Published on February 15th, 2014 | by Frank Fenton
How Changing a Club’s Length Affects Swing Weight
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 swing weight (Let’s use a driver as an example.) was fine at standard length, but now at 2 inches longer, the thing weighs a ton. To understand what happened, we must first understand what “swing weight” 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 swing weights when put on a modern-day swing weight 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 swing weight 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 swing weight points will identify how heavy or light a club will feel in the golfer’s hands.
Swing weight 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 swing weight 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 club head to keep the swing weight or heft equal to what you had prior to the cut.
So, before you go adding or subtracting length to your clubs, consider the swing weight changes and how this will effect the feel of your club.