QA Distance Weight and Speed

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Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 
Hi, Frank:
I need help! My swing speed is around 125 mph with the driver (460 Adams xstiff), yet I have never hit a drive over 310 yards. Most of the time when I hit it good off the tee Im around 285 (bone-straight 12-degree launch). How is this possible? I play about 150 rounds a year, so I know Im not missing the sweet spot every single time. I read somewhere that you should get 3 yards for every mph your club head is traveling. If this is true, what is stopping my drive from traveling 350?
 
Thanks for any info, Frank. Hope all is well.
Billy
Michigan

 
Billy,
First of all there are a lot of us (millions, including a few pros on tour) who would love to be in your shoes with most of your drives going 285 yards bone-straight!
 
With 125 mph head speed and impacting the sweet spot every time, you should be able to drive the ball about 330 yards now and again under ideal launch conditions. These are 12 degrees launch angle and about 2,200 rpm spin rate and a fairway in average conditions (i.e. 25 yard roll). If you are not at these launch conditions, then try to get there by hitting the ball a little higher on the face. This will reduce the ball speed a little but bring you closer to the optimum angle and spin. The other thing to try is a different ball. For more on optimum launch conditions please Click here
 
If I were you, I would settle for the drives you have and concentrate on the rest of your game, as there is nothing wrong with what youre getting from your driver, especially since youre hitting it both long and straight. Then the next step is to apply for your PGA TOUR card if you dont already have it.
Frank
 
Hello Frank,
Last year I finally got fitted and learned that I needed to be +1/2' long (or 36' for a 6 iron). I decided to use Project X 5.5 rather than DG S300s due to the weight advantage of the PX. The swingweight of the new clubs with the PX shaft are D-6, which makes sense due to the 1/2' increase in length.
 
My question is, if I add 4-8 grams of lead tape weight to the grip end, thus reducing the swingweight by 1-2 points, will this allow me to swing the club with more control, faster, and be able square the club head better at impact?
Sincerely,
The Mat Slicer!!!

 
Mat,
By changing out these shafts -- going from the Dynamic Gold S 300 (a good shaft, by the way) to a Pro X 5.5 and making it 1/2 inch longer -- you have not only added weight to the shaft but increased the length. These two changes will increase the swingweight by 3 points for the increase in length and about 1 swingweight point for the slightly heavier shaft. This, as you have discovered, takes you from your former D2 to a D6.
 
If you are hung up on swing weight and want a D2 because it feels better to you, then shorten the shaft back to its original length and accept a D3 or decrease the head weight (not easy).
 
DON'T add weight to the butt end of the club to achieve a certain swingweight. This is done sometimes in club fitting to make the customer happy, but it does absolutely nothing for you.
 
Consider the following: putting on a heavier grip or adding weight under the grip reduces the swingweight. Wearing a glove might do the same thing. The glove might just as well be part of the grip (especially for those of us who have a death grip on the club), so this too will reduce the swing weight by as much as six points. A wristwatch will also be part of the club/hands/glove system and this would, if taken into account in measuring swingweight, affect the numbers. Wearing a watch adds weight to the grip section or axis of rotation. (The grip is not truly the axis for the entire swing, but certainly is for the final segment of the swing.)
 
We both know that the club feels almost exactly the same irrespective of whether we wear a glove or a watch. It might slip on occasion without the glove, but that's the only difference. The flaw is in putting too much stock in the measurement of swingweight.
 
Swingweight is a static balance, and its a useful measure of the balance of a club only when its used in combination with overall weight and natural frequency. The more weight in the head of the club and the distance this weight is from the grip, the heavier it will feel and the harder it will be to swing no matter how much weight you add to the grip.
 
Try holding a club at the head end, and swing the grip of the club. Then compare this to holding at the grip end and swinging the head. This is the feel that swing weight was designed to control. Just adding weight to that portion you are holding is not going to affect anything very much, and certainly not when it comes to the weight we are talking about (bearing in mind that a glove will affect the scale number by six points or so).
 
The head weight and the distance it is from the grip are most important for balancing purposes. So bottom line is, don't get hung up on swingweight too much. If the newly shafted club feels OK, then youre in good shape; if it feels too heavy, go back to the original length or get a lighter head. Most important is to keep swinging.
 
Frank
 
Hi,
 
I am 61 and have a slow swing speed, but I think I swing better with heavier clubs. I am stronger than young people and women who hit the ball farther than I do. More swing weight gives me more feedback and 'feel, but the general advice is that I should get lighter clubs. Why? I dont think I could swing faster with a club that has no weight at all. So my idea is to get longer shafts (I am 6'3' and measure 38' from my wrists to the floor) to get more distance. I think I am strong enough to handle more swingweight without losing speed. Longer shafts will produce higher club head speed, given the same 'rotation speed,' right? What do you think?
 
I mean, nobody ever examines the cause of the slow swing speed. The solution must be different if the muscles are weak or the body is slow or the technique is poor. This is a question I have thought about for several years.
I am relatively new to golf and my handicap is still improving, slowly.
Any comments, please?
Best Regards,
Nils

 
Nils,
It is true that a heavier club head at the same speed will generate more ball speed, but you would be better off increasing your club head speed with the same head weight, which is more effective. The head will have more kinetic energy, which is what you are looking for.
 
Increasing head speed can be done by increasing the club length, but this probably hurt your accuracy. Or you can decrease club weight. This too will increase head speed and in turn ball speed, but not the way I suggest.
There are two more things you can try that will increase head speed and distance. First is to increase your range of motion through a strength/flexibility (stretching) regimen. You may be strong, but you may not be transmitting that strength efficiently to the club head. Check with your doctor before you do this, but it is a good way to improve your general quality of life as well as your distance on the course.
 
The last thing to do along with the improved range of motion is to take a lesson. This will cost a lot less than a new set of clubs and will do a lot more for you.
 
Hang in there, but be warned that you have taken up a very addictive sport so beware that you might very well get hooked.
 
Click to purchase the Frog PutterFrank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com