The stiffness of the shaft you use in your driver is one of the most important decisions you’ll need to make about your equipment setup.

Shaft Selection is the Most Important Equipment Decision!

While many golfers obsess over picking the right driver head, it is really the shaft that is the engine of the driver, and the most important single component. In reality, you could produce quality drives with a number of different heads, as long as they each featured the right shaft. If you are going to spend time on researching and picking out the right equipment for your game, make sure the driver shaft is one of your major points of attention.

In this article, we are going to talk about the mistake of picking a driver shaft which is too stiff for the dynamics of your swing. Unfortunately, this is an extremely common problem in the amateur game. Many players seem to take it as a source of pride that they use a stiff or extra-stiff shaft flex, even if that flex is not actually the right choice for their swing. This is likely due to the fact that most of the players on the PGA Tour use either stiff or extra-stiff shaft flexes in their drivers. However, that does not mean choosing such a shaft flex is the key to hitting great drives. Those players use those shafts because they possess powerful swings and need the stiffness of the shaft to produce a quality ball flight. If you happen to have a PGA Tour-level swing speed with your driver, then you may indeed need one of those particularly stiff shafts. If not, you’ll be better off using a softer shaft that is better suited for the swing you currently produce on the tee.

It is not a harmless mistake to pick a driver shaft which is too stiff, as you’ll actually be doing active harm to your game by using such a club. Golf is already a hard game, but trying to hit drives while using a shaft that is too stiff for your swing dynamics is going to make it even harder. If you’ve ever seen an otherwise capable golfer struggle to get his or her drives up into the air nicely off the tee, there is a good chance that player was using a shaft that was too stiff. Don’t put yourself in that category. Instead, set your ego to the side and simply work on locating the right shaft for your game.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

The Negative Impact of Using Too Stiff a Shaft

The Negative Impact of Using Too Stiff a Shaft

Most people aren’t taught much of anything about golf equipment when they first get started in the game. If you just pick up golf as a way to have fun with your friends on the weekends, you probably never had any formal education on things like the rules, equipment, etiquette, and so on. It is just assumed that you will learn as you go, picking up things from other golfers along the way. That is usually good enough, especially when it comes to etiquette, but there might be important pieces missing from your golf equipment knowledge if you take this approach.

Therefore, it is a good idea to read articles such as this to expand on your knowledge. The more information you can pick up along the way, the more likely it is that you’ll make good decisions with regard to things like equipment. The little things add up in a big way in this game, so no piece of information is too small to help you work toward a brighter future on the links.

With the goal of picking up information in mind, let’s review a few points which highlight how your game can be negatively impacted if you use too stiff a shaft.

  • Struggle to get up into the air. The biggest thing you will notice when using a shaft that is too stiff for your swing dynamics is that the ball is going to struggle to get very high off the ground. You’ll likely hit low line drives off the tee with a shaft that is too stiff, since you aren’t going to be able to get the shaft to work correctly in the downswing. As you swing down, the shaft is going to remain mostly straight due to its excessive stiffness, rather than bending like it should. That means you’ll lack some of the speed you could have produced with a proper shaft stiffness, and the ball will not have enough spin to generate meaningful lift, either. In the end, a low, weak shot is likely to be the result. If it seems that most of your playing partners are able to easily hit the ball higher and farther off the tee than you, please consider the possibility that your driver shaft is too stiff. There are other possibilities as well, of course, but this is one that you should consider right off the bat.
  • Missing to the right. Another common sign that your driver shaft is too stiff is missing your shots out to the right of the target. This kind of miss frequently comes in the form of a low fade. You make what you feel like was a good swing with your driver, you look up, and you find that the ball is curving to the right while flying only a few yards off the ground. This a disappointing result to see, and there is a good chance that it is due to improper equipment rather than a poor swing. Of course, as was the case with the issue of hitting your drives too low, there is no guarantee that the problem of missing right is actually related to shaft stiffness. However, the idea here is that it’s easier to experiment with different driver shafts than it is to change your swing mechanics. You can try a new driver just by asking at your local driving range of golf course if they have any clubs you can test. If using a softer shaft doesn’t seem to provide any benefit, you will then have a good indication that something is wrong with your golf swing, and you can get to work on that problem. Hopefully, the softer shaft will fix your ball flight, and you will be able to avoid making swing changes altogether.
  • Working too hard. It is possible that you will produce some good shots from time to time while using a shaft that is technically too stiff for your swing. The problem with those shots is that they will likely require you to do too much work. Rather than making a smooth, repeatable swing, you’ll be working hard to force the club to flex in the downswing. This is not a method that is built for long-term success. Sure, it may work from time to time, but you’ll probably be quite inconsistent. The good drives will be mixed in with some ugly ones, and your overall driving performance will not be satisfactory. By moving down to a shaft with a softer flex, you can reduce the amount of effort that you need to put into the swing, and you can improve your average drive as a result.

As you can see, using too stiff a shaft in your driver has the potential to create a number of problems. The idea behind picking out golf equipment is that you should be selecting clubs which will make your life on the course easier, not harder. If the shaft of your driver is making the game more difficult than it needs to be, it’s obviously time for a change.

Working with a Professional

Working with a Professional

For this section, we are going to assume that you have decided a change in driver shaft is needed in your game. When that is the case, your best bet is to work with a fitting professional who can help you track down the perfect shaft for your needs. Rather than guessing at what you might need, taking the time to go through a club fitting process is the best way to go about locating a new shaft. An experienced club fitter will use a combination of personal knowledge and high-tech equipment to match you up with a club that is going to play to your strengths.

Fortunately, it is easy to find golf facilities which offer club fitting as part of their professional services. A fitting session generally costs about the same as a golf lesson, and you may even be able to get a discount if you wind up buying a new club (or clubs) from the facility. Call around to your local golf courses and golf shops to find out about the fitting services that they offer and the applicable costs. When you call, be sure to ask specifically about being fitted for a new shaft for your driver.

Once your fitting session is booked, you can look forward to having the valuable assistance of a professional when trying to find the right shaft. To make sure you get the best possible results from this process, consider the tips below.

  • Ask plenty of questions. This is a great place to start. You don’t just want to stand by, nodding your head while the pro lists off a bunch of technical jargon that you don’t understand. Remember, this session is for your benefit, so feel free to ask as many questions as come to mind. Of course, you don’t want to be rude and constantly interrupt the pro while he or she is trying to help you, but interject your questions at an appropriate time to enhance your education. If you are simply pretending like you understand everything that is going on, even if you don’t, you are only doing yourself a disservice.
  • Trust the advice you are given. There is a big difference between asking questions and being argumentative. It’s great to ask genuine questions in order to learn more about the topic at hand – it’s counterproductive to doubt the advice you are being provided. Remember, you are paying for the experience and knowledge of the fitting pro, so don’t go into the process thinking you know more about club shafts than they do. Have an open mind, be accepting of advice that you might not have accepted, and don’t take anything personally.
  • Pay attention! In an increasingly distracted work, there is something to be said for simply paying attention. If you fail to pay attention to what is going on during the session – whether you are checking your phone or watching other golfers on the range – you are going to miss out on the advice that you paid to receive. Do your best to focus on the task at hand and you will be better off for the effort.
  • Make your normal swing. This point perhaps should have been up at the top of the list, because it is a big one. When you get fitted for a driver, you are almost certainly going to hit some balls in front of what is known as a ‘launch monitor’. This is a computer which measures a variety of things about your swing, such as swing speed, ball speed, launch angle, and more. Knowing that you are hitting shots in front of such a device, perhaps for the first time, you may be tempted to swing your hardest and get out of your normal rhythm. Don’t fall into that trap. Instead, do your best to use the exact same swing you would use on the golf course. That’s the swing that needs to be matched up with your new shaft, so it is pointless to alter your technique just for the goal of putting up big numbers on the computer. Trust us, the teaching pro has seen it all before, and is not going to be particularly impressed just because you tacked a couple extra miles-per-hour onto your swing speed by going all out. Stay within your normal tempo, make a smooth swing, and be proud of whatever results that swing provides.

Sometimes, the best thing you can do for your golf game is to admit that you need help. Whether that help comes in the form of a fitting session, or just a traditional golf lesson, accessing the knowledge and experience of local professionals is a great idea.

Learning a New Game from the Tee

Learning a New Game from the Tee

At this point, we are going to skip ahead and assume that you have located the right shaft for your driver, and it is now in your bag and ready for action. It’s all smooth sailing from here, right? Not so fast. While it would be great to just step out onto the course and launch one drive after the next right down the middle of the fairway, that’s probably not how it’s going to play out in the real world. Instead, you are likely to have some struggles in the early going as you get used to your new driver shaft. While the new shaft is almost certainly a better fit than your old one, there will still be a learning curve to deal with before you can see the results you expected.

The first adjustment you will likely need to make is to tone down the level of effort that you put into each swing off the tee. When you were playing with a driver shaft that was too stiff for your swing, you probably swung extra-hard in an effort to make that club work properly. Now that you have the right shaft in your driver, that extra effort is not going to be necessary. In fact, it will be counterproductive. You are going to need to get used to the fact that a controlled, smooth golf swing is almost certainly going to lead to better results than the aggressive move you had been using previously.

Once you’ve gotten your swing under control, the next step is to get comfortable with your new ball flight. No matter what kind of ball flight you were producing with your previous driver shaft, you had certainly gotten used to that flight and were playing to it, at least to a certain degree. For instance, if you were hitting low drives that faded to the right as they flew, you probably started aiming left to accommodate that flight. That might not be necessary any longer, though, so you’ll need to reassess the situation and adapt quickly. Watch the ball flight you are producing on the driving range with your new shaft and alter the way you aim on the course accordingly. Believe it or not, changing the way you aim is likely to be one of the most difficult parts of the process, since it will be difficult to look down the fairway and believe that your aim is going to be justified by your ball flight. This is one of those things that just gets better with time. As the rounds add up, you’ll become more and more comfortable with the ball flight you can expect from this softer shaft.

Finally, the last thing we want to mention in this section is the fact that your overall driving distance will likely have changed as well. You should be hitting the ball further with your softer shaft, assuming it is indeed a good fit for your swing. Picking up yardage off the tee is great news, of course, but only if you know how to use it effectively. Pay careful attention to how far your drives are now travelling, both in terms of carry distance and overall distance. You’ll need this information so you can pick the right lines off the tee, especially on dogleg holes. Unfortunately, you aren’t going to be able to learn much about your driving distance on the range, since range balls don’t accurately represent what happens with a real golf ball on the course. To figure out how far your new driver is going to send the ball down the fairway, get out on the course and start to put some rounds under your belt with this softer shaft.

Analyzing the Rest of Your Set

Analyzing the Rest of Your Set

Once the shaft situation in your driver is sorted out, it would only make sense to turn your attention to the rest of your set. Each of your clubs has a shaft, of course, and they all matter. However, some of them are more important than others, so you may not need to address each of your 14 clubs. For instance, the putter shaft is basically irrelevant, since you aren’t going to be swinging hard enough to force it into action. Similarly, the shafts in your wedges aren’t a big deal either, as long as they feel good from a weight perspective.

It’s the fairway woods/hybrids in your bag, as well as your set of irons, that should also get attention with regard to picking the right shafts. Most likely, you’ll have the same type of shaft in your entire iron set to maintain as much continuity as possible. Likewise, using shafts in your fairway woods and hybrids which are similar to your driver shaft is a good idea. Using too stiff a shaft in these other clubs can be just as troublesome as it is with the driver, so consider going for a club fitting for your full set so you can track down equipment that will help you play at a higher level.

Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that using an extra-stiff shaft in your driver makes you any more of a golfer than anyone else. Sure, you should go ahead and use such a shaft if your swing actually calls for it, but that is not the case for most amateur golfers. Your best bet is to work with a local club fitter, so you can optimize your equipment and then return the focus to improving your physical skills and mental approach to the game. Good luck!