Don’t Get The Shaft – What Can The Right Shaft Do For You?
During my time as a fitter, I get questions about shafts more than anything else. Stories about people who have gained tons of yardage by just switching their shaft. I believe the stories about gaining yardage from changing shafts, but I think the more important aspect is to recognize what the proper shaft in a golf club actually will do for you and why it can help you gain yardage. Today we’re going to talk about the characteristics of a shaft and what they all mean when choosing a shaft for your club.
First off: What does the shaft actually do?
The shaft is often referred to as the engine of the club. It has a specific kickpoint in it that activates on the way down in order to help with face angle, help with launch angle, and produce spin. Contrary to popular belief the right shaft will not make you any faster. You might pick up 1-2 MPH by going to a lighter shaft but you will not suddenly swing the club 10 MPH faster. Your swing speed is what it is and it’s up to the fitter to find the right launch conditions by finding the correct shaft. 2 key aspects are focused on when trying to maximize shaft potential.
- Spin Rate: This area has really taken off in the last few years. Engineers have found that many people have spin rates that are much too high and as a result are losing distance because of it. Contrary to popular belief there is no exact spin rate that is the magic number. This all depends on what your swing speed is. The lower the swing speed the higher the optimal spin rate will be. The higher the swing speed the lower the optimal number will be. In my personal experience this is where people have been able to gain 10-20 easy yards when getting fit. Shaft is a big contributor to this.
- Launch angle: I relate this back to the theory of the water hose. If a water hose has consistent pressure and you start moving the end where the water comes out, at some point you’re going to hit an angle where the water shoots out the farthest. That is essentially what we are doing with Launch Angle. We want to get to that point and marry it with a good spin rate so that it can maximize your distance. Shaft is also a big contributor to this as well.
Now that you have an understanding what the shaft actually does, let’s take a look at some of the differences.
Iron Shaft – Steel or Graphite: Now first off I’m going to cover the material used. You may notice I’m only talking about iron shafts because in the modern age of golf steel is no longer an option for the woods and is a rare option for hybrids. So let’s first take a look at the two materials and what they bring to the table.
|– Heavier||– Lighter|
|– Built for Consistency||– Built for fluid tempos|
|– Come in both stepped & non-stepped||– Come in various weights|
|– Feedback from vibrations||– Reduced vibrations & shock in hands|
|– More cost effective||– More expensive|
Now that you have an idea of what each shafts characteristics are how do you choose? Honestly the only way is to go and try each type. You may find more comfort in steel or graphite and for me to tell you one way or another would be doing you, the reader, a huge disservice. What I’d like to do is dispel the myth that graphite is made only for slower swing speeds. I have a Driver club head speed of 109 MPH and I am currently using graphite in my irons. They are a heavier graphite to supplement my swing speed but have made a significant difference in my game. Don’t be afraid to try graphite!
Flex of shaft: This is by far my most asked question. I wish I could tell you a straight up answer but I can only give generalizations. The reason for this is that every shaft is different and there is no standard for what makes a regular shaft, a regular flex, or stiff shaft a stiff flex. However the biggest stat that a fitter will typically look at in determining your flex will be your swing speed.
The typical methodology goes like this: (Driver club head speed)
|< 85 MPH = Senior Flex|
|85 – 95 MPH = Regular Flex|
|95 – 105 MPH = Stiff Flex|
|> 105 MPH = Extra Stiff Flex|
How do you know if the flex is wrong for you? This is very difficult to give a straight answer because as stated before there is more at play here than just what the shaft is stamped with however the general rules go as follow:
- If the miss is a pull or a hook the shaft may be too weak for your swing speed.
- If the miss is a push or a slice the shaft may be too strong for your swing speed.
- The stiffer the flex you go to, generally, the lower the ball flight will be.
Now this having been said, if your swing is out to in with an open face, it does not matter how weak of a shaft you go with, you will almost always hit a slice. Or vice versa when speaking about a hook. The best thing you can do when deciding shaft flex is to visit a professional fitter and go through different options and find the best flex for you.
Weight of Shaft: I often get asked about what weight a person should look for in a shaft. Again this is a difficult question to answer and is all dependent on what a person’s goals are. Many OEM’s (Manufacturers) put lightweight stock options in their clubs usually in the 50-60 gram region. The reason for this is that with a lighter shaft you have the ability to swing the club faster and because of the extra speed you can gain some yardage. A heavier shaft will benefit a player by providing more stability and allowing some players more control.
A lighter shaft also has the ability to raise your ball flight while a heavier shaft will provide a more penetrating ball flight.
Weight is more dependent on the person’s ball flight goals, just because a club is lightweight doesn’t necessarily make it better in fact if your goal is to get your ball flight lower it will only cause you more grief.
Type of Shaft: This is the big one, there are hundreds of shafts out there, but what kind of shaft should you be using? Again this falls into the area of what are your ball flight goals? Would you like to spin it less? Launch it higher? Do you like your current ball flight but are just looking for more distance? These are the questions you need to ask yourself in order to properly define what kind of shaft you should be going to. There are some great tools out there to help you find the differences in the shafts and what you will actually gain from it.
Above is the Titleist shaft chart it allows a person to see what shafts fall into what spectrum for each individual and gives advice on how to choose based on flight characteristics. Titleist also has a fantastic shaft comparison component on their website that you can access by clicking this link: http://www.titleist.ca/shafts/
Ultimately you will be the one to decide which way you are going to go when choosing a shaft and basing it on your personal ball flight preferences. If you are looking to maximize your driver be sure to work with a fitting professional as they can help you achieve the best spin rate, launch angle numbers, and distance.
PGA of Saskatchewan Professional Chad Lavallee is a regular contributor to the SaskGolfer community. For help with your golf game, contact Chad via his website at www.chadlavalleegolf.com
Titleist Performance Institute Certified Instructor / Frankly Golf Putting Instructor / Level 2 Golf Canada Ruled Official / Class A PGA of Canada Golf Professional / PING Certified Fitter / Nike Certified Fitter / Callaway Certified Fitter / Mizuno Certified Fitter / Titleist Certified Fitter / NCCP Certified Coach
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