Discussing Swingweight: History
For the twenty-five plus years I’ve been in the equipment business, one of the most commonly asked about subjects is that of swingweight. It mostly comes up when a golfer is requesting over-length clubs or is contemplating changing to graphite shafts. So, for the next week or so, I’m going to direct a discussion of this topic. Please chime in to let me know your thoughts and input.
The concept of swingweight was developed by custom clubmaker Kenneth Smith about 60 years ago.
He was trying to figure out how to “match” clubs, and settled on balance point as a way to do so. His swingweight scale had a “hook” to hold the grip end of the club, and a fulcrum 14” from the butt. He created an arbitrary scale of measure that consisted of letters A-F, each letter divided into ten segments, i.e. D1, D2, D3, etc.
When he measured the clubs of the day, he found most of them to be in the D2 range, so that became recognized as the “standard” for men’s woods and irons.
The golf club industry quickly adopted this method of “matching” clubs . . . well, because they had no other way !
Because the longer the shaft, the heavier the head feels, clubheads increase in weight as the shaft gets shorter, so that the swingweight will stay the same. The theory then, and now, is that if the swingweight is the same, the clubs will feel essentially the same in the golfer’s hands.
But let’s look at what has happened since Kenneth Smith invented the swingweight scale:
1) Shafts have gotten longer by at least an inch. In the 1940s, a “standard” driver was only 42-43” long – now most are 45” if not more.
2) Shafts have gotten much lighter. Those old steel shafts weighed 150 grams or more, compared to modern graphite driver shafts in the 55-75 gram range.
3) Golfers have gotten stronger. While clubs have gotten much lighter overall, swingweights have always adhered to that D2 “standard”.
You must understand two very important factors about swingweight.
First, a “point” of swingweight – such as D2 to D3 – is NOT a unit of measure like an ounce or gram.
It takes much less weight to shift a driver one point, for example, than it does a wedge, because the shaft length is such an influence on this measure. Generally, the weight of a single dollar bill is a swingweight point on a driver – not much, huh ?
Second, the overall weight of the club is at least as important as swingweight. Jack Nicklaus was noted for playing a driver in his prime that was 13-1/4 oz in overall weight – very heavy even for that time (most are about 10-1/2 oz now !), while his swingweight was only C9, considered very light.
Swingweight by itself is a rather worthless piece of information !
So, that should get this discussion going. I’ll give you a few days to toss out your questions and comments on this subject and then I’ll begin to address my own theories on swingweight for YOUR clubs.
Use the comments section below to let me know your thoughts and to move this discussion toward the pieces of info that will help you the most.
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Steve S says:
Terry, I am by no means someone that has extensive experience. I'm 53 yo and been golfing for 3 years; and a retired engineer-so I analyze everything. I've read everything I can get my hands on about the technical aspects of golf equipment-your site, and other well known custom club makers-I've even built a few clubs of my own. Experimented with different grips, lengths, and swingweights; and I've come to the conclusion that swingweight has no significant bearing on my golfswing and results. What I have found is that the length of my clubs has more impact on my consistency than anything else. My driver is 43", 4w-40", 25*hy -38", my 6i-37" and each higher lifted club is 1/2" shorter than the previous. I have all graphite shafts and could never rationalize the lomger lengths vs steel. I don't believe that the 1/2-1" shorter club makes that much difference in distance as opposed to the consistency and center club impact has on my game with the shorter clubs. For me swingweight is a non-issue.
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