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Saturday, August 7, 2010

Mickelson's Tinkering Again... Maybe You Should Too

It's not the first time Phil's given his clubs the "tech attack"... but this time maybe it's working. This article from PGATour.com will give you the "official take," but here's the quick version:

Phil with driver -- AP photo
(Photo by Associated Press)

After some prompting from Butch Harmon, Phil chopped his driver shaft down to 44 inches -- which I suspect took off about 2 inches, since I've heard that all of Phil's clubs are 1 inch longer than normal (and a couple of degrees stronger in loft -- yes, that's where much of his distance comes from) -- and added 20 grams of weight to the head. If you'd like to feel how heavy that is... a quarter weighs just over 5.5 grams (5.67, if you want to be picky) and a dime 2.268 grams, so he added roughly 3 quarters and 1 dime worth of weight.

"Why would he do that?" you may ask. (Go ahead, ask... I'll wait.) According to the article, Phil says "...it seems to be easier to hit, easier to swing. You’ll notice I don’t overswing with it. I’m not as long and loose with it. My timing is better." I can't tell that his driving stats are any better (his driving accuracy is 50% through 2 rounds vs. 53.21% for the season, but maybe his misses aren't as bad.

Lately, just being playable is an improvement for Phil.

Before you rush out and buy the heaviest driver you can find, bear in mind that Phil is 6'3", weighs 200 lbs, and has been pumping iron. In addition, he whips that baby around for several hours a day. If you try to copy him, you just might hurt yourself. But the basic principle is a sound one.

It all has to do with swingweighting -- you know, those silly weighting designations (like C9 or D1) that the manufacturers provide for all your clubs. Generally, these numbers go from:

(lightest) C0-C9 ----- D0-D-9 ----- E0-E9 (heaviest)

Swingweights are a measurment that describes how heavy the clubhead feels relative to the grip of the club. If your swingweight is too heavy, it can make it hard to develop clubhead speed. But many players and teachers believe that most weekend players need heavier swingweights than those that come standard on their clubs.

From this Golf Channel interview with Bob Vokey (the wedge designer) I found this quote:
"A little heavier clubhead weight and swing weight gives you that feeling of a resistance so you can put that slow, syrupy swing on it. But you don’t want to make it too heavy so you lose clubhead speed with it." (question #13)
In this Golf Digest article with Lee Trevino you'll find this:
"Choking down lightens the club's swingweight and effectively makes the shaft stiffer. It also makes it difficult to hit the ball high enough for all situations. But the worst thing is, it gets you into the habit of hitting every shot with 100-percent effort: Instead of hitting a smooth 7-iron with a normal grip, the player who chokes down tends to shorten the 7-iron and hammer the hell out of it." (tip #5)
In fact, I read something several years ago where Trevino said most players would play better with heavier swingweighting. I couldn't find it when I looked today, but I did find a reference to it here from someone posting as Luckee:
I myself seem to like heavier, D-4 at the litest and have gone all the way up to E-0 with no problem, D-6-or 7 is probably about right for me. Ernie Els plays D-6 clubs he seems to do pretty well with those! Most people have probably never tried a club over D-2! I read an interesting comment I'll quote.
"Tom Kite and Lee Trevino both suggest that most amateurs should hit much heavier swingweights than the standard range of D-1 to D-3 that most manufactured irons use. The reason for this is their lack of acceleration through impact."
I think you've hit on one of golfs overlooked gems, sw = feel and everyones threshhold for this is different. A D-2 might feel really heavy to a slight person where D-6 might seem like just barely enuff to you. The important thing is that enuff sw. allows you to feel the club and thus route it more consistantly thru impact and voila better results.
Side benefits being increased club head authority at impact and also allows for some tweaking of flex too. Ie. shaft a bit too stiff, add a little more sw and weaken the flex a little. (3rd comment from bottom)
The proper swingweight makes it easier to feel where the clubhead is during the swing and get the proper rhythm. In Phil's case, he swings too hard and fast, so Butch suggested a setup that slowed him down and made him feel the clubhead better.

The easy way to experiment with this is using lead tape from your local golf center. The roll you get will tell you how long a piece is equal to one swingweight, and you can just cut as many pieces as you need and stick them to the back of your driver (or irons or putter or whatever).to get any swingweight you want. Once the club feels right, let your pro measure the new swingweight. You can have your club officially changed to make it the correct swingweight (thus eliminating the need for the tape) or use it to order a new one or... whatever. You get the idea.

One other thing: I've also tagged this post as "mindset." Proper swingweighting (and the changes it causes in the way your swing feels) also affect your mental approach. Phil is surprised that his distance doesn't seem to be affected much, and believes his misses aren't as bad. It certainly seems to be resulting in improved performance for #2. This is as much mental as physical -- Phil's equipment is set up for better performance, and Phil is expecting to perform well. The two are feeding on each other. Feel has emotional and mental aspects as well as physical ones; you might as well reap all the benefits.

So take a tip from Phil (and Butch): You might want to try different swingweights on your clubs and see if it helps you play better. But if you go to two drivers with extra-long shafts individually set up for draws and fades... you're on your own.

1 comment:

  1. lol - leave it to Phil to be 15 years behind the curve on something that requires common sense instead of just technical specs. Does this mean Tiger gets to fire back that Phil's playing "old technology" now ? :-)

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