Shaft type is one of the aspects that create variation in similar clubs. You can get drivers that are uniform in everything except their shafts. Usually, driver shaft types include high flex, regular flex, stiff, and extra stiff. But the most common comparison is between regular and high flex shafts followed by stiff vs. regular flex drivers.
The main difference between stiff and regular flex drivers: stiff drivers have a stiff shaft that promotes precise and controlled shots, while regular flex drivers have a slightly flexible driver that promotes high ball flight and long-distance shots for those with an average swing speed.
Understanding these terms can help you identify what are the best drivers for beginners or seasoned golfers.
The table below compares these shafts at a glance, after which you can read more about how these drivers differ across each aspect:
Honest Golfers Rule of Thumb: Generally speaking, the flex of a driver’s shaft equals speed. The higher the flex, the farther you can drive a ball without as much swing speed.
So, for golfers with medium swing speed, regular flex drivers are better for a high driving distance. For those with a slower-than-average swing speed, high-flex drives can be great.
While regular flex drivers are precise enough for most driving requirements, stiff shaft drivers are better at controlled and accurate shots.
Generally, swing speed overcomes potential for inaccuracies.
Since driving doesn’t require as much accuracy as putting, regular flex shafts are good enough for most golfers. However, golfers who swing at high speed can slice the ball regularly.
A stiffer shaft introduces accuracy to high-speed swings and does not compromise the precision of a medium-speed swing. Low-speed swings work with stiff shaft clubs as well, but they don’t go very far.
Since drivers are used for long-distance shots instead of super precise ones, regular flex shafts are considered to be better suited for average drivers.
If you want a club with more forgiveness, you should know your swing because different types of shaft flexes can offset different things in a swing. A flex shaft will offset low swing speed, while a stiff shaft will neutralize speed-driven inaccuracies in the ball’s trajectory.
You won’t see hard slices as often with a stiff shaft. Since driving requires speed-related forgiveness, a regular flex shaft can be considered superior to a stiff one in this aspect.
Shaft flex and swing forgiveness being directly proportional indicates that stiff shaft drivers are better suited for experts. But not all pros use stiff shaft drivers, though. It is just that more beginners use regular flex drivers than stiff ones. And that has more to do with swing speed.
Online resources often suggest that one shouldn’t get a stiff club if one makes bogeys often. However, you might make bogeys because your swing speed leads to unintentional slices and hooks.
If you feel like you swing the club with enough force yet fail to launch it in the intended direction, getting a stiff driver might be the solution, regardless of your skill level.
The price of a golf club doesn’t vary by much based on a shaft’s flex. Because no flex is cheaper to make, stiff and regular flex drivers can be found at similar price points in the low, medium, and high-end markets. That said, you should not make price the deciding factor between club shafts.
A shaft’s flex has such an impact on your game that picking it over a price difference is not advisable. Even if the shaft that’s wrong for you is the more expensive option, you should prefer it over a cheaper, unfit shaft.
Whenever you’re in doubt regarding the shaft compatibility of a driver, you should pick the regular flex club. Eight out of ten times, you’ll be right.
Honest Stat: Over 80% of golfers use a regular flex driver, making it superior in adoption as well as in adaptation.
Still, you must not assume its compatibility because of its high adoption rates.
Most golfers who use regular flex drivers do so because regular flex shafts are the default option. It’s quite possible that 30% to 40% of those who use a regular flex driver might be better off with a high flex driver.
Stiff shaft drivers have a higher swing accuracy burden as well as a swing force burden, making them counterproductive for beginners. Regular Flex drivers are regular drivers, so they are designed to work with an average swing force and style.
If you naturally swing with might, then you might find flexible shafts more burdensome because they require you to lower the power you put behind your strokes.
Driver Selection: How To Figure Out Your Flex?
If you plan to check a driver’s flex, you can place one end underweight and can flick the other to see how much it bends. Often, releasing and counting the oscillations can help figure out the exact flex rating of a driver.
Checking a driver shaft’s flexibility isn’t really necessary because store clerks in physical shops and product descriptions in online ones can identify it. What’s much more important is being able to assess which flex will work for you. Here are five key ways to identify which driver shaft flex can improve your game.
Reflect On Your Experience
While regular flex doesn’t always sit well with beginners, it does often enough that new golfers with driving issues should give it a try. Even if the driver isn’t optimal for your swing, it is not going to be antithetical to it. A stiff driver will require a lot more force, which you might not be used to putting behind your drives.
Check Your Swing Force
The second most important aspect to consider is how hard you swing. If you’re fairly athletic and put a lot of force into your golf swings, then a stiff shaft driver will work better for you.
It will keep you from shooting balls into the water. Moreover, it can keep you from losing control of the ball’s trajectory. Force can emphasize and exaggerate mistakes in the point of impact as well as the swing direction. Stiffer shafts can prevent this to an extent.
If the ball has low flight, then your driver’s shaft might be too stiff. When you drive low-flight balls with a regular flex driver, you should level up to a high flex driver. And if you get a lowball flight with a stiff driver, get a regular flex one.
Ultimately, you must step down one level in shaft stiffness to pump up the ball’s flight path. On the other hand, the ball will have an exaggerated draw if the flex is too high.
This happens very rarely with a regular flex shaft, but it isn’t unheard of. It’s more often the ball flight trajectory that gives away the swing-flex incompatibility. If you swing with a lot of force, then the ball might fly higher than you would expect.
The Ball Reaches
Another key characteristic of poor flex-swing compatibility is the ball’s reach. Stiff shaft drivers in the hands of those who shouldn’t use them lead to short-distance drives. And regular flex drivers, in the hands of those who should be using stiffer ones, tend to overshoot the intended mark. Stiff shaft drivers are also more exhausting to drive further.
Driver Buying Guide: How To Select Your Driver?
Now that you understand the value of stiff and flexible shafts in a driver, it is time to put this knowledge into an organized buying guide. This section covers the questions you should ask yourself before buying a driver, including some regarding the shaft.
How Different Is Your Drive?
If you feel like your driving swing, angle, and framing aren’t unusual, then you can afford to be relaxed with your purchasing criteria. After all, the drive is the least precision-demanding of all shots in golf.
But if you rack up a bulk of your score when driving or have a unique swing or alignment, or shot frame, then you need an adjustable driver. While these drivers are expensive, they help you alter your driver’s loft and face angle, among other things. These aspects can improve your drives’ flight.
Are You A Frequent Slicer?
This is a question you can disregard if you’ve already chosen to go the non-adjustable route. But if you are open to adjustable drivers, then you might want to consider anti-slice drivers. These come with face adjustability that can account for your natural slice with a pro-draw position.
How Good Are You At Driving?
If you have pro-tier accuracy, then you might want to get a “tour preferred” driver. These are usually stiff and are designed for precise and strong hits. Over 80% of golfers are better off with a standard driver, though.
This is the final driver-type question and indicates how shaft stiffness matters less than a club’s face and loft adjustability. It has value but not enough to be the make-or-break factor in driver choice. Most buyers get a regular flex shaft and do not regret their purchase.
Do You Want To Get Fitted For Your Driver?
Once the driver-type questions are out of your way, the next thing to consider is whether you want a custom-fit driver. Custom fitting ensures that the driver you get works for your height, swing force, and style. In many ways, custom fitting can answer many of the previous questions for you.
Keep in mind, though, that getting fitted for a driver is expensive. And so is getting a driver that fits the measurements produced by the fitting. That brings you to the final question.
How Much Can You Spend On Your Driver?
Price shouldn’t be the main criterion for driver selection. However, you cannot disregard it entirely…
Custom fitting, as well as high-end drivers, can be too expensive to be worth it for the average golfer. Again, that’s because a drive that’s in the general direction of a hole is usually good enough.
But some people face challenges when driving.
If poor ball flight is causing you to lose rounds consistently, and the cost of having a cheap driver seems to sour the taste of your expensive club membership, you should choose a better driver even if it costs more.
Final Thoughts: Stiff vs. Regular Flex Drivers
A regular flex driver is the average driver you get. It has a slightly flexible shaft which helps launch the ball higher and at a faster pace for the average golfer.
Those with forceful swings might lose control of the ball’s trajectory, so they might need drivers with stiffer shafts.
But around 80% of casual golfers don’t need special shafts for a decent driving performance. If there’s something that can make a noticeable impact on your drives, it is the club’s adjustability.