Is Lead Tape still a thing? Yes, and here’s how to use it.
Lead tape, for a time being, was the go-to stuff for golfers making quick adjustments to their clubs. It was used to add weight to various places on the clubhead or putter, changing not only the club’s actual weight, but also how it feels. Fast forward to today, with the advent of adjustable drivers, woods and so on, the question begs: is lead tape even a thing anymore? Furthermore, with what we now know about lead poisoning, is it even safe to use?
Let’s tackle the second question first. Is it safe?
Lead tape (or lead foil as it’s sometimes called) is generally considered safe to use, as long as you use it properly. If you stick to putting it places where you’re not going to come into contact with it on a regular basis, you should be fine. Also, don’t store lead tape in your golf bag—it can rub off and get on other items, and then gets on you. When it doubt, check the instructions (if any) that comes with your lead tape and wear gloves when handling it.
Does it work?
Yes and no. Whether or not lead tape will significantly alter a clubhead’s CG or affect how it performs is a hot topic and very debatable. It’s likely you’d need an awful lot of it to affect any sort of change in how a club performs. But where lead tape will definitely make a difference is in a club’s total weight and swingweight.
Obviously, the more tape you add, the heavier your club gets. And some players simply like the way heavier clubs feel. When it comes to swingweight though, most golfers who use lead tape apply it to the clubhead to increase the clubs swingweight (making it feel heavier). It only takes a couple grams of lead tape to change a clubhead’s swingweight a single point and by adjusting how a club feels, it could change the way you swing it.
Some other golfers, including Jack Nicklaus and Sergio Garcia, have used lead tape under the grip to reduce the clubhead’s swingweight. This makes the club feel lighter and theoretically, can help a golfer gain some extra swingspeed. This is also known as “counter-balancing”—a topic we’ve saved for another post.
How can it be used?
Lead tape can be used almost anywhere on the golf club to affect its overall weight and swingweight. As mentioned, we’ve seen lead tape under grips and we’ve also seen it applied on the heels and toes of drivers and woods, in the cavities of irons, and the back of wedges and putters. I’ve personally been a longtime user of lead tape, having experimented with it just about everywhere, including about halfway up the putter shaft. Not sure if it did anything performance-wise, but I can say it made me feel like it did which I then attribute to my sometimes brilliant putting skill. So yes, the placebo effect is very real when it comes to lead tape.
Is lead tape allowed?
The USGA stipulates in Rule 14-3 that “Lead tape may be applied to the head or shaft of the club for the purpose of adding weight (see Decisions 4-1/4 and 4-2/0.5)”.