The shaft on a golf club needs to be able to bend as force is applied to it during your golf swing. That’s what is meant by shaft flex. If your shaft can’t bend sufficiently this may greatly affect your swing. How much depends on whether your swing is fast, slow, smooth, or jerky.
Shaft flex is typically rated five different ways: Extra Stiff, Stiff, Regular, Senior, and Ladies, usually denoted by the letters X, S, R, A, and L (“A” is used for Senior because this flex was originally called “amateur”).
It’s important that you have a flex that matches your needs or you will get a misaligned clubface at impact, causing your shots to go off-target.
What Flex Impacts
In one way or another, shaft flex can have a great impact on everything about your shot: accuracy, trajectory, and distance.
The shaft flexes throughout the swing, changing the very position of the clubhead. You want the clubhead to be square (perfectly straight) so you can get a good, hard shot away. With the wrong flex, your chances of hitting the shot squarely go down considerably.
Some General Guidelines
Take control of your game by buying clubs that have the right shaft flex for you.
You can determine whether you need a stiffer shaft or softer shaft with these general guidelines.
- Gauge the distance of your driver shot. If you consistently hit shots of 250 yards or more, a Stiff driver is best; shots of 230-250 yards suggest a Regular flex; 200-230 yards say Senior; less than 200 yards, Ladies.
- Extra stiff is only for the really big hitters and hardly applies to anyone, except the John Daly’s of the world.
- Those with a smoother swing might prefer softer flex, even if your swing is fast.
- A swing that is jerky on the top of the backswing will require a stiffer shaft.
- If your drives go left, try a stiffer flex; if your drives go right, try a softer flex.
If Your Flex Is Too Stiff
Having too stiff a shaft can affect your game in the following:
- You will likely get a lower and shorter shot than desired for any given loft.
- The ball may go off course, to the right, for right-handed players because the clubface is tougher to get square at impact. It tends to get too open.
- Even if you hit square and make good contact, the shot will simply feel less solid.
If Your Flex Isn’t Stiff Enough
When your flex isn’t stiff enough, you may get the following results:
- The ball might fly higher for any given loft.
- For the right-handed golfer, there is a tendency for the ball to go left, because of hitting with too closed a clubface.
- Even average or badly hit shots could feel more solid than they actually are.
Macho, Macho Men
Message to men: it doesn’t make you any less of a man if you don’t hit with the absolutely stiffest shaft. It’s more important to make the right choice rather than the macho choice. After all, is thinking macho worth losing a few stroked because you haven’t chosen the right flex?
This doesn’t mean you need to go through the thorough embarrassment (notice the sarcasm) of being seen hitting a scrawny little Regular flex club, not to mention to a Senior or Ladies flex.
The problem with men (concerning golf) is they tend to over-swing, especially the high-handicappers. A club with a softer flex has the benefit of slowing down the big swing. The end result is better to play and a lower score. Isn’t that what men really want anyway, to lower their scores?
It’s actually better to hit with a shaft that’s too flexible as opposed to one that isn’t flexible enough. It’s like when you’re going out and can’t decide between formal and semi-formal. Often it’s better to err on the side of a little too formal. Similarly, you may best better off going with a more flexible shaft. That means going with a regular shaft rather than a Stiff shaft.
What about Torque?
Every shaft has a Torque Rating, indicating the amount the shaft will twist during the swing.
The torque rating determines how the shaft feels. For example, an “R” flex shaft with a low torque will feel stiffer than an “R” flex shaft with high torque.
The Torque Rating will also alter the Swing Speed Rating, so you need to decide what torque rating is best for you. If you take two regular Flex shafts, the one with the lower torque (three degrees versus five degrees, for example) will have the higher Swing Speed rating. The higher torque shaft will also have a softer feel.
The shaft length must correspond as perfectly as possible to your height. Having a well-matched shaft is just as important as having the right flex or torque or any other variable.
To measure the length of the shaft you will need to get someone to measure for you while you are standing straight up. You want to measure from your wrist (where it meets your hand) to the floor. Measure both hands and use the average.
Want some help? Here is a good indicator:
- 29 to 32 inches, your irons should be based on a 5-iron of 37 inches
- 33-34 inches, your irons should be based on a 5-iron of 37 1/2 inches
- 35-36 inches, your irons should be based on a 5-iron of 38 inches
- 37-38 inches, your irons should be based on a 5-iron of 38 1/2 inches
- 39-40 inches, your irons should be based on a 5-iron of 39 inches
- 41 or more inches, your irons should be based on a 5-iron of 39 1/2 inches