Over 17 years of fitting golfers, one of the most critical fitting criteria is getting the correct shaft for your swing. If you do not have the proper length, weight, flex, tip and butt profile, swing weight and feel, you will be inconsistent with your driver results and mis-hit a lot of shots. The biggest result of an improperly fit shaft is loss of distance, followed by lack of consistency. By using both your static measurements and dynamic swing data, a good fitter should be able to immediately predict a good starting point for shaft length, weight, flex and launch characteristics (See our BGF Fitting System). From there, you need to give feedback to the fitter in terms of feel (weight, stiffness, release).
First, let’s talk about shaft weight. Driver shafts are typically graphite and come stock from manufacturers in 40 to 70 gram weights. A club fitter can fit you in any of those weights and even heavier if needed. The old saying of “hit the lightest, longest shaft that you can control” is pretty much true but longer and lighter may give one out of ten great shots. With the other nine shots, you miss the sweet spot and your launch conditions and smash factor go down the drain. In general, lower handicap players with smooth swings can play lighter shafts which in turn MAY generate more ball speed and therefore more distance. Golfers with faster tempos, faster transition from the top and higher club head speed may in fact generate more distance with a firmer and heavier shaft.
Second, let’s consider driver shaft length. Off-the-rack drivers come in lengths of 44″ (ladies) and 45″ – 46.75″ (men). The average driver length on the PGA Tour is only 44.75″. See an issue here? The correct combination of length and weight will have you hitting the driver more in the center of the face. Toe hits can be caused by too heavy and/or too short of club. Heel hits with your driver could be caused by too light and/or too long of club. Again, a good fitter can use the interchangeable shafts in his/her fitting center to dial you in to the proper length.
The third thing to consider is the launch and spin profile of the driver shaft. We measure over 2,000 shafts a year and break the shaft profiles into five gradients of launch (low to high) and spin (low to high). If the shaft tip stiffness is too stiff, you will not get enough toe droop of the shaft at impact and you will hit shots below the center line of the driver. This will cause low shots with high spin robbing you of distance. Conversely, if the shaft tip profile is too soft, the shaft can droop too much causing you to hit high driver shots. These shots also rob you of distance. A shaft tip profile that is too stiff can also cause you to lose distance because the shaft is not storing and releasing energy properly. In our testing with the GEARS Swing Motion system, only two out of fourteen testers hit farther with shafts that were too stiff for them based on our BGF Fitting System recommendations. The value of choosing the right shaft is evident every day in our fittings. I literally see a swing of 10-15% in distance once we get the right shaft and head combination. Why that much? Because there is a HUGE penalty for not hitting the ball on the correct spot on the face and with the proper launch angle.
Finally, let’s talk about feel of the driver shaft. Once you find a shaft that gives you good launch monitor performance AND feels good in your hands, you have found the perfect combination! Why? Because there is nothing better to give you confidence when you step up to hit your driver than remembering the great feeling you had when you hit that last pure drive. Feel of a golf shaft is determined by two things: torque and stiffness in the middle of the shaft. Torque has literally nothing to do with accuracy as has been proven over and over by us and large shaft companies. Low torque shafts feel very firm (harsh) and high torque shafts feel soft (mushy). What feels good to you, however, may not feel good to me so always give feedback to your fitter regarding feel. The stiffness of the middle of the shaft also has a direct impact on feel. Shaft manufacturers usually make two style of shafts. One with a very firm mid-section that allows the shaft to feel like a one-piece extension of your arm. The second is a shaft with a softer mid-section that delivers the feeling of a two-piece, hinged shaft that “kicks” at the bottom. Again, every player likes a different feel to their shots so be sure to give your fitter feedback.
Again, the proper shaft length weight, flex, tip and butt profile, swing weight and feel will help you find the sweet spot on your driver more consistently! This alone can give you more distance.
See the rest of our articles on getting more distance.