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“Picking a shaft based solely on swing speed isn’t a great idea”

by   |   November 27, 2012
swing speed

I see a lot of threads/post on here about golfers selecting shaft flex for their irons or driver based solely on swing speed. To quote the inimitable philosopher Peter Griffin, “that really grinds my gears”

Swing speed is only one element in choosing shaft flex. Yes, it’s an important element, but it’s not the only one. Other critical components in choosing a shaft include:

  • a golfer’s tempo (from nice and smooth to almost violent)
  • a golfer’s transition from the top (after the backswing is complete, what kind of transition does the golfer make?)
  • a golfer’s release point (when does the golfer release the club?)

For example, golfer “A” can have a similar swing speed as golfer “B” yet require a regular shaft, while golfer “B” may require a stiff shaft. Why? Golfer A’s tempo is nice and smooth, he has an easy transition and releases the club a tad early. Golfer B’s tempo, on the other hand is faster, he has a more forceful transition and he releases the club much later.

So you see, picking a shaft based just on swing speed isn’t a great idea. Sure it will give you a starting point, but that’s it.

If you pick the wrong shaft, a lot of bad things can happen.

If the shaft if too stiff:

  • the ball will flight will be too low
  • the ball flight will have a tendency to go right (for a right-handed golfer, this means a fade or a slice)
  • hits won’t feel as solid

If the shaft isn’t stiff enough:

  • the ball flight will be too high
  • the ball flight will have a tendency to go left (for a right-handed golfer, this means draws and hooks)

The next time you’re in the market for a choosing flex for your new irons or driver, please consider more then just swing speed. If you can’t see a fitter for any reason, consider your transition, rhythm, tempo and your release. Even if you narrow that down a bit you’ll come a lot closer to making the right choice in choosing the correct shaft for yourself.

About

Sean Foster-Nolan was born in Wiesbaden, Germany, and has lived all over the United States. He picked up the game of golf at the age of 50, and currently plays at Harmon Golf & Fitness Club in Rockland, Mass. Sean is passionate about all things golf and has been a member of GolfWRX since 2007. He is a retired counselor, where he last worked with high school kids who had severe emotional and behavioral problems in an alternative high school. His philosophy is treat all people with kindness and respect.

6 Comments

  1. Doug

    November 30, 2012 at 7:42 pm

    I have always been curious about the best way to select shaft flex. During the swing, it seems to me that the shaft is flexing in multiple directions. At the beginning it would be flexing in a primarily toe-up direction, and as the swing progresses, the flex develops a backwards component and a toe-down component. It has always seemed to me that all of this flexing is making it difficult to return the club square to the ball at impact, and that everyone would benefit from using the stiffest shafts possible. You indicate that if a shaft is too stiff for your swing your ball flight will be lower and to the right, and if the flex is to soft your ball flight will be higher and to the left, but don’t provide any explanations of how the shaft flex could cause these changes.

    • Joe Golfer

      December 1, 2012 at 1:26 am

      Doug: If the shaft is too stiff, it doesn’t load well, so it doesn’t release well, leading to low shots that tend to fade to the right (for RH golfers). If the shaft is too flexible, it loads too much, it releases too much, leading to higher shots. And because it is releasing early, the clubface closes earlier, leading to shots that curve left as a draw/hook or a pull hook, depending on initial aiming point.

  2. Sean

    November 29, 2012 at 12:34 am

    Thanks Tony. :-)

  3. Tony Wright

    November 27, 2012 at 7:50 pm

    Sean, your post is absolutely right on. There are many of us in the Assn. of Golf Clubfitting Professionals (AGCP) that use a driver shaft fitting process that is similar to what you suggest – this process has been called BMT – Butt, Mid, Tip. We measure swing speed, swing tempo, and release point and correlate these to shaft flex profile measurements. This process works very well. Reduces shot dispersion because the shaft flex profile is a good fit to the driver swing profile.

    • Eric

      November 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm

      Tony:

      Fascinating – Did not know any of this.

      I am a scratch golfer for 35 years, and have switched to a Rifle 5.5 from a Dynamic X-100 because my swing speeds are down. I swing very fast with a quick transition. How should I decide which shaft to choose??

  4. td

    November 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Tom? Is that you?

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