This Thing Called 'Swingweight'
Thanks for all the feedback last week. Since the topic of swingweight came up repeatedly, I thought I would respond to the requests for me to dive deeper into that. And from my experience, it's one of the most misunderstood elements of golf club measuring.

The concept was developed back in the 1950s by pioneer custom clubmaker Kenneth Smith. He devised the principle of the modern swingweight scale using letter and numbers to measure the relative balance point of a golf club. At the time, the most popular clubs he measured came in at this completely arbitrary level of "D2". Understand that a point of swingweight is not a finite measurement like a gram or an ounce. Since swingweight refers to the relative balance point of a golf club, a 45" driver with a 200-gram head can "weigh" the same as a 35" lob wedge with a 310 gram head.

It takes more actual weight to move a wedge from D2 to D5 for example, than it does to move a driver an equal step. Swingweight. If you make a club longer, the swingweight goes up, even though the overall weight of the club didn't change by much at all. Likewise, if you cut one inch off the club, the swingweight will reduce by several points, even though that one inch of shaft weighs only a couple of grams.

What swingweight is supposed to measure is the relative "feel" of the golf club. The higher the swingweight, the more head feel you get back to your hands ... given the same shaft. This is where it gets really dicey. A soft graphite shaft will make the same swingweight feel heavier than if that club had a stiffer steel shaft. That's a function of both the flexing of the shaft, which produces what we call "motion feedback" -- the sensation in the hands of the motion happening out at the clubhead. Likewise, carbon fibers are more sensitive than tubular steel, so that has an impact as well.

So, if you cut a couple of inches off a driver, and the swingweight goes from D2 to C6 or something, what you have is very little change in the overall mass of the golf club, but a change in the balance point. If you want more head feel, it certainly doesn't hurt to add a little lead tape, and you can even tweak the performance a bit by whether you put that tape on the heel or toe areas.

But before you do any of that, just hit the dang thing and see how you like it. It might take a little adjusting, but you might just find you like it better.

Swingweight. Kind of like bounce ... very few really understand it, but it affects us all.
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[ comments ]
birdieXris says:
I've finally dialed in the swing weight of every club in my bag. It does make a difference. Nothing like swinging a 4 iron that's completely different than your 6 and wedges and woods that feel like they'll float away.
8/23/13
 
joe jones says:
I had a set of Ken Smith clubs that were fitted for me in 1959. They were wonderful. I played with them for two rounds before they were stolen from my trunk at the golf course.I parked my 59 Buick Le Sabre convertible with the top down and someone cut through my rear boot and gained access to the trunk that way. My insurance only allowed $200 and the Smith's cost $600 so I never replaced them. I wound up buying a set of Louisville Grand Slams off the rack. They were good clubs but could not compare to the Smith's.One of life's cruel lessons.
8/23/13
 
Matt McGee says:
Wow. $600 in 1959 dollars is a pricey set of clubs.
8/23/13
 
Gromit5 says:
Digression! Darn it, er, I mean dang it, I was going to ask Terry to discuss the relative merits of having a set of clubs built using an MOI scale vs a swingweight scale, but I was so enthralled by "The Story Of How Had His Clubs Stolen," I was thrown off course (no pun intended). I thought the part about his insurance compensation was very informative, not to mention the year of his Buick, or the startling coincidence that it was the same vintage as the clubs.
However, I'm a bit unsure as to how this even was "one of life's cruel lessons."
By the way, that's rhetorical, not an invitation to reply. I'm sorry jj, but I have a confession. I'm the guy who stole your clubs. Will you forgive me?
8/24/13
 
Gromit5 says:
Hey, the Big Computer left off the jj in the title. Who's runnin' this thing?
8/24/13
 
Shallowface says:
Thanks Terry! I appreciate you following up on this topic.
8/24/13
 
QuickBrownFox says:
My hybrid always feels lifeless or wooden. Do you think I can address this by adjusting the swing weight? It is a graphite ping g15 which is part of a "matched set" of g15s with graphite shafts right down to lob wedge.
8/26/13
 
Tim Horan says:
I must have ADD (ADHD) I didn't follow Gromit5's post at all. Did he steal JJ's clubs? Is it just me or do we all want to know more?
8/27/13
 
Gromit5 says:
Tim: If you didn't "get it," then nothing I can say will help.
9/4/13
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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