Choosing the correct golf shaft is one of the most important, and often-overlooked, steps toward improving your swing performance. While the club head simply makes contact with the ball, the shaft is responsible for generating the speed, flexibility and launch angle you need to obtain maximum distance. As you age, you may experience reduced muscular strength and flexibility, necessitating a more flexible shaft to compensate for these losses.
Shaft Flex Basics
According to Golf.com, golf shafts typically come in one of five categories based on their degree of flexibility. These shafts include L (ladies), A (senior), R (regular), S (stiff) and X (extra stiff). Some professionals may even use XX shafts, which are far stiffer than the average golf shaft. A ladies shaft, for example, will feel much "whippier" than a stiff shaft.
To select the appropriate shaft flexibility, you must first determine your average swing speed. You can obtain this information by purchasing a swing speed radar, or by visiting your local PGA professional. A senior-flex shaft is appropriate for a golfer who swings less than 70 miles per hour, according to Purely Golf. Golfers who swing 70 to 90 miles per hour generally require a regular-flex shaft. Professionals and golfers who swing over 90 miles per hour require stiff or extra-stiff shafts.
Furthermore, you may determine the appropriate shaft based on your average driving distance. Dale's Winning Edge, a site that provides advice on golf technology and equipment, asserts that golfers who carry the ball between 200 and 230 yards require a senior flex shaft.
Choosing the correct shaft is often as much art as it is science. With any shaft, you will experience a tradeoff between distance and accuracy. A more flexible shaft may help you produce more club head speed and distance, but its excessive torque, or the degree to which the club head twists throughout the swing, may result in a loss of accuracy. Similarly, a stiffer shaft will have less torque and help improve accuracy, but may sacrifice distance. Experiment with a variety of shaft flexibilities to find the one that provides the best combination of distance and accuracy for your swing speed and style.
Additional Shaft Characteristics
A variety of additional shaft characteristics may influence the distance and accuracy of your shots. For example, a lighter shaft will help you swing the club faster and produce more distance. A shaft with a higher kick-point, or the point at which the shaft experiences the most bending at the apex of the swing, will produce a lower flight-path. If you have trouble getting the ball up in the air due to a reduced swing speed, you may benefit from a shaft with a low kick-point. Finally, the swing weight of the club will influence the way it feels throughout the swing. This measurement combines the overall weight of the club and its balance point. Regardless of the flexibility you choose, make sure that your clubs have similar swing weights to ensure consistency in feel throughout the set.
Graham Ulmer began writing professionally in 2006 and has been published in the "Military Medicine" journal. He is a certified strength-and-conditioning specialist with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Ulmer holds a Master of Science in exercise science from the University of Idaho and a Bachelor of Science in psychology from Washington State University.