The Ultimate Golf Shaft Flex Guide for Your Swing Speed

Published on 01/11/2024 · 20 min readEvery golfer can benefit from a properly fitted golf shaft. Golf Expert Michael Pryor overviews what you need to know to find the best shaft flex for your swing.
Michael Pryor, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Michael Pryor

Photo by Ray Junk

What You Need to Know About Golf Shafts and How to Find Your Correct Shaft Flex

When you’re looking for new golf clubs, it’s important that the shafts in the new clubs fit you and your playing style. When buying clubs, you’ll want to consider the following:

  • Shaft material (steel or graphite)
  • Shaft flex
  • Flex point
  • Shaft weight
  • Shaft Torque

Once you understand the basics on shafts, you’ll want to factor in the following before making a purchase:

  • Swing Speed
  • Ball Flight or Trajectory
  • Shot Pattern

Shaft Material

Steel Shafts

Steel shafts are typically heavier than graphite and don’t have the torque to the degree that you’ll find in graphite shafts. Steel shafts are primarily found in irons, as they tend to benefit the player in terms of accuracy, and are usually less expensive than graphite.

Benefits

  • Steel shafts can be more responsive to experienced players, allowing them to gain better feedback on their golf shots.
  • Steel-shafted clubs are heavier than graphite-shafted clubs. Players with higher swing speeds may appreciate a heavier club that complements their swing tempo and provides more control.
  • Steel shafts are typically not as expensive as graphite clubs. For the average male golfer just getting into golf, regular flex steel shafted clubs are an affordable entry point.
  • Better durability and less likely to show wear, especially where the club rests against the golf bag.

Disadvantages

  • While more experienced players may appreciate feedback from each shot, those who are more inconsistent in terms of impact may not appreciate the vibrations created from mishits with steel-shafted golf clubs.
  • Steel is heavy. The main types of steel shafts are made from carbon steel or stainless steel (which is heavier). Players with slower swing speeds may find that they are not able to generate the same clubhead speed with steel shafts as they can with graphite shafts.
  • For players with hand, elbow, and shoulder issues, the vibrations created with steel-shafted clubs may be irritating.

Types of Steel Shafts

There are two types of steel shafts: Stepped steel and Rifle steel.

Stepped steel shafts are used to gradually reduce the diameter of the shaft from the wider butt end to the narrower tip end that goes into the hosel of the clubhead. The reason for this step pattern is to make sure that the kick points in the shaft match the desired flex and weight. If the bottom of the shaft near the clubhead had as wide of a diameter as the top, the weight distribution of the club would feel lopsided and the club would be way stiffer than desired.

The benefit of stepped steel is there is greater flexibility in customization based on the ability to isolate the flex and kick point. A golfer who plays stiff shafts but wants a higher ball flight might choose a stiff handle (as normal) but opts for a softer feeling of the shaft tip, which can help launch the ball higher than if the tip was a traditional stiffness. The downside is that each step in the shaft is a separate piece of metal, which means there is not the most efficient transfer of energy down the shaft. For players with greater swing speeds, this may not be a concern. But, for those with lower swing speeds who still like playing steel shafts, rifle steel shafts might be a better choice than stepped steel.

The main difference with Rifle steel shafts is that the steel is smooth from top to bottom and has no steps. The shaft design and construction use an advanced manufacturing process and electronic calibration to provide greater performance and consistency.

This stepless design technology eliminates the energy-robbing steps found on most other steel shafts, which rifle manufacturers claim provides greater accuracy.

Even though the benefit of stepped steel shafts is the ability to customize the flex and kick points in the shaft, the same can also be said of rifle shafts. The technology in rifle shafts has become so advanced that we can now have a single set of clubs of the same flex, but "flighted." For example, in a flighted set of rifle shafts, the kick point of the long irons may be lower, which produces a higher trajectory. In the same set, the kick point on the short irons may be higher, so that the stiffness is greater and there is a more consistent feel in these scoring irons.

Graphite Shafts

Graphite shafts are typically lighter than steel, allowing players to swing the club faster than a steel-shafted club. Typically, there is going to be more flex and torque in a graphite shaft, so it is important to find one that fits your golf game, as graphite is often more expensive than steel.

Benefits

  • Graphite shafts are lighter than steel shafts. This can be helpful for senior golfers, juniors, and other players with slower swing speeds.
  • With graphite shafts, unwanted vibrations from hitting a golf ball are dampened more than with steel. This can be helpful for golfers with hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder issues.

Disadvantages

  • Graphite shafts are lighter than steel shafts. This can be helpful for senior golfers, juniors, and other players with slower swing speeds.
  • With graphite shafts, unwanted vibrations from hitting a golf ball are dampened more than with steel. This can be helpful for golfers with hand, wrist, elbow, and shoulder issues.

Most golfers would enjoy the benefits of a graphite shaft in their irons. Today, most drivers, fairway woods, and hybrids come with graphite shafts. They are a lighter material and can flex more, which creates more whip and club head speed, ultimately helping golfers get more distance. Players with average or slower swing speeds can take advantage of these factors when selecting graphite shafts, making them ideal for beginners, seniors, and women golfers.

Steel shafts provide players with more control. However, they are heavier, so a golfer with above-average swing speeds may opt for steel shafts in their irons so that they can have better control and get better feedback from their golf shots. Still not sure which works best for you? For more information, check out Graphite vs. Steel Shafts in Golf Clubs: Which Is Right for You?

Shaft Flex

Photo by Ron Alvey

Shaft Flex

Shaft flex is a measurement of the shaft’s ability to flex as forces are applied to it—when you swing the club. Finding the ideal flex or shaft for your swing can help you to optimize launch, improve accuracy, and maximize distance. There is a generally accepted scale of measurements for the shaft flex guide:

  • “X” – extra stiff shaft
  • “S” – Stiff shaft
  • “R” – Regular shaft
  • “A” – Amateur or Senior shaft
  • “L” – Ladies shaft

Are Your Shafts Too Stiff or Not Stiff Enough?

If your shafts are too stiff for your current swing speed, you may notice that you are not hitting the ball as far or as high as you do with other clubs. Also, you may notice you are hitting the ball to the right (for right-handed players), as a shaft that is too stiff can be difficult to square the clubface at impact, causing the ball to go to the right. Lastly, you may notice that even when you hit the ball in the center of the clubface, it doesn’t feel like a solid golf shot. If you're experiencing any of these scenarios, you may need a more flexible shaft.

If your shafts have too much flex for your current swing speed, you may notice that you are hitting the ball higher than you would with another club. You may also notice that you are hitting the ball to the left (for a right-handed player), suggesting that the clubface is closed at impact because the shaft is flexing too much based on your swing speed. Lastly, you may notice that even when you feel like you hit the ball really well, you don’t seem to get the distance out of the golf shot that you do when you hit other clubs similarly. If you're experiencing any of these scenarios, you may need a stiffer shaft.

Check out this video to see the results of hitting three drivers all with different flex shafts. The resulting differences are remarkable.

Flex Point

Now that you understand shaft flex, it is also important to understand the flex point — also known as Shaft Kick-Point— and how that can impact your golf shots. Shafts can flex at different points on the club. Shafts with a low kick point (closer to the clubhead) can help you hit the ball higher, while shafts with a high kick point (closer to the grip) will help you hit the ball lower or on a more penetrating trajectory.

Shaft Weight

The weight of the shaft can also affect how a shaft feels to you when you swing it. Even as little as five grams can make a difference! If a shaft is too heavy, you may not be able to swing it as fast as you would a lighter shaft, which could result in lost distance. A heavier shaft could also feel a little stiffer, which could negatively impact your timing and ball striking and also produce a lower ball flight. Players with faster swing speeds who can swing heavier shafts may also see improvements in accuracy once they get used to the feel of the new heavier shaft.

A lighter shaft can also increase your launch angle and spin rate. A player with a slower swing speed would use a lighter shaft because they could swing it faster. On the flip side, a lighter shaft may have more flex and a higher torque rating, which would mean the shaft twists more, making accuracy more challenging. If a shaft is too light for you, it may feel softer to you than a heavier shaft, and could negatively impact your timing and ball striking. Players with more moderate swing speeds may be able to swing a lighter shaft faster, resulting in more clubhead speed and more distance.

Shaft Torque

Torque is a measurement of how much a shaft will twist during your golf swing. Shafts with higher torque ratings will feel softer and likely produce a higher trajectory than shafts with a lower torque rating. When it comes to understanding torque ratings for golf shafts, the higher the number, the more “twisting” of the club that will occur, and the lower the number, the less “twisting” there will be. When companies look to minimize torque, they tend to make the shaft walls thicker to minimize the twisting of the golf club. In doing so, they will likely also increase the weight of the shaft. Shafts with lower torque ratings will tend to produce a lower trajectory.

Find the Correct Golf Shaft Flex for Your Swing Speed

What shaft do you need? While launch monitors can help, simply knowing how far you hit various clubs can go a long way when trying to find the best shaft option for you.

You’re 150 yards from the hole—what club do you normally hit?

  • 8-iron or 9-iron: You’d likely want an “X” or extra stiff flex shaft.
  • 6-iron or 7-iron: You’d likely want an “S” or stiff flex shaft.
  • 5-iron or 6-iron: You’d likely want an “R” or regular flex shaft.
  • 4-iron: You’d likely want an “A” or amateur/senior flex shaft.
  • 3-iron or wood: You’d likely want an “L” or ladies flex shaft.

If you know your driver distances and swing speed, as well as your 6-iron distances and swing speed, you can find your best golf shaft flex option in the chart below.

Golf Club Distance Chart

Comparison Measurements"X""S""R""A" or "S""L"
Driver Distance (Carry in yards)>245>215>170>135<135
Driver Distance (Total in yards)>275>240>210>180<180
Driver Swing Speed (mph)>105>95>85>75<75
6-iron Distance (Carry in yards)>175>145>115>90<90
6-Iron Distance (Total in yards)>175>155>130>100<100
6-Iron Swing Speed (mph)>92>84>75>65<65

An Expert Can Help You Find the Right Shaft

Knowing all the information above will go a long way toward getting the best golf shaft for you. The next step is to talk to a Golf Expert who is familiar with various shaft options and how they may help you improve the distance and accuracy of your shots. When talking with an Expert, you will want to share with them your swing speed, ball flight or trajectory, and shot pattern.

Swing Speed (Tempo)

Do you have a fast swing, a slow swing, or somewhere in between—an average swing speed? The faster you swing, the stiffer the shaft you will need. While you may see the chart above and think you need to swing faster to hit the ball farther, that may not necessarily be the case—finding the right shaft flex for your swing can help you to optimize distance.

Ball Flight or Trajectory

Think of ball flight or trajectory as how high you hit the ball. Do you feel that you hit the ball higher than most, lower than most, or somewhere in between? Understanding your ball flight or trajectory can help you find the best golf shaft flex to optimize your launch conditions. Would you like to change your trajectory? The right golf shaft can help.

As a right-handed golfer, if your shots consistently go left of the target, it’s a sign that you’re playing clubs with too much flex. Conversely, as a righty, if your shots typically miss right, your clubs could be too stiff for you.

Shot Pattern (Direction)

Do you hook or draw the ball? Is your shot pattern straight for the most part? Or do you slice or fade the ball? Knowing your typical shot pattern can help you find the best shaft for you. A shaft that is too flexible for your swing can lead to inconsistency—your misses going in both directions. However, if you find that you typically hit the ball low and fade or slice the ball, your current shaft may be too stiff for you. Finding the right flex can help you improve your accuracy and consistency.

How the Right Golf Shaft Can Impact Your Game

While your focus for your new clubs may be on the brand or manufacturer, equal (if not more) consideration should be given to finding the right shaft for your golf clubs specifically. You may find a golf club that you really like, but if the shaft is not right for you it will be difficult to consistently play your best. Talking to an Expert will help ensure that not only do you have the perfect set of clubs, but you also have the perfect set of shafts in those clubs matched to your golf game.

Finding the right golf shaft to fit your swing can positively impact how you hit the ball. Golf shafts can impact how high or low you hit the ball, how far left or right (or straight) you hit the ball, and how far you hit the ball.

  • Ball Flight: While golf clubs are being designed more and more to optimize trajectory, consideration should also be given to the golf shaft and the factors that fit a shaft to your swing such as flex, flex point, and weight.
  • Direction: Clubs are also being designed with the specific positioning of weights in the heads of perimeter-weighted clubs, so players are still able to get positive results from off-center hits. If the shaft is not right for your swing, you may find it difficult to return the club squarely to the golf ball, resulting in shots to either the left or right of the target. Make sure to consider factors such as flex, flex point, weight, and torque when talking to an expert about your swing direction.
  • Distance: Clubs are also being manufactured to produce more ball speed off the club face. However, if the shaft is not right for you, you may not be able to generate speed to maximize distance. Consider factors such as flex, flex point, and weight when thinking about distance.

Which Golf Shafts are the Best?

There is no one best golf shaft, but there is likely one best golf shaft for you. There are many great manufacturers. When talking with an expert, you will be able to explore the options that are best for your swing characteristics. It is more important that you find a shaft that fits you than it is to find a specific shaft brand.

Manufacturers make different models from different materials with unique flex points, torque ratings, and weights. Often, when club manufacturers are designing their golf clubs, they will work with the shaft manufacturer to come up with a combination that best suits a typical player. That combination may fit you perfectly, or it may not be quite right for you. It’s always best to seek the advice of Experts who can help you find the right shaft for your play style.

If It’s Right for the Pros, It Must Be Right for Me

Finding the right shaft is very personal—what works for Tiger Woods may not necessarily work for you. If you were to look in the golf bags of many PGA Tour players and the best amateurs, you would find that they all play different shafts with different flexes, flex points, weights, and torques. If you swing like them, maybe you could get away with using their clubs as they have customized them. If you don’t, it is best to spend the extra money to get a properly fitted set of clubs with the right shafts so you can play your best golf.

Understanding the numbers on Golf Club Shafts

There are lots of types of golf shafts, made by a host of different brands. What's more, different clubs use different shafts. So, while there are name brands of clubs that seemingly everyone knows, like TaylorMade and Callaway, the lesser-known aspect of clubs is the shaft that connects the head to the grip. So here's a crash course!

One of the major manufacturers of shafts is True Temper. If you look at your wedges, odds are that it will say "TT" or True Temper on the shaft. One of their subdivisions is the Project X brand. More on that in a bit.

Another brand is KBS golf shafts. They are the fastest-growing steel shaft brand, and their shafts are played by over 200 professionals on the PGA, LPGA Tour, and other pro tours.

So, if you have Project X shafts on your irons, you're not going to see the stiffness of the shaft spelled out for you. You're just going to see numbers. So here's a guide to reading them and knowing what's right for you. Note that even if you're searching for the right shafts on your irons, it's easiest to talk about your driver swing speed and then apply that information to the iron shafts.

Project X Golf Shaft Flex Chart

  • 7.0 - Tour extra stiff: You swing 115+ mph with the driver. Most of us mere mortals don't need this amount of stiffness.
  • 6.5 - Extra stiff: You swing 105-114 mph with the driver.
  • 6.0 - Stiff flex: You swing 97-104 mph with the driver.
  • 5.5 - Regular flex: You swing 84-96 mph with the driver. This is the average golf swing speed range for an amateur golfer.
  • 5.0 - Senior flex: You swing less than 83 mph with the driver.

Your Driver Shaft is a Key Factor in Improving Total Distance

Photo by BigPixel Photo

The driver will help you improve your total driving distance, so beyond selecting the brand or club head with the technology and design that you prefer, consideration must also be given to the shaft that goes into the driver. There is a direct correlation between swing speed and yardage, and optimizing the shaft can help improve both measures.

Club manufacturers understand this, so when you visit their websites you’ll see that they offer numerous ways to have your driver built with the perfect shaft for your golf game. While you now have a better understanding of how the shaft can impact the performance of your driver and your full set, it is still important to work with an expert who can provide you with insights to ensure that you find the golf shaft that helps you produce the optimal launch on your drives, resulting in greater accuracy and more distance.

That being said, here are two of the best driver shafts you might consider based on your game:

  • For players with fast swing speeds who have a higher launch angle: If you think you're losing distance because you're hitting the ball too high and it's ballooning on you, then you need a more penetrating ball flight. Consider using the Fujikura Ventus Black shaft. It has a high kick point (remember, that means that it bends closer toward the grip), which helps produce a low launch. This is also a low-spin shaft, so your drives will run more, too.
  • For players who have a slow swing speed and want to tighten their shot dispersion (meaning hit more fairways and stop spraying the ball as much, then the Mitsubishi Tensei AV RAW Orange is a great option. This shot has a mid-launch, so you'll maintain a ball flight that maximizes roll, but more importantly, it has a counter-balanced shaft that offers stability and control throughout the swing, resulting in more fairways found!

Looking for More Distance, More Control, or Both?

When looking for new clubs, golfers will want to either hit the ball farther or hit straighter. Ensuring that your new clubs have the right shaft, based on what you are wanting to improve, can make it easier to play better—whether that be hitting farther or straighter.

The lighter the shaft, and the more flex (within your range as noted above), the more likely it is that you will be able to gain more distance out of your clubs. A shaft that is heavier and stiffer (within your range) will enhance your accuracy, allowing you to control the golf ball. Finding the right golf shaft flex for your swing type allows you to maximize distance while also improving accuracy.

Don't feel like your entire set needs to use the same type of shaft. Maybe you play a stiff shaft on the majority of golf clubs because you have a faster swing speed and you want to have a low shot trajectory. But with your wedge game, you place greater emphasis on the feel of each shot, so the flex in the wedge helps you employ variable ball trajectories based on the shot at hand. All of this means you have normal swing speeds with your wedges, so you play a wedge flex. That's okay!

Custom Fitting: Ordering Golf Clubs with the Right Shaft for You

If you have any questions on which golf clubs are best for your game, please feel free to reach out to me or @@one of my fellow Golf experts here on Curated@@ for free advice and recommendations. With the interchangeability of many golf clubs today, ordering custom clubs is much easier and faster than you think. Manufacturers have extensive custom club operations, and they can often get your custom clubs out to you just as quickly as if you were ordering a stock set.

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Have a question about the article you just read or want personal recommendations? Connect with a Curated expert and get free recommendations for whatever you’re looking for!

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