The Terrible Twos Syndrome of Golf Club Fitting: Part Thirty

As I continue, I wish to clarify the meanings of some distinct expressions as used within Waggle Weight Wisdom™.  As stated in the very first entry of this column, the second most important task to engage in toward becoming a complete golfer (after rationally learning how to swing [and becoming confident in that swing, for success at subsequent tasks will be limited without such confidence]) is the fitting of one’s golf equipment used in playing the game.  The term “equipment” is defined here as being the broadest term pertaining to any golf equipment used.  This not only includes golf clubs, the primary focus of this post title sequence, but also all other equipment used not limited to golf balls, golf gloves having just been discussed, all of the apparel one wears when swinging and performing (I will include golf shoes in apparel here although shoes could be further subcategorized), and down to one’s scorecard, pencil, and the marker(s) used to mark the position of one’s golf ball during play as appropriate.

While some of these items technically cannot be “fit” to a golfer, one’s golf swing and game might still potentially be affected to some degree depending upon if, where, and/or how such equipment is kept on one’s person when performing.  Every possible implement used when golfing falls under the broadest category of equipment.  From there, any number of narrower subcategories can be defined such as “golf clubs” and one’s “wearing apparel,” which would include a golf glove if one chooses to wear one.  I bring this up here for an important reason(s) and I make the following statement.  As important as one’s golf clubs and the fit of the clubs are, in hindsight I can disclose that one major contributing factor to why I did not consistently achieve tour-level performing and could not earn a living actually playing the game when I was a bit younger was due to certain to apparel-related issues.  There were a combination of factors involved that included my lack of specific knowledge regarding certain golf swing and golf club relationships at the time and my decision to remain living in an area with a climate that is hardly ideal for year-round golfing for family reasons (which I do not regret for an instant).

I will not go into the specifics of these apparel-related issues here and now, mainly because the information could not really be appreciated until all of the results are first revealed from this post title sequence, but I will note the following in general.  As I have stated with respect to other potential issues, the relative results of what will be seen and learned here regarding certain golf club specification relationships will not change even if one chooses to completely ignore one’s wearing apparel in the course of this testing.  But errors and inconsistencies in absolute results can easily occur and be more difficult and frustrating to diagnose if not at least being aware that such results might be caused by certain apparel issues.  Suffice it to say here that before each clubfitting session begins, due conscious thought should be given to one being able to make the best swings one is able to with the least amount of interference possible regarding one’s wearing apparel, with goals of maximum swing freedom, the best stance and swing balance, and so on.

Playing more team than individual sports competitively when growing up, uniforms were often supplied to and for me (talk about being spoiled) and what was worn when playing was often dictated to players.  Although not generally thought about when one is a kid, especially when getting into higher levels of playing games where uniforms are worn, such uniforms and complimenting accessories are feasibly designed with input from specialists so that players are able to get the most out of the talent they have.  I still remember a cold-weather garment given to us as part of our baseball uniform in high school but I cannot remember what it was called.  It was a turtleneck-type piece of apparel designed to be worn under our jersey on colder days for added warmth, but other than the turtleneck part itself there was not much to it so that one’s motion would not be restricted when performing.  There was a little additional fabric extending partially toward each shoulder on the sides and very limited fabric in the front and back that was only enough to make it “look” like one was wearing a complete additional garment under one’s jersey, but that was all there was to it.

Golfers are most often completely on their own with respect to choosing and using their wearing apparel when performing (including clubfitting).  Be at least aware that potential swing and/or clubfitting issues can result from one’s wearing apparel (influencing one’s base golf swing even before any club is put into one’s hands) and that any such issues can subsequently lead to other issues.  Again, I will not go into this specific aspect any deeper here.  But if one is not sufficiently knowledgeable in the area of wearing apparel and/or chooses to not get into this aspect at this time, then I may have mentioned earlier that one could purposively put together one or more “uniforms” for clubfitting purposes if desired.  By choosing particular garments ahead of time to the best of one’s ability to permit one to make one’s best golf swings and in consistently wearing such a uniform when clubfitting, then the apparel aspect can hopefully be safely put aside without detrimental effect while focusing on clubfitting and can be more specifically addressed at a later time.

Now to finish preparing the test clubs for initial swing testing, the clubs need to be weighted up in a preliminary fashion with lead tape or other suitable means.  Among the many sad turns that certain areas of the golf industry have taken in recent years is in the availability of adhesive lead tape for clubfitting work.  The standard product for decades was a roll that was thirty-six yards long by one-half inch in width.  This common lead-tape product (adhesive lead tape comes in different thickness, widths, and other design differences from various manufacturers for various applications) requires roughly two segments of tape that are each around two inches long to change the swingweight of a golf club one swingweight point.  Recall that this figure will vary some depending upon the length of the golf club and other club elements.  Using these generalized figures, one roll of this lead tape could generally be expected to last for about twenty to twenty-five clubs if testing each of the clubs through a range of fifteen swingweight points as I have initially suggested for this testing.  Although not a regular occurrence, there have been occasions in the past where I used up a thirty-six-yard roll of lead tape in a week or less just for my own clubfitting.

Such tape rolls are still available from some sources (again there is no requirement to purchase such a product from golf supply companies and considerably better deals might be gotten elsewhere), but for whatever reason(s) there has been a recent trend by golf supply companies to sell lead tape in considerably smaller role lengths.  Most recently I have seen lengths ranging from seventy-five to one-hundred inches (that is inches and not yards), and this is all that is available now from some golf supply companies.  Depending upon exactly how thick and wide the specific tape model is, such a roll of lead tape might not be enough to even make it through the initial swingweight testing for two of the three test clubs involved in this sequence.  Such a product offering is a joke to anyone involved in serious clubfitting and ordinarily not even worth the shipping charge to order one.  It is yet another stigma that has become firmly attached to the clubfitting industry, clubfitters, and golfers in general due in part to some directions this trade has taken in recent times.

Lead tape application can last indefinitely when solidly affixed to a suitable clubhead surface.  In cases of more prolonged use it often gets replaced first for reasons other than the tape’s adhesive failure, like getting so banged up and/or damaged in other ways that one is no longer sure if the weight value originally applied is still reasonably accurate.  But once firmly put on and then taken off, even if removed the same day as put on, such tape generally cannot be effectively reused.  Adhesive often comes off the tape and is left on the clubhead for cleanup, plus the tape is often deformed from its original application and removal to such a degree that reuse is generally not feasible.  But new products or versions of products are always coming out, so any given tape’s characteristics will have to be judged on its own merits in these regards.  (I will quickly note here that adhesive lead tape can be used for clubfitting purposes other than swingweighting, not limited to increasing the weight of a golf shaft for experimentation, something that will perhaps be discussed later).

Lead also has its human health dangers, especially to children as I understand it, so use great care when using it under any circumstances.  To date there does not appear to be any notable product that can effectively substitute for lead tape for such a task that might be potentially less hazardous.  I will remind you again that this work is not intended as an unabridged study of every topic mentioned, including potential health issues regarding lead, how any such issues might come into play, and how any such issues might best be prevented or minimized with this specific use of adhesive lead tape.  This information is meant as a supplement or as a base of introduction for people that may not be previously familiar with certain topics and which may encourage further investigation if appropriate.  I might wash my hands as much as a doctor or nurse when I am personally using lead tape, yet I cannot always practically do so before coming inside from the outdoors and handling doorknobs as one example, often trying to use other, non-contaminated parts of my hands.  And I often insist that the rest of my family stay away from me until I get cleaned up and also avoid certain of my work areas that I often use lead tape around.

If you are a golfer reading this that might be more toward the inexperienced side and you dread the thought of any lead tape showing on any of your golf clubs (even perhaps test clubs), know that I and uncounted others have been there.  I too would never touch a golf club with lead tape on it for years in my earlier playing days for reasons including that it looked unprofessional to me at the time and also appeared to me to be an indicator of not being able to fit one’s golf clubs properly to begin with and then publicly displaying that fact with any visible lead tape.  Well if it makes you feel any better, the dream of ideally having a set of golf clubs that is so well fit and well constructed that no lead tape is ever needed is one that I suppose never completely disappears from any player no matter how accomplished he/she has become and no matter what record(s) has been achieved, even if any lead tape still appears on any of such a player’s clubs.

But a large part of becoming a better player comprises accumulating more trial and error results involving various golf clubs and club specifications over time.  And if doing the clubfitting work one should be doing toward being a better player, then using lead tape for setting certain club specifications and seeing lead tape on one’s golf clubs becomes second nature in much the same way as correctly holding on to a golf club does (or at least should) over time.  Indeed, while initially abhorring the site of any lead tape on my clubs, now whenever I see one without any tape on it my thoughts include how odd the clubhead looks and wondering when, where, and how the lead tape came off, even if none was ever there to begin with.  I will add here that the more confident one becomes in one’s swinging and clubfitting abilities, the less bothersome the thought and sight of lead tape on clubs usually becomes.  So one’s feelings about such a scenario can be a relevant indicator of how advanced the overall state of one’s golf game may be.  Better players are commonly more aware of the importance of what lead tape can accomplish, particularly with respect to their golf swing performance, turning the sight of that lead tape into a welcome blessing rather than an unsightly nuisance.

So do not give up on that dream of not seeing any lead tape on your clubs.  But realize that some fairly intense labor over an extensive period of time (not a few-hour clubfitting session to say the least) with untold lead tape use may first be required in order to achieve that dream (at least for superbly-fitted golf clubs).  And even then as I have previously indicated, as long as new products enter the picture (which will feasibly be forever) such as but not limited to new golf club components and/or component designs and new tools like better measuring devices, clubfitting will never really be completely finished for any golfer of any playing level.  Understanding this, final test club preparing can take place.

The first phase of this testing comprises going over a sufficiently exhaustive swingweight range with each of the three test clubs individually.  I will simplistically start with values from C5 through E0 for testing men, but this range can be adjusted as per one’s personal experience and/or preference.  It is not necessary during this initial phase to complete the testing of all three clubs in immediate succession of each other, though one can if desired.  This particular phase can be spread over doing only a single test club on any given day as an example.  Over this spread of fifteen individual swingweight points (actually sixteen), even a scant three swings (assuming full, hard swings) at each point amounts to almost fifty swing repetitions for a single test club sequence with not too much rest (and not too much wanted) in between successive point changes.  And one may often choose to make more than three swings per point that might include performing different swing variations to help thoroughly analyze any given swingweight value.  This can get tiring physically and even more so emotionally at times given the comprehensive testing circumstances.  Taking a break between first-phase swingweight testings for different clubs if done the same day is not only okay but advisable.

I used to get more done in this regard when I was a bit younger plus had a more intense desire to play for a living.  There are occasional days now where, particularly if needing to attend to things far more important than golfing now, I may only complete the testing of half a planned swingweight range for just a single golf club (influenced by how many swings are made at each swingweight value tested), doing the other half on another day.  There are many physical and emotional factors that come into play when determining how one will proceed with this phase of testing.

Any one of the test clubs can be chosen to start.  I grab a roll of lead tape and make my way over to my swingweight scale that is ideally calibrated well and set up on a level surface.  An unlevel scale and/or obviously a scale that is not calibrated well can result in inaccurate absolute readings, though again relative results and relationships (which are more critical to learn at this stage) would be unaffected.  Starting at a swingweight value of C5 in this case and with all of the test clubs at or below that value if constructed in accordance with presented recommendations, the swingweight of the club is measured.  If less than C5, a lead tape strip(s) is taken, the strip’s liner removed if it has one, and the strip is typically placed symmetrically on the back of the clubhead for the best overall results, commonly trimming it with scissors to achieve the most accurate swingweight reading.  I then generally form the tape to any curvatures of the clubhead and rub it firmly down with my fingernails using a decided motion, but there are various other tools and/or methods that can be found to perform this task if preferable.  With the club’s starting balance set accurately right at the mark that is C5 (5.0) on a mechanical swingweight scale or a digital reading of C5(.0) or an equivalent on a digital swingweight scale, the process can continue further.

Now the last thing I want to do is go warm up (more on that shortly), make a few swings with the club at one swingweight value, come right back to my lead tape and scale to weigh up for just one additional swingweight point, and execute that sequence repeatedly.  Depending upon the comprehensive conditions, I might even have to warm up a little again before swinging the next value and I most certainly would lose much if not all of what I perceived of the previous value by that time.  So all of the swingweight values to be tested really need to be prepared at the very beginning, before a sequence of swinging multiple values commences.  In assuming that approximately two two-inch strips of lead tape will be needed for each swingweight point, thirty tape segments slightly longer than that needed are cut from the roll.  Now while one point at a time can be measured, even I do not generally do that anymore (although I used to).  Depending on several factors such as the size and shape of the clubhead (this can be difficult to do on many putter heads for example) and the exact lead tape product being used, I will typically very lightly place around six to ten of the tape strips on the clubhead in a mostly overlapping, symmetrical fashion so that when fine-trimmed all of the pieces will ideally be of the same length.

I can then cut through ten pieces of the lead tape at the same time and very carefully trim the group until the club swingweights at exactly D0 up from C5.  Again, place the strips on the clubhead very lightly and do not completely overlap them, as they will all have to be carefully removed shortly and all of their starting points need to be readily located to do that effectively.  Now this method does sacrifice some precision.  As examples, I am rarely able to cut through all of the strips as straight as I want to, making individual strips and points off a bit through the intended progression of swingweight values.  Plus when putting that many strips on at the same time (including subsequent groupings) and yet needing to keep them all individually accessible for almost immediate removal, parts of the tape are often temporarily placed outside of the clubhead, not where the tape’s final position will be, and different positionings of the same tape on the same clubhead can alter the swingweight value some.  But I do not think I have ever gotten errors of more than about one tenth of a point in taking this particular liberty.

Thereafter, a second grouping of ten lead-tape strips as a simplified model is very lightly placed over the first grouping (again making sure that the first grouping is not overlapped in a way that can prevent easy access to and removal of all of this tape in short order) and that grouping evenly trimmed until the club’s value is right at the D5 mark or reading of the swingweight scale.  The process is then repeated one more time in order to get the test club temporarily to exactly E0(.0).  Groupings of lead tape can be applied when testing other club types such as woods (placed on the top or crown of the clubhead for more efficiently testing an appreciable range of swingweight values), but the best symmetry of tape application for testing with different types of clubheads might be different.  Now when completed, the tape strips, in pairs of twos representing one swingweight point per pair, are carefully pulled off the clubhead and apart from each other in the reverse order in which they were applied.  They are kept organized so they can be reapplied in the same order as originally put on and are readily available when swinging begins for testing.

The reverse of this process can be attempted.  But by first securing the lead tape more firmly to the clubhead (which needs to be done before swinging commences or the tape could easily come off) and starting on the heavier side of the swingweight range, more tape is ultimately used.  After being removed while testing swingweight values in reverse order, as related above it is much more problematical to reuse removed tape and new tape typically then has to be firmly reapplied a second time from the lowest tested value to the chosen value for further testing.  Plus I usually prefer to start testing from the lighter side anyway due to reasoning not limited to lessening the chance of injury if one is not quite warmed up adequately, which happens to everyone now and then.