Shafts 101 – Weight

shaft-weight

A Weighty Subject

In our first two editions of Shafts 101, we discussed shaft flex and torque.  Today we’re discussing weight, which is at once a simpler and more complex topic.  Everyone knows what weight is, but how does shaft weight affect the swing?  Our panel of leading shaft makers and club fitters will explain.

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How Important is Shaft Weight?

The majority of our panel agreed that shaft weight is very important.  Club Champion told us that weight is the first thing they look at when fitting a shaft, and Nippon said, “If a golfer can’t feel a shaft that’s properly weighted, the other factors (flex, torque, bend profile) are moot.”  Fujikura and MRC agreed that weight needs to be considered along with those other factors to produce a shaft that will perform well.

One interesting note that Club Champion added is that understanding the weight that a player feels is not always straightforward.  “Flex, torque, and bend profile can play into the perceived weight of the shaft,” according to Nick Sherburne, Club Champion’s founder.

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Weight Distribution and Counter Balanced Shafts

Though counter balanced shafts like the Fujikura XLR8 series have become very popular in the last couple years, our panel agreed that total weight is more important than weight distribution.  However, that does not mean that finding the right weight distribution or balance point is unimportant.

So why are there so many counter balanced shafts these days?  The main driver of this trend is the club head.  As Fujikura explains, “High balance point shafts can be matched with heavier heads or longer club lengths to facilitate club builds with [“normal”] swing weights without having to change mass properties of the head.  They can be used with standard heads at standard lengths to simply reduce swing weight.”

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Shaft Weight in Woods vs. Irons

One question that intrigued me is whether shaft weight is more important in woods or the driver versus irons and wedges.  Across the board, the consensus was that weight is equally important in all clubs.

Fujikura did raise one interesting counterpoint: the importance of the driver shaft can appear greater because the distance and dispersion is larger with a driver.

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Fitting Shaft Weight – Rules of Thumb

As we’ve done in the past, we asked our experts if there are any reliable rules of thumb for fitting shaft weight.  We received a wide range of responses that boil down to this: there are general rules and concepts that you can use, but nothing is hard and fast.

One bit of common wisdom is that slower swingers should play lighter shafts and faster swingers should go heavier.  This holds up sometimes, but is often wrong.  As Fujikura pointed out, a slower swinger will be much better with a heavier shaft if that causes them to have more centered strikes.  True Temper suggested that lighter shafts can produce more distance and heavier shafts may be preferable for control.

Club Champion gave us a list of guidelines or cues they use in their fitting process:
-“Over the top” swings should try lighter shafts, and vice versa.
-Players releasing too early can benefit from heavier shafts.
-Players struggling to load the shaft should try something lighter.
-Steep swings should try lighter shafts.
The caveat, once again, is that these are just starting points, and the opposite is often true.

How Much Weight Can You Lose (or Gain)?

Whether you’ve been fit or not, you have a certain shaft weight in your current clubs.  Is there a limit to how much you can change without losing your swing?  True Temper gave us a hard number: 20 grams.  Most of the others said that it’s hard to know exactly – some can change a lot, other players will be hurt by even small changes.

Mitsubishi raised an interesting point on this topic.  They noted that golfers who play often may have a harder time changing weight because they are more “committed” to their current shaft weight.  The occasional player has less sensitivity to weight and can often make a larger change.

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How Do You Know When You Have the Right Shaft Weight?

It should be obvious that we and our expert panel strongly advocate working with a qualified fitter to find the correct shaft weight for you.  Nonetheless, we asked how a golfer can know if their shafts are the correct weight without a fitting.

Nippon suggested that a player should be able to tell largely by feel.  A shaft that’s too heavy will cause a “labored golf swing.”  A shaft that’s too light will hurt your ability to make solid contact.  When you find the right shaft weight, you’ll experience a “high energy swing” with uniform contact.

Club Champion emphasized looking for the best numbers – ball speed, launch, spin, angle of attack, club path, and dynamic loft.  This is why their fittings all include Trackman launch monitors – so they can see what produces the best and most consistent numbers.

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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.

13 Comments

  1. One rule of thumb that I cannot understand is the FW shaft being about 10 grams heavier than the driver shaft. Even fitters kind of follow this generally. Shouldn’t the FW shaft weight be determined independently of the driver shaft? Drivers are always (99.9%) hit off a tee whereas FW are hit off the deck 90% of the time. I would think if the FW shaft weight could be lighter, same or heavier than the driver and should be determined based on which one gives the best results off the deck. So why do fitters follow this rule? Would be great to hear your view and possible get this addressed in more detail in an article.

    • Amit,

      I imagine that some fitters follow this rule and others don’t. I have never seen a Club Champion fitter try to force a player into a certain weight. They put weight first in their fitting process and start fresh with each club.

      That said, it makes sense to use, for example, a 70 gram shaft as a starting point for a player who prefers a 60 gram driver shaft because, when it’s cut shorter, the shaft will feel similar in terms of weight. I think the player who went from, say, a 50 gram driver shaft to a 90 gram FW shaft would be a significant outlier.

      Best,

      Matt

      • Matt – my thoughts were not as extreme as going from 50 gm to 90 gm. More like 70 gm in both driver and FW or 75 gm in driver but 70 gm in FW. Having the same weight/slightly lighter shaft in FW as an option is rarely discussed. Do you think going down this route is something the average leisure golfer should consider?

        • Amit,

          I think a set up like that is fine, and it’s something I see come out of Club Champion all the time.

          Best,

          Matt

          • Makes sense to me, Matt. I’m already scheduled for a full bag fitting with Club Champion so good to know they’re not married to “rules of thumb”. Eager to find out what I’m fitted into.

          • Amit,

            Awesome! Eat your Wheaties before that fitting – the full bag = a LOT of swings!

            Best,

            Matt

  2. LOL. Maybe this explains why after a weather-related layoff……and using my dad’s senior flex shafts that weigh in around 50 gr, on the practice range, I had a hard time making square contact in Florida during the Holidays. My “gamers” are 105 gr lightwt steel shafts. Guess I should not have been so tough on myself after hitting a few chunked iron shots! My body felt like it was outracing the club — or maybe it was vice versa?

    • Steve,

      You definitely should cut yourself some slack. Changing flex and/or weight can throw things into major disarray!

      Best,

      Matt

  3. I’m looking to re-shaft my wedges.

    In my Srixon z745 irons I currently game the Nippon MS Pro Modus 3 Tour 120 Stiff shaft.

    I have Edel wedges in 52*, 56*, 60* with Project X PXI shafts and find I don’t have the same feel I have with my Titleist Vokey 5 wedges with the DG shafts. The Edel wedges feel too light.

    I was thinking of going with a Nippon N.S. Pro Modus 3 Tour 125 Regular shafts in the Edel wedges. I like a heavier shaft and am thinking the Regular flex along with the heavier weight could give me better feel and control.

    What do you think of that combination?

    • Jesse,

      Seems reasonable, but I’d suggest working with a fitter to test the idea before pulling the trigger.

      Best,

      Matt

  4. Hi Matt,
    Very good article.
    As getting older, I decide it was time to go lighter.
    My personal experience was it is easier to decrease weight irons’ shafts than in the driver. I went to TT dynamic gold s300 to Modus3 120 stiff last year to Modus3 105 stiff now and only saw improvements. Over the top move disapeared.

    My objective is to increase my swingspeed without increasing dispersion.
    When you are testing driver’ shafts having lighter weights how do you adjust to avoid big dispersion?
    thanks

    • Richard,

      It makes sense that decreasing iron shaft weight is less detrimental for a number of reasons: it’s a smaller % weight change, the shaft is shorter (more easily controlled), and the shorter length of the shot means that offline shots stay closer to the target compared to a drive.

      What we’ve seen in our testing (more coming later this week) is that there is not a straight line correlation between light weight and poor accuracy, but there is often a lower limit where golfers lose the feel of the shaft. My suggestion is to figure out where that is for you and stay above it.

      Best,

      Matt

  5. Pingback: Do Lighter Shafts Produce Longer Drives? - Golf Myths Unplugged - Plugged In Golf