The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Six
Playing length measurements of the test golf clubs being constructed (first referring specifically to the head ends of the clubs) must be taken to points consistent with the points used when discussing the tip ends of the shafts and shaft installation depths, which are the intersecting points between the shaft centerlines and respective clubhead ground lines when the clubheads are properly soled on the ground. Failing to adhere to this consistency of measuring at the clubhead ends for shaft installation to start with and then total club length afterward can potentially spell disaster later, such as ending up with two test clubs whose shafts and total lengths are identical and yet whose shaft step alignments or stepless diameter change(s) directly under one’s hands when holding onto each club would vary (even with identical golf grips on both clubs). Such differences can be noted, can directly affect one’s swing performance, and thus can clearly affect test results.
With respect to trimming the test club shafts at their butt ends, traditional measuring instruction dictates that a technique should be used whereby the final (identical) test club lengths are determined, and then the ungripped clubs should each be cut to a total length that is one eighth of an inch shorter than the chosen final club length. Total club length measuring is performed along the centerline of its shaft from the point of intersection at the clubhead end noted above to a desired point up at the butt end of the club. In the case of tradition, the point measured to at the butt end in order to determine a total golf club length is the farthest physical point that can be reached at the butt end of an installed golf grip. Since many golf grip designs are deemed to have approximately one eighth of an inch of added material from the point where the bare shaft ends to the point where the physical grip ends after being installed on a shaft, it is customarily taught that cutting a bare-shafted golf club a little shorter than the final golf club total length desired is the proper technique for measuring, trimming, and achieving a given golf club total length.
If, by the way the previous paragraph was worded, you surmised that I am not in favor of this particular clubmaking tradition, you are correct. But this is an element that does not have great relevance toward this specific testing and what is expected to be learned from this testing, so this is something I expect I will explain further later, perhaps when going into golf club length in more detail. But for now, one must be extremely cognizant that strict consistency in the way these test clubs are measured and trimmed is of the utmost importance if forthcoming test results are to be considered highly reliable. With respect to what identical total lengths the test clubs should ultimately be constructed to, there is a good deal of leeway in this regard. This is a training exercise (although such test clubs can be used for actual clubfitting purposes) and comprises testing specifically set up to learn primarily about explicit relationships between grip size/weight, swingweight, and certain golf shaft/club characteristics (not including length). It is not expressly meant to determine a total, precise setup for actual playing, so these test clubs would not have to be set exactly or even necessarily close to one’s personal playing length (if one even knows what that might be at this point).
As long as the test clubs are not so short that you might be able to swing them more effectively when on your knees (actually you might still be able to gain the needed knowledge from that position) or so long that you keep hitting the guy with your test clubs who is trying to use the driving range stall behind you, you should be able to acceptably gain the specific clubfitting experience and knowledge sought after here. Still, while something you should hardly become obsessed with (at least at this stage), there can be added benefits to getting the test clubs as close as possible to one’s desired final golf club length (of a comparable playing set club) if one knows in advance what that length will be. This can include being able to use the same test clubs to also aid in testing for and determining other golf club specifications where that might not be able to be done nearly as effectively with test clubs whose lengths are not that close to what one’s final golf club length(s) may be.
From both playability and practical standpoints, however, golf clubs never ordinarily approach the whimsical length examples I described above, and in fact normal golf club lengths usually do not and cannot vary too much from what is considered to be “standard lengths,” (which of itself can notably vary). This is not an ominous condition as many clubfitters try to portray it as being, and this circumstance in fact has distinct advantages. A major reason for this situation is that “serious” golf clubs are most commonly made and matched to each other by a long-proven golf club specification called swingweight. I will go into in considerably more detail later with respect to this unique and ridiculously misunderstood golf club specification, but explaining some isolated elements related to swingweighting might be best revealed now even before a final determination is made as to what length the test golf clubs will be made to and before any background information is begun concerning the golf grips that will be used.
The intertwined relationship between swingweighting and its major impact on why golf clubs generally are and can be reasonably produced only in rather limited lengths from standard can be broadly explained as follows. The determined swingweight value of any given golf club essentially dictates the overall weight the club’s clubhead will be made to. Golfers as a whole over a very long period of time have preferred golf club swingweights that generally reside within a rather small range of swingweight values. Thus, clubheads are also generally produced in a somewhat limited range of weights. Few if any clubhead models are available (particularly directly to the general public and common clubfitters) in varying weight categories (although recall that adjustable-weight clubhead models are commonly available). Also know that golf club length is a major determining factor in what a golf club’s swingweight value will be. All else being equal, including the same clubhead, a longer club will produce a higher swingweight value and a shorter club will produce a lower swingweight value.