Only stronger and better players should play heavier golf clubs and stiff shafts and everyone else should stick to lighter regular versions.
That’s the layman opinion I used to have when it comes to the weight of golf clubs based on nothing more than a hunch if I’m being honest.
But when it comes to how much golf club weight affects shots and deciding whether your own clubs are possibly too heavy the answer will not be found by relying on any general rule of thumb.
Golfers must experiment with club weights to determine if their clubs are too heavy. Weight is the most critical club feature but its impact on shot distance and accuracy is not predictable due to the uniqueness of every golfer’s swing. Which club weight ‘feels’ the best is the key deciding factor.
When it comes to any golf club decision these days it seems nothing is straightforward anymore.
Once you’ve talked about golf club weight, you’ve then got to talk about shaft flex and bend and torque and sometimes it can seem you can never reach an answer on a golf club topic without immediately being asked a follow up question.
However, when it comes to golf clubs, weight is the dominant factor when we’re talking about performance and a subject where it’s as important to trust your feelings as it is the data.
Club Weight Definitely Matters
Your driver is the lightest club in your golf bag and the heaviest is your sand or lob wedge.
With the average driver head weighing about 200 grams, a regular flex shaft typically 60 grams and a standard grip about 50 grams, the total weight of the average male golfer’s driver is approximately 310 grams.
Ladies clubs by comparison are usually lighter because they have lighter shafts and on occasion lighter heads.
The main ways to change the weight of your clubs is to change the shaft and / or the grip.
And for the average golfer the shaft will typically be the way they change the weight of their clubs.
But with a cursory glance at different stock drivers on the market today you can find 20g of weight difference in over 30 different shaft weight options.
And that’s before you even take a look at the various custom options available.
“Golfers can just about get away with playing the wrong shaft flex, but getting the wrong weight can absolutely kill your game”Jason MacNiven, club fitting expert
Iron shafts can also vary massively in weight from 65g to 130g which leads to yet another huge amount of options out there for the average golfer.
But why does the weight of a golf club even matter anyway?
The simple answer to that is that large differences in golf club weight can lead to vastly different golf shot results.
Ball speed, launch angles, spin rates, angles of attack, club paths, ball flight etc can all change when the same players uses a different weighted club.
The same golfer hitting two different clubs with 30g of weight difference will find very different results and there are numerous examples on the web of golfers testing different weights on clubs on the golf simulator.
With the lighter club they may generate less backspin but get a better launch angle. They may swing the club more consistently with the lighter version but generate more ball speed with the heavy club.
Whatever the results what we are really talking about here are ‘distance’ and ‘shot accuracy’ – the two keys when it comes to the long game – and in both of these respects the weight of your clubs is a decisive factor.
Along with your golf swing of course!
Heavier Clubs Are Not Always Better
Although it’s clear from all the tests that the weight of golf clubs has a material impact on ball flight what golfers are really wanting to know is whether their own clubs are the right weight for them.
Are heavier clubs automatically better? Or is it always better to go with lighter clubs?
As with everything in golf there are some common generalisations which apply and in respect of golf club weight you will often hear the following:
- Golfers with slower swings and smooth tempos should play lighter clubs.
- Players with a fast tempo and swing will prefer heavier clubs.
While there is definitely an element of truth in these statements and they are potentially a starting point when working out the right weight of clubs for you it’s not the whole story.
Even the manufacturers agree there are no definites when it comes to club weights.
They would certainly love it if it were the case as it would make their marketing job a lot easier by enabling them to pump out catchy slogans such as “Lighter clubs will make you hit the ball further!”
But the fact is each swing is individual to its owner and as such the impact of different weights of club on their golf shots is not predictable.
The consequences of clubs which are too heavy or too light are therefore different for different players simply due to the idiosyncrasies of their golf swings.
Common problems which are found by golfers however when golf clubs are too heavy for them include:
- Reduction of club head speed and distance as a result
- Lower ball flight
- Poor timing
- A laboured swing which results in the pressure to feel you need your best swing every time to get decent results.
Meanwhile players whose golf clubs are too light can often find:
- Increased launch angles and spin rates sending the golf ball very high
- Bad shots and bad misses going further right or left than normal
- Altered swing mechanics including early unhinging of the wrists in the downswing and deceleration.
- Not knowing where the club head is during the swing.
In short having the wrong weight of golf club can cause a multitude of issues for different players depending on how sensitive their swing is changes in weight.
The bad news is that there is no such thing as a magic rule when it comes to deciding which club weights are best for different types of golfers.
Heavier clubs cannot be said to be automatically better. And it’s not as simple as saying a lighter club definitely increases club head speed.
It is estimated for example that only 12% of golfers swing of golfers get their best club head speed with the lightest club.
The good news though is there are rewards out there if your clubs are the right weight for your swing.
And simply with a bit of trial and error you will be able to find whether your clubs are the right weight for you or too heavy or too light.
The Weight of Clubs is More Important Than Flex
Before we move onto to discussing how you can tell which is the right club weight for you we also need to talk about shaft ‘flex’.
Typically golfers talk much more about the flex of their shaft as opposed to the weight.
Whether you are playing ladies (L), senior (A), regular (R), stiff (S) or extra stiff (X) shafts seems to close to an obsession for some and the be all and end all when it comes to shafts.
However club experts seem all to be agreed – shaft weight is more important than shaft flex when it comes to golf shots.
In an interview with Plugged In Golf a representative for Nippon shafts, which are used by more than 200 players on the PGA and European Tours said, “If a golfers can’t feel a shaft that’s properly weighted, the other factors (flex, torque, bend profile) are moot.”
Club fitting expert James MacNiven talking to Golf Digest put it this way – “Golfers can just about get away with playing the wrong shaft flex, but getting the wrong weight can absolutely kills your game.”
The USGA and R&A also don’t regulate the ‘flex’ of shafts to say that a ‘regular’ shaft can only be called that if it falls within a certain technical requirement.
That is why choosing a club based only on shaft flex is not a good idea.
Having the wrong flex of shaft for your swing may indeed affect your golf shots. If the flex is too weak your consistency may suffer.
A flex of shaft which is too strong meanwhile can mean you may not be maximising the bend on the club to maximise the amount of energy you transmit to the golf ball.
But it’s a myth that golfers can’t play stiff flex shafts because they don’t swing fast enough.
What flex of golf shaft is right for you is not correlated to speed as so many people think it is.
And irrespective of that it’s the weight of the club which is more important.
Trust Your Feelings About Golf Club Weight
So how do you tell which club weight is right for you? Or whether your existing clubs are too heavy or too light?
Especially if there are no hard and fast rules which will immediately give you the answer.
The advice from all the golf industry is of course to go and get fitted as it always seems to be for everything these days.
But while you obviously can’t argue too much with heading to an expert club fitter the process to find out the best club weight for you is the same whether you go to a fitter or want to try and find out for yourself.
And that process is simple trial and error.
Try clubs which are both much lighter and much heavier so you can gauge the results.
Which club weight gives you the most consistent strike, the best distance and best dispersion of shots?
However the most critical thing when it comes to weight of club is how it ‘feels’ to you. Feel is without doubt the overriding factor.
Whatever the numbers say you have got to ‘feel’ comfortable with the weight of the club you are playing.
If it ‘feels too heavy’ you’ll maybe have the sensation that it’s hard work to swing the club. If it ‘feels too light’ you might think that you have no control of the club head at all.
And of course ‘feel’ is different for everyone.
While some golfers are quite indifferent when it comes to swinging different weights of golf club others can feel the difference of even a couple of grams.
In a testing session with Nike club engineers back in the day Tiger Woods’ famously noticed the difference between 4 supposedly ‘identical’ drivers discovering one of them was the equivalent to ‘two cotton balls’ heavier than the other 3.
It is also thought that golfers who play more often will have a harder time changing the weight of their clubs compared to the occasional player who is often able to make a bigger change if they find it helps their game.
Whatever ‘feels’ right for you is also unlikely to give you wins across the board.
A heavier driver might give you more distance for example but require you to sacrifice a bit of accuracy. On the flip side, a lighter club may lead to fewer errant shots but will lose you some distance.
In short there is always a compromise that needs to be made somewhere.
And what about the weight of your drivers and woods compared to your irons and wedges? Is weight more important for one type of club vs another?
The prevailing opinion on this one is that weight is equally important in all golf clubs.
That does not automatically mean that if you like a light driver you should automatically play light irons.
This may not be the case. It’s important to treat different club types separately and just remember again that the critical thing is ‘feel’.
If your golf clubs are the correct weight for you your swing will feel good and let you hit good shots when you get things right.
Also if your golf clubs are the right weight you will not even be thinking about how heavy or light they are!
Making sure you have got the right equipment is clearly an important thing in golf if you want to play well and improve.
And given weight and its importance when it comes to the golf club and your golf swing it is something that needs consideration.
Further the options when it comes to weight are huge now and offer loads of alternatives for players as their body and their game changes.
Once you get over 60 for example you can lose over 0.5mph of speed per year and adjusting your club weight after a few years of losing speed can be of huge help.
Just watch you don’t get bogged down however in all the talk about weight and shaft flex and torque etc etc.
It takes more than the right weight of club to optimize how far and how consistently you hit the ball.
Go with what ‘feels’ right and get back out on the course and the range as much as you can.
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