Regular v Stiff v X-Stiff Shaft Test

What difference does the flex of shaft really make to driver performance?

Regular v Stiff v X-Stiff Shaft Test

Regular v Stiff v X-Stiff Shaft Test - Neil Tappin tests three different flexes of stock shaft for the TaylorMade M6 driver to see what difference it makes

Regular v Stiff v X-Stiff Shaft Test

The shaft is often described as the engine of the golf club. Get that right and the rest of the club make up will naturally fall into line. But in reality, how important is the shaft, specifically the flex and what effect do different flexes have on performance?

This is something we wanted to find out – I have always been a believer that the clubhead set-up plays more of a part as it is making contact with the ball, although clearly the shaft has a role in determining how it gets there. My preconceptions would be the same as many other golfers - notably, that the softer the shaft, the higher the ball flies, the more it spins and the more to the left it misses for the faster swinger.

Conversely, a shaft that is too firm for me will fly too low and miss right. In a recent experiment, I tested the TaylorMade M6 driver with 9° of loft in three different stock options – the Mitsubishi Tensei Orange in regular, the Fujikura Atmos in stiff and the Project X HZRDUS Smoke in x-stiff. Interestingly, with my swing speed hovering around the 110 mark the difference in performance was very small indeed.

The video above offers a detailed analysis of this but in short, HZRDUS Smoke spun just under 100rpm less than the regular Tensei Orange. It did give me a lower launch and flight but the differences were definitely not as big as I was expecting!

A lower swing speed tester did see bigger differences in the numbers, but the dispersion shocked us – the x-stiff HZRDUS Smoke actually missed more to the left. This flies against the theory that a club with a softer shaft is easier to square up through impact and should ultimately go more to the left than a stiffer shaft.

In summary, the influence of the shaft isn’t as prominent as you might think. The quality of shaft on offer as stock options in today’s drivers has improved immeasurably, and it’s a contributing factor to the extra performance we see, as well as the increasing prices. With minimal differences experienced across the board, getting the right shaft, it seems, is part of the fine-tuning process.

Perhaps more importantly, this experience has taught me never to go into a fitting with any preconceptions about which shaft might be right. With every golfer delivering the club to the ball in a slightly different way, it is hard to tell which is right before you hit them and see the results!

Neil Tappin

In July 2023, Neil became just the 9th editor in Golf Monthly's 112-year history. Originally working with the best coaches in the UK to produce instruction content, he has also presented many Golf Monthly videos looking at all areas of the game from Tour player interviews to the rules of golf. 

Throughout his time with the brand he has also covered equipment launches that date back well over a decade. He clearly remembers the launch of the Callaway and Nike square drivers as well as the white TaylorMade driver families, such as the RocketBallz! If you take a look at the Golf Monthly YouTube channel, you'll see his equipment videos dating back over a decade! He has also conducted 'What's In The Bag' interviews with many of the game's best players like Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson and Jon Rahm. Over the years, Neil has tested a vast array of products in each category and at drastically different price-points. 

Neil is currently playing: Driver: TaylorMade Stealth Plus Fairway Wood: Titleist TSR2 Hybrid: Titleist TS3 Irons: PING Blueprint S (4&5), PING Blueprint T (6-PW) Wedges: Titleist Vokey SM7 50˚, 54˚, 60˚ Putter: Odyssey Triple Track Ten Ball: Titleist Pro V1X