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Swingweight is a measurement of the relative distribution of weight in a golf club. Heavier swingweights usually translate into more "feel of the head" which is usually shortened to just "feel". Consequently, heavier swingweights are desirable until they become "too heavy" (golfer logic).
A swingweight scale holds the club at the end of the grip and measures the weight of the shaft and head that extends beyond a fulcrum at 14". The measurement is translated into a clubmakers' code expressed in letters and numbers. The normal range is roughly C-5 to E-0. Values outside of that range should be considered unusual.
Standard Swingweight Ranges
In general, values between C-5 and D-0 are considered "light" - meaning that the combined weight of the shaft and the clubhead extending past the 14" fulcrum is just that, "light". Such a swingweight might be appropriate for a weaker male golfer or an average woman golfer. For an average male golfer, a C-range swingweight would probably lack "feel". Lots of Ping clubs fall in this range.
D-0 to D-4 are "average" swingweights for men. Commercially available clubs will generally be found in the lower end of the D range. The actual weight differences are actually quite small. The difference between a D-0 and D-1 is two grams, roughly the weight of a dime. The total range of D-0 to D-4 could be covered by taping a quarter and a dime to a clubhead. It is generally agreed that even the best professionals can't feel the difference in a single swingweight point.
D-5 to E-0 are thought of as "heavy" swingweights. There is a fine line between "OK" and "too heavy". Good players, who are strong enough to "handle" heavy head weights, tend to feel that too much weight in the head makes it harder to control distance and "finesse" shots because there is just too much mass in the club head. (E=MC squared and all that). There is an exception in wedges. For short clubs, swung at slow speeds, it is usually agreed that very heavy clubheads promote feel. Consequently, it is common for better players to have their wedges, including the pitching wedge in the high D to low E range.]
Taller golfers can tolerate heavier swingweights. Each 1" in added length adds 6 swingweight points keeping headweight the same. Therefore, to get the same "feel" a taller golfer might find swingweights in the D-5 to D-8 range quite comfortable. Swingweights over E-0 always become suspect, except in wedges.
Exceptions and Recommendations
In the past, matched swingweights were judged as a sign of quality in golf clubs. Since heads, shafts and grips were manufactured according to imprecise tolerances, swingweight was the only measurement manufacturers could control easily. Matched swingweights might very well be an anachronism.
Swingweight measurements can be defeated by artificial means, such as putting lead weight down the shaft, or applying a heavier grip or placing weight under the grip to "trick" the scale. Consequently, swingweight is only meaningful in the context of overall weight of the club.
Matched swingweights does not necessarily mean quality in golf clubs. To promote feel and consistency, a gradual increase in swingweight through the set might be more effective. If a good player owns a set of D-3 clubs, but likes a D-7 pitching wedge and an E-0 sand wedge; might it not be more logical to increase swingweights gradually throughout the set? Likewise if the goal of a driving iron were to hit a shot that "bores and rolls", why wouldn't a heavy swingweight be appropriate?
In our opinion, the reason lightweight graphite shafts for irons have not gained acceptance among better golfers is that manufacturers have not produced clubs with sufficient swingweight to provide feel. Sets built with lightweight graphite shafts usually measure in the mid to high C swingweight range. There is a simple reason. Manufacturers don't have heads that are heavy enough since they are managing inventories and building to "averages". We are getting great results from lightweight graphite shafts built with swingweights in the D-3 to D-5 range. For better golfers, this is unexplored territory.
Finally, SST PURE ® solves the problem of inconsistency in graphite shafts. It is now safe to play graphite in your irons.