Driver Head Weight and Club Length
Dave Tutelman -- October 28, 2012
This has been a hard article to write. Danny Seng
asked a question on Spinetalk, and I promised to look at it when I
had the time. The day after I started work on it, Hurricane Sandy hit
coastal New Jersey and I was without power for three days. In fact, I
was doing runs with SwingPerfect and TrajectoWare Drive at the moment
the lights went out. (We were lucky. A lot of my local friends were
without power for a lot longer, some for almost two weeks.)
Then, when I was able to get back to it, I realized (a) that the
question was much bigger than the limited inquiry that Danny had made,
and (b) the models were
giving results that mostly didn't agree with one another, nor did they
agree with some of the anecdotal evidence that is around for us to look
at. It took a lot of work, additional calculation, and even making and
using my own long driver -- and even a second pass at the article after
it was posted -- before I was satisfied I understood what was going on.
What is the best clubhead weight for a driver, the weight that gives
the best ball speed? Actually, that is the question that originally got
me into golf analysis in the early 1990s. I recognized the tradeoff
So where is the balance between speed and mass?
- A heavier head will probably result in less clubhead speed, but...
- A heavier head at a given clubhead speed will definitely transfer
more momentum to the ball.
I did quite a bit of forgettable mathematics on the problem -- remember
that this was my first foray into golf physics -- before discovering Cochran and Stobbs'
excellent book. The answer was there. The problem itself is
had been solved before the book's first publication in 1968.
In this article, we look at various approaches to using clubhead weight
(sometimes in conjunction with club length) to get the maximum distance
out of a driver.
My conclusion is that the longer
for some golfers, but certainly not all. Analysis and some experience
show that there is a potential gain of perhaps 10-15 yards for those
who can hit the sweet spot consistently. Unfortunately, if you can't do
that, you will lose distance on average,
not gain it. There are those that claim gains much more than a dozen yards, some more than 30 yards; they
either incorrect in their estimates or are swinging the club quite
differently than their normal-length
- Change the clubhead weight
and keep everything else about the club the same.
- Physical reasoning says we might get more distance if we change the club length, as we
change clubhead weight to keep the club feel the same.
- Bernie Baymiller's use of
lighter heads and longer shafts.
- An overly simplistic computation, to
give an optimistic estimate (upper bound) on how much we might gain.
- A more precise computer simulation
study, with variations of length and headweight for constant MOI,
variation of length alone, and variation of headweight at the maximum
- What (if any) swing changes are necessary to assure that the clubface is square using the longer driver?
- A comparison of studies of the longer driver.
- Finally, let's look at empirical
experience, mostly anecdotal but a few careful studies as well.
- It may be difficult to manufacture high-quality driver heads at less than about 190 grams.
- A few clubfitters who
have experimented with lighter heads, especially to allow longer
drivers, conclude that lighter
and longer drivers give much more advantage than my studies say. But more clubfitters believe that it takes a great deal of skill to consistently get satisfactory results from a longer driver, more skill than most golf participants possess.
- And speaking of professional competitors, what about the sport
of Long Drive? We see a lot of longer clubs there. I have opinions from
some prominent LDA competitors.
- I went ahead and added my own anecdotal evidence. I built
myself a long, light driver and tried it on the course, as well as
taking detailed data using a launch monitor. Perhaps it is reassuring
that my performance was more like the computer model. And I learned a
lot in the experience.
Jan 18, 2013