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Do You Really Understand Swingweight?
As a custom club builder, we get numerous orders for over-length golf clubs with a request to keep swingweight to a “conventional” D2-3 measure. Too many golfers have this notion that swingweight has to be there for the golf club to be “right”, regardless of their other specifications. In my opinion, this represents bad club building practice. Let me explain.

The swingweight scale measures the relative balance point of a golf club – nothing more, nothing less. There is no finite measure of “1 point of swingweight”. It is not a unit of measure like an ounce or gram. It takes less weight to change a 45” driver by one point, than it does to change a 35.5” wedge by the same amount. The scale uses a completely arbitrary range of measures, from B-zero to G-zero to compare the relative balance point of one club to another, and to an equally arbitrary “standard”.

When the swingweight scale and process was developed in the 1940s by Kenneth Smith – the first mass custom club builder -- he found that most good players’ clubs yielded a D0-D2 measure on his scale device. So this became the “gold standard” for what clubs should feel like. Bear in mind that during this era, clubs were much shorter, shafts were much heavier and heads much lighter than they are today.

As technology lightened and lengthened shafts over the decades, and made heads heavier, the swingweight scale remained a standard measuring device, and this adherence to the “gold standard” of D0-D2 remained as well. IT MAKES NO SENSE WHATSOEVER.

During the 1980s, Dave Pelz and a few others opined that this was too heavy and the “featherlite” craze was thrust upon us, with the new target swingweight in the ‘B’ range. History has proven that this was not good club design as these heads were just too light to do the job. The marketplace ruled that as fact.

So, that brings us to my philosophy of “swing weight equivalents”. No one else talks this way that I’ve ever heard. Here it is in a nutshell:
  1. Clubs at standard length seem to play best for most golfers at a swingweight around that D0-D2 range, slightly heavier for the higher loft wedges.

  2. If you make a club over-length, it will change this arbitrary reading proportionately. Each half inch of added length will change the swingweight reading about 4-5 points. So, an inch-long club that is identical in every other way to a standard length one will read somewhere around D8 on the swingweight scale. The headweight did not change. The grip weight did not change. The shaft weight changed by no more than 3-5 grams. But the swingweight now is D8 or so – the equivalent to a standard length club at D0-D2.

  3. Conversely, if you make a club shorter than standard, the opposite will happen. Leaving all other components the same, the swingweight will change to somewhere in the low- to mid-C range, again about 4-5 points for each half inch of adjustment.
The only way to beat this reality is to significantly compromise the head weight up or down, which changes the entire dynamic of the golf club and is not advisable in any circumstance.

To hit this arbitrary D0-D2 weight on clubs that are over or under length, you would have to remove or add as much as 5-7% of the head mass. And that would seriously compromise the playability and performance of the golf club.

This one is probably going to strike a nerve, but I can’t wait to hear what you guys have to say on the topic. Let’s roll.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.


[ comments ]
Gordon 1955 says:
If I have different make of irons (3 - 9) to my 3 wedges should the swing weight be the same?
11/11/11
 
el_pato_real says:
Okay, I admit that I read this fast, so if my question was answered in your post, I apologize. What are you suggesting exactly? Are you suggesting that when you lenthen or shorten a club, you should not try to balance it? It almost seems that you are saying that swingweight is meaningless. If that's the case, I kind of agree.

Big manufacturers "slug" their clubs to achieve optimal swingweight. My understanding is that slugging changes the center of gravity for the head...moving it up when adding weight. Is the optimal option to use heads that are custom fabricated for particular lengths?

Again, I think I get it...I just want to know what you think about what to do when adjusting length on clubs.
11/11/11
 
edwinatc says:
Perhaps the MOI matching is a better option than swingweight matching these days. What is your opinion?
11/13/11
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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