swingweight matters

Golf Club Specs: Why Swingweight Matters

swingweight chart

A common swingweight chart. It’s important, but let the experts handle it, really.

Why Swingweight Matters

How swingweight works and putting proper golf club weighting to use.

So I was visiting the Twin Cities friendly neighborhood 2nd Swing store in Minnetonka, Minn., this past Monday. I had reached my breaking point with the current set of irons I was using. I had gotten them late last summer and for some reason was not getting consistent shots.

While I will be the first to admit that it was more likely a fault of my slowly declining golf skills, there was something just not right. I met with store General Manager Scott Johnson, who is my two-ball partner and has a vested interest in seeing me play well. (He also enjoys taking my money from our friendly rounds with a wager or two thrown in.)

We put my irons on the swingweight scale.

The first thing I noticed was that the swingweights were all over the place. Maybe two irons were the same. Not only that, but every iron was overall light in weight. What happened?

Remember the good old days when you got a set of irons and it felt like they literally were made of iron? Heavy, great for making divots, and defending your house from intruders (I’ve even heard they can do damage to vehicles when swung with the right force or anger level.).

But the club was heavy and it felt heavy. These days quite a few of the manufacturers have gone to creating irons and iron sets that are lighter, and they promote that fact by stating how a golfer can generate greater clubhead speed for more distance.

We tested that theory by taking brand-new iron sets off the rack and checking the swingweight. All of the sets were lighter than what I recalled as being as “normal” or “standard.”

Sure, you can probably generate more clubhead speed, and the club seems lighter as you swing it. However, you lose the “feel” of the club. As a golfer, one of the most important parts of the game is feel. If you can’t feel where the clubhead is at the top of your backswing, then it’s a crap shoot how the clubhead will get back to the ball at impact. This simple fact is another reminder why it is so important to work with a 2nd Swing clubfitter.

Get either get your existing clubs or that new set of irons properly weighed, have the loft and lie checked and make sure the proper grip size is installed — for starters.

So how did I resolve my problem? The simple, easy, and least expensive way. I purchased some lead tape and started putting strips on the back the clubhead.

After the first strip, I would take some practice swings to see if I could better feel the clubhead. It actually took two strips for lead tape for each iron for me to most consistently feel the clubhead at the top of my swing. The added benefit was I now able to more consistently release the head into the ball, gain a higher ball flight and let the club do the work.

As a golfer, you do not need to understand the terms of swingweight and what the numbering system means. What you need to know is: “Can I feel the club head at the top of my swing?”

If the answer is no, then it may be one of the reasons your iron set is not performing to your expectations. Me, I’m ready get some of my money back from Scott, and we’re both hoping for a long run in our club match play tourney.


Golf Club Specs: Swingweight


Golf Club Specs: Swingweight

Club length and its relation to swingweight and then distance or power striking.

Many times a golfer will hear that the longer a club’s shaft is the farther he will hit the ball.

This makes sense when you consider that the club acts like a lever, and we all know that you can more easily move weight with a longer-length lever. However, the problem occurs when the golfer keeps trying longer and longer shafts for better and better and results.

At some point, he notices he could not hit a fairway if his life depended on it.

Eventually, he’ll figure out that he must back down to a length that allows some distance gain, but still keeps the ball in play. The other fact to consider is that if the golfer continues to use the same clubhead as he experiments with ever longer shafts, the swing weight is going up until it weighs out heavier than his sand wedge (which, obviously, is very heavy).

Why is this?

The club’s feel and swingweight (Let’s use a driver as an example.) was fine at standard length, but now at two inches longer, the thing weighs a ton. To understand what happened, we must first understand what “swingweight” actually is.

Many years ago, golfers put together their “matched” set of clubs by not much more than the heft and feel of each one in their hands as they waggled the stick. This might have worked for the extremely skilled player blessed with wonderful feel, but for most folks it produced anything but a matched set of clubs.

It later was determined that even the great Bobby Jones — who had put together set by feel and won multiple tournaments — had clubs that measured a wide range of swingweights when put on a modern-day swingweight scale. 

Eventually, golf enthusiasts decided something must be better than just hefting a club in a hand. So in the 1930s, Spalding Sports, with Mr. Jones’ help, created a “waggle-o-meter.” This quantified the feel and heft of clubs.

A club builder named Kenneth Smith created the basis for the modern-day swingweight scale that uses a type of fulcrum that balances on a pivot point. Smith put the grip end and a portion of the club shaft on one side of the fulcrum. The grip end is stopped at a predetermined length, usually around 14 inches.

The remaining length of the club, along with the clubhead, hangs off the other end of the fulcrum. And a sliding weight on a scale measures how much the remaining end weighs. Then a series of readings called swingweight points will identify how heavy or light a club will feel in the golfer’s hands.

Swingweight scales are widely available online to be used in combination with charts (See the one above.) or especially through golf club fitters, such as 2nd Swing Golf’s experts.

A light-feeling club will measure C7 or C8, and a standard-feeling club will read D1 or D2. Finally, a heavy-feeling club would be E1 or E2. 

When you only increase the length of a club (such as that driver again), but keep the same clubhead and weight, you will see that a longer portion of the club’s length will hang out over the fulcrum, which we already discussed. The longer the length over the fulcrum, the heavier the swingweight reading will be. That indicates a heavier feel.

Unless you begin to remove some actual weight from the clubhead, the reading will continue to climb as you increase the length. You can appreciate this when you heft the longer club and see that it is becoming unwieldy. Conversely, if you cut a club’s length shorter, you must add some weight to the clubhead to keep the swingweight or heft equal to what you had prior to the cut.

So, before you go adding or subtracting length to your clubs, consider the swingweight changes and how this will effect the feel of your club.