Golf Equipment: Club shaft flex, L isn’t your only option

When it comes to golf equipment there’s nothing more fundamental to the game than a club but for many women there is no more misunderstood piece of golf equipment.

Let’s start with a basic premise: not all golf clubs are equal. The ones propped up in the back corner of the garage that your husband or boyfriend or brother discarded a couple of years ago probably aren’t going to work for you. No matter how well they once performed for their former owner, resist temptation. Don’t put them in your bag.

Why? You need clubs that are suited to your body, which is in all likelihood shorter and lighter and less bulky than the one belonging to the guy who discarded those clubs. The odds are good that you need a club with a shorter, more flexible shaft.

But why guess about what kind of shaft is best suited to your body, your strength level, and your swing speed? When you’re buying a car, you don’t make your selection without test-driving a few different models. Before you buy a pair of shoes you try them on and walk around the store, then make your selection based on at least three factors: comfort, appearance, and purpose (for yoga vs dancing, for example). So why wouldn’t you test drive a golf club before you bought it?

Shaft Flex

Why is flex important? In the simplest terms, the shaft of your golf clubs is like the engine in your car. It makes the ball go, and you’ll get much better performance from your golf ball with a shaft that fits your game. With a shaft that’s too stiff you won’t get as much distance or loft as you would with a more flexible shaft.

On the other hand, if you’re a woman with a brisk swing, you may want to consider experimenting with less flexible shafts. Too much flex isn’t good either. It results in an inconsistent release point, too much spin, and an erratic flight path.

How do you know how much flex you need in your club shafts to maximize distance? The quick answer is swing speed. The faster you swing your club, the less flex you need. And how does one determine one’s swing speed? With one of those little meters you find at stores that sell golf clubs. You’re going to have to go golf club shopping!

If you feel shy about asking the salesperson at Dick’s (or wherever you’re shopping) to hook up his meter and get a fix on your swing speed, then estimate how far you typically hit your tee shot. Don’t exaggerate! This is not an estimate of how far you WISH you could hit your tee shot.

Like shoe sizes, golf shafts come in standardized flex: X (for the pros), S (for golfers who routinely drive the ball in the 250 yard range), A (commonly described as a “senior shaft,” but suited to golfers who drive the ball in the 200-225 range), and L (the softest flex available, designed for golfers who generally don’t hit beyond 200 yards off the tee).

Now, take a close look at the shaft of your driver. You’ll find an X, an S, an A, or an L on it. Does the letter match up with your driving distance?  Do you feel like you’re putting more energy into your tee shot than you’re getting in output/distance?

If you’ve been playing with a standard women’s L shaft but your swing has been getting stronger and your game has been improving, you might want to consider experimenting with an A-flex shaft. Don’t listen when the salesperson tries to tell you that this one is designed for senior men.

This isn’t really a gender/age thing at all. It’s a swing speed thing, plain and simple. Take a few swings with the model. Hit some balls into the net. Get comfortable with it. Have the salesperson hook up his meter and measure your swing speed. Then shift back to an L-shaft and repeat the procedure. (Just pretend that you’re buying a pair of shoes.)


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How do you select golf clubs? Have you ever been fitted for clubs? What was your experience? Let’s hear about your golf club concerns and questions in the comments section.