The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Thirty-Four

I interject here that one does not have to scrupulously follow a one-point-increment regimen when testing for swingweight values.  One can for example choose to initially work in two-point increments if desired and when (hopefully) swinging well at any given value switch to one-point increments to obtain a more precise swingweight range.  But if following such a regimen one will routinely have to back up to test skipped swingweight values and may be persuaded to retest values already tested in order to verify results of immediately adjacent values.  One might find this to be somewhat inconvenient and inefficient, with little if any time saved in the end over using one-point increments to begin with.  Alternately, one may even do half-point increments to really fine-tune one’s swingweight range if desired, and I do engage in this for certain clubfitting tests.  I never attempt this, however, over a larger range of swingweight values.  I ordinarily determine a swingweight range using one-point increments first, and then perhaps even on another day try half-point increments, but only to the extent of maybe two or three swingweight points in either direction of an already-determined median value, and even then I might often skip certain half-point values during the process.  Such fine-tuning information can be very valuable toward future golf swing and/or clubfitting work.

So with this specific test completed for the M62-gripped club, this club is set aside and a discrete clubfitting exercise performed with another of the three test clubs constructed.  Using myself as an example again, I will use the M60 club, following the same manner of testing already precisely laid out.  I again find that I make my best golf swings over the exact same range of swingweight values as those obtained when testing the M62 club, which is D2, D3, and D4.  Tested values outside of that range result in very poor golf swing coordination and performance.  Even if testing at the driving range and potentially observing better ball contact and/or travel results when making the more uncoordinated swings over that obtained within the swingweight range where I make my best swings, again remember that these are performance elements to be addressed individually in the proper order.  Actual golf swing performance first, where one is able to coordinate one’s golf swing in a manner that achieves one’s best clubhead speed and control, is far and away the most important element in consistently playing one’s best golf.  Any other number of “subordinate” elements (referring to certain golf club specifications in this instance) can be subsequently altered (while maintaining one’s swing performance) in order to further accomplish one’s best ball travel results from one’s best swinging.

Lastly, in a third discrete clubfitting exercise, the last club, the M58-gripped club in this instance, is tested for one’s best swingweight range and median value in the same way as the first two test clubs.  Here too, for one for whom swingweighting works well, one’s results will be the same for the M58-gripped club as with the clubs having the M62 and M60 golf grips on them.  Indeed, in actually performing this test, the swingweight value range through which I make my best golf swings is from D2(.0) through D4(.0) again, with all tested values outside of that range resulting in unacceptably-uncoordinated golf swings being made.  Thus, the first phase of this testing is concluded, revealing that the same exact range of golf club swingweight values (and so the same exact median value), as adjusted at the clubhead ends of the test clubs in this specific test sequence, is required in order to make one’s best golf swings, even as the grip components at the other end of the elongated test clubs are changed a bit.

Now even though only the first, most elementary phase of testing is complete, enough data has nevertheless already been compiled to distinctly reveal some of the issues still prevalent within the clubfitting trade, and these issues will be discussed in an ongoing fashion as respective phases of this testing are gone through.  One is the incompetent procedure advised by a notable number of so-called clubfitting experts advising that the correct way to swingweight a golf club is to set the club’s swingweight value based on unchanging and predetermined golf grip specification values (even if not a golfer’s final determined grip specification values) and then let the club’s swingweight do whatever it does with no further swingweight value adjustment when any other grip specification values are installed instead.  For example, if a golfer’s chosen swingweight is determined to be D2, any of the golfer’s clubs will be initially swingweighted to D2, but always using a golf grip that is predetermined to have a weight of 50 grams.  Thereafter, if the actual grip size/weight chosen for the golfer during grip size fitting is considerably lighter, the swingweight value might go up to D7 when that grip is installed, and if a heavier grip size/weight is chosen the swingweight value might go down to C7.  It is then purported that either of these swingweight values should be left as is, that either would represent an effective D2 swingweight value even though their actual readings indicate otherwise, and that this is the correct way to swingweight golf clubs.  These “experts” have no idea what they are talking about and they have thoroughly inferior golf-club-matching knowledge.

Such so-called professional clubfitters principally and irrationally still cling to a belief that golf club swingweight is somehow supposed to be a function of shaft flex (in which case there might be some logic to such a belief), but it is not when properly rationalized.  (Such a belief can apply to a single golf club, where after the club’s headweight [through swingweighting] is set to a given value using predetermined grip specification values [as is done above], any subsequent change in the club’s headweight will alter the club’s shaft flexibility).  But at some point one would think that these people and/or organizations would intelligently realize that in virtually every set of golf clubs made for more than the last half century, every single club in the set has a different shaft flex/frequency (even if any shaft labels indicate the same flex), yet the swingweight value of every club in the set (excepting perhaps any wedges included) is made the same in order to help golfers swing consistently well even with all of the different absolute shaft flexibilities or frequencies contained within the set (and it works).

Such an extremely primary and major error that should easily be seen and corrected by the clubfitting trade but is not remains pretty consistent in clubfitting instruction to this day.  Sadly, this type of ignorance has also become a highly recognizable part of golf “tradition.”  Recall earlier that I strongly advised initially treating golf club flex as being essentially nonexistent and/or irrelevant with respect to learning certain very fundamental golf swing and clubfitting principles and practices or else one could easily get confused, and boy are these people and/or organizations (including so-called clubfitting educators) that continue to believe swingweight and shaft flex should correspond with each other ever confused.  If still appropriate later I will surely bring this up again as what could easily be in a fairly extensive listing of golf’s most embarrassing theories and practices to date that help secure the clubfitting trade’s overall reputation as being the worst in all of sports.

This first phase is a rather uncomplicated clubfitting process that can nonetheless produce scientifically-obtained and verifiable golf swing and clubfitting results directly from one’s golf swing performance and not from subordinate launch monitor results that provide no direct information whatsoever of how good or bad the coordination quality of one’s actual swing performance is (as odd as it may seem to the clubfitting trade that one’s actual golf swing performance is used to monitor one’s golf swing performance).  Speculation can run rampant as to how many so-called professional clubfitters for whom swingweighting works have never personally actually performed even an extremely basic first phase of such testing to learn firsthand about certain basic clubfitting theories and practices before attempting to fit golf clubs to anyone else.  Choosing not to personally perform even such relatively easy testing necessitates getting one’s golf swing and/or clubfitting knowledge secondhand and blindly believing in what could unknowingly be horribly incorrect theory and practice like that above that continue to be perpetuated by many that are inadvisably somehow reputed to be clubfitting educators.

Now there can be clubfitters that have personally and conscientiously done such testing and yet are still not able to learn correctly on their own despite their best efforts, for recall my earlier statement that many less-experienced golfers (in the form of clubfitters here) never get the chance to experience swingweighting firsthand in the manner in which the specification is actually intended to operate with respect to one’s golf swing performance.  Short of such firsthand experience, unfortunately there is still no comprehensive self-taught or classroom material regarding the specification’s correct mechanism(s) that is widely utilized as of yet for such clubfitters.  Neither situation is of course conducive to developing a consistently competent clubfitting trade and changing its overall reputation.

To supplement the preceding information, the grips utilized on these test clubs of 47, 50, and 52 grams are typically not even enough to change a golf club’s swingweight value a single point.  So if all test club swingweight values were initially set to D3 based on a 50 gram grip and then these three grips were installed on the three test clubs without any further adjusting of the clubhead weights, they would all still typically be within my D2 to D4 range and I would still be able to swing each of them well at any given time.  So one could argue that, based solely on the grips being used on these test clubs, the grips have nowhere near a size/weight spread that could either prove or disprove the concept that the clubs should be swingweighted to a determined value utilizing only a single, predetermined grip design (an M60, 50 gram grip in this example) and then no further swingweight changes made regardless what grip sizes/weights are subsequently actually installed on the test clubs.  That is a fair enough argument.

To that I can reply that this particular testing uses very specific grips for very specific purposes.  But on uncounted other occasions I can assure you that I have tested a much wider range of grip sizes/weights, varying from considerably lighter women’s grips with gram weights in the upper thirties to jumbo-sized men’s grips at approximately seventy grams.  If initially setting all test club swingweight values to D3 based on using the predetermined 50 gram grip but then installing these other grip styles instead, and if the “single grip swingweighting concept” described above were sound, then I would make my best golf swings at swingweight values of approximately D6 with the club having the lighter women’s grip described here and approximately C8 with the club having the heavier jumbo grip (estimating four grams of grip weight change equating to a change of one swingweight point).  But the hard fact is, in personally testing this over and over (and over) again, I swing horribly at those swingweights with those grips on.  But in testing the entire prescribed swingweight range again with these grips on, I again find that I consistently make my most-coordinated swings over the same swingweight range of D2-D4 regardless of which of these more extreme grips are installed for swingweight testing.

I am certainly aware of the somewhat recent availability of considerably lighter grips still that maintain a men’s standard diameter and yet have weights perhaps in the twenty-something gram range, with a grip company named Winn being the first to come out with such grips to the best of my knowledge.  Partially because golf grips hovered at around one dollar apiece for decades when I learned much of what I know and given that these lightweight grips have gone for perhaps seven times that amount, I wrote this company multiple times to ask for a few samples with which to do further research and never received any replies.  So personally I am not currently inclined to touch any of this company’s products.  But eventually I will try such grips and fortunately there are other companies that now have similar products (though maybe even more expensive still).

In mentioning current golfing costs, it seems like only yesterday when grips were one dollar apiece, shafts were considerably less than ten dollars each (not including newly developing graphite and other exotic-material shafts), and clubheads were a fraction of what they are today.  And even then with the financial means of a pretty typical middle-class background I put my family deep into debt in learning much of what I have to date.  The days of learning the way I did, whether because of having no confidence whatsoever in the clubfitting trade (rightly so as of the date of this post) or for personal enjoyment, might now be forever gone for all but those with financial means that exceeds the norm.  But the knowledge contained in Waggle Weight Wisdom™ will hopefully help keep one’s costs down some if working on one’s own as well as ultimately help turn the “organized” clubfitting trade into a more capable trade in case one wants or needs such services.

Anyway, getting back to these goals, this data authoritatively proves that the single grip swingweighting concept is wholly incorrect and how very inexperienced a considerable number of so-called professional clubfitters still remain regarding swingweighting, with again little to no correct (even very basic) knowledge regarding certain clubfitting topics widely available for them to this day to really become qualified clubfitters.  I have no current reason to believe that the greater grip range described above cannot be extended considerably further still and the same results still obtained, though if that changes in the course of any future testing I will reveal that through Waggle Weight Wisdom™.  But at some point swingweighting will break down, since golf clubs or club-like substitutes that are so heavy in total weight that they cannot even be lifted let alone swung can indeed be balanced to any given swingweight value.  Literal breakdown limits of swingweighting can be considered at a later time, but as a practical matter based on typical golf club and club component design and construction there should be no such concern for the testing done throughout this post title sequence.

I also reference another technique often applied by many within the clubfitting trade of setting golf club swingweights to distinct values before determined grips are installed.  This is different from what I previously discussed regarding swingweight prediction methods and that discussed above.  This technique entails selecting a figured amount of swingweight change that a determined grip configuration will deliver when installed on an ungripped golf club.  A figure of nine or ten swingweight points might be chosen for any given grip installation as an example, selected as a comprehensive number that also includes all grip tape to be used along with any other grip-installation elements that will affect a club’s final swingweight value.  As such, assuming that a nine-point differential is chosen between grip-off and grip-on conditions for any given golf grip and that a final golf club swingweight value of D2 is desired, then the club will simply be swingweighted to exactly E1 when in an ungripped state.  Then, as it was done above, the swingweight value will be left alone to whatever it turns out to be after the grip is installed without any further adjustment.  While utilizing this particular technique may add some convenience and while most gripped clubs will probably end up within one swingweight point of the target value if the selected swingweight-change amount is selected well for the particular grip, such a technique of convenience, as it often does, translates into what is inferior root club fitting/making protocol that can cause significant problems later.

Expanding on this technique, as seen in the first phase of testing and as will be seen even more conclusively in subsequent phases, precise swingweight value readings of any given golf club’s fully (not partially) assembled state are very critical during clubfitting testing (and following through with principles and practices applied during club fitting during club making is the only way to fully implement that which is learned during the fitting process).  Now recall from earlier that the exact same golf grip (assume a grip that is right at the designed center of its tolerance range) will upon installation produce observably differing amounts of swingweight change between the ungripped and gripped states of different golf clubs depending upon (but not limited to) each club’s length.  Therefore, if trying to apply this technique of setting clubs to exact swingweight values when in their ungripped states, if a nine-point gripping differential is utilized for any given grip model (stay with the example of a desired final swingweight value of D2 and thus an ungripped swingweight value of exactly E1), and given the very critical importance of getting fully assembled golf clubs to precisely D2 starting with very fundamental clubfitting testing, then for any given golf club one will have to intentionally search out a grip that is away from its designed center weight and toward one end or the other of the grip’s weight tolerance range in order to accomplish both conditions.  This should never be done and reveals a clear defect in this particular swingweighting technique.

I did in fact use this technique early on in my career when at best (in looking back now) I was extremely inexperienced at club fitting and making relative to what I know now, thinking at one point that grips were specifically designed to achieve a certain amount of swingweight change between clubs’ ungripped and gripped states.  But it has been about twenty-five years since I have done that, eventually learning that the concept made no objective sense even when I was still so inexperienced back then.  Sadly, implementing such a gripping technique gives a pretty good indication of how inexperienced so many people still are and yet currently calling themselves professional clubfitters, operating at what is essentially a beginner’s level regarding this specific element.

Now some of the details disclosed today temporarily look beyond the clubfitting phase(s) and hint at final club construction, details that for example are more crucial to understand and apply when clubs might be customized to final, nonadjustable clubhead weights and there is a desire to not have to use any lead tape on one’s final clubs if possible.  While such details will not be specifically put to use at the present time, it is nevertheless this very first phase of clubfitting testing and the results from this testing where some such details are and should first be appreciated and that set a strong foundation for how to later proceed (and how not to proceed).  So it is important to try to make sense of and absorb any test results revealed during any given phase of clubfitting testing, even if thought to be irrelevant at the time.

One more detail that comes to mind before testing resumes and something that concerns the crucial use of multiple discrete test clubs, what I see brought up very often by people trying to fit golf clubs is the very common belief (and yet another incorrect belief) that choking down on a club (to avoid using multiple clubs or making an irreversible change to the same club) effectively reduces the swingweight of that golf club.  This is simply not true.  If it were, then any time a player for whom swingweighting works choked down on a golf club to play any given stroke (which happens far more often than most people realize), he/she would swing with a horribly uncoordinated motion.  But this just does not happen.  There are many changes taking place when trying to implement such a concept hardly limited to the club’s grip size getting smaller, a certain amount of backweighting being added to the club (and in a certain location), plus a position shift of the golf grip’s center of gravity within one’s hands.  No reliable swingweight comparisons can be made between this and not choking down on the same club and no credible information can be obtained with so many changes occurring simultaneously between the two circumstances.

Here too, this very first phase of clubfitting testing that comprises the comparing and experiencing of how one swings at various swingweight values is where one should fundamentally learn that choking down on a golf club does not reduce its swingweight value in a manner that can be rightfully compared with a reduced swingweight value on the same club when one does not have to choke down on it.  A statement by any so-called professional clubfitter or even clubfitting educator that choking down on a golf club will effectively reduce the club’s swingweight value comprises yet more incorrect theory and practice widely promoted by a clubfitting trade that is partly to blame for golf’s ongoing problems.  This trade badly needs to find a more qualified clubfitting educator(s) (which includes more qualified at knowing general athletic and golf swing performance) and begin reeducating itself from the ground up with respect to proper golf club fitting theories and practices.

This is information that can be taken away from just the very first phase of this clubfitting testing and its results.  Now the next clubfitting phase can be commenced and analyzed to see what one can learn.