Although many golfers worry that they're using club shafts that are too soft, it may be more likely that they're too stiff. Everybody wants to play the same equipment as their favorite professional players, but they often don't realize just how different a pro's swing is from that of a recreational golfer. That difference can really show up when it comes to shaft flex. There are a few tell-tale signs that your club shafts could be too stiff for your game.
Check your swing speed using a one of the many devices that measure it -- ranging from a radar monitor to a small clip-on device to an iPhone app. Professional golfers swing fast, typically 110 mph or higher. By comparison, the typical amateur has a swing speed of 80 to 95 mph. While shaft flexes aren't always consistent from one manufacturer to another, such a large speed difference usually means you need a shaft that's two or three flexes softer than that of a pro. Finding out your swing speed is the best place to start.
Determine what your average driving distance is. Assuming you have a reasonably decent swing – that is, one with which you can hit the ball solidly with reasonable consistency – but don't hit the ball very far, that could be an indication that your shafts are too stiff. If your swing speed is in that range of 80 to 95 mph and yet you can't drive the ball an average of 200 to 220 yards, there's a good chance your shafts are too stiff.
Figure out your dominant shot shape. Far too many amateurs struggle with a slice. For some, stiff club shafts are part of the problem. If your club shafts are too stiff, you'll have trouble loading them properly during your downswing. When the clubhead gets to the ball, the shaft won't unload properly and the face will remain slightly open, causing a slice. Other swing problems also can cause a slice, of course, but shafts that are too stiff can make the problem worse.
Determine whether your clubs feel "dead" when you swing them. Instructors sometimes tell their students to "feel the clubhead." This means the shaft has enough flex to let them tell when the weight of the clubhead has loaded the shaft. That isn't possible when your club shafts are too stiff. Instead, the shaft gives the feeling of swinging a baseball bat or a steel rod.
Decide what your greatest need is in your game. Sometimes you need a shaft that's a bit stiffer than you would like. Typically, this compromise is to help your accuracy, even if it costs you some distance. Your natural swing shape may work better with a stiffer shaft, or perhaps you're so strong that a flexible shaft simply bends too much when you swing. Under most conditions, you want the most flexible shafts you can use, not the stiffest. But professionals often choose the compromise of a stiffer shaft so that they can hit the fairway more often with their tee shots, and you may need to do the same.