Every so often in the world of golf, it seems there is a significant breakthrough in the technology design and engineering of golf clubs. I have noticed we might be at such a moment now. If you talk to the same sort of people like me, you may have been hearing chatter in the clubhouse about the benefits of counterbalancing clubs.
You may even have noticed that one of your golf buddies seems to be hitting all the right shots. When you ask them what their golfing secret is, perhaps they say that magic phrase: ‘I have my clubs counterbalanced.’ So, what are the benefits of counterbalancing clubs? Can it really improve your golf performance?
Counterbalancing golf clubs has come in and out of fashion. Both Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan counterbalanced their clubs. The practice fell out of favor for a couple of decades. Now though, technology development has brought it back onto the agenda. Today it is rumored that Sergio Garcia, J.B. Holmes, Retief Goosen, Bo Van Pelt, Rory Sabbatini, Ernie Els, and Ryan Moore use weighted grips and counterweight their clubs.
What are the benefits of counterbalancing a club?
- In short, it will give you more stability and control.
- It will raise the balance point of the club.
- This will help you get a fuller extension on your swing.
- It will keep your hands steadier. So, it is excellent if you suffer from shakes or yips.
- The extra weight will make you feel you have more control over the club.
- That feeling of greater control will help you with your shot angles. You will be able to hold the angle to make your best possible shot.
Is it legal to counterbalance clubs?
There are some brilliant new innovations around for counterbalancing clubs. We are going to talk about one particular system in a moment. But before we do, we need to address one issue. People have been customizing their clubs for as long as the game of golf has existed, but is it okay to do so? Are counterbalancing clubs legal? Yes, it is.
Many people I speak to are surprised about this. I understand why. Given how strictly the golf rule-makers, in the United States and St. Andrews in Scotland, enforce the rules, people naturally worry. They are very strict on matters such as the size of a clubhead. But you can rest easy if you want to counterbalance your clubs. According to the rules of the United States Golf Associations (USGA), there are no rules specifically against any internal weighting of golf clubs.
Let’s start with putters
Most of us who try weighting our clubs start with the putter. There are many reasons for this. Most are about that hard moment when we are looking from the ball to the hole. That is when we start shaking and know we need maximum precision. Counterbalancing the putter adds weight and changes the physics of the club. Many golfers say this makes the club feel stable and that gives the control they need to make the perfect shot.
If you suffer from yips and shakes, you can do some “Do It Yourself” weighting. Tried and tested techniques are best. You may find the old remedy of filling the shaft of the putter with a heavy material, such as fine sand, works for you. The physics of this is simple. Weighting makes the shaft of the club much heavier. If you are holding this extra weight, you will find it much harder to jerk the club when you make contact with the golf ball. No shakes, no jerking means it is much more likely that you will make a smooth stroke. A good stroke implies control. The control means you can choose your shot and deliver it exactly as you planned.
Even professionals know the game. Wrapping a heavy tape under the grip is a favorite trick.
It is worth talking to you golf club supplier about weighting clubs. Many golf club sellers will be more than happy to help. Many will use small plastic receptacles filled with a heavy substance such as powered lead or sand to weight your club. They will also often offer you the chance to try out with different weights in the club. And what you need will be a reflection of your particular game. We are all different, and there is nothing better than a bespoke solution. So, make friends with your golf club supplier.
The physics of golf clubs and how counterbalancing works
Believe it or not, the debate about counterbalancing golf clubs is even discussed on physics forums.
I’ll try to sum up the controversy here. But if you are science-minded and you want to learn more, you can spend a happy afternoon here.
(You will even see, complete with pictures of moving angles and trajectories, just what happens when you hit a golf ball).
For those of you, like me, who are not so science-minded, here is my simple guide to the physics.
Counterbalancing a golf club may reduce the movement in the clubhead. This movement happens naturally and inevitably when you swing the golf club.
Why do we need to stop that movement?
Well, let’s been clear that we cannot stop it altogether. But we can control it by counterbalancing the club.
And this is worth doing. It can help us make controlled and accurate shots because, even if the movement in the club head is minimal, it can affect how the club head reacts with the ball. If the clubhead is acting with the ball in a way which you (the golfer) cannot control, then the chances are you will not hit the ball well. Think of it this way. Before you make a shot, you plan it out in your head. You select the correct club for the shot, get your stance right then hit the ball. Behind this sequence of events, there are some assumptions. One is that the clubhead is stable and will transfer energy to the ball in a predictable way.
But what is this is not true? What if the vibrations and movements make your shot unpredictable?
That is where counterbalancing comes in.
When you put a weight in your golf club, you reduce these movements and vibrations. Fewer vibrations mean the interaction between your club face and the golf ball should be more consistent. That is the theory anyway. Once you have removed the element of surprise because of the movements in the clubhead, it is easier to work on your skills. In short, you can be more confident that when you make a good shot, it is because your stance is right, your angle is correct, and you have the right amount of power and speed.
So how heavy should the weight be? Here things may get more complicated. The physics thinking is it needs to be the weight of the shaft at least. The complication is that we are speaking about golf clubs in motion and that motion is made by you the golfer.
So, for example, how your wrists and your arms work will affect the physics of the club face as it hits the ball. This explains why different weighting in the clubs affects different players in different ways.
Counterbalancing gives more stability, and this may help you feel in control as a golfer. But there is a loss as well. A heavier club and counterweighting means there’s extra weight and will mean you lose mobility and maneuverability in the club.
Physics of the club or confidence in the golfer’s mind
So that is a quick run through the physics. But, as we often say, golf is above all a mental game. Many golfers who use counterweights on their clubs talk about how the different feel of the club gives them more confidence. In the physics forum I mentioned earlier, one poster says that evidence-based trials have shown that where golfers do not know their clubs are counterweighted, it makes no difference to their game. However, if they are told that the clubs are counterweighted, then they do play better.
So, is it physics or is it all the golfer’s mind?
The jury is still out on that one.
The latest on counterbalancing
As I said, there is a buzz around this subject in the world of golf at the moment. So, what is going on? Is there a new revolution in the design of golf clubs underway or is it all hype?
There is a background to this. Sometimes the cynics among us suggest that new technical developments in golf club technology are a lot of nonsense. It’s all hype, they say. There is a suspicion out there that these changes are not necessary. I am going to take this head on and try to answer this question: ‘Counterbalancing clubs. A way for golf club manufacturers to get us to fork out for a new set of clubs every couple of years? Or a genuine improvement to the game?’
I would not deny that some innovations are a bit of a waste of time. But sometimes the changes are real. And I believe this is the case with the counterbalancing of clubs.
What’s new with modern club counterbalancing?
If you follow these debates then you might be saying: ‘but club balancing has been around for years. I’ve been taking my clubs to the shop to have a weight altered in the club head since I was a junior. And I know it helps my game. Why all the talk now? What is new?’
Well, here is the big news. There is a new system on the block. It claims to have cutting edge science behind it. Engineers, including ex-NASA employees, have designed it. It is called Balance-Certified Golf and it back-weights your clubs to exactly suit your game. You can read more about it here.
Coaches who have been observing the Balanced Certified Golf system are claiming great results. They say an average golfer can expect to gain five or six yards at the average hole. That is an advance worth having.
It costs about fifty dollars to have the system fitted to each of your clubs.
One great feature of this golf system is that individual golfers can hone it until it is just right for them.
The weighting is different for each club in your golf set, as you would expect. Because the fitter determines each weighting specifically for you, then the specific weight will take your play and your stroke into account as well.
Something which is adaptable for your particular game is the dream of many golfers. The actual fitting is simple with this system so you can get the bespoke clubs you want.
What is the Balanced Certified System?
The key to the system is drop-in weights which can be altered to suit your game. First of all, a hole is drilled into the grip to install the weights. The weights are then locked into the shifts of your club with a unique fit mechanism. Once the hole is drilled, you can experiment with different weights. You can also change the weights as your golf game develops and changes.
Many golfers find that by using this system, they can correct faults in their game. If you slice the ball, for example, you may discover a heavy weight in the club can fix the problem. You may also find weighting can speed up your swing.
So how does this work?
It is all about the physics of the golf club. The balance can give a greater kick to the shaft, and that will make the ball travel faster. But it is about more than this. It is about how you as the golfer ‘feel’ the club. The founder of the company which developed the system is former NASA scientist Jeff Linder. He says the system gives clubs a more substantial feel and this gives golfers a feeling of something to push against. This increases a sense of control and confidence that you are in closer contact with the club.
The talented team behind this has a history of using cutting-edge engineering skills to take sports to another level. Concrete canoes and super-charged peddle vehicles are just some of the projects they have to their name.
When they turned their focus onto golf clubs, they bought those engineering brains onto the way the golf club swings. One thing they have done is used the technology on drivers as well as putters.
Jeff Linder says this wasn’t what the team set out to do. But as they experimented, they found that by counterweighting drivers they could change the ball flight. Their computer analysis showed that the loading of the golf club shaft altered the forces working on the golf ball.
Many golf gurus think that counterbalancing clubs is going to be the next big thing. One such guru is Steve Boccieri, who invented a heavy putter a decade ago. He says that the next frontier of golf technology is going to be counterbalancing.
There are some products already out there, in addition to the Certified Balance System. Boccieri has developed a product called the Secret Grip for example which is nearly double the weight of most grips on the market. Many professionals and amateurs as well have given the thumbs up to this product.
The benefits of counterbalancing clubs conclusion
New engineering techniques and the possibility of computer analysis of how a golf club affects a golf ball means that there are definite advances here. Counterbalancing golf clubs using these up-to-date technologies does seem to be a marked improvement.
Pay a visit to your local golf supplier and try out some weighted clubs. You may find these golf clubs are just what you need to improve your game.