How to Choose a New Shaft for Your Golf Clubs

ROCHESTER, NY - AUGUST 16: David Hearn of Canada examines the shaft of his driver during the third round of the Xerox Classic at the Irondequoit Country Club held on August 16, 2008 in Rochester, New York.
Michael Cohen/Getty Images

Sooner or later you will break one of your shafts, and I'm sure it will be purely accidental! When this happens you have two choices. The first is to take your broken club to a clubmaker for repairs. The second is to replace the shaft yourself. Or you might decide that you want new shafts in your golf clubs as a performance upgrade. Either way, there are a few things you should know about choosing a new shaft.

The first thing to decide is whether you require a steel or a graphite shaft. Then you need to decide on shaft flex and what bend point (or kickpoint) is required. You'll need to choose the right torque rating for the shaft, and finally, determine what length the club should be when it is finished.

All these things are important and must be decided before you order and install a shaft. I will discuss each point individually, which should help you decide what shaft to buy or to make sure the shaft someone else recommends is the right one for you.

Shaft Type

There are two basic types of shafts, steel and graphite. The choice is usually quite simple because your club will have been originally assembled with either of these types of shafts. However, if you decide to change the type of shaft, you should know a few things about each.

1. Steel shafts are heavier, their torque ratings are low, and when assembled at the same length as graphite they will result in a club that has a heavier feel.

Steel is more durable and does not have painted surfaces to scratch.

2. Graphite shafts are lighter, and their torque ratings have a more extensive range, providing more choices for the golfer.

• HOW TO CHOOSE: The easiest way is to just replace the broken shaft with the same type. However, you may want to experiment a little.

Maybe you find the shafts in your clubs too stiff or too weak. If you hit a 7-iron about 150 yards, then a Regular Flex shaft would be recommended. Choose a shaft with a Swing Speed Rating of 70 to 80 mph in graphite or steel. If you use a 5-iron from 150 yards, you would want to use a shaft with a Swing Speed Rating of about 60 to 70 mph. Most component companies list the Swing Speed Rating of every shaft in their catalogues.

Shaft Flex and Bend Point

Every shaft has a Flex Rating (usually L, R, S, XS) and a bend point (Low, Mid and High). (Bend point, by the way, is also called kickpoint.) The unfortunate thing is that there is no industry standard for shaft flex - one manufacturer's Regular Flex shaft may be firmer or weaker than another manufacturer's. These differences will produce shafts that, even though they have the same Flex Rating, will play differently.

One difference will be in Swing Speed Ratings. One 'R' flex shaft might be rated for 65 to 75 mph while another is rated for 75-85 mph. Bend point influences the ball's trajectory so the golfer has to decide what type of ball flight he wants.

• HOW TO CHOOSE: My experience as a club builder is that most golfers play with clubs that are too stiff.

As noted above, you should determine what your swing speed is and choose your new shaft flex accordingly. (Note: The effect of torque on shaft flex is discussed on the following page.)

If you find your ball flight is too low or too high, then choosing a shaft with the right bend point can help. If you want to hit the ball on a lower trajectory, choose a bend point of High. For a higher trajectory, choose a bend point of Low. For something in between, go with Mid rating for bend point.

Torque

Every shaft has a Torque Rating, which describes the amount the shaft will twist during the swing. It is the torque that determines how the shaft feels. Example: An "R" flex shaft with a low torque will feel stiffer than an "R" flex shaft with a high torque.

• HOW TO CHOOSE: The Torque Rating of any shaft will change the Swing Speed Rating and feel of the shaft.

A Regular Flex shaft with a Torque Rating of 5 degrees will have a Swing Speed Rating lower than a Regular Flex shaft with a Torque of 3 degrees. The higher torque shaft will also have a softer feel. You have to decide what you need - for example, I swing my irons at about 80 to 85 mph, so my shafts are Regular Flex with a low torque (approximately 2.5 degrees). I chose this type of shaft because I prefer a stiff feel in my irons. If I preferred a softer feel, I would have used a Stiff Flex with a high Torque of about 5 or 6 degrees.

Shaft Length

Once the shaft is installed, you must then determine the proper length. This is just as important as flex, torque or anything else to do with the shaft.

HOW TO DETERMINE LENGTH: To determine the length of your club, stand at attention and have someone measure from the crease where your wrist and hand meet to the floor. Do this with both hands and take an average.

If you measure:

• 29 to 32 inches, your irons should be based on a 5-iron of 37 inches
• 33-34 inches, your irons should be based on a 5-iron of 37 1/2 inches
• 35-36 inches, your irons should be based on a 5-iron of 38 inches
• 37-38 inches, your irons should be based on a 5-iron of 38 1/2 inches
• 39-40 inches, your irons should be based on a 5-iron of 39 inches
• 41 or more inches, your irons should be based on a 5-iron of 39 1/2 inches

I hope the above will help in choosing your next shaft replacement or help in choosing your next set of new clubs. I suggest that you see a reputable clubfitter to help you make the right decision.

You can then purchase and install your own shafts or have a professional do it for you.

About the Author

Dennis Mack is a certified Class A Clubmaker who served as the golf pro at Como Golf Club in Hudson, Quebec, from 1993-97, and has been in the retail golf business since 1997.