When feel is the deal, tour pros
are quick to check swingweights
A RECEN T TWEAK B Y DUSTIN JOHNSON UNDERSCORES THE IMPORTANCE OF WEIGHT DISTRIBUTION
THROUGHOUT THE SET. LIGH TER SHAFTS, GRIPS AND CLUBHEADS CAN IMPACT OVERALL FEEL
24 FEBRUAR Y 20, 2012 ❮ GOLFWORLD.COM
With all the talk about adjust- able weight, the topic of
swingweight has been lost
in the shuffle. And that’s not
good. Swingweight is an important aspect of club fitting.
At the AT&T Pebble Beach
National Pro-Am Dustin
Johnson was in the TaylorMade van early Monday. The
reason: He wanted the Tour
Preferred MC irons he had
put in play at the Humana
Challenge checked. In addition to loft and lie-angle
checks, Johnson had the van
techs replace the Precision
Weight Port on his irons to ensure an exact swingweight of
D5 throughout the set.
Although vitally important, swingweight is one of the
most misunderstood terms in golf. Ever since Kenneth
Smith pioneered the swingweight principle in the 1940s by
using a lorythmic (A, B, C, D, E, F) scale, swingweighting
has been the generally accepted method for matching clubs
within a set so they all feel alike when swung. Although
most believe swingweight refers to the overall weight of
the club, it is anything but. In short, it is a measurement of
the weight distribution of the club. And with the advent of
lighter shafts, grips and clubheads (the three components
that are most likely to alter a club’s swingweight), the possibility of a wider range of swingweights—and thus, more
inconsistency from club to club—is greater.
Johnson’s tweaking of his irons was the result of wanting
to achieve a desired feel rather than something he had
done to his clubs. Swingweight, however, takes on even
greater meaning in clubs that have been altered. For example, if you cut down the length of your driver, you must
add weight back to the head to counteract the swingweight
decrease that comes from shortening the club.
According to club designer Tom Wishon, author of The
Search for the Perfect Golf Club, for every inch you shorten
your driver, you must add
12 grams to the head to
offset that effect. Lead tape
will do the job. Place it on
the sole or around the back
of the head and you’ll be
fine. But remember that
each 4-inch-long strip of
half-inch-wide lead tape
equals one swingweight
point. Such a philosophy
isn’t only for drivers. A few
years ago Jason Gore used
lead tape to adjust the
swingweight on new irons.
“These new clubs were a
handmade set made with
longer shafts,” Gore said.
“When they shortened
them, the swing weight was off, so they didn’t feel right. I put
the tape on them and it was fine.”
Lightweight shafts are becoming more popular, but does
that mean you should use a club with a lighter swingweight?
Probably not. Most golfers switching to a light graphite shaft
probably should employ a swingweight two points higher
than what they were comfortable with when using a heavier
shaft. That’s because the change to a lighter shaft will reduce
the club’s total weight, which in turn can cause tempo to
quicken. You need to increase the feel of the head weight to
retain your tempo. A good rule of thumb is that for every 20
grams you decrease the weight of your shaft, increase the
swingweight by one point over what was comfortable with
your previous clubs.
How do you know when you have the right swingweight?
Primarily by feel. If the swingweight is too light, you will
sense you’re having a harder time controlling your tempo
and the number of times you hit the ball on the heel or top
it will increase. If the swingweight is too high, you will find
yourself pushing the ball more, and the club will feel too
heavy and more laborious to swing.
Laboring on the course is something no one wants to do.
Johnson certainly wasn’t struggling at Pebble Beach GL. He
finished T-5 after making his swingweight adjustment. N
JEFF GROSS/GETTY IMAGES
TaylorMade techs adjusted Johnson’s new irons to good effect at Pebble.