Swingweight: Pull your weight in golf

Size matters, or does it not? We can’t be sure of that but in golf, weight matters. Golf is a game where the opponent is menacing because of the ambiguity of it. The opponent is the golf course and it doesn’t respond to you. That makes it a formidable adversary. So every detail of golfing is as crucial as the spare parts of USS Enterprise. You need to get them right. This is where the swingweight debate has taken hold. It demands the explanation as to what swing weight actually means:

In layman’s terms, “Swingweight of a club is how heavy it ‘feels ‘, during the swing.” The ‘feeling’ is, technically, an approximation of the way the weight of the club is distributed across its body.

Total weight vs swingweight: The weight of a golf club has two parameters of measurement: Total weight and Swingweight. Now, ‘total weight’ of the club is the weight of the entire club in grams. However, for clubs of a given total weight, the concentration of weight may be more toward the clubhead or more toward the grip. Usually the clubs where the balance of weight is more toward the clubhead feel heavier even if they are of the same total weight as others. So, the fact remains if a golfer were to use two clubs with the same total weight but different swingweights, he or she will find one to be heavier that the other.

Therefore, more specifically, swingweight is the weight distribution of the club around a fixed fulcrum location on it.

Should you worry about swingweight?: Volunteered by Kenneth Smith, the concept resonated with golfers because it proved immensely important to how they fared on a course. A powerful pro golfer would not want the club to feel too light, putting unnecessary force into the swing and resulting in casting or bladed shot. But they wouldn’t want to feel like they are dragging the club either. The club needs to feel as right and spontaneous as an extension of your own arm. The key to it is the right swingweight. Championing this weight means that your club feels perfectly balanced, neither too light nor too heavy. This allows you to be acutely aware as to where the club is at any point during the swing. Without looking at your swing’s trajectory, you are able to figure out how to control its angle and momentum.  Swingweight gets proprioception tied up in a neat bow.

Swingweight scale: Swingweight is usually expressed in a combination of letters A,B,C,D,E,F and numbers 0,1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9, the lightest being A0 and heaviest being F9. While men usually go for a swingweight of low Ds, women opt for low to mid Cs. The swingweight depends on a number of factors like the weight of the club’s grip, or that of shaft or, more crucially, the clubhead. The point of physical fulcrum is also extremely important.

Measurement:  Swingweight can be measured using a scale designed by Kenneth Smith himself. It consists of a 14” fulcrum that can read both kinds of weight of the club. It stations the club at the fulcrum point and measures the amount of weight required to balance the overhanging part of the club.

What swingweight is right for you?:  For strong players, a higher swingweight is recommended. For weaker ones, lower swingweight makes sense. Additionally, it helps if all the clubs in your set are of same or similar swingweight.

Playing around for the right swingweight: All this fuss about swingweight! There must be a way to manage it yourself, right? There is. Lead tape is a lifesaver to achieve the right amount of swingweight. 4 4½ inch X ½ inch piece of this tape at the clubhead is likely to increase swingweight by 1 point.  Changing the grip size or using a different shaft also helps. To decrease it, you may consider alternatives like removing material from the clubhead.  It has been found that one swingweight point is equal to 2 grams in the clubhead approximately. If you reduce the weight of the grip of a club by four grams, you may find 1 point increase in swingweight.  Please keep in mind that any alteration in swingweight by adding or removing materials will change the total weight of the club as well.

While all the details involved in acing your golf stint could fill a few golf diaries, these simple guidelines on swingweight and the right swing itself would go a long way in ‘putt’ing (pun intended) you onstage with the pros. It is one of the many considerations that keep many a golfer awake at night. But with enough practice you could be waving the Claret jug instead of swinging shots derisive of your golfing reputation.

Janie G. Smith