Are Shafts Upgrades Worth the Big Money?
One of the longest-running equipment debates revolves around the quality and “legitimacy” of stock shafts. There are more theories than we could possibly list here: certain brands use “real deal” shafts, others don’t, certain models are “real,” others are “watered down.”
While the debate about stock vs. aftermarket is unlikely to go away completely, we wanted to add some data to the conversation. We tested two stock shafts against their aftermarket counterparts to evaluate some of the most common myths.
Myth #1 – Stock shafts create less distance than aftermarket shafts
Myth #2 – Stock shafts are less accurate than aftermarket shafts
Myth #3 – Stock shafts spin more than aftermarket shafts
Myth #4 – Stock shafts are less consistent than aftermarket shafts
Myth #5 – Stock shafts feel softer than aftermarket shafts
Myth #6 – Stock shafts are the same as aftermarket shafts
How We Tested
We brought together five golfers to test these myths. Each player hit seven shots with each of four shafts. For the purposes of this test, we will refer to them as Shaft A Stock, Shaft A Aftermarket, Shaft B Stock, and Shaft B Aftermarket. Each shaft was the same weight and flex – 60 grams, stiff flex. Every shot was measured on Trackman.
This is not meant to be a test of a specific brand’s shafts, stock or aftermarket, so we will not be publishing the names of the shafts that we used.
All testing was done at and with the help of Club Champion.
The data that came out of this test was pretty shocking. We looked at distance from a variety of perspectives, and stock shafts got beaten on every one.
We started with the root of distance: club head speed. In our ten trials, aftermarket shafts created more club head speed nine times. On average, our testers swung the aftermarket shafts 1.36 MPH faster than the stock shafts.
Next we looked at ball speed. Again, aftermarket shafts won 9/10 trials. The average difference here was +2.66 MPH for aftermarket shafts.
We then looked at carry distance. From this perspective, the stock shafts were slightly more successful, winning 3/10 trials. However, when we look at the magnitude of the wins, the scale tilts hard toward aftermarket shafts. Stock shafts won their trials by an average of 1.76 yards, a negligible amount. Aftermarket shafts won their seven trials by an average of 9.63 yards.
Finally, we looked at total distance. The aftermarket shafts won 8/10 trials by an average of 10 yards.
In short, the data we collected shows that aftermarket shafts create more distance than stock shafts.
When we looked at accuracy, the picture was much more muddled. The stock and aftermarket shafts had an even 5 to 5 split when it came to offline averages. Average improvement was almost identical as well – 6 yards for aftermarket, 5.6 for stock.
We also looked at accuracy in terms of the dispersion – the distance between the furthest shot right and the furthest shot left. By this metric, aftermarket shafts did perform better, winning 7/10 trials. While this metric is interesting, it can be disproportionately affected by one bad swing. As such, we weighted average offline more heavily and deemed this myth “Inconclusive.”
One of the major complaints that the forum folk have about stock shafts is that they’re “spinny.” Our data on this is mixed.
In four of the ten trials, the stock shaft produced less spin than the aftermarket shaft. The average gap in these trials was 357 RPM. In the other six trials, the aftermarket shaft spun less by an average of 488 RPM.
While, on the whole, aftermarket shafts produced an average of 150 RPM less spin, the mixed results make this another inconclusive myth.
Can consistency be purchased by upgrading to an aftermarket shaft? Our data leans toward “Yes.”
To judge consistency, we looked at the left-right dispersion that we mentioned earlier and also the gap between each player’s longest and shortest carry distance. In both cases, the aftermarket shaft performed better 7 out of 10 times. In averaging the whole group, the dispersion was 7.6 yards tighter from left-to-right and 6.9 yards tighter in distance.
Because some of our players posted data that was strongly counter to this myth, we can’t confirm it, but we will rate it as “Plausible.”
Our testers were definitive about this: the stock shafts that we tested felt nothing like the aftermarket versions.
With both Shaft A and Shaft B, our testers, to a man, said that the stock version felt like it was much softer and had much higher torque. Some people would describe this as being more “whippy,” “active,” or “lively.”
It needs to be emphasized that this is not a good or bad thing. Some players need a softer shaft for performance reasons, and others prefer the feel of a softer shaft.
At this point, it’s fairly clear that, leaving aside issues of “better or worse,” we can conclude that stock shafts are not the same as their aftermarket counterparts. From feel to performance, the differences were both measurable and noticeable.
Limitations of This Test
This test only included two stock shafts and their aftermarket counterparts. There are many, many more that could be tested, and the results of those tests could be very different. While we believe that similar trends would be seen with other shafts, our conclusions only apply definitively to what we tested.
Stock shafts get a bad rep among the golf equipment obsessed. For many golfers, they perform very well, and, in some cases, they outperform their aftermarket counterparts. That said, just because they have the same name as an expensive aftermarket shaft does not mean they are the same. As always, we strongly recommend that you work with a trusted club fitter to find the equipment that will maximize your performance on the course.
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Ping makes a great proprietary shaft for driver/woods called Tour 65 / Tour 75 shaft. I guess you would consider that a stock option even though there is a slight upcharge. I have found that shaft to be very good. From what I have read, this shaft was made in partnership with UST and is in essence the Chrome shaft which is a high end aftermarket shaft. Would your opinion be different in regards to this shaft as opposed to the normal “watered down” stock shafts you see so many companies using in order to cut costs and maybe deceive consumers? Ping is a high reputation company … I feel this is an exception to the norm. Thoughts?
I agree, PING’s stock shafts – both the Alta and Tour – are excellent. I also like that PING does not use brand their shafts as anything other than PING stock shafts – no confusion for the consumer.
Tremendous article. Agree on many of the differences mentioned. Very interesting and again proves how valuable a good club fitting can be for anyone.
Very good article Matt.
There are so many aftermarket options – how did you choose? Aftermarket shafts can cost $60 – $600. Not realistic to compare stock to aftermarket shafts
We tested two stock shafts against the aftermarket shafts that have the same name, as was explained in the article. We also acknowledged that this test – and no test, truly – can be comprehensive on this matter.
You can’t make conclusions from a flawed test. The major flaw being only two stock shafts and their two counterparts with five players. Looking at your player data, there is a wide spread and with no on course testing. As Erik stated with Ping, most if not all manufacturers have excellent shaft options. I don’t think you can draw a “confirmed” conclusion on any of the myths based on your testing.
I look forward to reading your research on this topic. Please post a link when it’s up.
Great article . Would you expect the same results from fairway woods ?
Is it worth the money to be fit with multiple shafts on fairway woods ?
Yes, I would expect the same result in FW shafts.
With regard to your second question, are you asking about being fit for one shaft for a 3W and a different one for a 5W? If so, I think that would be difficult because most fitters that I know don’t carry FW shafts in multiple lengths and they generally just carry 3Ws. Generally, I think that a shaft that works well in a 3W will work well in another FW.
Looking at the charts you provides and the club head speeds difference, it would seem a lot of data can come from the difference of 93 mph and 105 mph club head speed… only real true test is on a robot at a 90 mph swing which is about average for a 10 handicap player…. What do you think about this one…;Matt… as a consumer looking for more and better products…giving us a some names of these shaft to look at would be great….can’t go to the golf store and try all the models….Thanks…Ali
I look forward to reading your definitive work on this topic, based on the “only real true test.”
There are dozens of shaft reviews on this site that can help you narrow your search, but ultimately you will get the best results from working with a quality club fitter.
When manufacturer’s offer shaft options other than their typically included shafts are those options considered stock shafts or are those aftermarket shafts?
Generally speaking the shafts that come from the custom department at an upcharge are aftermarket shafts.
Great work Matt and nice use of data. Also like the questions you based that data around. Do you know anything about Veylix shafts? I recently purchased an Alpina Wildeye and the retailer indicated the shaft was a reg flex. It doesn’t appear there are any markings or labeling on the shaft that indicates the flex and not sure if this is intentional or Veylix has a special code on the shaft that indicates the flex. There is no label under the grip and short of having the CPM tested is there anyway of knowing what the true flex is?
I know the Veylix shafts typically don’t have flex markings because most (maybe all) come from club builders who sort for the CPM they want. If you want to know what you have, you would need to test the CPM or trust the seller you bought it from.
Nice data here but my question becomes were all of the shafts aligned in the clubs in the same fashion? ie Pured, FLO’d or spined so that any shaft disparities such as irregularities or alignment could be ruled out from one club to the next? Thanks for the info Matt.
None of the shafts were PURE’d or otherwise aligned.
Will you guys please do a piece on PUREing?
The search function is your friend: https://pluggedingolf.com/does-pureing-a-shaft-improve-performance-golf-myths-unplugged/
The one issue you did not discuss is shaft length. For many, the current stock length of 45.5-45.75 inches is unmanageable. I actually gained distance and accuracy by an aftermarket shaft of 45 inches. Many tour players use driver shafts less than 45 inches and still hit it over 300 yards.
All the drivers played at 45″ in this test.
I agree that many golfers would benefit from taking a careful look at the best length for their swing.
With the stock shaft being compared to after market shafts, fitting the correct after market shaft to each golfer would have skewed the data much more strongly towards the after market shafts. You used ONE after market shaft as a comparison. That defeats the purpose of being fitted with an after market shaft. An after market shaft should match and maximize the swing characteristics of each golfer. That would greatly improve the differences between stock shafts and the CORRECT after market shaft.
Even so, this still illustrates that after market shafts are better. Stock shaft are usually chosen by the manufacturer to minimize costs, not to maximize performance.
It seems like you missed the point of this test. We wanted to address the idea of stock shafts being the same as their aftermarket counterparts, not the value of being fit. The value of being fit is something we speak to in virtually every post – if our readers haven’t gotten that by now, they’re not paying attention.
I am playing a TaylorMade Jet Speed driver w a stock Matrix Velox 49 gram S Flex shaft.
I am 65 and around 13 handicap. Should I consider using a heavier shaft? At what swing speed do you normally suggest
moving towards a regular flex? Thanks
Swing speed is only one of the factors in choosing shaft flex, and there are no standards in the shaft world about what constitutes a stiff flex. Because of that, our refrain is to work with a trusted club fitter to find the best shaft for your swing.
What about aftermarket putter shafts? Do they make a difference? I’ve only read reviews saying they’re great and all but I need facts and figures to support those claims. Would be great to see PiG unplugged this myth :)
We have not done any testing on putter shafts, but that’s something that we may explore in the future.
I really enjoy your site, thanks! I took your advise and got fitted at Club Champion for new irons and really enjoyed the experience. The fitter, who was great, fit me for the Project x LZ shaft and the Apex 19 Forged head. The Ping G410 was a close 2nd. Apex carried 7 yds further and totaled 2 yds further than the G410. Ping had stronger smash factor and ball speed. Accuracy was about the same for both. Later I saw that Ping has the Project x LZ as one of their shaft options (at no extra cost I believe).
Here are my questions. First, are these the exact same shafts that Ping offers and I tested at CC? Second, if you were in my position would you spend the extra $$ to have club champion build the clubs they fit me for or would you consider buying the G410s w/ project x LZ “off the rack” and having them tweaked by a fitter?
I appreciate your input, thanks!
I’m thrilled to hear that you got fit and that you had a good experience.
Your questions are excellent. The shafts are the same, BUT when Club Champion builds, they weight sort the shafts to make sure that you get a perfect set. Even the best OEMs do not, so you can get some variance in a set due to manufacturing tolerances. You also get into the issue of tolerances for the build, which are much tighter at Club Champion than from any OEM. Finally, by the time you buy a set off the rack and then have it tweaked, how much money are you saving? All that to say, I would go with Club Champion, especially for an iron set which you will likely keep for many seasons.
Excellent article. I appreciate it.
It feels like murky territory.
I purchased a stock new Titleist driver with a Tensei White shaft. I hit it much better than my current Graphic Design (on an older head). Needed a low spin/launch.
So I have an expensive after market well-made shaft. Now bought a stock shaft. Had no idea the stock could be different than the aftermarket. And the aftermarket has a CK Pro version of the same shaft.
Now how does this translate to my game??? I have no idea. I have no idea whether I just wasted my $$$.
The Titleist driver is expensive so perhaps their stock
shaft is not junk. Or just made in China and relative junk.
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