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Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

post #1 of 98
Thread Starter 
For all you physics minded golfers: If you hit a golfball with a heavy object, it goes far. All things being equal (i.e., at the same swingspeed) a heavier clubhead will launch the ball faster and farther.

But the question is, what is the optimum weight? I've been feeling like all the drivers out there are too light. Does anyone sell heavy-heavy drivers, like old Nicklaus weight? And does anyone on tour use a heavy driver?
post #2 of 98

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

When is the last time you saw someone selling a "heavier" driver
post #3 of 98

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

Originally Posted by hamletsdead View Post
...All things being equal (i.e., at the same swingspeed)...
But that's just it, all things won't be equal. I doubt you'll generate the same clubhead speed with a 400g head cf. a typical ~200g driver head. I imagine you'd have big inertia problems as well with heavier heads. You think the major OEMs haven't thought of this one??
post #4 of 98

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

You can't attribute the characteristics of ball flight simply to the weight of the clubhead. The analog of mass in angular momentum is MOI, so true, a heavier clubhead swung at the same angular velocity would hit the ball farther I believe... if that were all that mattered.

There is a ton of material property characteristics embedded within the details of what makes a ball go far however. You're not impacting it with a solid mass, the clubhead is hollow, and thus it allows for compression/rebound through impact. So the plasticity of the metal, the weight of whatever gas it's filled with, etc.. all play crucial roles.

Additionally, the kinetic energy transfer is the crucial element, and that has an ω^2 factor in it, (K = Iω^2 / 2) so the premium is on the angular velocity, not the MOI (mass dependant). So, ignoring drag, the lighter clubhead will transfer into higher swingspeed and more distance - as you can swing it faster.

I don't know that you could define an optimum weight based on these things, and the heaviest drivers are probably always gonna be the hand-me-downs you find at a yard sale when some old man cackles out and his wife is selling all his stuff.

When the dust settles though it's the efficiency of the energy transfer in the swing that matters; which falls on the golfer, not the club.

I could be wrong on any of these points, I'm no physicist, but this is how I understand it so I figured I'd throw it out there.
post #5 of 98

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

The thing I noticed when I bought my Burner was the "lightness" allowed for and easier and more controllable change of direction at the top of the swing, which made it much easier to come back to the ball accurately. If you cannot get the head back to the ball the added weight will not help!
post #6 of 98

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

A heaver head will make the ball go farther, but you get better results increasing ball speed by increasing club speed. The physics of motion stipulate that doubling the mass of an object in motion colliding with another at rest (all other factors remaining constant) doubles the speed of the object at rest (X mph before double the mass now X+X mph). Double the momentum of the of the object in motion increases the speed of the object at rest exponentially (squared; X mph before doubling the speed now X^2 mph).

Naturally we aren't hitting golf balls in a vacume nor are we hitting them in the abscence of gravity, but those factors effect your golf ball the same whether you hit it with twice the club head speed or with a club head weighing twice as much. All that being said increasing your club head speed is the best way to make the ball go farther...
post #7 of 98

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

Yes, and the lighter driver heads (partly due to hollowness) have a better trampoline effect. You could mess around with your FT- iq and put a bunch of lead tape on the back and measure the results.
post #8 of 98

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

Originally Posted by Chief Broom View Post
...but those factors effect your golf ball the same whether you hit it with twice the club head speed or with a club head weighing twice as much. All that being said increasing your club head speed is the best way to make the ball go farther...
Are you suggesting that it is easier to double your swing speed than it is to double the weight of the clubhead?
post #9 of 98

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

Originally Posted by upah View Post
Are you suggesting that it is easier to double your swing speed than it is to double the weight of the clubhead?
No. Well, kind of, because it wasn't written very clearly... he was saying that speed matters more than weight.

Let's say a driver weighing 200 grams and going 100 MPH hits a ball 250 yards.

Add 10% swing speed to make the driver travel 110 yards and the ball will go, oh, 275 yards.

Add 10% driver weight but maintain the 100 MPH and the ball will go, say, 255 yards.

I made those numbers up but they illustrate the point. Velocity in the force equation is squared - mass is not exponential.

Would you rather be hit by a 100-pound object traveling 1 MPH or a 1-pound object traveling 100 MPH?
post #10 of 98

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

Originally Posted by iacas View Post
Would you rather be hit by a 100-pound object traveling 1 MPH or a 1-pound object traveling 100 MPH?
Hey that's a false dichotomy! I'd choose the 100-pound object and then step out of the way!!

It's been answered well. Yes, all else being equal the heavier club head will win, but all else cannot be equal. It's a balancing act. Imagine the two extremes: on one end you have a sawed-off bowling ball on a stick, on the other you have a 1-g technological marvel of a driver head straight from the NASA engineering center. Neither of these is going to work very well. Somewhere in between is the optimal weight. It'll depend on the strength and technique of the golfer, the weight of the ball, etc, and it's going to be complicated. However, there seem to be similar designs coming from most of the manufacturers; some of that is probably copy-cat effect, but it is also a suggestion that the optimal solution is not too far from where they've converged.
post #11 of 98

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

I majored in Engineering / Physics so here is my two cents:

Think about it this way: If you programmed a robot to swing a 10 lb driver, then put a 100 lb driver in its hand, guess how far the ball would go? (Maybe to the Red Tees)

If you gave the same robot a 3 lb club, guess how far the ball would go? ( You could play from the tips!)

Moral of the story: Heavy does not equal far
post #12 of 98

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

Originally Posted by iacas View Post
Would you rather be hit by a 100-pound object traveling 1 MPH or a 1-pound object traveling 100 MPH?

That should sums things up pretty well. Anyone that doesn't understand the above statement is to be feared
post #13 of 98

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

OP assumes control is not a factor in golf swing - he lays it all on ball speed.

Some people put a little tape on the driver to increase swingweight if they have a trouble with swinging too fast. Back in the 1970s, some tournament golfers even experimented with placing a small lead weight (just a couple of grams) in the butt of their driver if their high swing velocity was causing them control problems.

Most recent discussion has centered around lead tape, often after reshafting. Ideal swingweight seems to be falling, as lower swingweight and ever lighter shafts are seen as a way of increasing clubhead speed. Still, stronger than average players here on Sand Trap seem to use a lot of the heavier True Temper shafts (120 grams and up).

The answer to the physics problem is fairly clearcut (see iacas), but how people apply it to "what's in the bag" varies a lot.
post #14 of 98
Thread Starter 

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

I get the physics explanation, but there have been a few notable players on Tour who preferred very heavy drivers, and who hit them far. Nobody played with a heavier driver than Hogan, and he could smack it out there. And Nicklaus by all accounts played with a heavier driver than anyone in his day, and he wasn't exactly short off the tee either. So while the physics makes sense, it's not particularly compelling to me when two of the best golfers of all time preferred heavier than standard drivers. I can think of at least one reasonable explanation off the top of my head -- personal preference for how a club "feels" wins out over a simple weight-based analysis; if it feels right in your hands and you like the tempo it gives you, you put a better swing on it, and you hit a better drive. I personally like the feeling of the heavy club -- it feels like I'm actually throwing the club at the target as opposed to trying to hit the ball, and helps me complete my swing. I suspect this helps me accelerate through the ball rather than slap at it.

I'm going out tomorrow morning with my new "Lead Tape Special" -- an adulterated Bridgestone J33p (cut-down and lead-taped) -- and will update the board on how it turns out.
post #15 of 98

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

The thing is that you will never actually swing two different weighted clubs at the same speed... kinda obvious...

So, in all reality, the only thing that affects distance is swing speed as relative to the launch angle achieved...

First find out what weight gives you the most controlled swing speed. Once you get that, then ensure that you select the proper face degrees to give you an optimal launch angle.

Some examples: For 100mph driver swing speed, select between 9 and 10º face angles to maximize your distance.

Head materials, clubhead size... all of that crap is only marketing...
post #16 of 98
Thread Starter 

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

Update: Played the Lead Tape Special today and hit it pretty well. Average drive was 250-260. Found 11 of 14 fairways, and the misses were playable (first one hit a tree and bounced fair, other two were 220 yard popups that dropped into primary rough). I was hoping for more distance, since I hit my FT-iq as far as this, and don't miss many fairways anyway, but I felt like I had to tee it lower with the J33p (because the head is smaller -- 375cc), so I kept hitting line drives even with the added loft. The driver felt more stable with the lead tape, though, so I guess that part of the experiment was a success. Looks like I'll have to go try out some 460 cc drivers with 10.5* or 11* of loft and see if that brings my trajectory up and adds some distance.
post #17 of 98

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

I just posted on this and MOI on my site.


It’s Tuesday and today is the day I try and talk about the more technical side of Golf that I have learned over my short time playing.

Today’s topic is about MOI. MOI shows up all over the place when discussing new clubs and the benefits of one club over another. Many club manufactures discuss “building or shifting” MOI back and front of the club face. Leaves one to wonder what the heck is MOI and do I care? Well MOI is not a magic salve or any special device to increase your swing speed. MOI is an acronym that is commonly used in physics to describe the Moment of Inertia. I am not going into an in-depth mathematical discussion here, I am going to present equations below simply to identify relationships as it is vital to the understanding. There are three basic equations that are involved with this explanation.

The equation for MOI can vary based on the shapes and the axis of rotation but in golf the equation is a basic.

MOI = the mass of an object x the square of the radius of the length of a rod. In this case, the golf shaft.

Torque = MOI x the angular acceleration. The angular acceleration is imparted by your swing speed that you initiate from the top of your backswing.

Kinetic Energy = 1/2 x MOI x the square of the angular velocity

Now that the equations are defined here is a picture of how they apply to a golf club and golf ball. Let me give a bit of an explanation of Torque and Kinetic Energy.

Torque is a term used to describe an effect of a force around an axis. In the case of golf the axis point is basically your body. You accelerate the golf club in the downswing and as a result of the MOI of the object you gain velocity. The point of highest angular velocity is when the distance or radius is at its highest point. You can see this relation in the MOI equation. The higher the radius the much greater MOI you have since the radius is squared.

Kinetic Energy (KE) is a term used to describe the energy imparted on an object that was originally at rest. In this case, the ball. KE is the entire point of building MOI and well, hitting a golf ball. You want to TRANSFER the kinetic energy from the golf club face to the golf ball to create lift and gain velocity. The KE equation shows that MOI is yet present again as defines the amount of energy exerted at the point of impact.

So to sum, you have the most energy to impart at the longest radius point based on the MOI. This is why you always want to have full control at the point in front of your body and you are likely being told to fully extend your arms at the point directly in front of you. Think of it like a hammer or a wrench of some sort if you want to exert the most force you do so with built velocity or force from as far away from you as possible.
post #18 of 98

Re: Heavier club head = ball goes farther?

Originally Posted by hamletsdead View Post
I get the physics explanation, but there have been a few notable players on Tour who preferred very heavy drivers, and who hit them far. Nobody played with a heavier driver than Hogan, and he could smack it out there. And Nicklaus by all accounts played with a heavier driver than anyone in his day, and he wasn't exactly short off the tee either. So while the physics makes sense, it's not particularly compelling to me when two of the best golfers of all time preferred heavier than standard drivers. I can think of at least one reasonable explanation off the top of my head -- personal preference for how a club "feels" wins out over a simple weight-based analysis; if it feels right in your hands and you like the tempo it gives you, you put a better swing on it, and you hit a better drive. I personally like the feeling of the heavy club -- it feels like I'm actually throwing the club at the target as opposed to trying to hit the ball, and helps me complete my swing. I suspect this helps me accelerate through the ball rather than slap at it.
You're right, feel plays a huge role. I like a little heavier driver too. Not too heavy, but not something with a 45g shaft either. lol.

With your Hogan/Nicklaus analogy, I'm not sure that really says anything? Sure, Hogan and Nicklaus may have used a heavier driver, but that still doesn't mean that hit it farther that they would using a lighter driver. Clubs were made very different back then as compared to today. I'm guessing if you gave Hogan and Nicklaus a driver from today, you would see a significant distance increase.

I just point that out because I thought that was the original question; does a heavier club head make the ball go farther? It doesn't even though some of the best in the game used a heavier driver.
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