The Challenges of Lighter-Weight Clubs
In case you haven’t noticed, golf clubs are getting lighter. Over the past 20 years there has been an all-out effort by the equipment manufacturers to lighten the golfer’s load through the reduction of weight in the shaft. This total club weight loss has been engineered for many reasons. First, a lighter golf club can be swung with less effort and more efficiently. Also, a player’s swing speed can be increased by a lighter shaft, resulting in greater distance. Finally, less player fatigue is a very beneficial byproduct of lighter-weight shafts.
But lighter weight shafts do not always bring absolute positive results. Lightweight shafts yield lighter total club weight, resulting in some players struggling with the timing of their swings and, therefore, less than stellar ball striking. For years, swingweight or additional head weight has been the panacea for clubmakers trying to cure the “lights.” Often this would remedy the problem, but at other times, a different solution was necessary.
The Counterbalance Cure
Since 2005, the Golfsmith Research and Development team has been employing counterbalancing to help cure the ill of too-light golf clubs. Counterbalancing means adding weight to the butt end of the club. This additional weight adds to the total weight of the club but does not necessitate additional leverage on the part of the golfer. The end result is a tool for clubmakers that enhances the feel of the golf club without any additional effort required by the golfer.
Golfsmith R&D has had great success with our counterbalance testing. Three years ago we built a set of 7-iron heads with identical 75-gram shafts installed. Each club has a different amount of added butt weight; one of them has none. We use these clubs for testing in virtually every Clubmaking School we conduct, and they have been hit by hundreds of golfers. A few weeks ago, we were looking at them and noticed something about their faces. The 7-iron with 60 grams in the butt end (the most weight we installed in this set) has the tightest wear pattern on the face. The one with no counterbalance weight has the worst wear pattern.
So what does counterbalancing mean to the clubmaker who is looking to fit better? It means that when the correct weight is installed, there can be an improvement in golf shot quality due to more consistent contact in the center of the clubface. Additionally, counterbalancing allows golfers who prefer heavier clubs, but who don’t possess the physical characteristics to play them for a full round, to make use of lighter, less taxing shafts. This is key to improving scores and more importantly, to increasing the fun that should be central to a game of golf.
Counterbalancing is a simple task that any golfer or clubmaker can perform. The Tour Lock Pro Grip Modifier installs into a drill as would any bit, cuts a hole through the butt end of a grip, and allows the installation of Tour Lock Weights. The weights are available in 20-, 30-, 40-, 50-, 75- and 100-gram cartridges. With the turn of a hex wrench, they can be secured or removed in seconds. More permanent and a bit more tedious are the Shaft Butt Insert and the Universal Butt Weighting Plug. These plastic plugs must be epoxied into the butt of the shaft. Then, by bonding hosel weights inside the plastic cavity, they are filled with the desired amount of weight. A new grip is installed to finish the task.
Further testing led us to start counterbalancing putters. In fact, for the average golfer the putter may be the place where counterbalance causes the greatest improvements.
Almost all putters employ heads and shafts of similar weight, so the following will apply to practically every one. (There are some brands that feel substantially different, but they are few and far between.) To test the effects of counterbalance on a putter, start with 50 grams, then move to 75, and then to the 100-gram cartridge. There will be a difference in how the putter performs and how it feels in the player’s hands. Try long putts and short putts and find the correct weight for your stroke.
Through our testing we found it beneficial in most cases for golfers to use putters shorter than the industry standard of 35 inches. Usually, due to their beliefs and conventional practices with full-swing clubs, clubmakers automatically add weight to the head of a shortened putter, in order to correct the weight imbalance caused by the shorter length club. However, we have found that adding weight to the butt end of the putter is the better cure. Weight in the head is a cosmetic challenge and usually leads to the golfer flipping their wrists while attempting a stroke. Additional weight in the hands through counterbalancing eliminates this issue altogether.
The placement of counterbalance weight in putters is something we have been studying for a few months. Since golfers use many types of strokes and putt with different amounts of hand pressure, we are studying to see if there is a correlation between the type of grip used and the placement of the weight. For example, if a conventional reverse overlap putting grip is used, and the golfer uses more right hand pressure than left, would weight installed lower in the shaft, placed in the right hand, help or hurt? Moving weight around the butt end is something we will study hard in the coming months. But until we finalize our results, don’t be afraid to us the Tour Lock Pro Grip Modifier in your drill and start counterbalancing.