Every golfer, no matter what their level of skill and experience, will have wondered at some point about just how stiff their golf club’s shaft is, really. It might seem like a trivial question to ask, but the stiffness – or flex – of a golf shaft will affect various aspects of a player’s game. In a sport that can be as closely competitive as golf, every little possible advantage has to be looked at closely.
The importance of a club shaft’s stiffness is undeniable, especially in the case of drivers and irons, which see quite a bit more power exerted through them. The shaft flex will affect what the swing and impact sensations you experience will be, in addition to determining the particular launch and spin effects possible. It can make or break a close game.
Let’s fix our gaze straight down the middle as we prepare to examine a short list of the things to know about shaft flex.
Shaft Flex Metrics
There might not be a simple way to describe or outline shaft flex, but as golf isn’t a simple game, we couldn’t expect anything less. Taken as a whole, shaft flex is represented on a scale known as the EI scale. This scale comprises three differing metrics, as it indicates the average of a shaft’s tip stiffness, butt stiffness, and, well, stiffness (just bear with me here). The average of the stiffness of the different regions is combined to give the overall flex rating of a shaft. Take a look at the measurements that go into determining EI profiles.
This measurement is taken by means of what’s known as a shaft deflection board. The process involves placing the butt of a club into a clamp and then hanging a weight on the free-hanging tip. The tip will be up against the shaft deflection board, and according to how far down the tip dips, you will be able to read out the static flex rating for your club’s shaft.
Also referred to as retro flex, this measurement gives us the average stiffness as you move closer to the shaft’s front end. The way this is measured is through the use of the shaft deflection board just as in static flex measurement, with the difference being that the clamp is placed on the head of the club and the weight on the butt-end. The more ‘bendy’ the tip, the greater the spin rate and launch angle you can get from the club.
To get a more dynamic measurement – one that would allow for something closer to playing conditions – we rely on what we term the frequency of a shaft. To get the frequency of a shaft, you will clamp it on the butt-end and place a weight on the tip, just as you would when taking a static flex measurement. Next, you will pull the weighted end downwards and release it, causing it to oscillate to and for. Making use of a specialized instrument called a frequency analyzer, you will be able to get a reading of the shaft’s exact frequency. In general terms, the faster the oscillation or frequency indicated, the greater the shaft’s stiffness.
It’s important to mention here that shaft flex ratings follow a quite simple template known as LARSX. Going from the softest to the stiffest, the ratings read as follows; Ladies, Amateur, Regular, Stiff, X-Stiff. Remember that shaft stiffness can provide you with that little extra edge that will put you ahead of your closest competition. Set up a shaft-fitting session if you have the opportunity and explore what might turn out to be a turning point in your golf game.