QA Weight-Adjustable Drivers

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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
 
Frank,
I noticed that the new series of drivers, even TaylorMade's new burner, are non-adjustable. I have a TaylorMade R7 HT and have only used the low or high neutral positions. Since shape seems to be the hot item on drivers at the moment, I was wondering if you feel the weight-adjustable drivers have run their course?

John

 
John,
I do think that the concept of weight-adjustable ports makes some sense and can make some differences in the flight of the ball. It also is a neat way to change the weight of the head. But the promotion of these clubs seemed to promise ' and we were quick to believe ' that adjusting weights would correct some of our swing flaws, and we therefore didn't have to practice or get a lesson. This is not so. Yes, changing the center of gravity (c.g.) has an effect on the reaction to the ball on off-center hits and changes the face presentation to the ball. But it wont correct our swing flaws or other bad mistakes.
 
A golfer needs to hit the same spot on the face of the club consistently in order to take advantage of a fade or draw bias that hes building into the club when he makes an adjustment to the weights. Most of us who buy clubs dont have such reliably repeating swings; were happy to make contact somewhere close to the sweet spot 50% of the time. So the real answer to correcting a slice is a lesson, not a weight adjustment on the driver head as we are sometimes lead to believe.
 
Today the cool thing is high MOI, which comes with the flatter shape. This is designed to forgive your mistakes even more than the adjustable weights.
 
So, YES, I think that the sparkle of adjustable weights is fading, but it may never go away because it does give some flexibility we didn't have before, some of the best golfers can take advantage of this concept, and it doesnt do the rest of us any harm.
 
Unfortunately, as much as we don't want to believe it (because we like to believe in magic), the distance race for drivers is rapidly approaching the finish line. What I think will come next is designing drivers to specifically allow us to launch the ball closer to its optimum conditions. Manufacturers have been working on this and are at last offering higher lofted drivers, but it is still only a distant, sometimes hidden option rather than a specific recommendation.
 
Slower swing speeds generally need more lofted drivers, and we are starting to recognize that when we use more loft on the driver we actually get closer to the distance we think we hit the ball. For most us, the gym is the place where relocation of weight is a real possibility and will be most effective. For more equipment updates be sure to sign up as a Frankly Friend by clicking here.
 
Hope this helps.
Frank
 
Hi Frank,
Love your articles. I have a question regarding swing weight. Which is better, a driver with a high swing weight (D5) or lower swing weight (D2)? I have a swing speed of 105 and was wondering which is correct for me as well as which stiffness of golf shaft -- regular or stiff?
 
Thanks with any help,
Clifton

 
Clifton,
With your 105 mph swing speed, youre in the bracket where an S shaft may work well, but this is really a choice you must make based on your comfort level and performance. Some golfers with the same swing speed you have successfully use R-shafts, while others have done well with an X-shaft. Your acceleration rate to impact and the degree of control youre looking for will influence your choice. You need to develop confidence in your club so that youll make a better swing and in turn increase your average driving distance.
 
With regard to the question about what is the best swing weight, D2 or D5, my real answer is there isnt one. Swing weight is not all its cracked up to be if its misused. With the right adjustments I can bring a telephone poles swing weight to D2.
 
The swing weight system is based purely on a balance beam concept, with the fulcrum placed 14 inches from the grip end. With an average grip, shaft and head weight for a driver, the swing weight is a measure of how much additional weight I need to add to the butt end to keep the club in balance about the 14-inch fulcrum. This is then converted into a table with letters and numbers such as C2, C3, up to C9 and then D0 and so on to the Es and Fs (not usual, but some long putters are up there even though we should not even think about swing weighting putters unless we intend to make a full swing with this club).
 
The average acceptable swing weight for men is about D2. As the clubs get shorter, more head weight is needed to keep the balance the same. The lightest club in the bag is the driver and the heaviest is the putter (fun fact worth a beer).
 
Very few golfers can distinguish a difference of three swing weight points, even though many insist on having all the clubs in the set be exactly on the money. This is where the problem starts as club makers, in trying to satisfy the customer, may back-weight a club to get the scale to read the right number.
 
In some case of real abuse, lead plugs are forced into the hosel section of the shaft to increase the swing weight instead of upping it with a heavier head. This will move the center of gravity (c.g.) up and toward the heel of the head, which is exactly in the wrong direction. Probably worse is the case where clubs have weight added to the grip to reduce the swing weight when the head is too heavy; the club remains too heavy, but it does have the right numbers on the scale (which tells you theres something wrong with relying on the words swing weight when the basic concept is abused).
 
We all know that wearing a glove will not affect the overall dynamics or swinging feel of the club, compared to not wearing a glove. However, when you wear a glove it becomes part of the grip. Next time you measure the swing weight of a club on a swing weight scale, after its in balance, place the glove on the grip. Youll see the swing weight drop about 5 to 6 points. Does a glove really make a difference of such magnitude in the feel of a club?
 
Bottom line; dont get hung up on swing weight numbers. If you want to experiment with swing weight, add a little lead tape on the head and see if it feels better to you. Swing weight, if not abused is a good first step for matching but feel is more important than this so-called precise number.
 
Clifton, your question about what is best, D5 or D2 ; how about going for a D3.5 so you can sleep at night?
 
Frank
 
Dear Frank,
Ive recently been custom-fitted for irons. I need standard length, but 2 degrees upright. I have ordered 3-PW and GW in that configuration.
 
The fitter recommended that I not have my SW and LW bent upright as well, because these are more feel clubs and I will be hitting from so many different lies, it wont make much difference.
 
What do you recommend? (FYI, my putter is 2 up as well.) Thanks!
 
Brian

 
Brian,
You are obviously an upstanding and upright person and may need an upright club to match your uprightedness. But this does not have to extend to your putter, which is dependent on your putting stance style and putter length.
 
When it comes to your wedges, recognize that the PW is an extension of your iron set, and the Gap Wedge should be too. The Gap Wedge is the same loft that the PW or even the 9-iron was thirty years ago. Just because the manufacturers decreased the loft of all the irons without changing the numbers on the bottom of the club doesnt mean that you should consider them Utility clubs, a designation that applies to the Sand Wedge, Lob Wedge, Driver and Putter (and more recently the Hybrid, although these are starting to find a real place in the set). The truth about your wedges, all your wedges, is that they should match the lie angles of the rest of your set.
 
If you attempt to use these to fashion a shot in an unusual way now and again, then you can work around the norm. Dont intentionally have these wedges out of spec with the rest of your set because you will use them for normal shots most of the time. If you are going to be upright, do it all the way.
Frank
 
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