Is Lighter Really Longer?
(Written By: GolfSpy Matt) “Lighter is longer” — “If distance matters, weight matters” — “The Right Light”.
All of these marketing slogans are meant to convince you that a lighter weight club will help you hit the ball longer and straighter. A lot of people would assume that this is true…but you know what happens when you assume. But fear not, because where there is marketing hype, MyGolfSpy Labs are close behind with FACTS.
“You mean there’s more than flex?”
So after reading our MGS Labs report on shaft flex, you realized that playing the wrong flex can cost you distance AND accuracy. You also learned that fitting shaft flex by swing speed isn’t always going to work. Today I’m going to let you in on another secret: picking the right flex isn’t enough. Not only do you need the right flex, but you also need the right weight. But don’t take my word for it. Check out what Master Club Fitter Nick Sherburne of Club Champion has to say:
The Company Line
Far from ignoring shaft weight, some of the big OEMs have actually built ad campaigns around it. The problem? They’ve tried to brain wash you into thinking that picking the right weight is simple: “Pick a lighter shaft and you’ll hit it farther,” they claim, “and stronger players should play heavier shafts.” Now if you’ve been paying any attention to our Labs, you know things are rarely that cut-and-dry.
So what’s the truth? We hit the range with our band of testers to find out.
HOW WE TESTED
For this test, we had golfers test drivers with shafts weighing 55 grams and 75 grams. The golfer was able to choose whether they wanted stiff or regular flex. Every player used the exact same head: a 10.5* Callaway RAZR Fit. To keep the testers from knowing what shaft they were testing, UST Mamiya supplied blacked out shafts with no distinguishing marks (I marked the grips so that I would know which shaft was which). The shafts were the same torque, flex, and bend profile, the only difference was weight.
FlightScope X2 Launch Monitor
There’s a famous story (at least in golf nerd circles) about Tiger Woods testing drivers with Nike: Tiger hit 4 different drivers and said, “I like the heavy one.” The Nike engineers were baffled as all three clubs were designed to be identical. They took the clubs back to the lab and found that the “heavy one” was heavier…by the equivalent of two cotton balls.
Our test group can’t be said to possess the same sensitivity: of our five testers, only one correctly guessed what we were testing and which shaft was heavier. That doesn’t mean they didn’t notice differences. One said that the heavier shaft felt stiffer. Another flatly said he didn’t like the lighter shaft, he just couldn’t figure out why.
While our testers couldn’t necessarily put their finger on what was different, there can be no question that their swings were impacted by the change in weight. Here’s what we saw:
(The Data) – Lighter (vs) Heavier Shafts
:: 3/5 testers created more swing speed with the lighter shaft, BUT…
:: 3/5 created more ball speed with the heavier shaft
:: 4/5 testers got more carry distance with the lighter shaft, BUT…
:: 3/5 got more total distance with the heavier shaft
:: 3/5 hit the ball straighter with the lighter shaft
:: 3/5 swung the club more consistently with the lighter shaft
:: 3/5 testers launched the ball lower with the lighter shaft
:: 3/5 generated less backspin with the lighter shaft
If those stats don’t convince you that shaft weight matters, how about these charts of the shot dispersion for Testers #1 and #4: Anyone want to argue that shaft weight doesn’t matter now?
Hopefully we can all agree at this point that shaft weight can have a big impact on ball flight. For some of our players, that difference was in distance (23 yards for tester #1), for others it was accuracy and dispersion (see Tester #4’s 36 yard dispersion improvement above), and others simply showed an improvement in consistency.
Now let’s check back in with that Company Line about lighter shafts for slower swingers and heavier shafts for stronger players. Yup, totally true…if Tester #1 wants to give up 23 yards…and Tester #3 wants to hit it further offline and give up 26 yards of carry.
What I hope you’re starting to see is that, just like golf itself, fitting is not easy. There are no shortcuts and the little bits of “common knowledge” are, more often than not, a bunch of bulls***.
So please, get your clubs fit. At a very minimum, test an ultralight shaft, a mid-weight shaft, and something heavy. See if you have a strong preference for the way one feels versus the others, or, if you, like some of our testers, can find a marked performance benefit by going lighter or heavier with your shaft selection. But please, don’t play the stock shaft unless it’s a good fit for you.