QA Explaining Swing Weight

By Frank ThomasMay 30, 2006, 4:00 pm
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
I've noticed that some drivers have different swing weights even with a shaft that weighs the same. Can you tell me how that works? -- Mark Bradley

Swing weight is a measure of the counter balance required to be applied to the grip of the club when it is balanced at a fulcrum 14 inches from the end of the grip. This fulcrum distance was established as being the most appropriate one based on an attempt to quantify a weight matching system using Francis Ouimets clubs (U.S. Open champion 1913 as an amateur).
The concept was simple and assumed that every shaft in the set weighed about the same per inch of length, the grips all weighed the same and that the only two variables involved were shaft length and head weight. Based on this a method of matching was born called swing weight.
It is really not a dynamic measurement as the name implies but rather a simple balance system what in mechanics is called First Moments. This is where the distance of the weight from the fulcrum multiplied by the weight itself must be the same on both sides for the beam to balance.
In the case of swing weight the fulcrum has been pre-selected, as mentioned above, to be 14 inches from the butt end of the club. As times changed and shafts became lighter this changed the thinking a little.
The concentration of mass of the shaft i.e. the center of gravity or (c.g.) is close to the midpoint of the shaft length and is on the head side of the 14 inch fulcrum. For this reason with a lighter shaft i.e. Graphite vs. Steel the balance will be thrown off and more weight will need to be added to the head for the same swing weight to register on the scale.
(Visit for the background on my invention of the graphite shaft)
So as you can see the swing weight is a simple balance beam and you can get two different swing weights in two different clubs with the same shaft weight but this would require adding or subtracting weight from the head.

Years ago there was a English player named Paul Trevillion who used a short putter with a split grip, on short putts he would hold the right hand around six inches above the ground and move it upwards as the putts got longer. Its said he made a 1000 four foot putts and never missed a putt, also he would take anyone on in a putt-off, and never lost. Why is it no PGA pros have ever used his method, least wise that Ive seen? -- Joe Cody

This is being done every day but with a modified putter which will do about the same thing. Not quite as well but without the back breaking stance. The long putter is one similar in concept to the one you describe. The idea is to eliminate as many variables and sources of error in the putting stroke as possible. The low right hand exaggerated split grip short putter eliminates at least three degrees of freedom or at least minimizes them to being almost ineffective and so minimizes the potential of these influencing the stroke. These degrees of freedom are:
a) The up and down motion (raising the head of the putter off the ground to various heights as the left arm is firmly lock in place and hand or wrist becomes a pivot point).
b) The rotation of the wrists as these are no longer in play.
c) The wrist break as opposed to a firm left wrist. Breaking the left wrist seems to be the cause of many misses.
With these three degrees of freedom out of play you are left with only the two side ways movements across the line of the putt and along the line of putt. The action of the right hand for the short putter is a bowling move which is better than that used on the long putter which is across the body and not natural. There is no doubt that this style of putting is excellent for short putts as proven by Sam Snead.
I recently made my annual pilgrimage to the local golf emporium to compare this years hot new drivers and put the manufacturers claims to the test on the launch monitor. My driving distance is usually 250-270 yards, as confirmed by my Skygolf GPS, which has a shot distance function. However, the launch monitors always seem to dock me about 50 yards, giving me readings of around 200-220 yards (carry plus roll), even when hitting my own driver which I know I hit 250+.

This is a recurring pattern regardless of the launch monitor Im using. My favorite golf shop is equipped with TaylorMades MATT system, Callaways proprietary fitting system and their own non-proprietary system. All three show spin-rate, launch angle, club head speed, ball speed, distance, etc. And they all seem to uniformly low-ball me about 50 yards.

As the prime technical guru of the golf universe, do you have any ideas as to why this might be? -- Amir Stark

I think I must first say that most of the launch monitors predict the distances based on a preset formula taking launch angle spin rate and ball speed as the input variables. They also use a standard turf condition (producing about 25 yards of roll for a standard drive) and the aerodynamic properties of a generic ball. This is not bad for general use. It will certainly get the golfer into the right ball park for club selection to approach, as close as they can, the Optimum Conditions. The lower the head speed the lower the ball speed and the higher the launch angle is needed. Also as the ball speed goes down so must the spin rate go up. Check the link to get the numbers.
In your case a difference of 50 yards between your measured drives and the launch monitors predictions seems to be off the mark somewhere. If this is, as you say, consistent across the board then the only thing I can conclude is that your actual measurements should be checked and you must also be experiencing an unusual ball roll condition.
I would like to be more positive about this but know that most launch monitors are reasonably close to what golfers find based on some very good research. Your case is an anomaly and when you analyze the conditions under which you play and make your measurements you may find the reason for these differences. Let me know when you do.
I'm writing about a frustration I have had for quite sometime and that is reference to topspin in golf shots other than putts. I can't give you a specific example but if you are like me (and my assumption of the notion of topspin full shots is correct) I am sure you have made note of them as well. Frequently, folks talk about hot clubs or shots that have topspin and role out a long away as a result. Could you first confirm that no normally hit shot with any club other than perhaps a putter (and even them most times there is backspin with that club too) that topspin is both not desired and would be a quite rare phenomenon.
I am not a physicist but I believe backspin is what creates lift in a golf ball, along with the dimples of course, and contributes to length of carry. Excessive backspin of course produces more lift than desired generating a flight path that diminishes overall length, as there would be less or sometimes no roll out. Focus now is on optimal backspin along with launch angle and initial velocity to create the most carry and roll out.
Am I correct? -- Gary Marx

You are right. Every ball is hit with back spin, even a putt which is minimal but it does have back spin unless struck with an upward stroke which takes a lot of talent (see The Anatomy of a Putt at where you can see exactly what happens. Dont be fooled into believing otherwise.
For all other shots the only way a ball can stay in the air for any length of time is for it to have a lift force equivalent to or greater than the weight of the ball (the force being applied by gravity). The dimples on the ball create a rough surface creating a turbulent layer of air which believe it or not decrease the resisting drag force after about 50 mph and also, because of the back spin create an airfoil section similar to an aircraft wing. This creates the lift forces, a result of a higher pressure on the underside of the ball than the top side.
A ball with top spin may cover a distance of about 35 yards in the air compared to 250 yards in the air with a similarly struck ball with back spin.
Frank 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
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Molinari retirement plan: coffee, books and Twitter

By Will GrayJuly 22, 2018, 9:35 pm

After breaking through for his first career major, Francesco Molinari now has a five-year exemption on the PGA Tour, a 10-year exemption in Europe and has solidified his standing as one of the best players in the world.

But not too long ago, the 35-year-old Italian was apparently thinking about life after golf.

Shortly after Molinari rolled in a final birdie putt to close out a two-shot victory at The Open, fellow Tour player Wesley Bryan tweeted a picture of a note that he wrote after the two played together during the third round of the WGC-HSBC Champions in China in October. In it, Bryan shared Molinari's plans to retire as early as 2020 to hang out at cafes and "become a Twitter troll":

Molinari is active on the social media platform, with more than 5,600 tweets sent out to nearly 150,000 followers since joining in 2010. But after lifting the claret jug at Carnoustie, it appears one of the few downsides of Molinari's victory is that the golf world won't get to see the veteran turn into a caffeinated, well-read troll anytime soon.

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Molinari had previously avoided Carnoustie on purpose

By Rex HoggardJuly 22, 2018, 9:17 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Sometimes a course just fits a player’s eye. They can’t really describe why, but more often than not it leads to solid finishes.

Francesco Molinari’s relationship with Carnoustie isn’t like that.

The Italian played his first major at Carnoustie, widely considered the toughest of all The Open venues, in 2007, and his first impression hasn’t really changed.

“There was nothing comforting about it,” he said on Sunday following a final-round 69 that lifted him to a two-stroke victory.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

In fact, following that first exposure to the Angus coast brute, Molinari has tried to avoid Carnoustie, largely skipping the Dunhill Links Championship, one of the European Tour’s marquee events, throughout his career.

“To be completely honest, it's one of the reasons why I didn't play the Dunhill Links in the last few years, because I got beaten up around here a few times in the past,” he said. “I didn't particularly enjoy that feeling. It's a really tough course. You can try and play smart golf, but some shots, you just have to hit it straight. There's no way around it. You can't really hide.”

Molinari’s relative dislike for the layout makes his performance this week even more impressive considering he played his last 37 holes bogey-free.

“To play the weekend bogey-free, it's unthinkable, to be honest. So very proud of today,” he said.

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Rose: T-2 finish renewed my love of The Open

By Jay CoffinJuly 22, 2018, 9:00 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Justin Rose made the cut on the number at The Open and was out for an early Saturday morning stroll at Carnoustie when, all of a sudden, he started putting together one great shot after another.

There was no pressure. No one had expected anything from someone so far off the lead. Yet Rose shot 30 on the final nine holes to turn in 7-under 64, the lowest round of the championship. By day’s end he was five shots behind a trio of leaders that included Jordan Spieth.

Rose followed the 64 with a Sunday 69 to tie for second place, two shots behind winner Francesco Molinari. His 133 total over the weekend was the lowest by a shot, and for a moment he thought he had a chance to hoist the claret jug, until Molinari put on a ball-striking clinic down the stretch with birdies on 14 and 18.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“I just think having made the cut number, it’s a great effort to be relevant on the leaderboard on Sunday,” said Rose, who collected his third-career runner-up in a major. He’s also finished 12th or better in all three majors this year.

In the final round, Rose was well off the pace until his second shot on the par-5 14th hole hit the pin. He had a tap-in eagle to move to 5 under. Birdie at the last moved him to 6 under and made him the clubhouse leader for a few moments.

“It just proves to me that I can play well in this tournament, that I can win The Open,” Rose said. “When I’m in the hunt, I enjoy it. I play my best golf. I don’t back away.

“That was a real positive for me, and it renewed the love of The Open for me.”

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Woods does everything but win at The Open

By Ryan LavnerJuly 22, 2018, 8:57 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a proud man who spent the majority of his prime scoffing at silver linings and moral victories, Tiger Woods needed little cajoling to look at the bright side Sunday at Carnoustie.

Sure, after a round in which he took the solo lead at The Open with nine holes to go, the first words out of Woods’ mouth were that he was “a little ticked off at myself” for squandering an opportunity to capture his 15th major title, and his first in more than a decade. And that immediate reaction was justified: In the stiffest winds of the week, he played his last eight holes in 2 over, missed low on a 6-footer on the final green and wound up in a tie for sixth, three shots behind his playing partner, Francesco Molinari.

“Today was a day,” Woods said, “that I had a great opportunity.”

But here’s where we take a deep breath.

Tiger Woods led the freakin’ Open Championship with eight holes to play.

Imagine typing those words three months ago. Six months ago. Nine months ago. Twelve months ago.

The scenario was improbable.



At this time last year, Woods was only a few months removed from a Hail Mary fusion surgery; from a humiliating DUI arrest in which he was found slumped behind the wheel of his car, with five drugs in his system; from a month-long stay in a rehab clinic to manage his sleep medications.

Just last fall, he’d admitted that he didn’t know what the future held. Playing a major, let alone contending in one, seemed like a reasonable goal.

This year he’s showed signs of softening, of being kinder and gentler. He appeared more eager to engage with his peers. More appreciative of battling the game’s young stars inside the ropes. More likely to express his vulnerabilities. Now 42, he finally seemed at peace with accepting his role as an elder statesman.

One major, any major, would be the most meaningful title of his career, and he suggested this week that his best chance would come in an Open, where oldies-but-goodies Tom Watson (age 59) and Greg Norman (53) have nearly stolen the claret jug over the past decade.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

But success at this Open, on the toughest links in the rota?

“Just need to play some cleaner golf, and who knows?” he shrugged.

Many analysts howled at Woods’ ultra-conservative strategy across the early rounds here at big, brawny and brutish Carnoustie. He led the field in driving accuracy but routinely left himself 200-plus yards for his approach shots, relying heavily on some vintage iron play. Even par through 36 holes, he stepped on the gas Saturday, during the most benign day for scoring, carding a 66 to get within striking distance of the leaders.

Donning his traditional blood-red shirt Sunday, Woods needed only six holes to erase his five-shot deficit. Hearing the roars, watching WOODS rise on the yellow leaderboards, it was as though we’d been transported to the mid-2000s, to a time when he’d play solidly, not spectacularly, and watch as his lesser opponents crumbled. On the same ancient links that Ben Hogan took his lone Open title, in 1953, four years after having his legs crushed in a head-on crash with a Greyhound bus, Woods seemed on the verge of scripting his own incredible comeback.

Because Jordan Spieth was tumbling down the board, the beginning of a birdie-less 76.

Rory McIlroy was bogeying two of his first five holes.

Xander Schauffele was hacking his way through fescue.

Once Woods hit one of the shots of the championship on 10 – hoisting a 151-yard pitching wedge out of a fairway bunker, over a steep lip, over a burn, to 20 feet – the outcome seemed preordained.

“For a while,” McIlroy conceded, “I thought Tiger was going to win.”

So did Woods. “It didn’t feel any different to be next to the lead and knowing what I needed to do,” he said. “I’ve done it so many different ways. It didn’t feel any different.”

But perhaps it’s no coincidence that once Woods took the lead for the first time, he frittered it away almost immediately. That’s what happened Saturday, when he shared the lead on the back nine and promptly made bogey. On Sunday, he drove into thick fescue on 11, then rocketed his second shot into the crowd, the ball ricocheting off a fan’s shoulder, and then another’s iPhone, and settling in more hay. He was too cute with his flop shot, leaving it short of the green, and then missed an 8-footer for bogey. He followed it up on 12 with another misadventure in the rough, leading to a momentum-killing bogey. He’d never again pull closer than two shots.

“It will be interesting to see going forward, because this was his first taste of major championship drama for quite a while,” McIlroy said. “Even though he’s won 14, you have to learn how to get back.”

Over the daunting closing stretch, Woods watched helplessly as Molinari, as reliable as the tide coming in off the North Sea, plodded his way to victory. With Woods’ hopes for a playoff already slim, Molinari feathered a wedge to 5 feet on the closing hole. Woods marched grim-faced to the bridge, never turning around to acknowledge his playing partner’s finishing blow. He waved his black cap and raised his mallet-style putter to a roaring crowd – knowledgeable fans who were appreciative not just of Woods making his first Open start since 2015, but actually coming close to winning the damn thing.

“Oh, it was a blast,” Woods would say afterward. “I need to try to keep it in perspective, because at the beginning of the year, if they’d have said you’re playing The Open Championship, I would have said I’d be very lucky to do that.”

Last weekend, Woods sat in a box at Wimbledon to watch Serena Williams contend for a 24th major title. Williams is one of the few athletes on the planet with whom Woods can relate – an aging, larger-than-life superstar who is fiercely competitive and adept at overcoming adversity. Woods is 15 months removed from a fourth back surgery on an already brittle body; Williams nearly secured the most prestigious championship in tennis less than a year after suffering serious complications during childbirth.

“She’ll probably call me and talk to me about it because you’ve got to put things in perspective,” Woods said. “I know that it’s going to sting for a little bit here, but given where I was to where I’m at now, I’m blessed.”

But Woods didn’t need to wait for that phone call to find some solace. Waiting for him afterward were his two kids, Sam, 11, and Charlie, 9, both of whom were either too young or not yet born when Tiger last won a major in 2008, when he was at the peak of his powers.

Choking up, Woods said, “I told them I tried, and I said, 'Hopefully you’re proud of your Pops for trying as hard as I did.' It’s pretty emotional, because they gave me some pretty significant hugs there and squeezed. I know that they know how much this championship means to me, and how much it feels good to be back playing again.

“To me, it’s just so special to have them aware, because I’ve won a lot of golf tournaments in my career, but they don’t remember any of them. The only thing they’ve seen is my struggles and the pain I was going through. Now they just want to go play soccer with me. It’s such a great feeling.”

His media obligations done, Woods climbed up the elevated walkway, on his way to the back entrance of the Carnoustie Golf Hotel & Spa. He was surrounded by his usual entourage, but also two young, cute members of his clan.

Sam adhered to the strict Sunday dress code, wearing a black tank top and red shorts. But Charlie’s attire may have been even more appropriate. On the day his dad nearly authored the greatest sports story ever, he chose a red Nike T-shirt with a bold message emblazoned on the front, in big, block letters:


After this riveting performance, after Tiger Woods nearly won The Open, are there really any left?