The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Seventeen

To further support why leaving a gap is unwarranted, assume now that an ungripped golf club is always placed in a swingweight scale the same way (solidly against the scale’s backstop for reference here).  Realize that the “strategic” location for placing a discrete golf grip on the scale so that an accurate final swingweight prediction reading will be produced may be a remarkably different location for a different grip model depending on the grip specifications.  For example, for two grips that are identical in every way except that one has a grip cap thickness one-eighth of an inch thicker than the other (in other words the final golf club total length will be one-eighth of an inch longer with the grip having the thicker grip cap installed), the swingweight prediction readings with each of the grips placed at the same location on the scale can be essentially identical.  This naturally assumes an identical ungripped club length and swingweight value.

Yet when each of these grips are actually installed, the longer grip cap specimen (when considering the length-change element alone) can produce a swingweight reading that is about one point heavier than the specimen with the shorter cap.  (Not wanting to get any more complex but a necessity to state, it needs to be pointed out here that the weight of solid, additional grip-cap material on the longer club [presumed to be heavier than an equal length of hollow golf shaft] can offset the increase in swingweight caused by the increased length element.  And the extent of this offset can vary considerably based on many different factors including but hardly limited to the grip material used).  Thus, due to this single grip design difference of grip cap length, each grip would need to be placed at a different strategic location on the scale in order to provide a pre-gripped swingweight prediction that will accurately represent the club’s actual post-gripped swingweight value.

These are some of the technicalities involved when putting an ungripped golf club and discrete golf grip together on a swingweight scale to try to determine what the club’s final swingweight value will be and how the scale can actually be designed to accommodate this procedure if desired.  To sum up this particular subject area, a final swingweight prediction value of reasonable accuracy for any given ungripped golf club and discrete grip combination can be obtained, with the same final swingweight reading produced, regardless of whether the ungripped club is placed in the scale all the way against the scale’s backstop or a gap (of any amount) is intentionally left, if the scale is so designed for the anticipated conditions.  The proper strategic location on the scale where the golf grip would need to be placed would be different for each different position that the ungripped golf club would be placed in the scale if the same final swingweight reading were to be produced in each case.

In thus assuming that the ungripped club is judiciously placed in the scale in the same position every time (here again right against the scale’s backstop as the reference point since this will positively produce the most consistent results), different golf grip models can now be considered.  The strategic locations to place various grip models on the scale mutually with the ungripped club in order to obtain accurate final swingweight prediction readings can be significantly different and in the abstract should be refigured for each individual grip model.  Multiple grip design factors come into play, including but not limited to a grip’s grip cap thickness as already discussed, plus the grip’s nominal weight, length, and taper dimensions.  In many cases grip dimensions may be fairly standardized and with a well-chosen, single strategic location on a swingweight scale one might get fairly accurate swingweight prediction readings for a rather wide range of grip models.  However, readings can be considerably off when using that (presumably unchangeable) strategic location to try to predict final golf club swingweight values when using various other golf grip models.

Depending on a sole location on a swingweight scale to place all golf grips when using this method of trying to predict final golf club swingweight values and without knowing some of what is going on beneath the surface will not only result in errors and confusion as to why those errors are occurring, but might also preclude one from understanding and trying new advancements in technology as they come along.  Because current technology appears to be headed toward a greater variety of grip styles in the future, perhaps future (digital) golf club balancing scales will include pre-programmed information regarding various golf grip models to help predict final swingweight values more accurately and conveniently than this (or any other given) swingweight prediction method before grips are actually installed.  Such information is already available to a large degree regarding golf shafts as an example, comprising hoards of data readily accessible concerning the specifications and performance attributes of countless individual shaft models.  This apparent discrepancy in the information available for golf shaft and grip specifications and performance attributes will even out a bit more in the future.  The clubfitting industry and golfers in general will ultimately realize that with respect to pure swing performance and not golf ball travel results (remember that these are two entirely separable elements), golf shaft performance (particularly its flex characteristics) is decidedly overrated and golf grip performance is decidedly underrated.

With these things in mind and given the other potential problems I described that can be encountered when intentionally leaving a gap between the butt end of an ungripped golf club and a swingweight scale’s backstop, it would appear quite foolish to employ the practice of intentionally leaving such a gap when attempting to determine a golf club’s final swingweight value before its grip is actually installed.  And it is a foolish practice, a procedure that should never be practiced under any conditions.  There are no advantages whatsoever in doing so, only disadvantages (unless you are particularly concerned about something like scratches and nicks that could be inflicted upon the scale’s backstop over time as ungripped golf shafts are pushed up against it.  And if you are so concerned with such cosmetics to the point of sacrificing solid functionality, you are in trouble).

As an additional reference note on this subject, not only can an ungripped golf club and discrete golf grip be placed on a swingweight scale simultaneously to try to determine what the club’s final swingweight value will be, this same procedure is also commonly practiced even before the shaft and clubhead are affixed to each other, just being in an unglued state when placed in the scale.  This is primarily done to see if any weight needs to be added to the clubhead side of the assembly before continuing.  If no accessible or adequate weight adjustment option is available on the clubhead itself, then weight can be added (within certain limits) inside the golf shaft (as close to the clubhead end as possible in order to obtain the best results).  As one might well imagine, it is much easier to first glue a weight into the tip of an unassembled golf shaft and then assemble the shaft and clubhead together as opposed to having to work and secure some weight down the entire length of the golf shaft after the shaft and clubhead are already glued together.  The latter case can introduce several undesirable issues.

In a like manner to discussing final total golf club length differences as a result of grip cap thickness differences and the resultant effects on golf club swingweight values, the same effects can take place down at the clubhead end.  If, for example, the unglued shaft and clubhead did not penetrate each other as much as they would upon final assembly (not an unheard of problem in the absence of adhesive use when these components are assembled together), the result would be would an effectively longer club length and a higher swingweight reading due to that discrepancy.  Even the weight of the glue can come into play now, but this practice will not be discussed further here because for this testing and the test golf clubs to be constructed the predominant issue is one of whether the test club swingweights will be light enough to start testing at and not whether they will be heavy enough, so no added weight down the shafts is assumed before shaft and clubhead final assembly.  If the route I am on here does not appeal to you, I will now go back for a moment to an alternative I noted earlier.

In this day and age of extensive computer use and associated software programs, there may be any number of programs around where one might determine and plug in certain “easier” values including but not necessarily limited to the final golf club length, the shaft weight (before or after being trimmed to length), the grip weight, and the clubhead weight, and have a final golf club swingweight prediction value thrown back at one through mathematical calculation before club assembly is even begun.  Just be aware that assumptions are commonly made within these “formulas,” including but not limited to the grip cap thickness of the golf grip, the balance point of the golf shaft (which can affect the final swingweight reading), and the lie of the clubhead (which can also affect the final swingweight reading).  The final results of computations using such formulas can be considerably off depending on the differences between what is assumed and actual reality.  The details that need to be attended to in order to achieve consistently accurate golf club swingweight prediction through essentially pure mathematical computation are far more “terrible” to get into than what I have briefly described here and make certain efforts needed when working with a swingweight scale seem not so terrible anymore.

Using a swingweight scale to try to predict a golf club’s final swingweight value before grip installation (even if one has substantial experience at it) used to be a much easier task than it is today.  For just like there was a predominance of only one or a select few golf shaft models available for golf club making and fitting for a time span of roughly fifty years, the same was also essentially true of golf grip models.  The Victory golf grip model, made under the name of Golf Pride, was comparably dominant in the golf grip market to what the Dynamic golf shaft under the True Temper name was to golf shafts.  Most everyone knowing even very basic golf club making and fitting knew that installing a standard size Victory or comparable golf grip on a golf club would reduce the club’s swingweight balance value by approximately nine points (from E1 in an ungripped state to D2 in a gripped state for instance).  Throwing the components on a swingweight scale might even be skipped since the same grip (and shaft) was so widely used and so much was known about it, but for reasons including that directly below, conscientious people would still regularly check out the exact figure(s) to use in a more meticulous manner.

Resolutely learn here that the exact same golf grip will not alter the swingweight value exactly the same amount on various golf clubs.  The swingweight differential between a club’s ungripped and gripped states will routinely be greater for longer clubs than shorter clubs (for example nine points for a driver but only eight and one-half for a 9-iron).  And even identical length clubs can show discernible differences depending on the other components used and their specifications.  (The physics of this will not be addressed further here but might be deduced via the explaining of other golf club swingweighting aspects to this point).  Be aware that this is a completely normal occurrence.  Something is very wrong somewhere if this does not happen.  This club-balancing facet should be learned well now because it will be an important consideration later on.  In light of this information, realize how an increase in both the number of different golf grip and shaft styles in recent times (even clubhead styles have increased in number and are relevant) has made final golf club swingweight prediction more involved than it used to be.

I have noticed somewhat recently that some people have been using a general reference figure of allowing about ten instead of nine swingweight points for typical standard-sized rubber-type golf grips between golf clubs’ ungripped and gripped states.  I cannot really say whether or not this deviation from the past is justified due to perhaps golf grip and/or any other club specification design changes in general of late.  Regardless of this specific possible drift, today there is a much wider variety of golf grip styles than in the past from which to choose.  These styles can vary markedly in ways not limited to having technologically advanced materials and associated weights (weights that were unthinkable [lighter] just a few years ago and which can significantly affect the swingweight differential between a golf club’s ungripped and gripped states).

I predominantly used Victory golf grips myself for a very long time, and it was fairly standard fare to grab one and place it directly on top of an ungripped golf club already in a swingweight scale.  In the same way that the ungripped club was placed firmly against the scale’s backstop, the discrete grip was placed directly on the bare shaft (in the same direction it would be when actually installed on the club) and firmly against the scale’s mechanism (to assure consistency of grip placement) that was holding the golf club in the scale at the grip end (not all the way to the backstop).  When this column is ultimately turned into a full-fledged golf swing and/or clubfitting manual (which is tentatively planned and which will also include a multitude of supporting graphics), an illustration of this will unquestionably be added for visual reference.

Now I still own the scale I used when I used to regularly implement this swingweight prediction method (I only use the method rarely today for reasons to come and generally just to try to get a quick, rough approximation of what a club’s final gripped swingweight value might be, even then always being skeptical of the results).  However, this scale (an original Kenneth Smith branded “Lorythmic Swinging Weight Scale”) is not accurately functional to a trustworthy degree anymore.  I attempted to “refurbish” the unit probably decades ago already and suffice it to say that I did not have much Waggle Weight Wisdom in certain areas back then, even after starting to call myself a professional golfer.  Also, many of the grip models I used back then are no longer commonly available, so I cannot now recheck and confirm certain things I used to do.  But my recollection is that with the particular scale in conjunction with the particular grips I usually used, the swingweight values I got in connection with the swingweight prediction method just described were pretty close to the final swingweight values I got after the clubs were actually gripped.  Assuming my recollection is reasonably accurate, I cannot say whether that particular scale was intentionally engineered to help with the aspect of swingweight prediction in this manner or if it was merely a coincidence that the prediction results were fairly close to the actual results.

I reemphasize here that I am hardly a golf history expert and I do not have a great deal of interest in that particular topic, but to the best of my knowledge the original Lorythmic Swinging Weight (commonly swingweight or swing weight) Scale predated the common use of rubber slip-on golf grips, suggesting that such a swingweight prediction method would not have been engineered into the scale.  But then again, while the scale would reasonably have been engineered for use with the components of the day, early slip-on grip models may have mimicked earlier wrap-on grips in one or more ways and if so may have produced similar results on the scale even though the scale predated such grips.  It is even possible that early slip-on golf grips were designed at least in part around the design of the original swingweight scale, utilizing one or more of the scale’s features to help design a certain element(s) into the grips.  But much of this is historical speculation on my part and again of somewhat limited interest to me, as my focus is more toward future changes.

The following is not the only reason I generally do not use this particular method of swingweight prediction anymore (as will be seen next).  As one might imagine, trying to balance a fundamentally round golf grip on top of a round golf shaft while attempting to predict a final golf club swingweight value can certainly have its moments, especially on a mechanical scale whose balance arm constantly moves up and down during measuring.  But different scale models can lend themselves to this process more easily than others depending on their individual designs.  For instance, since putting my original scale into a useless condition with my refurbishing, I have used another Kenneth Smith model called the “Prorythmic” scale, which gives the same swingweight readings as the Lorythmic model but has an additional feature for measuring the total (static) weight of individual components.  In speaking of just the ability to apply the swingweight prediction method discussed here, I have found the Prorythmic model to be not as stable when it comes to keeping discrete golf grips in the position noted, often taxing my experience, patience, and imagination more than when I used the Lorythmic scale with respect to keeping grips from rolling off the scale while trying to obtain a final golf club swingweight prediction.  I cannot analyze the accuracy and/or convenience of any swingweight scale claiming final swingweight prediction before final club assembly via strategic component placement on the scale but that I do not have any personal experience with.