Are Stiff or Regular Shafts Better for Your Golf Game?

By Nick Heidelberger

golf swing flexible graphite shaft

One of the most important choices you make when purchasing golf clubs is what kind of shaft to use--stiff or regular, steel or graphite. The shaft is the engine of a golf club. If you have too much or not enough power, you will have difficulty controlling your ball.

Difference Between Stiff and Regular Flex

A stiff shaft is firmer and harder to bend than a regular flex shaft. That said, flexing a stiff shaft is not as simple as just swinging harder. The more club-head speed you generate, the stiffer the shafts on your clubs should be. A quick, athletic swing can generate club-head speed, but a long, slow, accelerating arc can generate even more. When your swing is matched with the correct shaft flex, it can help you maximize distance and control on all of your shots.

Perhaps the most important thing to note on shaft flex is that each manufacturer has a different standard for what flex is categorized as Senior, Regular, Stiff, or Extra Stiff. One company’s Regular Flex may be another’s Stiff, so selecting your shaft flex should only happen after you’ve chosen the specific make and model of club you’re using. The best way to ensure you’re playing the proper shaft is to be fit by a professional, who will match various shafts with various club heads to find the ideal setup for your game.

What Shaft is Best for Your Swing Speed

A faster swing requires a stiffer shaft or exquisite timing. You can measure your swing speed on a launch monitor, or visit your local pro shop or driving range and hit a variety of clubs with different shafts. Either way, you'll see immediately what type of shaft is best for you. If you swing in the 90+ mph, a stiff shaft will probably help you. If you are in the 80 mph or less range, the regular shaft is clearly your choice. At that speed, you won't be able to flex the shaft properly and you will likely never be able to correct a high slice.

Shaft Material and Torque

Most golf shafts are made of either steel or graphite. Steel is the traditional material and is still the traditional iron shaft choice for many players. Graphite shafts are used in drivers, woods, hybrids, and many driving irons today. Graphite shafts are available for most iron sets as well.

Club-makers strive to produce low-torque shafts. Flex is the bend a shaft experiences from grip to clubhead during your swing. Torque is the amount of twist the shaft allows when you hit the ball on the heel or toe of the club. That twisting can help correct for off-center strikes if the shaft's elasticity is such that it twists back to center during your swing. It can also make a shot worse if it does not twist back.

Kick Point

Club-makers use the term "kick point" quite a bit when discussing and selling shafts. The kick point is where the shaft flexes the most. A club with a high kick point will produce a lower trajectory; a shaft with a low kick point will launch the ball higher into the air. Stiffer shafts usually have a higher kick-point.

Advantages

Golfers with slower swings will likely never see an advantage to hitting a stiff-shafted club. On the other hand, golfers with faster swing speeds can still play a regular-flex club with some dexterity. In that situation, it is all about the rhythm of your swing. Sometimes, a player with a 90 mph swing speed will find he hits the ball farther with a weaker shaft. He will give up a bit of control for that extra snap in the shaft, however.

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About the Author

Nick Heidelberger is the Editor of GolfLink. He has a degree in journalism from the University of Idaho and has been an avid golfer for more than 10 years. In the years prior to joining GolfLink, he worked for the New England Section of the PGA of America.