If are relatively new to golf you will encounter many new terms and ideas the more you play and watch the sport. One such term is golf club swing weighting.
You might think this refers to the weight of the golf club, but it much more than that.
The swing weight factor of a golf club rarely concerns casual golfers, but it certainly affects the serious ones. What is golf club swing weight, and why should it interest you?
Swing Weight Defined
Swing weight is the measure of the feel of your club’s weight when it is swung. It does not have the same meaning as the club’s overall or total weight, and it is not expressed in terms of weight metrics. Ralph Maltby, a clubmaker, defines swing weight as “the measurement of a golf club’s weight about a fulcrum point which is established at a specified distance from the grip end of the club.”
Phoenician Resort Director of Instruction Michael Lamanna further simplifies it by saying it is the extent to which your club balances in the direction of your club head. According to Lamanna, if club X’s balance point is at a closer distance to the club head when compared to club Y, then during the swing, club X will be heavier.
The actual total weight of the clubs does not matter. You can define it in many different ways, but in the end, all definitions come back to this — the feel of your club’s weight when swinging.
Measuring Swing Weight
A weight scale is used to measure swing weight. The swing scale is an alphanumeric code. The letters used are A, B, C, D, E, F, and G. The numerals used are 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 (up to 10 for G). Each letter and number combination is referred to as ‘swing weight point.’ On the swing scale, there are 73 swing weight measurements.
Before being produced, adjustments can be made to the swing weight. This can be done by the addition of lead tape. You can also change the components or add different varieties of fill materials in the shafts or inside the club heads.
The weights range from the lightest (A0) to the heaviest (G10). Most clubs used by men have a swing weight ranging from D0 to D2. Women’s swing weight typically ranges from C5 to C7. There is only a variation of two grams in the weights D0 and D1.
How Can You Alter the Swing Weight?
You can use several methods to change your club’s swing weight:
- Adding lead tape
- Using lead powder
- Using butt weights
- Using shaft tip weights.
Swing Weight vs. the Actual Weight
When you understand the difference between these two terms, it will help in your understanding of the swing weight’s role. A golf club’s actual weight is given in grams. The expression of swing weight is either C9 or D1 or some other letter and number combination. A swing weight scale is used to take these measurements. Swing weights are available for sale and use by individual golfers.
Take a 5-iron club, for example. It doesn’t matter where you add lead tape, the club’s actual weight will still be identical. If lead tape is added to the club head or at the shaft’s midpoint or grip, the actual weight of the club will remain the same — the club’s original weight plus the lead tape’s weight.
Picture yourself swinging the 5-iron club with lead tape added to its head, then at the shaft’s middle, and then on the club’s grip. The feel of the weight you will be swinging will vary and is dependent on the place the lead tape was added — even if the club’s total weight in all the instances is identical. The farther downwards the tape is put on a club, the heavier your club will feel when you swing.
The Use of Swing Weight in Golf
The swing weight’s principal role is to match the several clubs in a set. You will want all the clubs to have the same feeling of weight when you swing. If you are doing club replacement or addition, you will want your new club to have the same swing weight as the current ones.
But is swing weight that important? Recreational golfers who are the self-proclaimed equipment experts will argue that it is of crucial importance. Most golfers think their arguments are right, but some do not believe it is as important as people make it out to be.
One of those people is Lamanna. He says that, in his experience, most golfers only sense huge variations in swing weights. Tour pros even have difficulty spotting differences in swing weights between the clubs that have different shafts.
According to Lamanna, there seems to have been a shift in focus to the total weight as the fundamental weight measurement. In the 10 years that have passed, club manufacturers have put little emphasis on swing weight. These days, the club’s overall weight, mainly the shaft weight, is the measurement at the center of focus.
Research shows that for average golfers, lighter shafts are the better option. Less club weight creates accurate shots that fly a long way for beginners and even intermediate players. For the pros and low handicappers, their swing speeds will be higher, and they will have more control over the club’s movements. The recommended clubs for them have more actual weight and heavier swing weights.
It is a good idea to have clubs which have the same swing weight. Most golfers, however, do not see it as critical as long as the individual clubs’ swing weights are in close range to each other.
Factors Affecting Swing Weight
These are the factors that influence a club’s swing weight:
The Club Head’s Weight
Any changes in the club head’s weight, whether at the shaft’s tip or actual head, will have an impact on the swing weight, and the effect will be noticeable. A weight increase will increase the swing weight, while a decrease will decrease the swing weight. The golfer may not feel the minute changes in swing weight, but it is the club maker’s goal to match the clubs’ swing weights consistently.
The Grip’s Weight
Just like a change in the club head’s weight will affect the swing weight, so will a change in the club’s grip section. Given similar clubs with differences in grip sections, lighter swing weight is observed in the one that has a heavier grip. Heavier swing weight is observed in the one that has a lighter grip.
The Club’s Length
When the club is longer, the swing weight will be heavier. Conversely, when the club is shorter, the swing weight will be lighter.
The Shaft’s Weight
When there is a change in the shaft section of a club, for example, when it is made lighter, there will be an automatic change in both the swing weight and the total weight.
Swing Weight Myths
- Both ball and club speed are affected by swing weight
- Both spin and launch are affected by swing weight
- Swing weight has an impact on distance
- Swing weight has an impact on accuracy
- How you swing your club is influenced by swing weight
- Golf players only detect considerable variations in the swing weight
- Heavy swing weights are for stronger golfers
Testing the Myths
A test was undertaken on six players with handicaps that ranged from scratch to low teens. Every player used a 6-iron to hit five shots at four different swing weights — D0, D3, D6, and D9. Trackman was used to record the shots.
The tests were conducted at Club Champion.
Myth 1: Both Ball and Club Speed are Affected by Swing Weight
In the tests carried out in the past, e.g., the study on the shaft weight, there were mixed results for the ‘lighter is faster’ theory. In this case, though, the weight and speed relationship is more apparent. Out of the six testers, five of them experienced a drop in their median club speed while moving from swing weight D0 to D9. On average, all the golfers lost a club head speed of 2.75 MPH. A club head speed of close to 5 MPH was lost in an extreme case.
However, there was no clarity in the swing weight and ball speed relationship. When moving from D0 to D9, five of the golfers lost an average of 2.2MPH. Two golfers posted the highest ball speeds at swing weights over D0 — one at D9 and another at D6.
What makes this possible? Smash factor is responsible for this. It measures how energy is efficiently transferred from your club to your ball. Using the heaviest club, 4 of the golfers posted the highest smash factor. In simpler terms, heavier heads will generate more speed, provided the swing speed is the same. This is the reason several manufacturers make clubheads a bit heavier.
Myth 2: Both Spin and Launch are Affected by Swing Weight
The differences were not like those encountered in speed. They were less dramatic. However, swing weight heavily impacted the spin conditions and launch of each tester. Except in a single case, a change in the swing weight either added or deducted at least two degrees from the launch angle of the player. The spin changed within a 100 RPM range.
The way things look, the swing weight, spin, and launch correlation are personal. Three of the golfers launched the highest at D0. The remaining ones did so at D9 or D6. Four players spun lowest at D9. The other two spun highest at D9.
Myth 3: Swing Weight has an Impact on Distance
The trick to increasing your distance is just adding lead tape. Working through the various swing heights, the golfers experienced a change in their median range — a 7-yard minimum and a 39-yard maximum.
Unfortunately, three testers generated the farthest shots using the lowest swing weight. Two hit the longest at D6, and D9 is where the longest shot was generated. Just as it is with spin and launch, each player has a different swing weight that will create the maximum distance.
Myth 4: Swing Weight has an Impact on Accuracy
Swing weight broadly affects accuracy. As they were working through the various swing weights, the golfers’ shots varied at least 18 yards from the left to the right on the course. Testers went from painting flagsticks using one swing weight to missing their targets by 15 yards.
The highest accuracy registered by one tester was at D0. Two testers recorded the highest accuracy at D3, two at D6, and one at D9.
Myth 5: How you Swing Your Club is Influenced by Swing Weight
Considering the significant changes in accuracy, speed, and distance, it was expected that swing weight changes would cause a difference in the attack angle and path relationship of the testers. Out of the six, four golfers using higher swing weights swung their clubs more to the left, and two of them swung their clubs more in the right direction.
The changes were quite significant. They were about two degrees on average, while one was eight degrees.
The same manner was followed by the changes in the face to the path. The swings of four of them were more in the right direction, and the swings of two golfers were more in the left direction. The changes were all noticeable, and there were two more extreme instances.
There were mixed results for the attack angle. You might think that the heaviest head will result in a steeper and more negative angle of attack. However, this trend was only displayed by two testers. The rest of the golfers showed erratic patterns. At D9, three of them recorded the angle of attack that was shallowest.
Explaining this result, Club Champion founder Nick Sherburne said that your body would often respond to the heavy head by pulling itself up harder. This results in a negative attack angle.
Myth 6: Golf Players Only Detect Considerable Variations in the Swing Weight
In the early stages of testing, this myth was demystified. The D0 to D3 change represents a weight addition of only 6 grams. However, the testers found it noticeable. The golfers commented on the changes in the feel of the weight without being prompted. Data gathered indicates that the golfers’ swings were aware of the variation, too.
An analysis of the data reveals that any change, significant or not, has a great influence on the club’s performance.
Myth 7: Heavy Swing Weights are for Stronger Golfers
This myth also was demystified during testing. The fastest swinger used the club that was lightest to hit the ball the farthest distance. He used an even lighter club with the highest accuracy. The most energetic golfer’s swing went to pieces, and he used heavier swing weights.
Clearly, no rules can govern swing weight. It is simply personal.