You may not think too much about the shaft of your golf club, however, it can actually play a big part in giving your swing that extra bit of drive which can improve your speed, distance, and ultimately, your game.
The length, torque, weight, kick-point, and alignment of the shaft all influence your golf club’s performance, however, that's a different story entirely, and today we’re going to focus on the flex alone.
Getting the right balance of flex in your shaft is one of the golfer’s biggest challenges.
Too much flex makes the club difficult to control meaning it’s likely to whip around and throw your aim off, while a shaft that is too stiff will of course be slower due to the extra weight, meaning you’ll also miss more and will find it difficult to square the clubface as it makes contact with the ball.
So, which is best - stiff flex or regular flex? Keep reading to find out the benefits of each…
So, what’s the difference?
As its name suggests, a stiff shaft is firmer and harder to bend, and so more often than not, they’ll also be heavier in weight. As a rough rule of thumb, the more speed you generate, the stiffer your shafts should be. However, even if your swing isn’t fast, a slow accelerating arc can generate more lag and power than someone who swings with a quicker tempo.
The key to improving your game is matching your swing with the correct level of shaft flex to maximize your distance while maintaining control over the club. While women’s golf clubs are often slightly more forgiving due to that extra flex in their shaft, this in no way makes them a weaker option - and if a little extra flex suits you best, stick with that.
It’s all a matter of personal feel and preference.
Which materials have the most flex?
Golf shafts can come in a range of materials and this influences their level of flex. The predominant material used in the shaft of the golf club is steel, and this is recommended for those with a normal swing speed as it increases control and maintains power.
Steel is stronger and more durable than other materials, and because of its density, it has less flex, too.
Alternatively, you may opt for a graphite shaft. Graphite is lightweight and boosts swing speed for more power, however, it compromises control slightly, as it does have a higher level of flex than steel. Because of this, it’s also less durable than steel and often comes at a higher price, too.
However graphite can make a dramatic difference to the weight of your clubs, and, if you’re used to golfing with steel shafts, you’re likely to notice a big difference if you switch to graphite.
If you’re thinking you’d like the best of both worlds, then a multi-material shaft may be the option for you. These usually consist of a steel shaft with a graphite tip and are frequently used in both irons and drivers.
The steel shaft allows players to maintain control over the ball, while the graphite tip provides just the right amount of “whip” that can help propel your ball further, and it can also help minimize the vibrations that come with a steel tip.
A new addition to the market is the titanium shaft. These are lightweight as titanium is lighter than steel, and it’s thought that these kinds of shafts will vibrate less than steel ones, although they still tend to feel stiffer than graphite ones.
How is flex measured?
The level of flex in the shaft is classified as so: Extra Stiff (XS), Stiff(S), Firm(F), Regular(R), Senior(S), Amateur(A) and Ladies(L), though don’t forget that this may vary between manufacturers.
The less flex in a shaft, the more control a powerful swinger will have. Generally speaking, beginners and those with a less powerful swing often go for a shaft with a little more flex, as this will propel the ball further and faster.
Flex is measured either via the traditional method of a Shaft Deflection Board or the more modern Frequency Analyzer. Stiffness or flex is identified by looking at the extent to which the shaft bends when weight is applied. Frequency is another way of defining stiffness; this analyzes how fast a club will vibrate with that particular shaft. The stiffer the shaft the faster the vibration.
If you have a low swing speed, a more flexible shaft will drive the ball further, while those with a high swing speed should opt for a stiffer shaft, as this avoids lagging clubheads.
What does kick point mean?
You may have heard the term ‘kick point’ when browsing for new clubs. The kick point is the point of the shaft where it flexes the most. A club with a high kick point should produce a lower trajectory, which will help players who lose distance from a high-spinning flight.
On the other hand, a low kick point will launch the ball higher. Stiffer shafts usually feature a higher kick point to help you increase your power.
Which is best for me?
There are three main ways to identify which level of flex is best for you.
A good way to identify which type of shaft will work best for you is to have your swing speed measured on a launch monitor. If you have a high swing speed, then a stiffer shaft may be required for you so that you can improve your control over the golf club.
However, if you have a slower swing speed, then a little extra flex will help you increase your power and improve your distance. It’s all about getting the most out of your swing.
Alternatively, you can arrange a custom fitting session. This is arguably your best option, as you’ll get to try various shafts and various weights of shafts which will be matched to your launch monitor data, so you can get a professional opinion and a shaft tailored to your size and golfing technique.
However, you shouldn’t overlook what is perhaps the simplest way to figure out the optimum amount of flex for you - which is trying both side by side, and comparing how they feel for you.
Ultimately, there is no one size or style that fits all, and the most important thing is how the club and shaft feel in your hands. If it doesn’t feel right - it probably isn’t right for you.
How can I improve my game?
The level of flex in your shaft could be the key to hitting the ball just that little bit further. Here are our tips:
- If you’re after distance, opt for a lightweight shaft with reduced stiffness, as that little extra flex will allow you to whip the club around faster.
- To improve accuracy, a heavier, stiffer shaft will improve your control over your club.
- To hit the ball higher, weaken the loft of the club and use a lower kick-point on your shaft.
- On the other hand, if you want to hit the ball lower, strengthen the loft of the club and use a higher kick-point shaft.
Finding the right level of flex for your swing can be a long and winding process, so you shouldn’t expect to get it right the first time.
While the general rule of thumb is slower swing speed, more flex needed, and vice versa, it’s still important to try both out for yourself. As we touched on earlier, graphite has more flex and is lighter than steel, while steel is generally stiffer and heavier. However, graphite tends to be expensive, and usually won’t last as long as steel.
It’s also a good idea to get a custom fitting and some professional advice to consider other important aspects such as the weight of the shaft, the material, torque, and of course, the size. If you’re a beginner, you’re going to want a shaft that has a good amount of flex in it, as this will be slightly more forgiving while you’re getting to grips with the game.
Golf can be incredibly complex when it comes to the little details, and everything from your grip, to your stance, to the level of flex in your shaft, will impact how far and how fast you hit the ball. While elements such as flex may seem like minor things, they can have a major impact on your game and can maximize your swing so that you can get the most out of it.
While practice is key when it comes to improving at golf, needless to say, using the right equipment is a great place to start.