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There seems to be a big debate about shaft flex.
All the forums have pages dedicated to this topic… so why shouldn’t I? Many people ask “what shaft should I use?” and get all kinds of answers.
That’s not what GLG is about. We’re about the KISS method, and I don’t mean these guys:
I mean Keep It Simple, Stupid. It’s a mantra I heard for the first time in JV football eons ago, and I live by it every day.
What Shaft Flex Should I Use?
Flip that around a little: is your swing that fundamentally sound that it should matter?
Let’s see what Tom Wishon says (c/o the GolfWRX):
10 Myths About Shafts
- The shaft is the engine of the golf club
- The shaft is the most important component of the golf club
- The letter flex code on the shaft tells me how stiff the shaft is
- The shaft is a key element for the amount of backspin imparted on a shot
- How a shaft plays and performs for one golfer or group of golfers is important for other golfers to know to be able to make a proper shaft selection decision
- The more expensive a shaft, the better it is
- The flex of the shaft has a very important effect on shot performance for all golfers
- The higher the clubhead speed of the golfer, the stiffer the shaft should be
- The right shaft adds distance by “kicking faster” through the ball
- How a shaft performs for a golfer(s) is an indication of its quality
I highly recommend clicking that link and reading the whole article. It’s interesting stuff, as is all of Wishon’s work. I’m going to focus on #7… which, coincidentally, is why I clicked on the “B” to make that line bold.
Wishon goes on to state:
For some golfers, very definitely this is true. But for many golfers, approaching even the majority of golfers, the flex of the shaft is one of the very least important of all the fitting specifications of a golf club.
To sum it up, the higher the clubhead speed, the more forceful the transition move, the more aggressive the downswing, the later the unhinging of the wrist-cock angle, and the more the golfer has an specific preference for the bending feel of the shaft, the more important the shaft flex will be to shot performance. For a slower swinging, smooth tempo, early release golfer who does not have a refined sense of feel for the bending action of the shaft, the flex is virtually unimportant and the WEIGHT of the shaft becomes the only important fitting element related to the shaft.
And that’s where we’re at. For the majority of us, we just don’t have the same technique as a Tour pro or single-digit handicapper. But wait… there’s more!
Mark Crossfield has a three-part study on the differences (or lack thereof) in shaft flex. This is the video for part one, but I advise watching all of the videos in the series, as well as some others!
What it amounts to is, focus on the things that allow you to hit the ball on the “sweet spot”, while maximizing your carry distance.
Why not total distance? That’s too hard to predict. If your course varies in the hardness of the terrain, that can affect how much (if any) roll-out you get after the ball lands. But if you know your carry distance- the amount of yards it flies in the air- is consistent, you can make a game plan and adjust accordingly.
What Specs Should I Focus On?
Those that allow you to maximize your carry distance. That’s the head’s loft, the length, the overall weight, grip size and swing weight.
The overall weight is going to be controlled through the shaft. In today’s world, the shaft can weigh anywhere between 35 grams up to 100+ grams! Generally speaking, a stronger golfer, or one with an aggressive tempo/transition, would be better served with a heavier weight. Conversely, a golfer that’s not so strong would be better served with a lighter weight.
As Crossfield’s test shows, changing the flex has very little influence on the outcome of the drive. What the shaft flex does control is the “feel” of the club.
The Elusive “Feel” Aspect
And this is where things get convoluted. “Feel” is a totally subjective intangible. What “feels” best for one person may “feel” horrible for someone else. Where we Weekend Warriors are at, we want something that “feels” good, since we know the flex isn’t going to have that much of an influence on the outcome of our efforts.
Sadly, the only thing that I can say is “use trial and error”. That’s what it comes down to. Sure, a fitter will give you a baseline shaft to start with that’s based off your swing speed, but that’s all it is… a starting point; there’s going to be some tweaking (tweaking, not “twerking”) after that. An online fitting program will recommend a shaft flex based on your swing speed, but that’s purely based on numbers and not what you “feel”. It’s better than assuming you should play a certain type of flex, but if you’re looking for a specific feel, you’re going to have to give different models a try.
Wrapping It Up
So, dear reader, when you see me list specs to focus on, notice that I include shaft flex, but it shouldn’t be high on the priority list. At least, not until your swing is more refined. Focus on getting a loft that matches your swing speed, a length that allows you to hit the “sweet spot” the majority of the time (which maximizes ball speed), a grip weight that feels comfortable and a swing weight/overall weight that matches your golf strength. Use the shaft’s flex to determine your personal “feel”, but get the others right before you get to that one.
On to you: what shaft flex do you play currently? Do you like how it feels? What, if anything. would you change?