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Opinion & Analysis

Why You Should Be Playing Heavier Equipment

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While I’ve been playing golf for the last 35 years, I only started tinkering with equipment for the last 17 years. I started with regripping and then graduated to full blueprints and rebuilds for myself and close friends and family. This came in handy when I had delusions of trying to compete with the guys in the Long Drivers of America (LDA). While my swingspeed is fast enough to necessitate the replacement of caved heads and broken shafts from time to time, I was humbled back into the amateur ranks very quickly. But the LDA guys were one of the early groups that made me realize that lighter shafts aren’t necessarily better for distance.

When golfers think of a great classic driver, the seasoned ones would talk about persimmon and steel while most WRXers will speak with reverence to the TaylorMade R510TP.  This first re-launch of the Tour Preferred series was notorious for the high price tag as well as what justified the cost: the legendary Fujikura Speeder 757 shaft.  At one point, you were not considered a player if you didn’t have a Speeder 757 in your driver. At 78 or 79 grams (based on flex), it was much lighter than steel. But its tight profile and low torque made for a very accurate shaft that produced a lower spin rate and allowed for good distance when you wanted to take a healthy swing at the ball.

Today, the manufacturers continue to promise distance gains with a marketer’s perfect formula: lighter total weight and longer shafts. Many WRXers have poo-pooed this concept of longer shafts over the years, professing their love for 44.5 inch drivers. You can go back to the inception of this board to read the questions of how to get a D2 or D3 swingweight on a club that has had the stock length cut down. Today, with some drivers measuring as long as 47 inches, you may have to add 15-20 grams of mass to the head to get the balance back to the club.  Some of my early recollections of reshafting include removing the lightweight and big butt shafts from Callaway Great Big Berthas and Goldwin AVDP drivers to install 86 gram EI-70 shafts. My drives were much more accurate with the heavier driver shaft.

Until recently, this trend was applied only to woods and hybrids. But the next phase in the lighter/longer march by the OEMs has been irons. Lofts and lengths have literally made each iron one club longer than a similar numbered iron 25 years ago. And your 120-gram KBS or 130-gram True Temper Dynamic Gold shaft are now being substituted for 85-gram steel or 65-gram graphite. This was the norm for senior and ladies clubs for years. But these lighter weight clubs are now appearing in the men’s market as well.

Thankfully, most of the player or “pro” models still come with heavier shafts. But even there, you still have driver shafts in the 50-gram range, and they seem to be getting lighter each year. This follows the old club thought:

“Swing the lightest club that you can control.” 

But control always seems to take a back seat to potential distance. I’m sure I could pick up 10-peak yards on a perfectly struck shot with a lighter driver shaft. However, the rest of my imperfect shots would suffer accuracy issues, whereas my heavier shaft would allow me a more consistent face contact and greater AVERAGE distance.  My thought when I have built clubs for friends and family was to “swing the heaviest club that did not noticeably cost you distance.”  My vindication for this is that your scoring clubs — wedges and putters — are trending heavier or maintaining their shaft weights. Read the GolfWRX thread about increasing accuracy and distance by going back to steel shafted drivers here:  http://www.golfwrx.com/forums/topic/705558-now-this-is-how-a-cleveland-classic-should-look

I believe the quickest way to get someone to get excited about the game is to have them strike that one pure shot. Tin Cup described it as a “tuning fork going off in your loins” to Rene Russo, and he was right.  Hit that one shot and you will be back for more.  My experience has shown that more golfers would have more accurate shots with greater average distance with shaft weights in the following ranges:

Driver: 65-75 grams, 300 gram or more total weight

Fairway Woods: 80-130 grams

Hybrids: 90-130 grams

Irons and wedges: 110-140 grams

Compared to lighter equipment, most of your average male golfers will find the center of the face more often and realize more purely struck shots. This will increase your average distance and minimize the difference between your great shots and your misses.

The one argument that I cannot deny is the lighter weight in your bag if you are a walker. But consider that a golf ball weighs around 45 grams. The difference between heavy and light equipment for someone with three wedges is the equivalent of roughly three sleeves of balls in your bag. If that’s enough to break your back, then you should consider weight/endurance training or move to a push/pull cart. Fatigue at the end of the round from heavier gear is quickly fixed by strength training and sessions at the practice range.

Next time you visit your local clubfitter, pick their brain about being fitted into a slightly heavier shaft in your fairway, hybrid or driver by stressing that you want a more consistent and accurate swing instead of distance. You may find a new favorite club in your bag.

Click here for more discussion in the “Clubmaking” forum. 

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A tinkerer since he was a child, Brad Hintz has always enjoyed getting his hands dirty and learning how things are put together. Taking apart and putting together his bicycle and the family room television to make them work better eventually gave way to golf clubs. While a career in operations and analytics keeps him busy during the day, he has been building and repairing golf clubs as a hobby and passion for more than 17 years. Brad has been posting on golf forums since the late 1990s and has been a member of GolfWRX almost from its inception. This is his first foray into writing articles online.

12 Comments

12 Comments

  1. nikkyd

    Mar 14, 2014 at 10:54 pm

    My irons are sw at e6 and i tell you what, once you get that weight moving, you cannot stop it. Im shorter 5)at 5’8″ and play +1 1/4 ” over standard clubs. I can deadlift 600 lbs and bench 225 25× . Im not flexible by anymeans (not even as a child) but with my handsy swing, i find the heavier, the better. More consistant and straighter than ever . And good distance too! Now if only i could putt on muni greens that stimp out at about -13 haha

  2. Phil

    Dec 2, 2013 at 3:48 am

    Excellent article. Through experiments I have found that my swing speed has increased by around 3% with a heavier shaft. Also note that swing speed isn’t everything you have to make a quality contact. I have been down the light shaft / totalweight route and am now making a U turn with great results. My latest driver shaft Fujikura Speeder 757 is superb with longer more consistent results Callaway RAZR Tour head with D4 swingweight at 44.75in

    It all depends on the type of swing that you have but too many times We get conned with a short term increase in distance but lose control, consistency and accuracy over time.

  3. Dave

    Mar 21, 2013 at 7:25 am

    Agreed, last year my most consistant club in the bag was my Titleist Hybrid which has a Heavier shaft installed.

    • Rick

      Nov 9, 2015 at 10:48 pm

      Exactly the same here…92 gm stiff Diamana ….it is sweet.

  4. Adrian

    Dec 11, 2012 at 7:25 pm

    Excellent article. Thanks. And I totally agree.
    I lost confidence with my rbz 3wood this summer, cut it down a half inch and added some snakeoil to the head. Changed the swing weight from D3 to D6 and it’s now the most consistent long club in my bag, by far. Lost maybe 5 yards of distance on average but added automatic fairways; seems worth it.

  5. Roger F

    Nov 30, 2012 at 11:04 am

    Great article…..have added weight to my wedges, Putter, gone to heavier shafts on fairways and added tip weights, now have x flex Oxik Altus 86gr in 22 hybrid, very smooth, and 910D3 with Kai’li at 72 grams, regular shaft and 9gr head weight. Lots of Feel,Accuracy!

  6. Ian harris

    Nov 30, 2012 at 10:26 am

    How about light,stiff,with low torque? Love my steel fiber 95 gram iron shafts. Straight and long!!!

  7. joro3743

    Nov 29, 2012 at 8:49 am

    I totally agree with the heavier weight. When I was a young man and playing competitively my Driver was steel and wood with a 135 gr. shaft, XX flex, and 43.5 in. and the irons the same.

    Today, much older and with several physical problems I use a 45 gr. shaft at 46 and all over the place. Recently I picked up a 60 gr. Stiff Driver with a Ahina shaft and hitting the heck out of it. I know being a club maker for years that the theory of that is wrong, but I love it. I also play a forged Iron with KBS Tour steel and put away the 65 gr. Graphite Irons I was playing.

    At 73 this should not work, but it does.

  8. pablo

    Nov 28, 2012 at 3:09 pm

    I agree. My girlfriend hits better with mens flex shafts even with a very low swing speed. She likes to be able to feel the weight, as it helps her make better ball contact.

  9. John Muir

    Nov 28, 2012 at 2:27 pm

    I’m finding a lot of success with average male and female golfers and seniors with 45g wood shafts with lighter driver and fw heads and even new 50g iron shafts.

  10. Robert

    Nov 28, 2012 at 12:15 pm

    Excellent article. Many thanks

  11. Pingback: GolfWRX.com – Why You Should Be Playing Heavier Equipment | Golf Grip Instruction

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Let’s Retire Old Man Par: A Modest Proposal

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In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A modest proposal,” in which he suggested that the Irish eat their own children. As might be expected, the piece drew a great deal of discussion and controversy. He was of course not serious, but simply attempting to make a point. As you will read this piece contains “A Modest Proposal” as well, but it is not intended to be satirical. I am for the record dead serious.

The golf industry is wringing its hands, trying to find a way to bring new players into the game, while at the same time keeping those that are in the game from leaving. They have initiated any number of programs designed for this purpose. How successful have they been? I would venture that they have barely moved the needle.

Barriers to the game

What we do know is that today there are three major barriers that confront the industry. They are first, the time required to play the game; second the costs associated with playing the game; and third the difficulty of the game.

There are among those adults that start the game, three distinct different groups:

  1. Those who would like to start playing golf but for any number of reasons decided not to take up the game.
  2. Those who once played more frequently but have reduced the number of rounds that they play.
  3. Those who started to play the game but then after a short period decided to leave it.

Those who leave the game

Those in the golf industry, the hand-wringers, have developed any number of programs to bring new players to the game. I would ask the question, “What is the point, when almost an equal number of players that start playing the game each year, decide to give it up within a span of a few months.

Does it make any sense to continue to put water into a bucket when there is a hole in the bottom? Of course not, but that is effectively what is being done. The first question to be ask, why do these new players quit the playing after a short time? In my opinion, the number No. 1 reason is the method of scoring being used.

Were an exit poll to be conducted asking these people why they quit playing, I seriously doubt they would answer truthfully. Who would want to admit that they were discouraged by their inability to succeed at any endeavor? The two answers that would be given the most often would be 1) that golf is too expensive to play; or 2) that they simply didn’t have time.  In this case both answers serve to preserve the individual’s dignity. And who could blame them?

The concept of par

Why did these individuals find the game difficult? The short answer is that while golf is a hard game to learn, there  is a more compelling reason.  I would venture, that the underlying reason they quit the game is that it ceased to be fun because of how they viewed their performance. And for one central reason… the concept of par. The idea that an amateur golfer, especially a beginner, should measure their level of success against an imaginary set of numbers that represents what an expert player would score on each hole is on the surface ridiculous.

You might imagine a beginning player scoring an eight on a par-four hole after hitting six good shots and then two putting for an eight. In the context of their ability, they should be ecstatic — but of course they are not (because as their playing partner reminds them) they were four-over par on that hole. The time has come for Old Man Par to retire. And retire permanently. He is killing the game.

Perceived failure

In another scenario, the beginning player scores sixty for nine holes, which is an excellent score given the short amount of time they might have spent playing the game. And yet their nine-hole score was 24-over par. How would that make you feel? Would you be encouraged or discouraged? You might imagine yourself back in school and regardless of the amount of work that you put into a given class you always receive an “F.” At some point, would you give up?

Why should every golfer be judged by the same standard when there is such inequality in their ability? The equivalent would be placing a high school freshman in a graduate-level college course, expecting that they could perform at the same level as the other graduate students. The disparity in knowledge, based on age and experience, is precisely the reason why there are different grades in school. The same disparity exists among golfers. In this case, the difference being the ability to perform on the golf course as opposed to the classroom.

What about the second group of players that now plays less than they did in the past? Could it be that they are no longer having fun playing the game?And then there is the third group, those that consider playing the game but abandon it for another sport. Could it be that they are intimidated by the scoring system, knowing that as a beginner par is an absolute impossibility?

Old man par 

The legendary Bobby Jones was the first to coin, perhaps with the help of his friend O.B. Keillor, the phrase “Old Man Par.” Jones was, of course, the greatest amateur to have ever played the game. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, retiring then at the age of 28.

The time has come to retire “Old Man Par” and devise a new system for measuring a golfer’s progress in the game. I know that those in the USGA. would reject the concept immediately for fear of, and here is a $10 word used primarily by attorneys, “bifurcate” the game. What that word essentially means in this context in having more than one standard. The USGA is responsible for preserving the nature of the game, but at the same time it should be equally concerned with preserving the future of the game.

Personal par

What I would suggest is a system based on the principle of what might be termed “personal par.” This was essentially the system that was used to groom a young Tiger Woods. As a young child, he was not capable of reaching the longer holes in regulation, making par a virtual impossibility. Consequently, his coach wisely devised a system in which par was adjusted upward based on his ability at a given point in time. This served to keep the young child feeling good about his performance and subsequent progress.

This is the type of system that needs to be devised for the health of the game. The system would begin at a nine-hole level using a par of thirty-six as a basis. The actual numbers are not as important as the basic concept. There would be within the nine-hole and the eighteen-hole groups five different levels as follows with assigned par for each hole and eighteen holes roughly equal with the player’s ability.

As players improved, they would graduate from one level to another based on their total score. The handicap system would work in similar fashion as it does now with a single modification. The strokes give from one player to another would depend on the level in which they fall and the par assigned to that level.

The personal par handicap system would not be as exacting as it is presently used, but it would be sufficient to allow players to be reasonable competitive without any significant sacrifice. There would then be two scoring systems then, allowing players to choose which one they wanted to use. Or a recommendation might be given that until they reach a given scoring threshold that they use the personal par scoring system.

There would, of course, be the usual concern with something new being injected into the system, but the proposed change would be no greater than when the system of equitable scoring was introduced or when courses were first assigned a course rating number.

A few years ago, when life-long teacher and educator Dr. Gary Wiren was inducted into the Golf Teacher’s Hall of Fame, he wanted to pass along a single piece of advice to those teachers in the room. “Gentleman,” he started and then paused for emphasis. “We must find a way to make the game more fun for our students.”

I’m in full agreement with Dr. Wiren. The question is, “What is the best way to accomplish that goal?” I believe that that the first step in that direction is to change the scoring system so that golfers experience more satisfaction and accomplishment. That is what makes learning fun.

And so, I would have you consider “The Modest Proposal” that I have put forward. And rather than attempting to find reasons why a revised scoring system couldn’t never work, for the benefit of the game, look for the same number of reason why it could work. The time has come for Old Man Par, as we know him, to retire. He has served us well, but he has become an anarchism. He is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Let’s hand him his gold watch and let him enjoy his golden years in peace.

And at the same time, let’s welcome the “new kid on the block” who will pave the way for the next generation of golfers pioneering a scoring system that promises to make the game more “fun.”

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TG2: What’s the most annoying breach of golf etiquette?

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What’s the one breach of golf etiquette that gets under your skin more than anything else? Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what drives them crazy. Also, Knudson talks about his first round with new irons and a new shaft in his driver.

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