Gear Questions You’re Afraid to Ask: Should you play lighter golf clubs?

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Lighter golf clubs can help some, but not all, golfers gain distance.

Welcome to Gear Questions You’re Afraid to Ask, a series produced in partnership with Cleveland Golf. This week we’re exploring the great debate between hybrids and utility irons. Which one is better suited for your game? Here’s what you need to consider.

Golf equipment manufacturers have been tinkering with weight for decades now. Be it club weight, swing weight, internal weighting, perimeter weighting, adjustable weighting, or even counterweighting — there’s more than one right way to manipulate mass in the design of any club.

More specifically, how a club is weighted can greatly influence how it performs as well as how it feels. Be that as it may, with variances in how clubs are weighted, as well as the different outcomes associated with different weight schemes, there remains a single consistent factor that’s widely agreed upon: The lighter the club, the faster you’re going to swing the club.

Seems logical, but is it true? Well, sometimes, yes, a lighter club will help you hit the ball further. But sometimes, no, it will not. Let’s dig in.

Lighter clubs, whether via a lighter clubhead, shaft, grip, or any combination thereof, are in fact easier to swing faster. But not without a few consequences. The first is with regards to spin. Usually, lighter clubs produce higher spin rates. And with spin rates that are too high, you might actually lose distance. Second, a lighter club is sometimes more difficult to control and can wreak havoc on your ability to make a smooth, rhythmic swing that accelerates through the ball.

XXIO X driver

Geared for faster swing speed players who want to reap the benefits of a lightweight clubhead and high balance point design. Generous cup face promotes forgiveness and fast ball speeds even on mis-hits. Carbon fiber crown pushes more weight low and back to generate high launch conditions.

So, am I suggesting that lighter clubs are not a good option for golfers? Not at all. For some players, usually those with slow to mid swing speeds, lightweight clubs can be very advantageous. It can also help players who are solid strikers but who don’t hit it far (or high) enough. Fact is, there are exceptions to the rule here — it’s up to you to experiment and determine if going lighter is right for you.

If you’ll willing to put your clubs on a diet, we’ve got some advice:

1. Start with a lighter shaft that performs like your heavier one

Before you hop on the lightweight bandwagon, consider swapping shaft(s) in a few clubs before you lighten up the rest of your set. This is to make sure you like how it feels. For example, if your driver shaft is 75 grams, try one that is 60 grams that has a kick point and torque rating similar to what your heavier shaft has. Don’t make a drastic switch. Do it incrementally. In most cases, the lighter shaft won’t produce huge gains, but let’s say it does and you tack on an extra 3-4 miles per hour to your swing speed. That could be the difference in up to 10-15 yards off the tee.

2. Switching from steel to lightweight graphite shafts in irons has never been easier

Composite iron shafts have come a long way, often performing as good if not better than their steel counterparts (graphite iron shafts used to be hellish to control, but no more). Remember though, a lighter shaft means the clubhead will feel heavier even though the overall club is lighter. This refers to what clubmakers call swing weight— it’s a measurement of how heavy a club feels as you swing it, not how heavy it actually is. 

3. There are lightweight irons, woods and drivers out there that are already tuned

You can find a set of clubs that are built light from the get go, instead of going through the hassle of reducing weight in your existing clubs. One of those brands that’s at the forefront of this trend is XXIO’s X Series.

Within the X is a whole line of lightweight clubs that are perfectly balanced, and actually feel heavier than they are — an appealing feature that better players who want more clubhead speed without swinging harder will appreciate.

4. Just because it’s lighter doesn’t mean you have to go longer

Hey, so you just went with a lighter driver shaft, so why not tack on an extra inch to the shaft’s length so you can hit even longer bombs? I’ve got two reasons why this isn’t a great idea — the left and right rough. Adding length to your shafts not only may negate your reduction in weight, but you’ll also run the risk of losing accuracy. I can’t attest that will happen to everybody, but I’d bet $5 with almost anyone that it will.

5. Beastmode requires more than just lightweight clubs

I have no idea how much added clubhead speed you’ll get with lighter clubs. How could I? But as mentioned in No. 1, your results will vary and it’s much more likely you’ll see incremental gains than you will a massive boost in distance (I sincerely hope you prove me wrong). And unless you’re a player who regularly hits it straight and solid, it’s also very likely you’ll lose some control and gain spin. The only way to truly produce longer shots is to hone in on better fundamentals, improve your flexibility and tack on muscle in the right spots.

Want to really dial in your bag setup? Schedule a club and ball fitting with the experts at our sister company, True Spec Golf.

Unleash your full golfing potential with brand-agnostic, precision club fitting.
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Ryan Noll Contributor