Golf club shafts come in many different shapes and sizes. Most golfers are familiar with graphite and steel shafts, but that is normally where their knowledge about golf club shafts end.
Below we will take an in-depth look at different golf club shafts and we are also going to delve deeper into different shaft characteristics and the impact that it has on your golf game.
Golf Shafts Explained
What is a golf shaft?
The golf shaft connects the clubhead to your hands and it plays a very important role in terms of feel, distance, ball flight, and accuracy with both your irons and woods. More often than not golfers overlook the importance of playing with the correct shaft in their irons and woods.
Steel vs. Graphite Shafts
Steel and graphite shafts differ in a variety of different ways but with that being said both of these shaft types are great for many unique reasons.
Steel shafts feature durable designs, they are affordable and they provide feedback on off-center strikes. On the other end of the spectrum, graphite shafts are available in a wide variety of weight options, graphite shafts promote higher ball flights and they provide exceptional feel thanks to the ability of graphite shafts to absorb shock very effectively.
Iron vs. Wood Shafts
Iron and wood shafts vary in a variety of different ways. The majority of iron shafts are steel shafts, but graphite iron shafts continue to increase in popularity.
Wood shafts are longer than iron shafts but the majority of wood shafts are lighter than iron shafts and this is the main reason why steel shafts are rarely used in modern-day drivers and fairway woods.
Golf Shaft Features
Shaft flex refers to the shaft’s ability to bend once force is applied to it in the form of a golf swing. Swing speed and force applied on the shaft are directly correlated. More speed equals more force applied which in return will cause the shaft to bend more. To maximize performance optimal shaft flex is required to ensure that the shaft doesn’t bend too much as a result of the force applied during the swing.
Golf club shafts are available in 5 flex options namely X (extra stiff), S (stiff), R (regular), A (senior flex) and L (ladies flex). X flex shafts offer the most resistance to bending and L flex the least.
A and L flex shafts are most commonly used by senior and female golfers but there are no rules that require ladies to play with L flex shafts for instance. Female players with above-average swing speeds will be best-suited to play with an R flex shaft instead.
Shaft flex is arguably the most important shaft characteristic to consider when deciding which shaft to play with. Other features matter but the correct shaft flex is the first step on the path to lower scores.
Length and Weight
Most golfers play with standard length golf clubs and standard length clubs work just fine for the majority of players. Professional players tend to experiment a bit more than the average joe when it comes to shaft length.
Bryson Dechambeau revolutionized the golf club manufacturing business when he introduced his one-length iron concept to the world and most recently he has been experimenting with a 48-inch driver shaft which is about 3 inches longer than standard driver shaft lengths. Other pros like Ricky Fowler have opted for shorter driver shafts in the past with the hopes of finding accuracy off the tee.
Unless you are abnormally tall or short it isn’t necessary to play with longer or shorter clubs. It is very important however to ensure that your lie angles are adjusted accordingly to match your height. To learn more about the importance of having the correct lie angles on your clubs click here.
Shaft weight is a very important factor to consider. Additionally, the combination of shaft weight and clubhead weight is equally important. Shaft weight and flex aren’t directly correlated but more often than not lighter shafts tend to have more flex and are more suitable for players with slower swing speeds and vice versa for players with fast swing speeds.
Swing weight and overall shaft/club weight isn’t the same thing. Shaft weight is the actual weight of the shaft in ounces or grams and swing weight refers to how heavy the clubhead feels when you swing the club. Swing weight will differ based on the relationship between the shaft and clubhead weight. Swing weight is measured using a swing weight scale. To learn more about swing weight watch this video.
Shaft Tip and Butt
The tip of the golf shaft refers to the bottom part of the shaft that attaches the shaft to the clubhead and the butt refers to the top part of the shaft. Iron shafts don’t have specific tips but driver, hybrid, and fairway wood shafts do. These specialized tips ensure that woods and hybrids can be adjusted according to the adjustability of the respective club. Shaft tips differ from one manufacturer to the next, keep this in mind when buying a new shaft or clubhead.
Shaft torque refers to the shaft’s resistance to twisting and it is measured in degrees. Torque is very important when looking at graphite wood shafts but when we look at steel iron shafts torque becomes less relevant based on the construction difference of these two shaft types. Torque directly impacts accuracy and the importance of torque is amplified as swing speed/force applied increases.
The shaft kick point refers to the part of the shaft the bows the most in the downswing and at impact. Kick point is very important since it had a direct impact on both the accuracy and trajectory of your shots. Low kick point shafts promote a higher ball flight and high kick points a lower trajectory. Additionally, low kick shafts promote a draw bias and high kick points a fade biased ball flight.
What shaft should I play with?
With the technicalities around golf shafts out the way, the burning question that most golfers are left with is what shaft should I play with? This is a tricky question to answer with 100% accuracy but in short, the following rule of thumb applies based on the different shaft features covered above.
Players with slower below average swing speeds will be best-suited to play with a light graphite shaft with added flex, high torque, and a low kick point. On the contrary players with faster above average swing speed will be best suited with heavier graphite wood shafts and steel iron shafts that have less flex, low torque, and high kick points.
Based on average driver carry, swing, and ball speed numbers the table below is a good indicator as to which shaft flex type you should play with. If you are unsure about your average driver swing speed visit your local teaching professional or club fitter, they will be able to assist with the use of a launch or swing speed monitor.
Golf Shaft Chart
|Shaft flex||Average driver swing speed (mph)||Average driver ball speed (mph)||Average driver Carry Distance (yards)|
|Ladies flex (L)||Under 75||>100||Under 180|
|Senior flex (A)||75 – 85||100-110||180 – 200|
|Regular (R)||85 – 95||110-139||200 – 240|
|Stiff (S)||95 – 110||140-160||240 – 275|
|Extra stiff (X)||110 +||160+||275 +|
All golf shafts are not created equally. Golf shafts are different in terms of material, weight, flex, and a host of other different features. What shaft a player should play with differs based on the player’s swing speed, ball flight biases, and trajectory.
With so many factors to consider it is easy to get confused, but at the very least refer to our golf shaft chart to ensure that you are playing with the correct shaft flex based on your swing speed. Invest in playing with the correct shafts, it will only assist with improving your golf game in the long run.
This article was last updated on November 30, 2020 .