Recently a major golf grip manufacturer advertised grips which are about half the weight of normal grips. The theory is that this will increase clubhead feel, accuracy, and clubhead speed.
Is there any merit to having my irons regripped with grips that are about one half the weight of normal grips? Will the average 15 handicap golfer improve his feel and game with lighter grips, or is this simply more marketing hype?
– Bernie, Canada
Isn’t it surprising how the minds of marketing people work? We have been making golf clubs for about 400 years and somehow believe that we can come up with some new discovery which will increase, distance – the most effective word in golf marketing – and improve accuracy. Feel is something nobody has satisfactorily defined – but we all know what it means; Or do we? These claims of increased distance, accuracy and feel are the food we gullible golfers thrive upon, and almost without question.
Looking for the magic potion, which will solve our golfing woes, is in itself an addictive and charming part of the game.
The “looking” part, in anticipation of finding the magic, makes this activity very addictive, but not the actual “finding” part. If we ever found the magic club our search would be over. We would have nothing to look for. The excitement and charm of this search would be over.
Because golf is such a mental game influenced so much by what we believe, it lends itself to building fantasies only to have these knocked down time after time, and not to our surprise. We know that there is no magic but this does not stop us from looking for it, and there is a lot of it for sale.
If you decrease the weight of the average grip by 50% you will increase the swing weight by about 7 points.
This is the same as removing a heavy golf glove if you use a glove – which might as well be part of the grip – or even if you remove your wristwatch.
Because the weight has been removed from the axis of rotation during the critical part of the swing – just before impact – it has little effect on the dynamics of the club. I discussed this in a Q&A recently about wearing a golf glove.
Swing weight is not a dynamic balance, as the name implies. It is based on a static balance and in technical terms described as “first moments”. This means that to balance a beam you need to add a weight to one side at a certain distance from the fulcrum (balance point) and an equivalent amount of weight to the other side at the same distance or half the weight at twice the distance. Through this balancing procedure a telephone pole can be “swing weighted” to D2 the same as our driver. But the overall weight is significantly different.
A method of dynamic balancing would be to match clubs using Moment of Inertia (MOI) by oscillating it back and forth about the axis of rotation in the critical region of the swing – a point a little above the hands. MOI is a measure of the resistance to angular acceleration, which means the forces required to twist or stop twisting around a specific axis.
To calculate the approximate MOI, the head mass is multiplied by the square of the distance to the center of the head from the axis of rotation. So if you add or subtract mass – decrease or increase the grip weight – from the axis of rotation the MOI doesn’t change very much. And we all intuitively know this – i.e. taking your glove off or decreasing the weight of the grip doesn’t make much difference to performance but it does change the swing weight by five or six points.
This is why MOI balancing is a much better method than swing weight for balancing a set of clubs – certainly if swing weight is manipulated by back weighting etc. MOI is a dynamic balance and clubs so balanced will be close to the PURE swing weight balancing as it was originally developed based on Francis Ouimet’s set (first amateur to win the US Open in 1913 at 20 years old). This set was assembled by Francis Ouimet based on club feel with length and head weight being the only variables and the results closely match MOI matching.
Sorry about this but I thought it needed to be explained.
Hope this has helped you understand that magic is hard to find but searching for it is fun.
Frank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf. Thomas is chief technical advisor to GolfChannel.com. He served as technical director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN system and introduced the Stimpmeter. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email firstname.lastname@example.org