The Right Golf Shaft Flex Can Help You Play Better Golf

Every 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.

Photo by Matt Aylward

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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
  • Torque

Steel or Graphite Shafts?

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.

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.
  • 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.

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 players with slower swing speeds.
  • With graphite shafts, the vibrations created when 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 do not have the rigidity that steel shafts have, and they can have more whip and flexibility. These features can help players with slower swing speeds hit the ball farther and swing the club faster.
  • Graphite shafts are typically more expensive than steel shafts.
A man swings his golf club over his shoulder.

Which Type is Better?

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 to help 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, senior, 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.

Important Factors in Finding the Correct Golf Shaft

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:

  • “X” – eXtra Stiff
  • “S” – Stiff
  • “R” – Regular
  • “A” – Amateur or Senior
  • “L” – Ladies

Are Your Shafts Too Stiff?

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.

Are Your Shafts Not Stiff Enough?

If your shafts are too flexible 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.

Flex Point or Kick Point

Now that you understand shaft flex, it is also important to understand the flex 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. 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.

Golfer hitting a golf ball out of a bunker

Photo by Gene Gallin

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 shaft flex option table

An Expert Can Help You Find the Right Shaft

Knowing all the information from 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—a medium 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.

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.

A woman swings her golf club back. The landscape is green and lush behind her.

Photo by Andrew Lomas

Play Better With the Right Golf Shaft

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.

How the Shaft Can Impact 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 professionals, 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 speak with an expert to ensure that you find the right clubs with the right shafts that will help you play like a professional.

Your Driver Shaft is a Key Factor in Improving Total Distance

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.

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.

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.

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

Now that you have an understanding of golf shaft flex, 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. There is no reason to settle for a golf club that is not perfectly fit for your swing characteristics.

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Written By
Michael Pryor
Golf Expert
PGA Member - 23 years Certified PGA Professional - Golf Operations Certified PGA Professional - Teaching & Coaching ​ ​ ​
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