Does Shaft Weight Matter More Than Shaft Flex? – Golf Myths Unplugged

Are You Paying Attention to the Wrong Thing?

The average golfer pays a lot of attention to shaft flex.  When they go to buy a new club they “know” that they need a _____ flex (despite the fact that there are absolutely no industry standards).

What the average golfer pays no mind to is shaft weight.  Most couldn’t tell you the weight of the shaft in their current driver or the one they’re lined up to buy.

Talk to the average fitter, however, and they’ll tell you that weight is critical.  For some, it’s the first thing that they fit for.  We wanted to find out what really matters, so we put flex and weight to the test.

The Myths

Myth #1 – Shaft flex is more important than shaft weight

Myth #2 – Heavier, stiffer shafts are only for faster swingers

Myth #3 – Heavier, stiffer shafts prevent hooks

Myth #4 – Heavier, stiffer shafts launch lower and spin less

Myth #5 – Heavier, stiffer shafts are more accurate and consistent

How We Tested

For this test, we brought together seven testers with swing speeds ranging from around 70 MPH to over 110 MPH.  Each player hit seven drives each with five different Nippon Regio MB shafts: stiff flex at 55, 65, and 75 grams, and 65 grams in regular, stiff, and x-flex.  Every player hit the shafts in a different order, and every shot was captured on Trackman.

Testing was done at, and with the help of, Club Champion.

The Results

Myth #1 – Shaft flex is more important than shaft weight

In this test group, weight proved to be slightly more important than flex.  That said, one different tester could have tipped the scales the other way.  Both weight and flex are critical elements in picking the right shaft.

To evaluate the relative importance of weight and flex, we looked at swing speed, ball speed, carry distance, and total distance.  For each metric, we looked at the gap between the players’ best and worst weight and flex.  The average and median differences were higher for weight – though the gaps were small – which indicates that weight is slightly more important.

Myth #2 – Heavier, stiffer shafts are for faster swingers

We had testers in our group swinging from around 70 MPH to over 110 MPH.  This gave us ample opportunity to see if weight or flex tracked consistently with swing speed, but we saw nothing of the sort.

Our slowest swinger did perform best with the lightest shaft, but her best flex was x-flex – a result no one would have predicted.  On the other end of the spectrum, one of our 100+ MPH swingers was best with a regular flex.  Our players in the middle were all over the board in terms of weight and flex preferences.

Once again, we see that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to fitting, even about things as “simple” as flex and swing speed.

Myth #3 – Heavier, stiffer shafts prevent hooks

Busted.

Our testers were just as apt to hit shots to the left with a heavy shaft as a light one.  Whether we looked at the biggest misses or the overall dispersion, we saw no correlation between shot direction and weight or flex.

Myth #4 – Heavier, stiffer shafts launch lower and spin less

This myth is trashed.

Let’s start with spin.  Some testers did have their lowest launch and spin with the heavier, stiffer shafts, but one player spun the heaviest shaft the most and three players spun the stiffest shaft the most. 

The results for launch were even more contrary.  Three players launched the heaviest shaft the highest and two players launched the stiffest shaft the highest.

If you need lower launch and spin, going to a heavier, stiffer shaft is not necessarily the way to go.

Myth #5 – Heavier, stiffer shafts are more accurate and consistent

Once again, we see that simple rules don’t hold up.  You can’t get more consistent or more accurate simply by getting a heavier, stiffer shaft.

When we looked at distance consistency, the results were a perfect bell curve: most were best with the middle weight and an equal number were best with the light and the heavy shaft.

We saw a similar picture with accuracy.  Whether we looked at average offline or the left-right spread, there were players who were best with light, mid-weight, heavy, regular, stiff, and x-flex.

Additional Findings

In talking to our testers about what they felt, the one thing that stood out was the impact of weight.  Six of the seven testers said that the difference in weight was significantly more noticeable than the difference in flex.  The seventh tester claimed to feel both changes equally.

Additionally, every player instantly knew when we had changed the weight.  Some testers – even better players – either didn’t notice the difference in flex or misidentified the change.

Conclusion

The takeaway, once again, is that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to club fitting.  Both weight and flex can have a significant impact on the performance of a club, so both should be given adequate attention during a club fitting.

The Data

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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.

Latest posts by Matt Saternus (see all)

16 Comments

  1. Larry Carpenter

    So grateful for all your Golf Myths Unplugged posts. You have answered so many of the questions I have had about dubious claims that seem to have become dearly held beliefs over time. This one on shaft flex v weight is one of them.

    For years now I have ignored flex in favor of weight when it comes to shafts. I have had some shafts that have felt ultra-noodly that I wasn’t comfortable with, but the thing I try to keep away from is ultralight shafts. When looking at a club I’ll look at shaft weight before flex every time. I know I’m probably in the minority but I am much more comfortable with heavy shafts in all clubs. Most of my fairways and hybrids are shafted with steel. A few of my (modern 460) drivers are as well.

    One thing that was nice to see was that some of the better players in your test didn’t recognize the difference in shaft flex. For a while I have wondered if I wasn’t odd for not being able to tell the difference. Of course this doesn’t mean I’m not odd, but now I don’t feel so bad for not being able to tell if it’s an S300 or S400 in my sand wedge.

  2. I would love to see this experiment repeated with iron shafts. For my n=1 example, I recently went from a set of hand-me-down R7 TM graphite irons weighing 65g and swing weight of D0 to a Club-champion fitted set of TM P790 heads in a 120g steel shaft (+1/2) length at a D5 swing weight. Both shafts were Stiff flex. We tested a variety of steel shafts around that area (R,S, and X) and I noticed a huge difference both in terms of dispersion and overall feel. Distance did go up a little bit, but more so on the dispersion. Good stuff, really appreciate the insights.

  3. More people should read this. All I ever see on places like GolfWRX are guys obsessing over the next low spin monster, which generally means the shaft tip is getting stiffer and stiffer. I have trackman data for myself where I launch a high spin shaft lower than a low spin shaft, and I’ve spun low spin shafts more than medium spin ones.

    This is why I finally stopped caring what OEMs say, went and got fit and haven’t looked back since.

  4. Dear Matt,
    thanks for another interesting analysis, though not very conclusive. What if you try to find different correlation than just a swing speed? E.g. golfers with longer, more fluid swing (less loading shaft) do better with heavier regular shaft, whereas golfers with shorter but aggressive swing (more loading shaft) do better with lighter and stiff shafts…maybe? Or big strong guys do better with heavier shafts, ladies and seniors do better with light shaft?
    Can you look at the golfers from this point of view and maybe find better correlation than with swing speed?

    • Matt Saternus

      Peter,

      We use swing speed because it’s an objective measure. Terms like “fluid,” “long,” “aggressive,” etc are all subjective. Our testers tend to be younger, stronger males because that’s who we have access to.

      Best,

      Matt

  5. Dayson pearce

    What about torque in driver shaft does that make a big difference

  6. Perfect timing and great article. I went to a driver shaft fitting yesterday where they hooked me up to a gears system. I have a driver swing speed of 100. Last year, I experimented with some shafts I had in my garage and found better consistency with a cut down regular flex, 61g shaft. I hit the club more consistently but didn’t have as much feel from the club face so it was tough to gauge where I was missing the ball on the club face. Yesterday, the optimal shaft for my swing was a 70g stiff flex that was cut down 1.25 inches which essentially made the shaft a little more stiff. I didn’t see a dramatic difference in length but my dispersion went from 20-30 yards to 10 to 20 in that hour session. I think the moral to the story is get a thorough fitting and throw out anything you thought you new or heard about shafts.

  7. There were 5 with 100+ speeds, 1-90+ and 1-70+.The 80+ I was looking for was missing. Any reason?

    • Matt Saternus

      Julian,

      We test with the people who we have available. It would be great to have dozens of people available so we could choose different swing speeds, but that’s not reality.

      More importantly, even if we had an 80 MPH swinger, what would that have told you? The point is that everyone needs to find what works for them and that are no simple rules or shortcuts.

      Best,

      Matt

  8. Pierre GÜELL

    I agree with Chase, would be interesting with iron shafts, with steel, graphite and composite like Steelfiber. My own experience is that with steel there is a great correlation between weight and flex, graphite is more subtile.
    Swing weight is an important variable, as well as the head ( Game Improver or Player ).
    I play graphite shafts and composite at 70 grs R, to the excellent and beautiful stepless silver KBS C-taper lite stiff 110, but all with an appropriate swing weight. (Srixon Z 545 head with the C-Taper , was on MP-H5 before, more demanding heads ! )
    I also had a reshafting thru a good fitter, Accra graphite shafts, fitted as Senior flex, that is giving excellent feel and results, with a constant MOI thru the set. Here I have up to a club more distance with a JPX 850 head, same swing speed, rather slow at 75 mph 7 iron.

    • Matt Saternus

      Pierre,

      The iron test could be interesting, but the problem is finding a single shaft that has the same profile in various weights and flexes. Iron shafts typically get substantially heavier as they get stiffer.

      Best,

      Matt

  9. Interesting, very interesting, but everyone is different and reacts differently to different things. Play with what works, and not what some “fitter” thinks you should have without any testing to really find out. Even at 79 I hit my irons best with heavier Stiff steel shafts in the Irons and a 62 gr. Driver shaft. That is after I tried several sets of Super lights that a “fitter” said I should be using. I feel clubs are getting too light;

  10. Lloyd Hackman

    Why don’t you at least tell me why you do not publish my criticism of your test procedures. You are doing a disservice to the golfers that read you articles. If you cared at all you would allow me to prove you wrong by allowing me to show you how the golf shaft is the most effective way of increasing distance and accuracy both at the same time and it has nothing to do with the make of the shaft only how it is trimmed.

    • Matt Saternus

      Lloyd,

      I have no problem with criticism – many of the comments throughout the site are critical. What I will not tolerate is people using the comment section to shill their product.

      If you wanted to show something to me, you would send an email or at least post a comment offering to share your information. Instead you post rude comments with links to your site. My email is Matt@PluggedInGolf.com. Feel free to send whatever information you would like to share.

      -Matt

  11. Hi Matt,
    Choose the right shaft weights and flexes seem to be a more complex subject than it appears.
    This is due to the complexity and variety of golf swing.
    I understand the reason for the presence of Club Champion and Golf tec to help people to choose the right equipment, mainly the right shaft for them.
    Shaft selection is not only base on swing speed. Tempo, release, deflexion, ball flight and spin are in the equation also.

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