Is Lighter Better?

Humans are enamored by numbers.  For example, the media gets in a tizzy whenever a new century or decade rolls around.  Or we use numbers for benchmarks like they are magical, for instance when the Dow reaches 10,000 or the S&P at 2,000.  In golf, players get excited the first time they break 100 or 90, but never a number like 95.  So it should come as no surprise the new fascination in golf club marketing is drivers that are under 300g.

Back in the old days when woods were made out of wood and shaft of steel, a driver weighed 13 ounces.  Just goes to show you how long 20 years ago seems, heck, we didn’t use grams back then.  Well for you metric challenged individuals, 13 ounces is the equivalent of 368.5g.  Over the years golfers have moved away from shiny chromed steel shafts for much lighter weight and colorful graphite shafts in attempt to gain more distance off of the tee. It must have worked as you don’t see steel shafted drivers these days.

Chances are in your golf bag right now is some sort of large headed titanium driver with a 60 something gram graphite shaft assembled at 45”.  The reason why, that has been the modern men’s standard for the past several years.  By now you know heads have been much larger over the years and are capped out at 460cc.  Yet the weight of the head has not change from the days of the wooden head.  For the most part, the majority of manufacturers make their driver heads 200g +/-4g which is quite a small range when you consider the different philosophies that exist in the golf industry.

The biggest impact on weight reduction has come in the shaft.  The modern shaft is nearly half the weight of its steel predecessors.  With newer materials, they are becoming lighter and lighter each year.

Standard sized men’s grips have pretty much held the line at 50 grams for some time now, except for just recently with the debut of the new WinnLite grips.  Both those are the exceptions rather than the rule.  This means the modern driver is approximately 320g, which is nearly 2 oz. lighter than the previous generation of steel-shafted drivers.  Don’t forget to factor in @ 5g for items like epoxy, grip tape and the ferrule. So the goal of making a sub-300g driver is not far away.

In fact most ladies driver are almost there anyway because of the smaller and lighter grip (40g) used and the shorter assembly length.  They tip the scales closer to 305g.  But for men’s driver to get there and not make the head any lighter required the use of very light shaft in the neighborhood of 45g.  If you look through the catalogs, shafts this weight are far and few between.  Examples are Grafalloy’s ProLaunch Blue 45 and Apollo’s Masterflex HP48.

The easiest way to reduce the weight now is with one of the newer breed of lightweight grips.  This is one of the secrets the name brand manufacturers have in combination with a lighter shaft when making their sub-300g drivers.  As you can see from the chart, even using a common 65g graphite shaft and one of the WinnLite grips can match this feat.

If you want to make the lightest possible driver you can use a combination of a lightweight grip and shaft and tickle the ivories at a mere 275g or 9.7 oz. for you fossils out there. Now there is nothing magical because the weight of a driver is now 299 verses 304 or even 320g.  Good marketing?  Perhaps, due to the fact that people are fascinated with numbers. But will the customer see a difference going to these lighter drivers is the most important point.  I will tell you this, not everyone will benefit from these sub 300g drivers, just like not all golfers can use X-flex shaft or 46” drivers.  This is just another custom fitting option that is available to golfers today.  But I wanted to show you how this happens and what components to look at if your goal is a lighter weight driver for potentially more speed and distance.

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14 Comments on One of the Newest Trends in Golf: Drivers Under 300g

  1. Gary says:

    Good blog…always good to learn new trends (even if they are just passing fads). I’m thinking that this super-fantastic, ultra-lite driver at 45″ + is just the ticket for those super-jerky, short-length backswings of many high scoring (above 95) golfers. Then when they see drives soaring far into the woods or someone’s backyard, they will come back to reality with the 44″ XDS Thriver Driver. Keep spending that money on OEM stuff. Just my humble opinion.

  2. Tom says:

    What was the overall weight of Goldwin’s AVDP driver which, if I recall (I had one) had a really light grip and shaft and a pretty light head? A part of its marketing (I think) wasn’t just light weight but also “mass” at the clubhead (which is partially why it had, again if I recall, an amazingly high swingweight).
    Light is one thing (which may be good or not for an individual), but isn’t there something to the idea of “mass” at the point of impact as well–i.e., Goldwin’s original idea of overall light, but high swing-weight? If so, any thoughts on how that should be factored in? (Perhaps it is, by keeping the clubhead itself at 200 grams.)

  3. Jeff Summitt says:

    Tom:

    The Goldwin AVDP driver was @ 9.5 oz.(270g) and was made possible by the big butt Unifiber shaft that utilized a 13g Winn strap wrapped directly around the butt end. There were even a couple gripless clubs in that era (late 90’s) as well to reduce weight like the Arnold Palmer Golf Company’s Extreme GL driver and Dynacraft offered a gripless shaft called the Blu-Bye-U that would allow clubmakers to make sub 10 oz. drivers.

  4. Glenn says:

    I built a Insider driver for a customer to 46″ length, with an Apollo UL shaft and Winn Lite Mid grip. It scaled at 294 grams, and is a joy to swing, IMO.

    Another club I built to 47.5″, using a Grafalloy Platinum shaft and Winn Lite Jumbo grip came in at 304 grams. Also a fun club to hit, with fairly predictable results.

    I noticed a slight loss in distance (10 yds) from a club weight of 330 grams.

  5. Chuck Tonani says:

    The trend toward lite Wt. drivers , is for one reason , to increase club head speed. At some point , it seems to me that this will also produce lack of accuracy . The feel of the total wt. of the club has to influence reactions from our body , some of which , may be a distraction and cause inaccuracy. It will be interesting to see when this occurs. Chuck

  6. Peter Langan says:

    Mr. Jeff (Which is how Panama greets)
    To take a tennis analogy, when Prince came out with the first graphite racquet, it was huge……..very intimidating at the net, and you could put a dandy spin on your serve.

    Now tennis racquets are sizing down, and I’m wondering if you will come back with a driver around 300-350 cc, because that would really lower the overall weight, and maybe help those who are quite accurate with the face dispersion of their drives.

    That would really interest me as a customer.

    Thank You

    Peter Langan

  7. Jeff Summitt says:

    Chuck:

    You hit the nail on the head, there is a risk / reward for going to a lighter weight driver, especially if the swing is erratic or the tempo is fast.

  8. Jeff Summitt says:

    Mr. Peter:

    Often times golf is cyclic – what goes around comes around again. However, you probably won’t see Hireko leading the charge in producing drivers that small. I think it will require the major manufacturers to create that demand. Even so, people like myself will have a difficult time switching back…

  9. Peter Langan says:

    Mr. Jeff:
    Thank you for your reply………..if you believe a smaller driver clubhead would result in better drives, because a naturally lighter clubhead because of a more focused weighting(and those of us who played the wood woods, don’t believe it would be that difficult to change down a bit, the same as a smaller tennis racquet)……….is the cost of having an experimental model developed all that expensive in China?
    Thanks
    Peter Langan

  10. Jeff Summitt says:

    Peter:

    Tooling is quite expensive. But the small drivers, whether wooden woods, small stainless steel or titanium drivers, they weigh all the same. The bigger heads simply allow the mis-hits to be more playable by twisting less and hitting the ball straighter and longer. Thus making this game a bit easier for all those play. We have a number of smaller drivers in our closeout section if you would like to experiment.

  11. Jan Westerkamp says:

    Hi Jeff,
    If I want to follow and go with a lighter shaft in my driver (to gain swingspeed and hopefully some length of the tee) but want to keep a more conservative length lets say of 44 inch, the swingweight of such a driver will drop a lot. Is that acceptable? If not what are my options?.
    Thanks in advance.
    Kind regards,
    Jan Westerkamp
    The Netherlands

  12. Jeff Summitt says:

    Jan:

    If you already grip down 1″ on a 45″ driver – you are already simulating that. That is probably the easiest way to experiment.

  13. Paul Nicholson says:

    My brother-in-law and I have been experimenting with some extremes. He took a square Mantara and loaded the sole with lead tape — he has 8 two-inch strips under there, lined up along the heel, toe and rear edges. We have a 44″ extra stiff shaft in it to counteract the torque from the extra head weight. You can’t swing it as hard as you might with your other driver, but it goes really straight, giving up only 10 yards or so from a standard weight driver. We’ve been hitting balls on the range trying to get it to curve, but even hitting off our back heel and smacking down on the back of the ball usually just gives us a mild fade. On the other extreme, we took a 191g driver head and put a 55g extra-stiff shaft in it, and it’s just a tad over 48 inches long, with one of the WinnLite grips, and it’s mostly going straight. I have to play it off my front toe and take it back low and slow with a closed stance, but that seems to be pretty consistent. With standard drivers, I’m all over the place off the tee. Maybe it’s the forced slower swing that’s doing it.

  14. Jack Rigazio says:

    460 cc heads are just too damn big, and I’m glad they were limited, if you can hit the sweet spot consistently, why not use a smaller head with lighter grip and shaft to pick up speed. It’s no wonder that the pro’s resort to their 3 woods for accuracy off the tee and not lose too much distance. I’d like to see a manf. experiment with a 3 wood derivative that gives you more distance without those loud monsterous heads so popular today…

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