In a previous article, I discussed the fitting of the shaft weight and mentioned that a discussion about the weight of a golf club should not only include shaft weight, but swing weight as well.
The reason? These two elements are so interrelated, and so important when it comes to helping golfers find clubs that will give them their best tempo, timing, rhythm and of course, their best shots.
Before I dig in any further, let’s clarify two things:
Shaft weight is by far the biggest contributor to the total weight of the club, which is simply a measurement of how heavy a club is.
Swing weight is the measurement of the head-weight feel of a club. A club with a heavier swing weight will feel heavier to a golfer than one with a lighter swing weight, because its balance point is closer to the club head.
As with the fitting of the shaft weight, the club fitter also has to evaluate the golfer’s transition force, tempo, strength and any pre-determined feel preference the golfer may have when making the decision of what the swing weight of the clubs needs to be.
Both elements — shaft weight and swing weight — are influenced by the same golfer swing characteristics, which is why good club fitters will fit for both the shaft weight and the swing weight at the same time in the fitting process.
In the actual fitting process, however, the shaft weight comes first. This is because the test clubs required to focus on the fitting of shaft weight and swing weight together have to first be assembled with a shaft that the club fitter deems suitable from his analysis.
Shaft flex and bend-profile design is also important, and I’ll cover that in my next article. It’s why good club fitters think about weight and flex/bend profile simultaneously in the fitting process — they have to in order to come up with candidate shafts to use in the test club hitting sessions.
Once the club fitter determines a shaft with suitable weight and the best flex/bend profile characteristics for the golfer’s swing characteristics, the matter of fitting for the swing weight is done by having the golfer hit shots with a test club while adding lead tape to the club head. Shot shape, on-center hit results, and certainly the feedback from the golfer are then assessed.
Usually, it goes like this. As the golfer hits shots with the test clubs, the fitter adds lead tape to the clubs heads — about two swing weight points at a time — while observing the ball flight and on-center hit performance.
The fitter is also asking the golfer questions such as:
How does your swing tempo/timing feel?
Do you sense that you are fighting any tendency to be too quick with your tempo?
Do you sense that you have to make more of an effort to swing the club?
Do you feel the presence of the club head during the swing enough?
Do you feel that the head feels a little too light, too heavy, about right?
The club fitter has to find that point at which the golfer begins to sense either a little better feelor begin to feel that his swing tempo and timing is better for the weight feel of the test clubs. That really is the key of a successful total weight/swing weight fitting — when the golfer does not have to consciously think about his swing tempo and timing.
It just happens.
And because the swing weight fitting process has to also include the flex/bend profile and weight of the shaft, the fitter knows that he will be switching between the different shafts he has evaluated as suitable for the golfer while he is also performing the “add a little weight at a time to the club head” evaluation to determine the best head weight feel for the golfer.
This is a perfect example of how experienced club fitters will “multi-task” to evaluate separate, but related specs in the fitting process, all at the same time. It’s why good club fitters are good and others are not when it comes to simultaneously evaluating each of these separate but very much related fitting elements.
The goal in the swing weight fitting is to get the golfer to a point where he reports that the club head is starting to feel a little bit too heavy, or the club is starting to require a little more effort to swing than the golfer would prefer. At that point, the club fitter removes a little of the head weight. Then a few more shots are hit to determine if the golfer still senses the head weight feel to be too much, or just right.
It is possible that the golfer never indicates a distinct, positive feel preference for the weight feel of the test club even when the head weight is brought back from a point of feeling too heavy for the golfer. When this happens, the good club fitters know that they need to test the golfer with a different weight shaft and go through the head weight fitting process all over again.
In my previous story, I offered some basic shaft weight fitting guidelines:
These are guidelines that work for most golfers, but are not 100 percent set in stone for all golfers.
It is not uncommon for strong/aggressive transition/faster tempo golfers to end up being better fit into lighter shafts, but with a higher swing weight. While it certainly is less common for weaker/smooth transition/smooth tempo golfers to do better with a heavier shaft, it is not impossible.
This is why a very experienced club fitter can be worth his weight in gold. With experience come more situations in which the fitter encounters golfers who deviate from the guidelines.
Good clubfitters also realize that the interaction of shaft weight and swing weight is such that it is always possible to find strong/aggressive transition/faster tempo golfers who achieve their best tempo consistency with a lighter shaft, but with a higher swing weight to prevent the light shaft from making the clubs feel too light in some manner.
After all, there are a lot of tour players who play well with 60-to-65-gram shafts in their drivers and fairway woods. And a heavier head weight feel is how this can happen, even though logic may say that the player is too strong and forceful to be fit into such a lightweight shaft.
Sidebar: MOI Matching as an Alternative to Swing Weight Matched Clubs
Matching all clubs in a set to their MOI has become a viable alternative to swing weight matching for many golfers. MOI matching may also be thought of roughly as building the clubs in a set to progressively increase swing weights from long to short irons in the set.
Candidates for MOI matching over swing weight matching can be golfers who:
Go in and out of consistency issues with the irons
Suffer from occasional-to-frequent bouts of pulling short iron shots offline
Sense less comfort and consistency with the short irons vs other irons in the set
Sidebar: Don’t Get Trapped by a Specific Swing Weight
Remember, swing weight is NOT an actual measurement of weight as are grams, ounces or pounds. Swing weight is an arbitrary measurement of the relationship of weight in a golf club about the 14-inch fulcrum point on a swing weight scale.
When fitting swing weight, good club fitters really know that they are instead fitting for the head weight feel of the golf club. They are trying to find what head weight feel is going to bring about the best swing tempo and shot consistency for the golfer based on the length, shaft weight and grip weight of the clubs.Once that best head weight feel is found for the golfer, then the club fitter can perform a swing weight measurement to have as a guideline for the other clubs in the set, or as a baseline for taking the golfer into an MOI matched set.
In short, the head weight feel of D2 in a club that is 45 inches with a 60-gram shaft and a 50-gram grip is not going to be the same head weight feel as D2 in a club that is 43.5 inches with an 80-gram shaft and 40-gram grip.Thus, golfers should not get locked into a particular swing weight when changing length, shaft weight, or grip weight but rather go through a new investigation into what head weight will bring about the best tempo and timing in the swing.
Good club fitters know this, so once they choose the best length, shaft weight and grip preferred by the golfer, they fit for the best head weight feel and do not get locked into a specific swing weight.