Do Lighter Shafts Produce Longer Drives? – Golf Myths Unplugged

lighter-shafts-longer-drives

How Much Difference Can 10 Grams Make?

The average golfer has no regard for shaft weight.  They’ll buy a new driver without once considering if the new shaft is markedly heavier or lighter than their current one and how that may help or hurt their game.  “It’s just a few grams,” they’ll say, “how much difference can it make?”

We’re here to tell you that it makes a huge difference.  Last week, a panel of industry experts explained the importance of shaft weight in Shafts 101.  This week we’ve brought a mountain of cold, hard data to make that point in this edition of Golf Myths Unplugged.

The Myths

Myth #1 – Shaft weight is a Critical Part of a Club’s Performance

Myth #2 – Lighter Shafts Produce Longer Shots

Myth #3 – Heavier Shafts Produce Straighter Shots

Myth #4 – Heavier Shafts Are More Consistent

shaft-weight-diamanas

How We Tested

For this test, we brought together ten golfers.  Each player went through two different testing sessions – one with a driver, one with an iron.  For the driver test, they hit seven drives each with a 50, 60, and 70 gram shaft, all using the same head.  For the iron test, they hit seven shots each with an 85, 95, and 105 gram shaft, all using the same head.  Every shot was measured by Trackman, and the data is presented below.

All testing was done at and with the help of Club Champion.

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The Results

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Whether you put a premium on distance or accuracy, getting fit for the proper shaft weight is essential to making a golf club perform for you.

In our iron test, we routinely saw a 10 or 20 gram change in shaft weight produce distance variations of 8-10 yards.  You could possibly be a full club longer by finding the right shaft weight!  Accuracy improvements were similarly impressive.   We saw one player go from eight yards offline to just one.  That can be the difference between missing the green and a tap-in birdie.

Our driver test also showed the importance of shaft weight.  Our testers gained as much as 26 yards by finding the correct shaft weight.  The accuracy gains were even more jaw dropping.  We watched players go from painting the middle of the fairway to spraying it everywhere as they gained or lost shaft weight.

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I wish I could tell you that picking up 10 yards was as easy as buying a lighter shaft, but that’s just not the case.

In our driver testing, we saw very clearly that light weight worked well for some golfers but not for others.  Only two golfers registered their highest ball speed with the lightest shaft; six posted their high with the heaviest shaft.  The numbers become more balanced when we move to carry and total distance: four were longest with the light shaft, four were longest with the heavy shaft.

Our iron testing leaned a little more towards lightweight shafts, but not enough to save this myth.  Half our testers did hit their longest iron shots with the 85 gram shaft, but the other half lost distance playing the lighter shaft.

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Once again, our testing is driving nails in the coffin of “common sense” fitting: heavier shafts are not inherently more accurate than lighter ones.

With the irons, our testers showed a preference for the middleweight shaft.  Six of our ten testers put up their best accuracy numbers with the 95 gram shafts.  Two testers were best with the light weight shaft, and they were extremely impressive, missing the centerline by only 1 yard.

The results from the driver test showed much larger fluctuations in accuracy and really demonstrated the value of fitting.  One player was most accurate with the lightest shaft, and his distance from center more than tripled when he went heavier.  Four players were best with the midweight shaft, and, again, some struggled mightily with lighter or heavier shafts.  The other five testers were most accurate with the heaviest shaft, and, for them, that extra weight was necessary to improve their timing.

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In addition to being thought of as more accurate, heavier shafts are often thought to promote greater consistency.  Is there a more magical word in golf than consistency?  I think not.  Sadly, getting consistent is the result of hard work, not a heavier shaft.

For both the iron and driver test, we counted mishits as shots that were ten or more yards short of the median distance for that player with that shaft.  These weren’t necessarily embarrassing drop kicks or knee-high liners, but they were the kinds of shots that miss greens and put stress on your iron play.

In both tests, we saw a fairly even distribution of mishits across the different shaft weights.  Typically, the shaft that they hit most consistently was also the shaft that was producing their longest, straightest shots.  In other words, accuracy, distance, and consistency all came together when a shaft was well fit.

Conclusion

It’s my hope that this data has inspired you to think carefully about the shafts that are in your clubs.  As you can see, it’s not unreasonable to think that you can be longer, straighter, and more consistent in 2017 simply by dropping (or gaining) a little weight.

And keep in mind that all these changes happened without changing the shaft model!  Just imagine the possible gains that you can make when you work with a qualified fitter to find the right weight, shaft flex, and model for your swing.

The Data

irons-by-player

iron-averages

driver-by-player

driver-averages

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Matt Saternus

Co-Founder, Editor In Chief at PluggedInGolf.com
Matt is a golf instructor, club fitter, and writer living in the northwest suburbs of Chicago. Matt's work has been published in Mulligan Magazine, Chicagoland Golf, South Florida Golf, and other golf media outlets. He's also been a featured speaker in the Online Golf Summit and is a member of Ultimate Golf Advantage's Faculty of Experts.

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6 Comments

  1. I’m wondering how much of a part the golfers transition played in what shaft worked best for them? Did golfers with an easy transition like the lighter shafts better and did players with a fast transition like heavier shafts? Maybe “like” is not the best word to use but I wonder how much that plays into what shaft works best for someone.

    • Tom,

      That’s certainly a possibility. The problem, for anyone not running a GEARS system, is measuring an “easy” transition versus a “fast” one.

      Best,

      Matt

      • Matt

        What is your feeling with different weighted shafts in driver, 3wood, and 5 wood? I use the speeder evolution 111 661 stiff in my Callaway epic 3+ wood and feels exceptional. I am looking at putting the speeder evolution 1 757 or the speeder evolution 111 757 or the speeder evolution 111 661 in my driver. My swing speed with driver is around 100-105mph. Is that swing speed to slow for the speeder evolution 757?

        • Jack,

          The 3 shafts you mention are substantially different. Have you tested all of them and found them to be equally effective in your driver? I don’t think a 100-105 MPH swing is too slow for a 757, but I would strongly recommend getting a fitting to find the right model and weight to get you maximum distance and accuracy.

          Best,

          Matt

  2. As Matt states the best bit of advice is to get fitted…and by a fitter not a well meaning coach.
    I got fitted by a proper fitter last year for driver and 5 wood, no change in distance but dispersion/accuracy has made such a difference. Too many players get hung up on spin & mash numbers etc, get fitted and see for yourself the improvement. Good article as usual Matt!

  3. Player 5 is the shortest player and 7 is the longest. It looks like #5 should use light shafts in the irons and heavy shafts in the woods. Distance and control. Player #7 needs heavier shafts in the irons and the woods for timing. Slows him down just enough.