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Opinion & Analysis

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



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.

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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.



  1. Doug

    Nov 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

      Dec 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

    Nov 29, 2012 at 12:34 am

    Thanks Tony. 🙂

  3. Tony Wright

    Nov 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

      Nov 30, 2012 at 12:13 pm


      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

    Nov 27, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    Tom? Is that you?

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Gary Player joins our 19th Hole podcast, talks past and future of golf



Hall-of-Famer and career Grand Slam winner Gary Player joins host Michael Williams for an exclusive one-on-one interview at the Bass Pro Shops Legends of Golf tournament and Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri. Player talks about the past and future of the game, including his take on everything from reigning in the golf ball and golf courses, to advocating for more testing for performance enhancing drugs on the Tour. Steve Friedlander of Big Cedar Lodge also appears.

Listen to the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Let’s Retire Old Man Par: A Modest Proposal



In 1729, Jonathan Swift wrote a satirical essay entitled “A modest proposal,” in which he suggested that the Irish eat their own children. As might be expected, the piece drew a great deal of discussion and controversy. He was of course not serious, but simply attempting to make a point. As you will read this piece contains “A Modest Proposal” as well, but it is not intended to be satirical. I am for the record dead serious.

The golf industry is wringing its hands, trying to find a way to bring new players into the game, while at the same time keeping those that are in the game from leaving. They have initiated any number of programs designed for this purpose. How successful have they been? I would venture that they have barely moved the needle.

Barriers to the game

What we do know is that today there are three major barriers that confront the industry. They are first, the time required to play the game; second the costs associated with playing the game; and third the difficulty of the game.

There are among those adults that start the game, three distinct different groups:

  1. Those who would like to start playing golf but for any number of reasons decided not to take up the game.
  2. Those who once played more frequently but have reduced the number of rounds that they play.
  3. Those who started to play the game but then after a short period decided to leave it.

Those who leave the game

Those in the golf industry, the hand-wringers, have developed any number of programs to bring new players to the game. I would ask the question, “What is the point, when almost an equal number of players that start playing the game each year, decide to give it up within a span of a few months.

Does it make any sense to continue to put water into a bucket when there is a hole in the bottom? Of course not, but that is effectively what is being done. The first question to be ask, why do these new players quit the playing after a short time? In my opinion, the number No. 1 reason is the method of scoring being used.

Were an exit poll to be conducted asking these people why they quit playing, I seriously doubt they would answer truthfully. Who would want to admit that they were discouraged by their inability to succeed at any endeavor? The two answers that would be given the most often would be 1) that golf is too expensive to play; or 2) that they simply didn’t have time.  In this case both answers serve to preserve the individual’s dignity. And who could blame them?

The concept of par

Why did these individuals find the game difficult? The short answer is that while golf is a hard game to learn, there  is a more compelling reason.  I would venture, that the underlying reason they quit the game is that it ceased to be fun because of how they viewed their performance. And for one central reason… the concept of par. The idea that an amateur golfer, especially a beginner, should measure their level of success against an imaginary set of numbers that represents what an expert player would score on each hole is on the surface ridiculous.

You might imagine a beginning player scoring an eight on a par-four hole after hitting six good shots and then two putting for an eight. In the context of their ability, they should be ecstatic — but of course they are not (because as their playing partner reminds them) they were four-over par on that hole. The time has come for Old Man Par to retire. And retire permanently. He is killing the game.

Perceived failure

In another scenario, the beginning player scores sixty for nine holes, which is an excellent score given the short amount of time they might have spent playing the game. And yet their nine-hole score was 24-over par. How would that make you feel? Would you be encouraged or discouraged? You might imagine yourself back in school and regardless of the amount of work that you put into a given class you always receive an “F.” At some point, would you give up?

Why should every golfer be judged by the same standard when there is such inequality in their ability? The equivalent would be placing a high school freshman in a graduate-level college course, expecting that they could perform at the same level as the other graduate students. The disparity in knowledge, based on age and experience, is precisely the reason why there are different grades in school. The same disparity exists among golfers. In this case, the difference being the ability to perform on the golf course as opposed to the classroom.

What about the second group of players that now plays less than they did in the past? Could it be that they are no longer having fun playing the game?And then there is the third group, those that consider playing the game but abandon it for another sport. Could it be that they are intimidated by the scoring system, knowing that as a beginner par is an absolute impossibility?

Old man par 

The legendary Bobby Jones was the first to coin, perhaps with the help of his friend O.B. Keillor, the phrase “Old Man Par.” Jones was, of course, the greatest amateur to have ever played the game. He won the Grand Slam in 1930, retiring then at the age of 28.

The time has come to retire “Old Man Par” and devise a new system for measuring a golfer’s progress in the game. I know that those in the USGA. would reject the concept immediately for fear of, and here is a $10 word used primarily by attorneys, “bifurcate” the game. What that word essentially means in this context in having more than one standard. The USGA is responsible for preserving the nature of the game, but at the same time it should be equally concerned with preserving the future of the game.

Personal par

What I would suggest is a system based on the principle of what might be termed “personal par.” This was essentially the system that was used to groom a young Tiger Woods. As a young child, he was not capable of reaching the longer holes in regulation, making par a virtual impossibility. Consequently, his coach wisely devised a system in which par was adjusted upward based on his ability at a given point in time. This served to keep the young child feeling good about his performance and subsequent progress.

This is the type of system that needs to be devised for the health of the game. The system would begin at a nine-hole level using a par of thirty-six as a basis. The actual numbers are not as important as the basic concept. There would be within the nine-hole and the eighteen-hole groups five different levels as follows with assigned par for each hole and eighteen holes roughly equal with the player’s ability.

As players improved, they would graduate from one level to another based on their total score. The handicap system would work in similar fashion as it does now with a single modification. The strokes give from one player to another would depend on the level in which they fall and the par assigned to that level.

The personal par handicap system would not be as exacting as it is presently used, but it would be sufficient to allow players to be reasonable competitive without any significant sacrifice. There would then be two scoring systems then, allowing players to choose which one they wanted to use. Or a recommendation might be given that until they reach a given scoring threshold that they use the personal par scoring system.

There would, of course, be the usual concern with something new being injected into the system, but the proposed change would be no greater than when the system of equitable scoring was introduced or when courses were first assigned a course rating number.

A few years ago, when life-long teacher and educator Dr. Gary Wiren was inducted into the Golf Teacher’s Hall of Fame, he wanted to pass along a single piece of advice to those teachers in the room. “Gentleman,” he started and then paused for emphasis. “We must find a way to make the game more fun for our students.”

I’m in full agreement with Dr. Wiren. The question is, “What is the best way to accomplish that goal?” I believe that that the first step in that direction is to change the scoring system so that golfers experience more satisfaction and accomplishment. That is what makes learning fun.

And so, I would have you consider “The Modest Proposal” that I have put forward. And rather than attempting to find reasons why a revised scoring system couldn’t never work, for the benefit of the game, look for the same number of reason why it could work. The time has come for Old Man Par, as we know him, to retire. He has served us well, but he has become an anarchism. He is as obsolete as the horse and buggy. Let’s hand him his gold watch and let him enjoy his golden years in peace.

And at the same time, let’s welcome the “new kid on the block” who will pave the way for the next generation of golfers pioneering a scoring system that promises to make the game more “fun.”

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TG2: What’s the most annoying breach of golf etiquette?



What’s the one breach of golf etiquette that gets under your skin more than anything else? Equipment expert Brian Knudson and GolfWRX Editor Andrew Tursky discuss what drives them crazy. Also, Knudson talks about his first round with new irons and a new shaft in his driver.

Follow @tg2wrx on Instagram to enter the Bettinardi inovai 5.0 center-shaft putter giveaway.

Listen to the full podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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19th Hole