The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Nineteen

Here I will describe a fundamentally important difference between the model method of swingweight prediction (more recommended for competent clubfitting) and the strategic method.  In a three-sentence partial review, the model method uses a single reference golf grip for a given grip model to try to predict what the final swingweight value of any golf club will be before any grip of the given model is actually installed on the club (in other words predicting a golf club’s final swingweight value from only an ungripped golf club).  The strategic method customarily uses many golf grips (even within the same grip model and with one discrete grip for any one discrete golf club) to try to predict a golf club’s final swingweight value (again from an ungripped golf club).  The single reference grip used in the model method is temporarily installed on an ungripped club in fundamentally the same position as a regularly installed grip would be in, while the multiple grips used in the strategic method are singly placed on a swingweight scale simultaneously with a companion ungripped golf club but at a separate strategic location, the pair not really resembling a normally gripped golf club.

Now momentarily presume that a final swingweight value has been chosen for a golfer (this process will be detailed far more quite soon) and that either the strategic or model method is available to aid in accomplishing that swingweight value on his/her golf clubs.  These methods (both of which include the use of a swingweight scale) can help suitably achieve the golfer’s chosen final swingweight value without the need for more involved mathematical computations.  In considering the strategic method first, the unsacrificed and undamaged golf grip that would ultimately be installed on its companion ungripped golf club (measured as a distinct pair in the swingweight scale) would commonly be the same grip used for predicting the golf club’s final swingweight value and also for setting (adjusting) the club’s swingweight while in its ungripped state to achieve the chosen final swingweight.  Revisiting the fact that all components will have tolerances associated with them, any method of predicting swingweight that uses the exact grip that will be installed on the golf club will take such tolerances into account.

In other words, if a golf grip at the lightest end of its weight tolerance range is put on a swingweight scale with one ungripped club and the same model grip but at the heaviest end of its tolerance range is matched with another club, then each grip and ungripped golf club combination needs to be set to the chosen swingweight value (frequently but hardly limited to via clubhead-end weight increase for increasing swingweight or club length shortening for decreasing swingweight if needed and desired).  Once done, the same final swingweight readings will ideally be obtained when each grip is actually installed on the respective ungripped golf club that it is originally matched with.  (This assumes working with nonadjustable clubheads.  Should the clubheads be adjustable and one is confident that the chosen final swingweight value can be achieved through such means given all of the various golf club components and specifications, then one can more simply grip for real first and adjust for swingweight later.  Though obviously more convenient due to clubhead adjustability, in the end this would be just a different manner of implementing the same strategic method of swingweight prediction unless a specific condition were attended to as represented below).

Yet in checking the swingweight values of the ungripped clubs independently (after first being separately set to the final swingweight value with their respective grips placed at the correct strategic location on the scale and then with the grips removed from the scale), their ungripped swingweights can be considerably different from each other (potentially two or more points apart).  This is very important information to realize toward helping to understand why certain results will turn out the way they will later.  (To hopefully aid in simplicity regarding this information, assume that the golfer plays with multiple 5-irons that are exactly the same in every respect apart from what is specifically being done here, those 5-irons being used in this analysis unless otherwise noted).

The scenario would not be the same if a single reference grip were chosen to represent the grip model being used (as in the model method) and all ungripped golf clubs to use that grip model were swingweighted based solely on the reference grip.  Assuming the reference grip is right in the center of the model’s weight tolerance range, and assuming as a broad example that using a grip at the lightest end of the model’s tolerance range will result in a swingweight value that is one point heavier than when using the reference grip and vise versa for a grip at the heaviest end of the range, an entirely different outcome is produced by using a swingweight prediction method such as the model method.  If these same light and heavy grips were used in implementing each method, in the former case (strategic method) the final swingweight values of the two clubs would be identical even with two grips installed that notably vary in their weights (though assuming still within the model’s designated tolerance range).  But in the latter case (model method) the same two clubs will end up having final swingweight values that are two full swingweight points apart, one club being one point higher than the two clubs where the strategic method was implemented and one club being one point lower.

Perhaps you are able to deduce that in the latter case (model method), while the final, gripped golf club swingweights will be considerably different, the two clubs’ ungripped swingweights (after setting their final swingweight values using the reference grip and then removing the reference grip and remeasuring their swingweights) will be the same.  This is totally the opposite of what takes place when implementing the strategic method of swingweight prediction.  This is a critical difference between the two methods that can have major repercussions with respect to golf swing and clubfitting performance factors as will be seen.

(This information should be used as a base of reference only, as any given individual or company may do certain things differently.  These examples assume, as just described, that the strategic method of swingweight prediction uses the exact same grips that will ultimately be installed on the ungripped golf clubs they are matched with on the scale.  One can instead, if desired, find a model-type grip for use with the strategic method and set all ungripped golf club swingweight values based upon that single model grip.  In that case, the results of using the strategic and model swingweight prediction methods would be the same [at least in theory].  But the primary advantage of considering the strategic method to begin with would appear to be able to take these grip weight tolerances into account when predicting final golf club swingweight values and setting ungripped golf club swingweight values, whereas the principles of the model method fundamentally do not allow this.  So one would not normally choose a model-type golf grip for use with the strategic method, and if they did it would be considerably more efficient in the long run to simply slit that model-type golf grip and implement the model method of swingweight prediction as described rather than trying to carefully balance that model-type grip on top of club after club.  I am primarily referring here again to the use of a traditional, strictly mechanical-type swingweight scale whose balancing mechanism constantly moves up and down while measuring swingweight and which does not have a specifically designed means for conveniently placing discrete grips on the scale [for swingweighting purposes].  Different scale designs might affect one’s approach to swingweight prediction in one or more ways).

Now a considerable percentage of you (even many already-experienced golfers and so-called professional clubfitters and clubfitting instructors) might assess these swingweight prediction possibilities and at first deliberation may conclude that the strategic method, which takes into account all of the tolerances and other nuances of individual golf grips within the same grip model, is the better method of swingweight prediction if it can be efficiently and consistently performed.  Well I have some disturbing news for those who may have come to such a conclusion.  Despite the extreme foundational importance of golf club swingweighting and the concept(s) it represents with respect to effective and consistent golf swing performance, it is not the be all and end all golf club specification that might be indicated through the use and results of the strategic method as described.  In the end that in fact produces “unmasterly identical” final golf club swingweight values even though it takes into account the tolerance differentials in the golf grips used.

Perhaps I have previously related that even in swinging two golf clubs side by side that both have my best and identical swingweight values set on them, I can still swing one of them extremely poorly depending upon what the other club specifications are among the two clubs.  But swingweight is still a justly important foundational golf club specification that needs to be comprehended and applied well before competent progress can be made at understanding and fitting other golf club specifications.  And the truth is that the pair of clubs above that varies by two swingweight points can be swung better than the pair of clubs having the same swingweight value residing right in between the other pair, even if the swingweight value of the pair of clubs in the middle happens to be one’s ideal value.

Obtaining these results requires that the correct and exact swingweight value be chosen for a golfer to begin with, otherwise such results are not likely possible.  I will address the aspects of this particular outcome in due time, but I will not go any deeper into this specific topic at this instant so as to potentially avoid adding any unneeded complexity into the mix.  Suffice it to say for now that what might at first appear to be an excellent idea in making sure that weight tolerance variations of individual golf grips of the same grip model are “automatically” accounted for in the swingweight prediction method used can actually turn out to be a horrible idea when all is said and done.

Based on this knowledge, the strategic method, even with a perfectly positioned strategic location on a swingweight scale for any given golf grip model, might best be used as an exercise in learning about and determining “relative” swingweight deviation differences that occur between using golf grips of varying weights and golf clubs (ungripped for the best learning experience) of varying specification values that can be mixed and matched on the scale.  This might include placing the same grip on both the longest and shortest clubs in a set of irons that have the same swingweight value before the grip is put on the scale and noting the results or switching between grips that are on the low and high side of the grip model’s weight tolerance range on both a driver and 9-iron and again noting the results.  Differences might also be observed between graphite and steel-shafted clubs as another one of many, many possible examples.  This can be a very valuable tool for learning about certain elements, but as for whether one opts to use the strategic method of swingweight prediction as described as a tool for serious clubfitting, choosing to use it may be an indication of inadequate knowledge with respect to crucial golf swing and/or clubfitting fundamentals.

So while having disclosed these details (and while how to physically split a [reusable] reference grip was gone into earlier), here are some additional primary details about the model method of swingweight prediction that need to be attended to.  For starters, one extremely important task that must be undertaken is that the exact design specifications of the reference grip model to be used must be thoroughly researched and applied in the course of this procedure.  Referencing my discussing of designed ideal specifications of components and tolerance ranges away from those ideal specifications, nowhere might these concepts be more critical to deal with than when it comes to golf grips and one’s affiliated golf swing performance.  Choosing a golf grip model from which a reference grip is to be produced, grabbing the first grip of that model that one can get one’s hands on, and slitting it and starting to use it as a reference grip, is a good way to ensure one’s failure at competently applying the model method.