A student at a recent golf instruction session asked about swingweight. He had read one of my golf tips in which I mentioned it and it sparked his interest. Never having heard the term he wanted to know what it was and how it affected his game. Those are good questions because swingweight is among the most misunderstood concepts in golf. It can have an impact on your game and your golf handicap without you even knowing.
Swingweight is a non-technical term. Clubmakers use it a lot. The easiest way to think of it is as a measurement of club feel. The higher the percentage of clubhead weight to the club’s total weight, the higher the swingweight. As Ralph Maltby, the famed clubmaker, defined it: “Swingweight is a balance measurement and is the degree to which the club balances toward the clubhead.” Swingweight is not the total weight of the club but only a percentage of it.
Swingweight is expressed by a letter (A, B, C, D) and a number (0 to 10). Measurements range from A0, the lightest, to G10, the heaviest. A club with a swingweight that measures D5, for example, will feel heavier when swung than a club with a swingweight that measures C7, even though their actual weights may be identical. Each club manufactured is weighed and labeled.
Two clubs weighing the same can feel distinctly different depending on how the weight is apportioned in each club. If you played golf with only one club, swingweight would not matter much. However, you don’t. Swingweight is important because you want every club in your bag to have a similar feel. Otherwise, you would have to get used to the feel of each club. Plus, you might play better with one swingweight than another.
Altering your clubs has an impact on swingweight. Let’s say, for example, you decide to lengthen all your clubs by one-half inch. You would change the weight of the club without changing the weight of the clubhead by raising the swingweight three points, say from D0 to D3. This holds true whether your club possess standard weight or lightweight shafts. Conversely, take the same club and shorten it by one-half inch and the swingweight drops from D10 to D7.
Swingweight is adjustable post-production by adding lead tape or changing out the components, like using a larger clubhead, a different shaft or grip, or trimming the shaft. Clubmakers also adjust swingweight in some cases by adding different types of fill material inside shafts at different points or inside the clubhead,
Take a 3-iron. Imagine adding lead tape to the 3-iron. No matter where you put the tape, the actual weight of the club will be identical. That is, if the lead tape is on the club head, at the middle of the shaft, or on the grip, the actual weight will be the same, the original weight of the club plus the weight of the lead tape.
Now imagine swinging the 3-iron with the lead tape first on the clubhead, then on the middle of the shaft, and then on the grip. The weight you feel when swinging the club will be different depending on where the lead tape has been added, even though the total weight of the club is identical in all three instances. That’s swingweight.
Importance of Swingweight
Everyone has a swingweight at which they play their best. For example, research indicates that lighter swingweights are better for the average golfer. Less weight produces longer, more accurate shots for golfers with high and middle golf handicaps. Players with low golf handicaps and professionals have high swingweight speed, more control over the movements of the club, and a more acute sense of feel for the clubhead. The clubs best suited for them feature heavier swingweights.
Swingweight is used to match clubs in a set. A misunderstood concept, it’s better for clubs to all match in swingweight. If you’re happy with the performance of your clubs and aren’t anxious to make any changes, then swingweight is incidental. But if you’re looking to buy a new set of clubs or are thinking about altering your present equipment, be aware that each adjustment you make will impact the balance, feel, and swingweight of your clubs. The change may also affect your scores and your golf handicap.