Differences in Golf Shafts

By Jim Thomas

Golf shafts come in such a wide variety that it can be bewildering. Shafts are made from different materials, with different amounts of flexibility and torque, and in different lengths and weights. Compounding the problem, there is no uniform industry standard for shafts, so a stiff shaft from one manufacturer might feel completely different than a stiff shaft from another manufacturer. As Golf.com states, "you need to experiment with different combinations of shafts and clubheads to come up with your ultimate prize."

Materials

Steel shafts replaced wooden shafts in the 1930s. Graphite shafts made a big splash when they entered the marketplace in the 1970s. Graphite is lighter and generally more flexible than steel. It also is more expensive. Many golfers gravitate toward graphite because its lighter weight can translate to more club head speed and more distance. Titanium shafts and hybrid shafts are also available, although neither have attained the popularity of steel and graphite.

Flexibility

The flexibility, or flex, of a shaft refers to its amount of bend. Shafts that bend easily are suited for golfers with slower club head speeds. The extra flexibility enables a slow swinger to hit the ball farther. Conversely, if you are strong and powerful and generate a high amount of club head speed, a shaft with a firm flex should work best. Shaft flex, as Golf.com notes, generally is categorized as L for ladies, A for seniors, R for regular, S for stiff and X for extra stiff, although some club and shaft makers add a few in-between sizes.

Torque and Kickpoints

Although not as critical as shaft flex, the torque and kickpoint of your clubs can make a significant difference in your performance, Golf today explains. Torque refers to the amount of twist in a shaft. Graphite twists more than steel. Kickpoint refers to the spot on the shaft that bends the most. If your clubs have a low kickpoint, your shots will have a higher trajectory,

Length

A standard length graphite shaft generally is 1 inch longer than steel shafts. The longer shaft, coupled with the lighter weight of graphite, will give many players — especially those with slower club head speeds — more distance. Any gains, however, might be offset by a loss of control. Longer shafts have been the rage in golf in the early 21st century, with the standard driver length extending from about 45 to 48 inches.

About the Author

Jim Thomas has been a freelance writer since 1978. He wrote a book about professional golfers and has written magazine articles about sports, politics, legal issues, travel and business for national and Northwest publications. He received a Juris Doctor from Duke Law School and a Bachelor of Science in political science from Whitman College.

Home