In this article, I will guide you to assess your requirements on how to pick the right shaft for your driver.
Often golfers change the shaft on their driver for reasons other than fitting the best shaft. The reason could be as simple as the golfer likes the look of the shaft or a favorite professional golfer uses the shaft.
The detrimental effect on your game can be avoided by visiting a professional club fitter. You should, at the very least, understand the logic behind shaft selection.
- Choosing the Best Shaft for Your Game
Choosing the Best Shaft for Your Game
Having the right shaft plays a huge role in improving your game to the highest level that you can achieve. However, there are so many factors involved that not all golfers are aware of.
Most golfers know that the flex plays a significant role. Some even have some idea of the different flex options available.
There could be twenty or more combinations of factors that have to be matched to get to your ultimate shaft.
Looking at your swing speed, tempo, and release point, you will have a starting point in your pursuit of finding the most suitable shaft to improve your game.
Next, you must decide whether distance or accuracy is the most important part of your game. Most golfers compromise and settle for a shaft that provides the best combination.
Making changes to your golf swing can significantly improve your game, the same applies to making minor changes to your golf equipment.
Other factors that can guide you in your selection is to look at your current experience.
A slow swing tempo, not necessarily swing speed, requires a soft flex. As your tempo increases, the stiffness of the shaft should increase.
Your preferred ball trajectory is another factor to consider. More flexibility results in higher ball flight.
To increase your golf ball trajectory, reduce the flex of your shaft, conversely, to decrease the ball flight you have to use a stiffer shaft.
If you tend to hook, draw, fade, or slice your drives, or you do not have a consistent miss, your shaft is probably not the right one.
A shaft that is too flexible can cause inconsistent directional ball flight while a shaft that is too stiff can push your shots to your strongest side.
Distance Or Control
A lighter and more flexible shaft provides greater potential for distance gain while a heavier and stiffer shaft offers more potential for control.
A good balance between distance and control should be pursued.
Golfers tend to look at the shaft flex as an indication of how strong they are and how fast their swing speed is.
However, many other factors influence the feel and performance of the shaft which I will look at.
The most commonly used material used for shafts is steel and graphite. Few drivers are still available in steel shafts, for that reason I will briefly explain the materials used for shafts with the emphasis on graphite.
Steel shafts are made from carbon steel and sometimes stainless steel is used.
The use of steel results in stronger, durable, and less expensive shafts that do not experience the torque or lateral twisting found in all graphite shafts.
They require a faster swing speed and offer more control and accuracy with less emphasis on distance.
There are two main types of steel shaft:
Stepped Steel Shaft
Stepped steel shafts gradually reduce the diameter of the shaft from the wider butt end to the narrower tip end. You will find stepped steel shafts on most irons.
A steel strip is rolled into a tube, mechanically drawn, step pattern formed, and the walls are made thinner at the tip and thicker at the top.
This produces flexibility or kick points and offers consistency across shafts.
Rifle Steel Shafts
Rifle steel shafts are smooth from top to bottom and have no steps.
Electronic calibration matches the flex throughout a set of clubs.
Graphite shafts are created using carbon fiber strands to reduce the weight for increased clubhead speed.
On the downside, graphite shafts are less durable and more expensive than steel and sacrifice control due to the flex generated in the swing.
As a result, graphite shafts are an appropriate choice for all golfers who may struggle to produce a swing speed to use a steel shaft effectively. They are available in a variety of flexes and colors, which attracts amateurs and professionals equally.
Graphite shafts weigh between 50-85 grams compared to 120 grams of their steel counterparts. They offer greater distances from today’s oversize titanium drivers as they allow shafts to be longer.
A recent addition to the market is multi-material shafts that incorporate steel and graphite into one shaft providing the best of both worlds for every player.
The shaft is made using a steel shaft that has a graphite tip.
NanoFuse shafts are created by fusing a nanocrystalline alloy with a carbon fiber composite polymer sublayer claimed to offer you a shaft with the consistency of steel and the distance and feel benefits of graphite.
The key lies in an inconceivably tiny and rigid grain structure in the NanoFuse material. This increases strength and reduces weight significantly for increased distance without losing any accuracy.
The maximum allowable length for s driver shaft is 48 inches. The length of the shaft is measured from the top of the grip to the base of the heel of the club as it lies on the ground.
The longer the shaft, the bigger the arc that you can create and the faster the swing speed that you can generate.
So why are all driver shafts not 48 inches you may ask? According to research the length of your driver shaft will significantly change the feel and affect the strike point on your clubface.
A shaft that is too long will cause inconsistent face contact and a tendency to hit the ball closer to the heel while a shorter shaft will generate a more consistent strike pattern with impact tending to be on the toe.
Ball impact 0.5 inches off-center equates to a 7% loss of carrying distance. Impact one-inch off-center equates to a 14% loss of carrying distance.
The correct length shaft will provide a recurring, solid hit each time.
Shaft flex is the factor in a driver shaft that most golfers understand in broad terms. However, it is far more intricate than the letter on the shaft indicating the flex.
The holistic description of the flex of a shaft is something called an EI profile. This presents the stiffness of a shaft, from one end to another.
Terms that are typically used to describe the EI profile are stiffness, butt stiffness, and tip stiffness. These values represent an average stiffness of different regions of a shaft or an overall average stiffness.
The most common measurements are
A shaft is clamped at the butt end and a load is applied to the tip. The amount the shaft bends corresponds to its stiffness. The softer the flex, the more it will bend.
The butt end of the shaft is clamped, and the shaft is pulled and released with a weight on the tip end causing the shaft to sway back and forth. The faster it sways, the stiffer the shaft.
The sway can be affected by the weight of the shaft. A heavy shaft will have a slightly lower frequency measurement than the lighter one.
Frequency is another way of defining stiffness and indicates how fast a club will vibrate with that particular shaft.
Tip flex (aka retro flex) is the average stiffness toward the head side of the shaft.
To measure the tip flex, the tip end is clamped, and the load is applied to the butt end of the shaft. The more a shaft bends in this configuration, the softer the tip.
A softer tip increases the launch angle and spin rate produced by the driver.
Flex Is Rated As
- Extra Stiff (X) is suitable for golfers with a swing speed of more than 110 mph.
- Stiff (S) is the most frequently used flex. It is most suitable for golfers with a swing speed between 100 and 110 mph. The high swing speed generates loads of backspin for increased height.
- Regular (R) are mid-flex shafts suitable for amateur players with more upper body strength and swing speed between 90 and 100 mph.
- Senior (S) / Amateur (A) is suitable for young golfers, senior golfers, and beginners with a swing speed between 80 to 90 mph.
- Ladies (L) is suitable for golfers with a low swing speed below 80 mph.
There is no industry standard for shaft flex, and it may vary between shaft manufacturers.
Weight / Balance Point
When we talk about the shaft weight it refers to the weight of the raw, uncut shaft before installation measured in grams.
Lighter shafts typically result in increased clubhead speed.
In addition to the weight, its center-of-mass or balance point can play a role in performance.
Heavier shafts promote less spin with a lower left-to-right trajectory while lighter shafts promote higher ball flights with more right-to-left trajectories.
Graphite driver shafts between 0.12 to 0.13 pounds for men and 0.09 to 0.11 pounds for women.
Advantages of heavy shaft
- Better control
- Lower torque for increased stability in the clubface
- Lower launch angle
- Generating less spin
- Increased accuracy and consistency
Disadvantages of heavy shafts are
- The reduction is swing speed
- Difficulty in releasing the clubface
- Lower spin
Advantages of light shafts are
- Increase swing speed and distance
- Higher launch angle
Disadvantages of light shafts are
- Inconsistent contact on the clubface resulting in lower ball speed and distance
- High trajectory
Torque is the twisting movement of the shaft during the golf swing measured in degrees and shown as a rating. The more the shaft twists, the higher the rating, and the more the shaft twist.
It is the torque that also determines how the shaft feels. This means that the higher the rating, the softer the shaft will feel.
Low torque will keep the ball trajectory low and as the torque increases the ball trajectory gets higher.
Golfers with high swing speed or hook the ball will prefer low torque shafts, while slower swingers and slicers will lean toward higher torque shafts.
Golfers often confuse the shaft kick-point, aka flex-point, with the bend-point of the shaft.
Bend-point is the highest point of the shaft when it is bending by applying pressure to both ends of the shaft; kick-point is the highest point the shaft is bending, measured by clamping down the grip and applying pressure to the clubhead, like in the swing
The kick point is the point where the shaft bends and affects the trajectory of the shot. It is an alternative way to describe the difference in tip stiffness and butt stiffness in a shaft.
Custom fitting is the most reliable way to ensure that your equipment will contribute to you improving your golf.
The result of custom fitting can be seen in the performance of professional golfers that have every club in their bag fitted to their exact requirements.
Fitters work with you to determine lie angles, face angles, lofts, lengths, swing weights, and other options.
The comprehensive custom fitting process is a 4-step system that includes
- Static fitting is the process of recording your physical attributes such as height, wrist-to-floor measurement, hand length, and finger length. This will aid the fitter in determining the correct club length, lie angle, and grip size.
- The dynamic fitting consists of actually hitting golf balls with face tape attached to the club. This allows the fitter to observe your swing motion, posture, clubhead speed, level of flexibility, and swing path.
- Ball flight analysis is done on the driving range, or on a golf simulator, to enable the fitter to tweak the fit of the club.
- Ongoing analysis is the process in which you monitor your performance with the chosen driver and report back to the fitter for any adjustments required.
Selecting the right driver shaft consists of many factors that can influence your swing speed, ball trajectory, and the feel of your driver.
A driver fitting is the ultimate way of making sure that your driver shaft is suitable for you. Get the right shaft on your driver and get the most accurate and longest drives to put a smile on your face.
I hope that this guide will enable you to do some analysis of your current shaft and determine whether you would benefit from a different shaft.
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Nick Lomas is the founder of GolfSpan, an avid golfer, not quite a pro but has over 15-years of experience playing and coaching golfers from all over the world. His mission is to bring the golfing community a better experience then it comes to choosing the right golf gear, and finding the right set up for your game.