Flex Matters

When it comes to shaft flex, there are a few misconceptions that I think a lot of people tend to get mixed up. This includes the myths about better players demanding stiffer flexes and higher-handicappers needing more flexible shafts. In essence, these myths may actually be true. Some better players do in fact swing the club really hard, and need stiffer shafts to better control their ballflight. But in actuality, how stiff your shafts should relies on a whole lot more than just swingspeed. Factors such as tempo and how you transition from backswing to downswing ought to be considered, as well.

For instance, let’s say we have two golfers, both with a driver clubhead speed around 95 mph. Golfer A hits the ball higher than Golfer B, usually with a lot more spin and less total distance. Golfer B, who let me remind you has an identical swingspeed as Golfer A, is able to better control his ballflight and hit tee shots that travel a lot farther than Golfer A’s shots do.

Now, how is this possible? Simply put: Golfer A has a much faster backswing and transition than Golfer B has. Golfer A actually flexes the club a lot earlier during his backswing, causing the shaft to unflex sooner and put a high-launch/high-spin action on the golf ball. And while Golfer A’s swingspeed is the same as Golfer B’s, his angle of attack is considerably steeper than Golfer B. Hence, a higher driver with less overall distance.

Golfer B on the other hand has a much smoother, slower transition at the top of his swing. The shaft doesn’t bend much at the top, instead it flexes midway through the downswing, later releasing at the very moment the club hits the golf ball. Golfer B actually doesn’t have to swing as hard as Golfer A, yet because of his wider swing and slower, smoother tempo, he’s better able to time the un-flexing of his driver shaft at just the right moment in his swing.

Okay, if that’s a lot to try and visualize, so just know that even if you don’t have the fastest swingspeed, you might actually benefit from a shaft that doesn’t have as much flex at the top of your swing. Consider what your swing tempo is. If it’s slow and smooth like an Ernie Els or Steve Stricker, don’t rule out shafts that have a little more flex. If you’re a quick-tempo swinger like Brandt Snedeker or Kevin Streelman, try a shaft that has a little less flex.

Don’t just use your swingspeed as a guide to choose the right flex for your game. That’s not enough information to make the right pick.