To say there exists a high level of confusion about the fitting specification called “swing weight” is more than an understatement. Almost daily, comments are posted in the GolfWRX Forums with questions about swing weight, the gist of which so often indicates that many golfers, even accomplished players, do not understand the facts.
For that reason, I’ve created this list of three absolute facts about swing weight. It details what you need to know about a very important, yet very undervalued club specification. At the end of the story, I also describe something called “MOI Matching” that’s important to understand if you wish to take the swing weight/head weight feel conversation to the highest level.
Fact 1: Swing weight is NOT an absolute measurement of weight in a golf club.
There are two main issues that create confusion about the term swing weight:
- The use of the word “weight” in the term.
- The fact that swing weight is measured on a piece of equipment that is called a “scale.”
Both lead golfers to wrongly believe that swing weight is an actual measurement of weight, but it is not. A specification called “total weight” is an actual measurement of weight. It measures the total weight of an assembled club (head, shaft, grip, etc.), and is defined in the scientifically accepted definition of weight (mass) in grams or ounces.
Swing weight, on the other hand, is an arbitrary designation that attempts to express a relationship of weight distribution in a golf club based on a specific fulcrum-point position on a device called a swing weight scale. All too many golfers believe if they have a favorite club with a swing weight of say, D1, that when they purchase any other club with a D1 swing weight they will get the same swing feel and performance. This is not the case, however.
Because swing weight is affected by club length, shaft weight, grip weight, shaft weight distribution and head weight, when any of these five variables change in a golf club so too does the swing weight measurement. And when any of these five factors of swing weight are different in a club, the same swing weight measurement will not demonstrate the same swing or club head feel in the club.
In other words, any time you buy a golf club with a different length, shaft weight, grip weight, shaft weight distribution or head weight, you have to start over from scratch to find what the swing weight of that club needs to be to offer the best performance for YOU and YOUR individual swing characteristics and preference for weight feel in the club.
Fact 2: Finding the right swing weight for each of your golf clubs is one of the most important fitting elements for achieving your highest level of swing repeatability, shot consistency, club head speed and shot accuracy.
In other words, if you totally ignore swing weight when buying new clubs and focus more on the shaft or the club head model, you are leaving yourself well short of being able to achieve the best possible shot performance for your size, strength, athletic ability and swing characteristics. Ignoring swing weight may also make you wrongly think that the shaft, the club head or some other specification on your clubs is not correct for you.
Swing weight, which should more correctly be thought of as the head weight feel during the swing, has a direct relationship to each golfer’s unique sense of swing tempo, timing and rhythm. But because golfers so frequently have different combinations of tempo, timing, rhythm and perceptions of swing feel, finding the right swing weight is often a time-consuming, yet worthwhile process of trial and experimentation.
If the head weight feel is wrong for the golfer, all manner of poor shot making can result: the tempo can be too quick or too labored, the swing path and angle of attack can have accentuated errors, the timing of the release can be changed as a golfer comes into impact, and more off-center hits and overall shot inconsistencies are likely.
Get the head weight feel correct, however, and the door opens for the golfer to be able to achieve the most swing consistency with his/her highest club head speed and highest level of on-center hits and shot performance. It doesn’t matter if a golfer is a scratch-or-better or high double-digit handicapper; getting the right swing weight/head weight feel makes a difference.
Fact 3: Once you find the best swing weight for your golf club(s), that swing weight is of little importance when you purchase new golf clubs.
It would be nice if once you found your proper swing weight, say D1, you could keep it the same and ensure the same performance and feel whenever you bought new clubs down the road. Sorry, it doesn’t work that way, and that’s because swing weight is an arbitrary measurement.
D1 (or any other swing weight) will only deliver the same exact swing feel when the club length, shaft weight, shaft weight distribution, grip weight and head weight are the same in two golf clubs. And even if you order a new set or club with exactly the same specifications, the weight tolerances of each component can make it so that a D1 swing weight in the new club doesn’t feel exactly the same as the D1 swing weight in the old club. Tour players are notorious for noticing these small differences, as they are highly skilled and have very refined senses of feel. But I’ve encountered less skilled golfers with the same sensitivities.
The point is that golfers who buy new clubs regularly are usually changing shafts or some other specification related to total weight and swing weight. And anytime they buy new clubs, they should go through another process of trial and experimentation to find the swing weight/head weight feel that’s best for their swing and delivers the best tempo, timing, rhythm and shot consistency.
If you want a measurement of swing feel that can bridge the gap between different clubs, different components and different lengths and deliver the same swing feel when you change shafts, grips, and other fitting specs, that is much more the domain of what is called MOI Matching of golf clubs.
Because MOI is a scientifically accepted measurement of the effort required to swing the club about a defined axis of rotation, it is possible to have a set with each club made to the same MOI that you like in a current club, or the same MOI for which you are individually fit. For this reason, expect this process to be far more accurate in achieving the same swing feel than is possible with swing weight. Thus, if the ideal MOI for your swing tempo, timing, rhythm and sense of feel is 2782 g-cm2, when you change to a different club with different length, shaft, or grip, all you have to do is duplicate the 2782 g-cm2 MOI measurement in the assembled club.
Whether you subscribe to swing weight or MOI Matching for the expression of the weight distribution and swing feel of your golf clubs, there is no question that finding the best head weight feel for your swing tempo, timing, rhythm and sense of feel is absolutely critical for achieving the absolute highest level of shot consistency, club head speed and shot accuracy that your swing and ability will allow.
To find a club fitter near year, as well as club fitters who are certified in MOI Matching, visit wishongolf.com or the Association of Golf Club Fitting Professionals (AGCP).
Club Junkie: The softest forged irons you’ve never heard of and the Cobra RadSpeed hybrid!
Ever heard of New Level Golf? If you are looking for wildly soft players irons, then you should check them out. The PF-1 blades and the PF-2 cavity backs are as soft as anything on the market right now. Great irons for skilled players.
The Cobra RadSpeed hybrid is a solid mid/high launching hybrid with a solid Cobra feel and sound. Pretty neutral-bias ball flight with only a slight draw.
The future of club fitting is going virtual
Thanks to technology, you can buy everything from custom-made suits to orthotics online without ever walking into a store or working in person with an expert.
Now, with the help of video and launch monitors, along with a deeper understanding of dynamics than ever before, club fitting is quickly going virtual too, and it’s helping golfers find better equipment faster!
What really took so long?
The real advancements started in the coaching world around a decade ago. What used to require heavy cameras and tripods now simply requires a phone and you have a high-definition slow-motion video that can be sent around the world in a matter of seconds.
Beyond video, modern launch monitors and their ability to capture data have quickly turned a guessing game of “maybe this will work” into a precision step-by-step process of elimination to optimize. When you combine video and launch monitor elements with an understanding of club fitting principles and basic biomechanics, you have the ability to quickly evaluate a golfer’s equipment and make recommendations to help them play better golf.
The benefits of virtual fitting
- Any golfer with a phone and access to a launch monitor can get high-level recommendations from a qualified fitter.
- Time and cost-saving to and from a fitter. (This seems obvious, but one of the reasons I personally receive so many questions about club fitting is because those reaching out don’t have access to fitting facilities within a reasonable drive)
- It’s an opportunity to get a better understanding our your equipment from an expert.
How virtual fittings really work
The key element of a virtual fitting is the deep understanding of the available products to the consumer. On an OEM level, line segmentation makes this fairly straightforward, but it becomes slightly more difficult for brand-agnostic fitters that have so many brands to work with, but it also shows their depth of knowledge and experience.
It’s from this depth of knowledge and through an interview that a fitter can help analyze strengths and weaknesses in a player’s game and use their current clubs as a starting point for building a new set—then the video and launch monitor data comes in.
But it can quickly go very high level…
One of the fastest emerging advancements in this whole process is personalized round tracking data from companies like Arccos, which gives golfers the ability to look at their data without personal bias. This allows the golfer along with any member of their “team” to get an honest assessment of where improvements can be found. The reason this is so helpful is that golfers of all skill levels often have a difficult time being critical about their own games or don’t even really understand where they are losing shots.
It’s like having a club-fitter or coach follow you around for 10 rounds of golf or more—what was once only something available to the super-elite is now sitting in your pocket. All of this comes together and boom, you have recommendations for your new clubs.
We can’t talk about all the benefits without pointing out some of the potential limitations of virtual club fittings, the biggest being the human element that is almost impossible to replicate by phone or through video chat.
The other key factor is how a player interprets feel, and when speaking with an experienced fitter recently while conducting a “trial fitting” the biggest discussion point was how to communicate with golfers about what they feel in their current clubs. Video and data can help draw some quick conclusions but what a player perceives is still important and this is where the conversation and interview process is vital.
Who is offering virtual club fittings?
There are a lot of companies offering virtual fittings or fitting consultations over the phone. One of the biggest programs is from Ping and their Tele-Fitting process, but other companies like TaylorMade and PXG also have this service available to golfers looking for new equipment.
Smaller direct-to-consumer brands like New level, Sub 70, and Haywood Golf have offered these services since their inception as a way to work with consumers who had limited experience with their products but wanted to opportunity to get the most out of their gear and their growth has proven this model to work.
The Wedge Guy: Why wedge mastery is so elusive
I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers over my 40-year golf industry career, because I have always believed that if you want to know what people are thinking, you simply have to ask them.
As a gearhead for wedges and a wedge designer over the past 30 years, most of my research and analysis is focused on these short-range scoring clubs and how golfers use them. What this research continually tells me is that most golfers—regardless of handicap–consider the wedges the hardest clubs in the bag to master. That’s because they are. I would even go so far as to say that the difficulty of attaining mastery even extends to the best players in the world.
Watching the Genesis Open this past weekend, for example, it seemed like these guys were hitting wedge approaches on nearly every hole. And while there were certainly many shots that covered the flag—like Max Homa’s approach on 18–there were also a great number that came up woefully short. Not what you would expect when a top-tier tour professional has a sand or gap wedge in their hands.
The simple fact is that wedges are the most difficult clubs in our bags with which to attain consistent shotmaking mastery, and that is because of the sheer design of the clubhead itself. For clarity of this article, I’m talking about those full- or near full-swing wedge shots, not the vast variety of short greenside shots we all face every round. To get mastery of those shots (like the tour pros exhibit every week), you simply have to spend lots of time hitting lots of shots, experimenting and exploring different techniques. There are no shortcuts to a deadly short game.
But today I’m talking about those prime opportunities to score, when you have a full- or near-full swing wedge into a par-five or short par four. We should live for those moments, but all too often we find ourselves disappointed in the outcome.
The good news is that’s not always all your fault.
First of all, you must understand that every wedge shot is, in effect, a glancing blow to the ball because of the loft involved. With 50 to 60 degrees of loft—or even 45 to 48 degrees with a pitching wedge—the loft of the club is such that the ball is given somewhat of a glancing blow. That demands a golf swing with a much higher degree of precision in the strike than say, an 8-iron shot.
I have always believed that most golfers can improve their wedge play by making a slower-paced swing than you might with a longer iron. This allows you to be more precise in making sure that your hands lead the clubhead through impact, which is a must when you have a wedge in your hands. Without getting into too much detail, the heavier, stiffer shaft in most wedges does not allow this club to load and unload in the downswing, so the most common error is for the clubhead to get ahead of the hands before impact, thereby adding loft and aggravating this glancing blow. I hope that makes sense.
The other aspect of wedge design that makes consistent wedge distance so elusive is the distribution of the mass around the clubhead. This illustration of a typical tour design wedge allows me to show you something I have seen time and again in robotic testing of various wedges.
Because all the mass is along the bottom of the clubhead, the ideal impact point is low in the face (A), so that most of the mass is behind the ball. Tour players are good at this, but most recreational golfers whose wedges I’ve examined have a wear pattern at least 2-4 grooves higher on the club than I see on tour players’ wedges.
So, why is this so important?
Understand that every golf club has a single “sweet spot”–that pinpoint place where the smash factor is optimized—where clubhead speed translates to ball speed at the highest efficiency. On almost all wedges, that spot is very low on the clubhead, as indicated by the “A” arrow here, and robotic testing reveals that smash factor to be in the range of 1.16-1.18, meaning the ball speed is 16-18% higher than the clubhead speed.
To put that in perspective, smash factor on drivers can be as high as 1.55 or even a bit more, and it’s barely below that in your modern game improvement 7-iron. The fact is—wedges are just not as efficient in this measure, primarily because of the glancing blow I mentioned earlier.
But–and here’s the kicker–if you move impact up the face of a wedge just half to five-eights of an inch from the typical recreational golfer’s impact point, as indicated by the “B” arrow, smash factor on ‘tour design’ wedges can be reduced to as low as 0.92 to 0.95. That costs you 40 to 60 feet on a 90-yard wedge shot . . . because you missed “perfect” by a half-inch or less!
So, that shot you know all too well—the ball sitting up and caught a bit high in the face—is going fall in the front bunker or worse. That result is not all your fault. The reduced distance is a function of the diminished smash factor of the wedge head itself.
That same half-inch miss with your driver or even your game-improvement 7-iron is hardly noticeable.
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