Why lower swing speeds might actually need a heavier shaft
I’m a big believer in using data to help my golf game, especially when it comes to the equipment I play. Time has robbed me of about 10 miles per hour of clubhead speed, putting me in the 95 miles-per-hour range. You would think I would benefit from a lightweight shaft to get some of that speed back. I tried that, with disastrous results. Normally a fairly reliable driver of the ball, I had a two-way miss going.
My next fitting was enlightening. I’m low launch, high spin—the worst of both worlds, the result of growing up with a caddie yard swing that worked great with persimmon driver and balata balls, but not so much with modern tech. The recommendation: a 10-degree driver with a heavy, x-flex shaft.
In relatively short order, I was striping it. The thought of going left never crossed my mind and my clubhead speed actually crept up as I gained more confidence.
The process reminded me of a conversation I had a few years ago with Liam Mucklow, a Canadian-based instructor and founder of The Golf Lab. Mucklow is a data animal. He’s discovered through testing something that might be worthy of an episode of “MythBusters”: A lighter driver shaft doesn’t always lead to a faster swing.
“Our research shows only 12 percent of golfers swing their fastest with the lightest club,” Mucklow says. “When the club gets too light, the swing loses efficiency.”
According to Mucklow, too light of a clubhead results in swing mechanics going haywire, resulting in the casting of the club, a poor swing path and a loss of mechanical advantage.
“Efficient golfers hit with their body and get their body weight into it,” Mucklow says. “Going to a heavier club makes that easier for most golfers. If you can imagine swinging a sledgehammer or an axe, those things are so heavy. It’s almost impossible to swing them incorrectly.”
To find the proper shaft weight for you, Mucklow suggests testing four different weights, 45, 55, 65 and 75 grams and see which produces the highest ball speed. He also offered three additional data-driven insights that should add up to lower scores.
Too light of a shaft encourages an early release of the hands. Going to a heavier driver shaft can help prevent casting the club on the downswing. Mucklow’s data also reveals a heavier club has the added benefit of promoting an in-to-out swing path—almost a full degree for every additional 10 grams of weight. The majority of everyday golfers swing outside-in, making this useful.
Mucklow’s data on impact location for everyday golfers shows high-handicappers have almost as consistent a swing path as tour players. While not as technically sound as a tour pro, it’s as consistent. The key is to move those off-center strikes to center hits. Start out by shortening your swing. Mucklow says the goal for players should be to hit 14 tee shots and have every strike point be within a half-inch of the center of the face.
So how much of a speed gain are we talking about? Mucklow’s research shows finding the proper weight shaft can boost swing speed by 1 to 1.5 miles per hour—that equates to a gain of two to four yards on a tee shot. “Less than five percent of golfers are optimized,” says Mucklow. “That means we can’t find them any more speed or a better launch angle. The other 95 percent can get faster.”