Stiff vs. Regular Golf Shafts: Comparing Key Differences

By Todd Mrowice

Ping worker and golf shaft

When it comes to golf shafts, there is a flex available for every swing speed under the sun. Most players use either a stiff or regular flex shaft, but other options are available to accommodate both ends of the swing speed spectrum.

With advancements in golf shaft technology, regular and stiff shafts have become vastly different, and fitting into one or the other is no longer black and white. Let's compare the key differences between stiff and regular shafts to help you determine which is the best fit for you.

Regular vs. Stiff Shafts: A Brief Comparison

Using the right shaft flex is essential to getting the most out of your clubs and playing your best golf. Shaft flex technology has come a long way. There was a time it was simply assumed that if you swung the club hard, you played stiff shafts, and if you swung it slower, you played regular shafts. If you were caught in the middle, you were resigned to trial and error.

Today, we have the luxury of launch monitors and an incredible amount of swing data to get us fit into the right shaft. Now, the proper shaft flex is determined by numbers like launch, spin, peak height, ball speed, and much more in addition to swing speed.

Regular Flex Shafts

Regular flex shafts are lighter and flex to accommodate an average swing speed. If you use regular flex shafts but aren't sure if they're right for you, one common tell that you should be playing stiff shafts instead is if your misses are high and left, if you play right-handed. This happens when your regular flex shaft stays flexed too long and your hands and body are ahead of the clubhead at impact.

Stiff Shafts

Stiff flex shafts are typically heavier, and the flex accommodates a higher swing speed. A common issue that will tell you that you should be playing regular shafts instead of stiff is if your misses are lower and to the right. This happens if your stiff shaft isn’t flexing at all and at impact the club is as stiff as a board.

Swing Speeds

It's worth reiterating that swing speed no longer solely dictates which is the best shaft flex for you. But, it is a good indicator. Here is a general comparison of the swing speed ranges for regular and stiff shafts for both drivers and irons.

Driver Swing SpeedFlex
84-96 mphRegular
97-104 mphStiff
6-iron Swing SpeedFlex
76-83 mphRegular
84-91 mphStiff

All Flexes Are Not Created Equal

The above table is a general comparison, but it’s important to note that all shaft manufacturers have different variations of what they consider stiff and regular. For example, Fujikura and True Temper are two of the largest shaft manufacturers in the world. A single golfer who fits into a stiff flex Fujikura driver shaft might fit into a regular flex True Temper driver shaft. The lack of standardization makes it even more crucial to get fit for your shaft by a professional.

The reason for this is that each manufacturer has subtle, yet important, differences in elements such as kick point, torque, and launch not to mention weight. It’s always a good idea to look into each shaft manufacturer as each compares their different models on their websites.

Aside from Fujikura and True Temper, you’ll also find popular models with KBS, Mitsubishi, Aldila, UST Mamiya, and Nippon.

Beyond Stiff and Regular

Stiff and regular aren't the only shaft flex options available to you. If your swing has slowed down a little and you already play regular flex shafts, going to a senior, or "A flex" shaft, can pay off with more distance and tighter dispersion.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you currently play a stiff flex shaft but have worked to increase your swing speed, perhaps going up to an extra stiff, or "X Flex" shaft will get you those extra yards.

How Shaft Flex Impacts Ball Flight

Shaft flex has a big impact on your ball flight and it can be a big factor in how far you hit the ball.

A shaft that flexes too much for your swing leads to higher-launching shots with a higher apex, robbing you of distance. Consider getting fit into a shaft that’s stiffer and heavier to achieve a more penetrating ball flight, especially with your driver.

On the opposite side, a shaft that doesn’t flex enough produces too low of a launch angle. Relying on the ball rolling further is not a great strategy to get that extra yardage. Instead, get fit into a lighter, more flexible shaft to get you into the sweet spot.

Before You Cut Your Shaft

If you’re considering cutting down your golf club shafts to fit your length, remember that the more you cut, the stiffer the shaft becomes. For example, let's say you scored a great deal on eBay and found a new driver. It was such a great deal because it’s two inches over standard, but you fit into one inch below standard. Cutting three inches off of that shaft will change how the club performs, likely resulting in a lower launch than you anticipated.

Mizuno Shaft Optimizer

If you’re in the market for Mizuno golf clubs, the company has an innovative and fun tool called the Shaft Optimizer 3D. This device sits on the shaft of the club and connects via Bluetooth. You hit three shots and the device produces numbers including clubhead speed, tempo, toe down angle, kick angle, and release factor. The end result is a ton of data points that display the top three shaft recommendations for you, along with some additional options for consideration.

Get Fit

Whether you should be playing regular, stiff, or any other shaft flex, it’s important to make sure you get fit by a certified club fitter. Playing the guessing game or going off of what your buddy plays is an expensive, and likely inaccurate, route. You can find free club fittings at most golf retailers along with premium fittings which have a small charge. Either way, you’ll be happy you went to see an expert.

About the Author

Todd Mrowice is a Staff Writer for GolfLink. His experience spans over 15 years and he has covered all aspects of the game including travel, products, business, and professional tours. Todd has also put his deep knowledge of golf equipment to work as a club fitter and in several marketing roles in the golf industry. He has a hole-in-one on his playing resume and appropriately gave his son the middle name “Ace.”