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The Wedge Guy: Swing Weight Part 2 – Non-standard lengths

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This is the part of the swingweight discussion where I expect to get lots of dialog, so here goes.

The modern trend in clubfitting seems to “fit” many golfers long and upright, which I don’t necessarily agree with, but can sound off on that later. Today, we’re going to talk about this subject, and I’m going to share my theory on what does and should happen to swingweight.

The idea of fitting a golfer with longer shafts is to accommodate his or her height and posture. Let’s say my friend who’s 6’3” really likes my irons, and wants a set “just like them”, but he wants them built to his own specs of 1” overlength. So, to accommodate his larger size and assumed strength, we build him a set of irons just like mine, except that the shafts 1 inch longer than mine are. Now, that one inch in the butt of the golf club shaft only adds about 2 grams to the overall weight of the club, and does nothing to the flex profile. So his new irons are EXACTLY like mine – same shaft flex, same heads, same everything.

BUT, when we put his new irons on the swingweight scale, he goes ballistic, because they read D7-9, rather than the D2 that I play. But they are not heavier than mine: they are just like mine, only altered to accommodate his size.

However, if he insists that they should be only D2, as a clubmaker, I have my work cut out for me. First, I have to grind weight off the clubheads . . . considerable weight, as much as 5-8% of the mass . . . with greatly alters the club, right? And removing that much mass then makes the shafts play much stiffer, increasing the frequency by a half a flex or more. So, in order to “match” the swingweight, I’ve created a tremendously lighter and stiffer club – nothing like the irons I have that he liked so much.

Or I guess I could counter-weight the club significantly, which also is dramatically changing the irons that we wanted to be “just like mine.”

What I have always proposed is that we think in the concept of “swingweight equivalent”. If the club is D2 at standard length, it’s going to be D4-5 at 1/2” over, maybe D8-9 at 1” over. When we are making shaft length adjustments that are shorter, that exact same club will be C9 or so at 1/2” shorter than standard.

I really think it’s just that simple. What about all of you?

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Terry Koehler is a fourth generation Texan, a native of a small South Texas town and a graduate of Texas A&M University. He has had a most interesting 40-year career in the golf industry. He has created five start-up companies, ranging from advertising agencies to golf equipment companies. You might remember Reid Lockhart, EIDOLON, SCOR, or his leadership of the reintroduction of Ben Hogan to the golf equipment industry in 2014. For almost 25 years, his wedge designs have stimulated other companies to slightly raise the CG and improve wedge performance. He has just announced the formation of Edison Golf Company and the new Edison Forged wedges, which have been robotically proven to significantly raise the bar for wedge performance. Terry serves as Chairman and Director of Innovation for Edison Golf, which can be seen at www.EdisonWedges.com. Terry has been a prolific equipment designer of over 100 putters and several irons, but many know Koehler as simply “The Wedge Guy”, as he authored over 700 articles on his blog by that name from 2003-2010.

11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. geohogan

    Jul 18, 2020 at 10:11 am

    @mark brooks, suggest to you that many brilliant scientists and inventors design
    off the shelf golf shafts to be as cheap to make as possible.
    How much value is in 99% of all shafts in play(off the shelf) when their made for
    $5-$10 each.

    IMO you need to go to after market shafts in order to get any consistency of CPM.
    Xi iron shafts (cpm over 300 within recommended lengths) are as tip stiff as is possible for a graphite shaft within the given hosel diameter. Butt cut only is a good sign of a tip stiff shaft.

    Ben Hogan’s clubs were C7-C9 SW for a reason. He swung the grip end of the club
    He didnt throw the clubhead which is the tendency with high SW clubs.

  2. Douglas Mael

    Jul 17, 2020 at 11:38 am

    I agree with this premise, at least in theory, Terry! In addition, many (but certainly far from all) golfers who need or prefer longer-than-standard playing length clubs are also stronger than your average golfer. These guys can, and often do, play much better with clubs that have a slightly higher swingweight. I know that I prefer the swingweight on all of my clubs to be at least D3-D4, and on my wedges, I want the swingweights to be above D5 or D6. I work out extensively and am far stronger than the average guy my age (71) and probably stronger than most guys in their 30s. Thus, I prefer clubs with a heavier swingweight, and play better golf when using them.

  3. Bruce

    Jul 17, 2020 at 10:20 am

    I am a mechanical engineer and studied objects in motion, like golf clubs, rather extensively. Isaac Newton proposed laws of motion along with mathematical methods in 1687, and these fundamentals have been verified in thousands of experiments and predictions. Newton’s laws and mathematics are not to be questioned: they describe motion of visible objects over a wide range of velocities.
    Swingweight is a balance property like two children on a see-saw – swingweight is a length times distance function: the lighter child is on the longer end of the see-saw.
    Now the conclusion: Newton’s mathematical equations of motion do NOT contain any length times distance terms. Therefore swingweight is irrelevant to golf club motion. Forget about swingweight and play what works for you!!
    Newton does provide a club matching parameter, but that is a topic for a whole different discussion.

  4. Forged MB

    Jul 17, 2020 at 9:59 am

    It’s not as simple as just excepting the 6 point swing weight increase at 1” over because the MOI is not the same and therefore the feel, performance, and effort required to swing the club are not the same as a standard length D2 swing weighted club.

    The problem is that the industry should not be using swing weight to begin with. It’s archaic and pointless. It’s much like building a club to a specific frequency. Swing weight and frequency are only accurate measurements when you are trying to replicate the EXACT SAME CLUB. You cannot build a club at a different length, weight, or with a different shaft and obtain a “match” by using swing weight and frequency.

    In regards to the shaft, the amount of deflection does change when you simply lengthen the club even though the ei profile is not altered. So, the dynamic bending of the shaft is changed and influenced by the added length even without a change to the profile.

    • Bruce

      Jul 17, 2020 at 10:26 am

      On target: replicate a GIVEN clob, but not match a set. Club MOI is a valid matching parameter; hence the matched feel of single length clubs.

  5. Robert

    Jul 16, 2020 at 11:14 am

    What about needing shorter lengths – 1/2 to 1 inch length? Have always heard if club already made get out the lead tape. Best to order special from factory and the manufacturer will use slightly heavier heads.
    Have wondered if it would be better mfg cut shaft off at both ends differently to achieve the required length with same feel.

  6. geohogan

    Jul 15, 2020 at 5:57 pm

    “long and upright”?
    If longer, wouldnt it be logical to flatten the lie angle?

    Dont golfers know by now that upright golf swings take a toll
    on the body? After Tiger swung at his best in 2000
    the gurus took his swing upright and we see the result
    in damaged knees and lower back.
    Drop into the Slot and Turn..
    like Tiger in 2000, Ben Hogan and the G.O.A.T, Jack Nicklaus.

    • Forged MB

      Jul 17, 2020 at 10:13 am

      You think that swinging a shorter club (which typically means more static weight as well) while bent over more to accommodate that is easier on the body and less injury prone? I can’t think of anything worse for your back than trying to bend and turn and a high rate of speed.

      A bit anecdotal, but I rarely hear of baseball players having lower back issues yet for golfers back problems are quite common. Granted the swings are on different planes, but the posture and orientation of the spine are quite different between the two while swinging with great amounts of force. I’ll take the golf swing with the more upright posture and increased extension all day long personally over the tilted and increased side bend move that is being taught by so many.

      • geohogan

        Jul 18, 2020 at 9:56 am

        IMO my hands want the butt of the club to be the same height from the ground for every club.

        If the shaft is shorter or longer the lie angle is changed so hands on every club is swung from the same height from the ground.

        Changing the swing (more upright) to adjust to a golf club
        is going to lead to injury, IMO.

      • geohogan

        Jul 19, 2020 at 8:27 am

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1bUvU4gH1GI

        Babe Ruth, arguably the best baseball swing with plane of the swing mimicking the hips, much like Ben Hogans swing, so called flat swing.

        Its no wonder baseball doesnt seem to have the knee and back problems golfers experience with upright swings.

  7. Mark Brooks

    Jul 15, 2020 at 4:45 pm

    An inch longer golf club will not have the same “flex” or CPM reading.
    The stiffest section of the vast majority of shafts is in the butt section, effectively there is an inch longer section remaining on the butt end of the shaft at an inch longer provided no tip trimming was done. If the swing weight was indeed adjusted to match the swing weight of the shorter club, the longer club should be stiffer by any measure of “flex”. Allowing the club to just “naturally “ move to a heavier swing weight will generally make that longer, now heavier swing weight club “play” and measure as the softer or more flexible of the two clubs.
    The longer shaft is simply easier to bend than the shorter one with equal weight on both ends. The more length added the more dramatic the change. Conversely, a 1/4 inch change will yield very little change in “feel” or performance.
    The golf shaft manufacturer’s employ many brilliant scientists and inventors, they design their shafts to perform the best within a reasonable set of parameters, including overall club length. When you stray too far outside designed for parameters, you’re essentially on your own. Hope this helps out !

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The Gear Dive: Elk is in the house!

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In this episode of TGD brought to you by Titleist, Johnny chats with the one, the only, the legend Steve Elkington.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

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The differences between good and bad club fitters—and they’re not what you think

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Club fitting is still a highly debated topic, with many golfers continuing to believe they’re just not good enough to be fit. That couldn’t be further from the truth, but it’s a topic for another day.

Once you have decided to invest in your game and equipment, however, the next step is figuring out where to get fit, and working with a fitter.  You see, unlike professionals in other industries, club fitting “certification” is still a little like the wild west. While there are certification courses and lesson modules from OEMs on how to fit their specific equipment, from company to company, there is still some slight variance in philosophy.

Then there are agnostic fitting facilities that work with a curated equipment matrix from a number of manufacturers. Some have multiple locations all over the country and others might only have a few smaller centralized locations in a particular city. In some cases, you might even be able to find single-person operations.

So how do you separate the good from the bad? This is the million-dollar question for golfers looking to get fit. Unless you have experience going through a fitting before or have a base knowledge about fitting, it can feel like an intimidating process. This guide is built to help you ask the right questions and pay attention to the right things to make sure you are getting the most out of your fitting.

The signs of a great fitter

  • Launch monitor experience: Having some type of launch monitor certification isn’t a requirement but being able to properly understand the interpret parameters is! A good fitter should be able to explain the parameters they are using to help get the right clubs and understand how to tweak specs to help you get optimized. The exact labeling may vary depending on the type of launch monitor but they all mostly provide the same information….Here is an example of what a fitter should be looking for in an iron fitting: “The most important parameter in an iron fitting” 
  • Communication skills: Being able to explain why and how changes are being made is a telltale sign your fitter is knowledgeable—it should feel like you are learning something along the way. Remember, communication is a two-way street so also being a good listener is another sign your working with a good fitter.
  • Transparency: This involves things like talking about price, budgets, any brand preferences from the start. This prevents getting handed something out of your price range and wasting swings during your fit.
  • A focus on better: Whether it be hitting it further and straighter with your driver or hitting more greens, the fitting should be goal-orientated. This means looking at all kinds of variables to make sure what you are getting is actually better than your current clubs. Having a driver you hit 10 yards farther isn’t helpful if you don’t know where it’s going….A great fitter that knows their stuff should quickly be able to narrow down potential options to 4-5 and then work towards optimizing from there.
  • Honesty and respect: These are so obvious, I shouldn’t even have to put it on the list. I want to see these traits from anybody in a sales position when working with customers that are looking to them for knowledge and information…If you as the golfer is only seeing marginal gains from a new product or an upgrade option, you should be told that and given the proper information to make an informed decision. The great fitters, and I’ve worked with a lot of them, will be quick to tell a golfer, “I don’t think we’re going to beat (X) club today, maybe we should look at another part of your bag where you struggle.” This kind of interaction builds trust and in the end results in happy golfers and respected fitters.

The signs of a bad fitter

  • Pushing an agenda: This can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Whether it be a particular affinity towards certain brands of clubs or even shafts. If you talk to players that have all been to the same fitter and their swings and skill levels vary yet the clubs or brands of shafts they end up with (from a brand agnostic facility) seem to be eerily similar it might be time to ask questions.
  • Poor communications: As you are going through the fitting process and warming up you should feel like you’re being interviewed as a way to collect data and help solve problems in your game. This process helps create a baseline of information for your fitter. If you are not experiencing that, or your fitter isn’t explaining or answering your questions directly, then there is a serious communication problem, or it could show lack of knowledge depth when it comes to their ability.
  • Lack of transparency: If you feel like you’re not getting answers to straightforward questions or a fitter tells you “not to worry about it” then that is a big no-no from me.
    Side note: It is my opinion that golfers should pay for fittings, and in a way consider it a knowledge-gathering session. Of course, the end goal for the golfer is to find newer better fitting clubs, and for the fitter to sell you them (let’s be real here), but you should never feel the information is not being shared openly.
  • Pressure sales tactics: It exists in every industry, I get it, but if you pay for your fitting you are paying for information, use it to your advantage. You shouldn’t feel pressured to buy, and it’s always OK to seek out a knowledgeable second opinion (knowledgeable being a very key word in that sentence!).  If you are getting the hard sell or any combination of the traits above, there is a good chance you’re not working with the right fitter for you.

Final thoughts

Great fitters with great reputations and proper knowledge have long lists, even waiting lists, of golfers waiting to see them. The biggest sign of a great fitter is a long list of repeat customers.

Golf is a game that can be played for an entire lifetime, and just like with teachers and swing coaches, the good ones are in it for the long haul to help you play better and build a rapport—not just sell you the latest and greatest (although we all like new toys—myself included) because they can make a few bucks.

Trust your gut, and ask questions!

 

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