Do you suffer from a slice off the tee? Do you hit the ball too high? Too low? Do you often find yourself in the left trees? If you answered yes to any of these questions, your swing might not be the fault. You could benefit from a properly fitted shaft. No shaft will magically fix your golf game, but could certainly make your rounds less stressful.
Playing in the wind used to be extremely difficult for me. I could control my irons fairly well, but off the tee, it was a mess. The ball would take off and immediately balloon so high in the air that I had no fighting chance to make par. I thought for the longest time that I needed to completely change my swing. Little to my knowledge, I was spinning the ball around 4000 rpm, and my launch angle was close to 10 degrees. After putting an Oban Devotion #7 in my driver and 3 wood, playing in the wind became a whole lot easier. Although I credit most of my ball flight improvement to the thousands of hours I’ve logged on the range, my driver-shaft setup has expedited the process substantially. Once the club itself is out of the equation, refining your skills becomes much easier in my opinion.
I am really excited about this post because finding a great driver and 3-wood shaft was a pivotal moment for my golf game. It took a few years of tinkering with different shafts, but in the end, I found something that worked great for me. You can do the same! I don’t call myself a shaft fitting expert on any level, but below, I have written my best tips, and linked to some useful articles that might help you find the shaft(s) you are looking for.
An OUTDOOR fitting with some type of launch monitor analysis AND a respected club-fitter is the best way to find a quality shaft, but even then, it is useful to know your stuff. If you know what you are talking about and what you are looking for in a shaft, there is a much better chance that you will have a successful fitting. Having this knowledge will allow for better communication between you and the fitter, and will prevent you from spending money on something you don’t necessarily need (yes, you can find a great shaft for under $400).
Note: This post is only about driver, wood, and hybrid shafts. Although many of these principles apply to iron shafts, that is an entirely different topic, and will not be covered here.
- Understand the Components of a shaft- Every golf shaft has a set of “specs” or specifications that make it unique. Contrary to popular belief, the flex of the shaft isn’t the only factor that we as golfers must consider when searching for a golf shaft. When purchasing a shaft, we must consider the flex, overall weight, torque, and kick-point. Some companies like the one shown in the picture above include the butt and tip diameters, and the stiffness in different parts of the shaft. In this post, I will only be covering the specs that I feel are vital in choosing a shaft.
Flex- If I had to share one piece of advice regarding flex, I would say that it should be used as a starting point, but not a deciding point. To find what flex is right for you, click here. Once you have figured out your recommended flex, I suggest you read this article that reveals the real truth about shaft flex.
Weight- As you might guess, the weight of the shaft is the how heavy the shaft is in grams. Not too difficult. In my opinion, shaft weight has a lot to do with the strength of a golfer as well as personal preference. I am 6’0”, 175 lbs, and I swing the club just shy of 115 mph. I play a 75 gram shaft in my driver, 85 gram shaft in my 3-wood, and a 90 gram shaft in my hybrid, which gives me a good balance of mass and speed in each. I have always struggled with lighter shafts because I feel that they cause me to over-accelerate during the transition, and at impact, I don’t feel like I’m delivering a powerful strike to the ball.
These are just my preferences. You must find what weight gives you the most confidence. Next time you go to a golf store, demo day, or any place where you can demo drivers, hit a few drivers with different shaft weights (preferably the same driver head). Usually, the weight is printed somewhere on the shaft close to the grip, but you can always look the shaft up on Google if it isn’t. Don’t place too much emphasis on the ball flight, but more-so on how your tempo is with different weights, and how impact feels. Does a 75 gram shaft help you swing smoother than a 55 gram shaft? What about 65 grams? After going through this exercise, you’ll have a much better idea what weight is right for you. If you still are unsure, i find this article by Tom Wishon particularly useful.
Torque- The torque of the shaft is probably the most overlooked and misunderstood spec. In the simplest terms possible, torque=twisting of the shaft. The higher the torque number, the more it will “twist” and distort from its perfectly cylindrical form during the swing. When getting fitted for a shaft, a small amount of torque is beneficial, but in excess, can cause some serious control issues.
There are two things that you need to know about torque. First, as the weight of the shaft decreases, the torque number will generally increase. Second, you must match your swing speed and swing tempo to the torque. The faster you swing, and the faster your tempo, the lower the torque you will require. A guy like Bubba Watson whose swing speed is upwards of 125 mph will require a very low torque (2 or lower). A player who hits a drive 220 yards will benefit from a much higher torque (thus a lighter shaft) of 5 or 6. If you buy a shaft online, be sure to take torque into consideration.
Another way to think about the torque of the golf shaft is in relation to the "kick-point" (see below). The higher the torque of the shaft, the more "bend" you will see at impact (at the kick-point). In other words, a low torque shaft might feel "boardy" while a high torque shaft might feel "whippy". The general wisdom would say that if you hook the golf ball, go with a lower torque shaft (as more torque generally results in a more closed club face at impact). That said, I'm not a huge fan of "conventional" wisdom in golf and would recommend instead asking yourself whether your hook is due to improper swing mechanics rather than equipment. Generally, I would not think of the torque spec as a way to fix a flaw in your golf swing, but as something that you need to test out rather than "get fitted for". Generally, a faster swinging player is going to end up with a lower torque shaft. Does that mean all faster swinging golfers should have low torque shafts? No. If you have the chance to get fitted, try out the same shaft with different torque readings and see what the result is. Pick the most consistent (not furthest) result.
Kick-point (Also referred to as “Bend Point) – This will determine how high or low the ball will launch off of the club-face. Nowadays, this term has become somewhat irrelevant thanks to the invention of the launch monitor, but is still important. It is slightly difficult to understand, but I will do my best to simplify it. On a shaft spec sheet, you will generally see 1 of 5 different kick-points. High, Mid/High, Mid, Low/Mid, and Low. A low kick-point equals a high launch, and a high kick-point equals a low launch. Basically, a low kick-point means that when pressure is applied to the shaft, its maximum point of bending will be closer to the head of the golf club. When pressure is applied to a high kick-point shaft, the maximum point of bending will be closer to the grip end of the shaft. In all reality, the difference between a high and low kick-point is only a matter of inches.
The problem with kick-point is the fact that there is no standard for determining what a “high” kick-point means. If you are shopping between brands, kick-point is somewhat useless. I use this “spec” when comparing shaft models within a company.
- Buy From a Reputable Company- If you purchase a shaft online at Golfworks or another source, be sure to buy from a well established company. I hate to break the news, but finding a bargain shaft is not a great option. To steer you in the right direction, I would like to recommend a few of my favorite companies. As you may know already, I play an Oban "Devotion Series" shaft in my driver and 3-wood, so naturally, this company is at the top of my list. I also love the Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana Series (shaft in my hybrid). Some other companies that I have bought from and liked are Fujikura, UST Mamiya, and Miyazaki.
- Buy a Real Aftermarket Shaft- If you don't know the difference between a "made for" shaft and an aftermarket shaft, watch this video. I can attest that the “off the shelf” shafts are much weaker and will crack without much force applied.
- Take an Online Shaft Fitting Assessment- If you have no idea where to start; taking an online fitting test could be a viable option. I wouldn’t recommend buying the shaft recommended to you without further research, but it could provide you with a good starting point.
If you’ve read this far, congratulations! I know that researching about golf shafts isn’t the most entertaining thing to do in your free time. If you are like me though, you wouldn't ever spend $200+ on a piece of graphite without doing some thorough research. I hope this post has been informational, and gives you a greater understanding of golf shafts. I couldn’t possibly cover everything in one post, so if you are still unclear about something, there are plenty of internet articles about this stuff. If you liked the two articles I linked to above, check out Tom Wishon. He is truly an "expert" with golf club fitting.