is very little weight – rarely more than 1.6g per inch of shaft.

      One thing I shall touch on in the next article which is about swingweight (i.e. headweight FEEL) is that the same swingweight in a much shorter length club feels heavier than it does in a longer length club. Swingweight is NOT an absolute measurement of weight as are grams or ounces. It is only a relationship of the weight below the 14″ fulcrum on the scale vs the weight above it. So if a golfer were used to a swingweight of say D1 in a 45″ driver with 65g shaft, to get the same headweight feel in a driver of 43.5″ with a 65g shaft would not be D1. It would be lower than D1 for sure.

      Hence the reason why when I talk about the term swingweight in fitting, I always use the term HEADWEIGHT FEEL. We like to fit for headweight feel more than swingweight so as to get the weight feel of the head better matched to the golfer’s tempo, timing, rhythm, consistency, preference for how much the golfer likes to feel weight in the end of the club. Once that headweight feel is found for the right length and right shaft weight for the golfer, then and only then do we consider putting the club on a swingweight scale. And that’s only to give us a baseline for beginning to find the right head weight feel for the rest of the woods.

  17. Paul Dunn

    Feb 25, 2015 at 4:25 pm

    I still think that shaft weight and flex is more important than club head. Get the former right and you can hit any head you like, blade or CB.

    • theo

      Feb 25, 2015 at 5:21 pm

      regarding irons i agree with Paul to a large extent.

    • Tom Wishon

      Feb 25, 2015 at 6:10 pm

      PAUL
      No question that shaft weight (total weight) is important for ALL GOLFERS. That’s a big point I was trying to make in this article about it being a MUST to get the weight (and headweight too as we will talk about next week) so it best matches the golfer’s own personal sense of timing, tempo, rhythm. Get it right and the golfer enjoys the most consistency his ability allows. Get it wrong and the golfer will forever struggle with his timing, tempo, consistency.

      Two weeks from now we talk about shaft flex/bend profile. In that I will put the point across that the importance of flex/bend profile to performance is directly proportional to the golfer’s clubhead speed AND the forcefulness of the transition move AND the point of release. The higher the swing speed, the more aggressive the transition move, and the later the release, the more the flex/bend profile contributes to actual shot performance.

      So there are golfers out there for whom the flex/bend profile is NOT that important – slower speed, more passive downswing move, earlier release. But for these golfers, shaft weight (total weight) is still VERY important.

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