Golf shafts are categorized based on the amount of flex, which measures how much they bend during the course of a golf swing. The stiffest shafts are labeled extra stiff. Stiff shafts have slightly more flexibility, followed by regular, senior and ladies shafts. The more the shaft bends, the farther the ball generally goes. However, that added flex comes at a cost -- it makes it more difficult to control the ball and shape shots.
Stiffness Helps Accuracy
To some extent, the choice between stiff and regular golf shafts comes down to distance vs. accuracy. Stiffer shafts transfer less energy to the ball at impact. Because they're harder to flex, they don't bend as much and stay straight through impact, even with a high swing speed. This keeps the ball heading towards the hole. Those with fast swing speeds, however, still have enough oomph to send the ball a long way down the fairway and can better afford to sacrifice the extra distance they'd get from a more flexible shaft.
Regular Shafts Generate Distance
Regular flex shafts promote greater speed. This helps those with slightly slower swings generate distance off the tee. They also make it easier to square the club, and because they don't bend as much as senior or ladies shafts, there’s still a good deal of control. However, because of the extra flex, if a golfer over swings to generate extra distance, the flex of these clubs can lead to sprayed shots that wind up in the rough or hazards rather than the fairway.
Picking Your Clubs
Watch how your shots fly on the course to determine what type of shaft you need. Golf legend Greg Norman notes that if your drives are flying to the right, it’s a sign that the shaft you’re using is too tight for you to square up the club effectively. However, it also could be a sign that you have a swing flaw that, if corrected, might change your needs. Getting your swing examined by a local golf pro allows her to see what your weaknesses are, and at that point she can recommend the shafts that best suit your game. Test them out at a pro shop or driving range before committing.