Understanding the Basics of Golf Shafts
When you watch golf on TV, chances are you’ll hear the announcers talk about the players’ clubs. Part of that discussion always comes down to the backbone of a golf club — the shaft.
The shaft’s purpose — to connect the grip and the clubhead — is simple enough, but the factors that go into choosing a type of shaft are more complicated. This guide aims to help you understand the basic aspects that make up one of the most important pieces of equipment in golf.
Shafts can be made of different materials. In the early days of golf, shafts were often made of wood. Nowadays, the two most common types of shafts are made of steel or graphite.
Graphite shafts, thanks to their relative lightness, are a good choice for players who have less speed in their swings. The lightness helps golfers swing the club with more velocity, resulting in more power. This is why most drivers and fairway woods (clubs designed for distance) are now made exclusively with graphite shafts.
Steel shafts are still very popular in irons, primarily for players with faster swing speeds. As opposed to graphite shafts, which absorb some of the sting on bad impact, a steel shaft lets golfers have instant feedback in their hands after hitting a golf ball.
The flex of a golf club’s shaft is the amount of flexibility — the ability to bend — it has during the force of a golf swing. Shafts come in five different amounts of flex, so it’s important to choose the right one for your swing.
Based on your general driving distance, you can figure out which flex might be right for your swing. The different flexes are, in order of stiffest to most flexible, the following:
- Extra stiff (X): Your average drive carries around 300 yards
- Stiff (S): 250+ yards carried
- Regular (R): 230-250 yards carried
- Senior (A): 200-230 yards carried
- Ladies (L): Your average drive carries less than 200 yards
Finding the right flex is a matter of fitting your swing, which can be done at most pro shops and golf retailers. Along with the flex, you’ll want to be fitted for the correct shaft lengths for each of your clubs.
Although the material, flex, and length are the biggest factors when customizing your shafts, the process can be more complicated.
Other factors play a part in the design and performance of golf shafts. Some of the most common ones you might hear about are briefly described here:
- Torque: This determines how much the shaft can twist under a certain amount of force. Similarly to flex, the lower the torque rating (stiffer), the faster your swing speed needs to be to match it.
- Kick point: This is the part of the shaft that has the most bend/flexibility. The higher the kick point, the less flexibility there is toward the clubhead, which, for some golfers, gives the feeling of more control.
- Diameter: Most shaft manufacturers set diameters to 0.600 inches at the butt end and either 0.335 inches at the tip (for woods), or 0.370 inches at the tip (for irons). However, some shafts are designed to be thicker at certain points, or just thicker in general. Shaft diameter affects the above two factors.
Customization is Key
The most important thing to understand about golf shafts is that there is no “best” shaft out there. Choosing the shaft with the perfect specs really depends on the person swinging the club.
With that said, visit your local pro shop and/or your favorite golf retailer to set up an appointment for club-fitting. The right length, material, and flex of each shaft will become apparent based on your body’s and swing’s attributes. You’ll be fitted for extremely specific aspects, so you’ll know you have the best possible shafts for your swing.