There are a great number of factors to be considered when fitting a golfer for clubs. Some of these factors will have a major impact on the outcome of the fitting; some will have a medium influence, while others will have a minor influence. For example, loft on a club has a major influence on ball flight. Loft is the most important factor in determining the initial launch angle of the ball and contributes greatly to the amount of spin the ball will have. A factor such as kick point will have a minor influence on how high the ball is launched. It certainly has an influence, but it is minor not major. It is more of a feel factor than a performance factor.
One often overlooked factor or at least one parameter that does not get the attention it deserves or that is needed is that of club weight and club weight distribution. Total weight, quite simply, is the static weight of a golf club, usually measured in grams. As a rule of thumb, a stronger golfer will prefer a somewhat heavier club, while weaker, slower swinging golfers will prefer a lighter total weight. The total weight has a major influence on how a club feels in a golfer’s hands. As well, how easily the golfer can swing a club through impact is often determined by a club’s total weight. Total weight has a major influence on a golfer’s ability to maintain a comfortable rhythm with his swing. If a club is too light a golfer may get too quick with his swing and encounter impact issues. If the club is too heavy, the golfer will struggle to generate clubhead speed and find swinging through impact very difficult.
There are only three factors that affect a club’s total weight. They are the weight of the clubhead, the weight of the shaft and to a lesser extent the weight of the grip. The head weight can be altered somewhat by either adding weight to the head or by removing weight. This is basically limited to a few grams either way. The grip contributes to the total weight, but grips of a standard size, for example, are all within a few grams of the standard of 48-52 grams. It is the shaft that can vary greatly in weight. In irons, for example, the shaft can weigh anywhere from 40 grams up to 135 grams. Shaft weight will, by far, have the greatest impact on how a club feels to the golfer. If a golfer is trying to create more clubhead speed, then building clubs with as light a total weight as possible will give that golfer the potential to create more clubhead speed. The lighter the club, the faster the golfer can swing it and vice versa. This is generally true, but as with everything there are exceptions. Each golfer is unique and the best total weight for any golfer will ultimately come down to testing with various weights of clubs to determine what will yield the best performance with the best feel for that golfer.
A lot of the feel of a club is determined by the swing weight (SW) of a club. SW is a measurement that reflects the feel of a clubhead. The higher the swing weight the heavier the club feels. The more weight there is in the head, the higher the SW will be, the heavier the shaft, the higher the SW, the heavier the grip the lighter the SW. By manipulating the weight distribution in a golf club it is quite easy to build a club that has a fairly light overall total weight but has a heavier feel because of the weight that has been added to the head or by using a lighter grip to accentuate the feeling of a heavier clubhead. SW relates to feel and is impacted by head weight and total length of a club. When balancing a set of clubs, caution must be used. It is quite possible to build a club with an acceptable SW but a total weight that is much too heavy.
I believe a better way to balance clubs is by Moment of Inertia (MOI). MOI reflects how much energy is required to set a club in motion. Balancing a set of clubs to MOI results in clubs that feel exactly the same when being swung. If each club has the same MOI, then each club feels and swings the same. When balancing clubs to MOI shaft weight and head weight have a much greater influence on feel. Grip weight has a very minor influence. Heavier or lighter grips do not contribute much to the overall MOI of a club since this weight is located in the hands.
By manipulating head weight, shaft weight and grip weight, many combinations of total weight relative to feel can be created. With the correct combination, a golfer will find it much easier to maintain a better club path, have more solid impacts, maintain a comfortable tempo and maximize distance. Don’t underestimate the importance of club weight.
/ Don Irving, Master Club Fitter, Artisan Golf