In this article, I will share the basics of what I have come to know over the years regarding golf shafts. Hopefully, I can give you a few nuggets that will give you a good understanding of what role the shaft plays in helping you maximize your results. Through this knowledge, you should be able to make the correct choices on what shafts you should choose for yourself going forward.
Quite simply, and according to Wikipedia: The shaft of a golf club is the long, tapered tube which connects the golfer's hands to the club head. While hundreds of different designs exist, the primary purpose of the golf shaft remains the same: to provide the player with a way to generate centrifugal force in order to effectively strike the ball.
Shaft (golf). Wikipedia. Retrieved February 18, 2022, from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shaft_(golf)
While this is simplistic information regarding what the shaft of a golf club is, and does, you can actually take a great deal from it. Again, the primary purpose of the shaft is to help provide the golfer with a way of generating centrifugal force. The correct shaft, in combination with the speed a player can produce by way of their swing, will help them maximize the results they see from the shots that they hit.
The shaft of the club plays an important role in helping a golfer get the most out of their own unique and individualized swing. There are hundreds of upon hundreds, and probably more like thousands of upon thousands of shaft options available on the market. The golf shaft industry has become massive, and through constant innovations, is ever evolving.
In general, the most common shaft flex types, based on their characteristics, and the type of swings they are designed for include:
Extra Stiff (XX): This shaft flex is, as the name suggests, is the most ridged or stiffest of shafts offered. This shaft offering is reserved for golfers with incredibly fast swing speeds. Your long drive competitors, or the longest hitters on the men’s professional tours are usual playing with this category of shaft. Driver clubhead speed ranges of 95-110 mph and above with the driver are candidates for this grade catagory.
Stiff (X): A step down from the Extra Stiff shaft, the Stiff shaft is still intended for fast swingers of the club. Most average tour professionals, and low handicap golfers fall into this shaft category. Clubhead speed ranges with Stiff flex shafts range from 95-110 mph with the driver.
Regular (R): This is the standard shaft which most recreational golfers play or should play. Clubhead speed ranges with Regular flex shafts range from 75-95 mph off the driver.
Senior (A): As golfers get older, swing speeds decrease. There is often very little a golfer can do physically to beat father time. Therefore, it is critical for senior golfers to play the appropriate shaft as they age. Golfers with clubhead speeds less than 75 mph off the driver are candidates for Senior flex shafts.
Ladies (L): Female golfers generally swing in that same 75 mph or less range as noted above. Ladies and Senior shafts are, for all intents and purposes, are pretty much the same in makeup. The length of the shaft may be one of the only differentiators here.
The most common shaft materials include the following:
Steel: Shafts made from steel are the heaviest of the common materials that shafts are made from. Steel shafts are very durable and because the are a little more ridged than other common shaft materials, they have less torque and twisting happening during the swing. Steel shafts are very commonly used in irons as compared to woods. Irons are more of the “scoring” clubs, used in hitting approach shots into greens where accuracy is of more importance. Steel shafts are generally cheaper than other materials.
Graphite: Shafts made from graphite are far lighter than steel shafts, by almost half the weight. Lighter equates to faster speeds and therefore we see drivers, and other woods, with graphite shafts. What you give up some with lighter graphite shafts is the accuracy you gain with steel. Those that struggle with distance, due to slower swing speeds, often look at having graphite in their clubs throughout the bag.
Combo or Multi-Material: Many manufacturers and component companies offer a combination shaft which melds the best of both steel and graphite. A large majority of golfers, of all abilities, have at least one club in their bag with a multi-material shaft…or have at a minimum, played one over the cpurse of their golfing life.
In asking the question, “How do I know if I am playing the right shafts?” I hit up my go to source on all things golf equipment, Jonathan Ullivarri, Area Sales Manager, Store Manager and Master Club Fitter at Club Champion in the Orlando, FL:
“So that question, to me, is screaming for a golfer to experience a good fitting from a reputable fitter and maintain a good relationship with them. Playing the right shaft is synonymous with trying to maximize your ball speed in the most efficient way possible. The shaft is the vessel that loads and transfers your energy into the golf ball. There are tons of different flavors. Finding the right one is paramount. So how do we know we’re playing the right shafts? Maximum output without altering the input.”