Golf Shaft Flex: Stiff vs. Regular and How It Affects Your Swing Speed

Published on 06/16/2023 · 6 min readWhat is golf club shaft flex and how should it impact your decision when shopping for new clubs? Golf Expert Jorge Arteta answers these questions and more below!
Jorge Arteta, Golf Expert
By Golf Expert Jorge Arteta

Photo by Regine Tholen

When golfers walk into a golf store, they are immediately overwhelmed by the quantity of products manufacturers publicize on the shelves. There is a lot of marking in the golf industry, so their eyes get big looking at shiny new golf clubs with the promise of birdies and pars for all.

As a golf teaching professional, it’s a regular occurrence for a beginner to come to me with a new set of clubs only to find the flex is wrong for them. This isn’t their fault. Many don’t know the difference between a steel or graphite shaft. Or what's a kick point or a bend profile?

A novice golfer, happy with their new purchase, comes to me for their first lesson. Let’s say they're an athletic 25-year-old man who has played a lot of baseball in their years. I notice their new clubs have senior flex. A golfer with this profile is too strong for senior flex. Their reaction is understandable when I explain they need to return and/or exchange their clubs because they're not the right choice.

So how do you know if you need stiff or regular flex shaft golf irons? And how do you determine the right golf club length? Length goes hand in hand with choosing the right shaft.

What Is Shaft Flex?

Photo by Andrew Lomas

Let's first define what golf shaft flex is. It applies to all clubs, including irons, hybrids, fairway woods, and drivers. Flex refers to a golf shaft’s ability to bend as forces are applied to it during the golf swing. The type of swing you have, fast or slow, smooth or jerky, determines the forces generated. There are five ratings for shaft flex: Extra Stiff, Stiff, Regular, Senior, and Ladies.

Finding the Right Flex for Your Swing Speed

Think of the shaft as the club’s engine. Yes, those shiny new clubheads look great, but it’s the golf shaft that determines how well you swing the club.

Look at this swing chart below to determine what flex is right for you.

Data from True Spec Golf

Let’s take the 6-iron for an example as it’s the club most golf stores demo (sometimes a 7-iron too). According to the chart, an average golfer who swings a 6-iron between 75 - 83mph should have a regular flex shaft. A golfer who swings that same iron between 84 - 91mph should use a stiff flex shaft.

So how do you measure your swing speed in mph? Well, there are two different methods—ball speed and clubhead speed. Clubhead speed, shown on the chart above, is the most common.

Most golf stores have a simulator or a swing analysis machine to measure clubhead speed. Take a 6-iron, put the golf ball in line with the tracker, and swing. Easy! A lot of numbers might appear on the screen or device, but the one to focus on is the clubhead speed.

Let's say you swing a few times and average 77mph. It means the right club for you has a regular flex shaft. We already learned the five different flex ratings; seventy-five percent of golfers fall between regular and stiff flex. Based on this, can you guess what golf shops sell the most? You got it, regular and stiff flex. Your choice affects your launch angle, driver carry distance, spin, ball flight, trajectory, and accuracy.

The Difference Between the Right and Wrong Shaft Flex

Photo by Courtney Cook

The person who has regular flex shaft but needs a stiff may note the following during their swing:

  • A slowdown in tempo
  • A swing speed that feels slow because they have to wait for the shaft to come around during the swing
  • The ball hooks left because they have a faster swing and can't control the club
  • That the club is very light in overall weight

The person who has stiff flex but needs a regular may note the following during their swing:

  • Their shots land shorter because their swing speed isn’t fast enough to generate good distance
  • Their club feels heavy
  • The ball goes to the right
  • There is more vibration in the swing

Other Things to Consider When Choosing a Shaft Flex

Steel or Graphite

There are many variables when deciding whether to get steel or graphite shafts. The weight between them is different as is the vibration feedback when the ball gets hit.

Graphite is more forgiving and therefore doesn't affect your elbows or wrists as much. This is a benefit for golfers with pre-existing medical issues.

Steel is heavier and feels much more stable through the swing. People with faster and/or stronger swing speeds should use steel shafts.

Proper Shaft Weight

Shaft weight depends on the golfer’s strength and swing type. It’s measured in grams. So, for example, a shaft can weigh anywhere from 50 to 130 grams. How your swing speed correlates to the shaft material determines which one you need.

Which Kick Point is Right?

The kick point is the technical term for where the shaft flexes the most. It's about a three-inch area near the middle of the shaft. There is a high kick point that keeps the ball lower. A mid-kick point that keeps the ball in a mid-level flight. And a low kick point that keeps the ball higher.

The answer to which kick point is best suited for a particular swing isn’t black and white. Therefore, it’s best for golfers to go to a club-fitter to determine their ideal kick point.

How Do I Find My Correct Shaft Flex?

Photo courtesy of Club Champion

Go to a Club Fitter The best way to get fitted for the correct shaft flex and clubs is via a certified fitter. Places like True Spec Golf and Club Champion that specialize in club fitting have locations throughout the United States. Many golf stores have club fitters on staff and the equipment to measure and analyze a golfer's swing numbers.

Check the Numbers

A golfer can go to their local golf shop and hit a bunch of different clubs and shafts in their measurement tool. They can analyze their results and go by what feels good and hits the ball the farthest and straightest.

Visit Your Local Golf Professional

Whether it’s at the local golf course or an independent golf academy, your local golf professional can schedule a golf fitting for you and test your swing with state-of-the-art electronics. Or, go old school and spend some time at the range hitting golf balls outside. See how far they go and how it feels to you.

There are a few ways to determine stiff vs regular flex shafts in a golf club. Try one or try them all. Either way, you'll love playing golf even more and the results may speak for themselves. Enjoy the round.

If you want to see more information on golf shafts highlighted in this article or have questions about which shaft may be the right fit for you, reach out to me or one of my fellow Golf Experts here on Curated for free, personalized recommendations. We love sending recommendations and can’t wait to connect!

Jorge Arteta, Golf Expert
Jorge Arteta
Golf Expert
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