Stiff vs Extra Stiff Iron Shafts: The Pros/Cons of Each

According to True Spec Golf, players with fast swing speeds are built to swing clubs with a stiff flex shaft. A golfer producing a slower swing speed should consider a senior or ladies’ design; when the average swingers perform the best with a regular flex shaft.

In this post, I assess stiff vs extra stiff iron shafts. I’ll evaluate the pros and cons of each design to see which construction suits your game.

In addition, I have provided a rundown of the performance features of each shaft. This helps you determine which option is better aligned with your desired launch, spin, and distance goals.

 

A Quick Overview of Iron Shaft Stiffness and Why They Matter

Shaft flex plays a role in the outcome of every strike. The right shaft flex is essential in achieving your desired launch, shot shape, distance and spin.

If you are a slower swinger and play with extra stiff shafts you may be struggling to generate the required clubhead speed for an enhanced coefficient of restitution (COR). As a result, you do not produce the necessary ball speed to achieve a high launching, long shot. Therefore, your golf ball flies low, and you lose distance.

In addition to the distance loss, a stiff design challenges your accuracy. A stiff flex shaft raises the challenge of squaring your face up through impact. The stiffer, heavier shaft delivers less torque. Therefore, it produces less whip from the club on your downswing to bring it into position.

Because of this, the average golfer tends to leave the club face open through contact and slice their ball. That means your dispersion will reflect shots consistently to the right of your target.

 

Pros of Stiff Shafts

Low Spin

The first advantage that a stiff shaft produces is low spin. This is ideal for longer iron shots, as it delivers a piercing flight to encourage maximum distance.

The stiffer a golf club shaft is, the less spring it provides the clubface through impact. This causes you to strike the ball with less loft, leading to a lower launch with less spin. Therefore, you enjoy increased forward roll upon landing for added distance in your long game.

Low Launch

I mentioned that a stiff shaft produces lower spin thanks to a sturdy lofted club face at contact. That causes a low launch and reduces the apex of your ball flight, which is welcomed in windy conditions.

In addition, the low launching nature of these shots prevents faster swinging golfers from ballooning their shots. This ensures increased control on approach shots for optimal distance control through the bag.

When fast swinging golfers play a lighter shaft, the added spin and high launch cause them to lose, carry, and total distance.

Built For Fast Swing Speeds

Stiff shafts are best suited to golfers with fast swing speeds. Golfers fitting into this category typically swing a 6-iron between 84 to 91 mph. Stiff iron shafts help fast-swinging golfers produce their desired launch, ball speed, and spin levels for satisfactory results.

Low handicap players typically fall into this category. While the rest of the amateur golf fraternity produces slow or average swing speeds.

 

Cons of Stiff Shafts

Reduced Spin

The reduced spin is a blessing for fast swing speed golfers seeking a consistent launch for optimal distance control. But, the situation is different for slower swinging amateurs.

The lack of spin causes the ball to fly low, and if you do not produce sufficient ball speed, it will hit the ground sooner than intended and lead to a loss of distance. Although spin is the enemy in the wind and hampers your yardage, you need some to get off the ball airborne.

Furthermore, the lack of spin can cause your ball to roll off the green on approach. As a result, you will need a precise short game to consistently get up and down.

Loss of Carry Distance

A stiffer shaft construction restricts the bend of the clubhead into the ball at impact. Therefore, your clubface strikes the ball with a sturdy lofted face and sends your golf ball along a low trajectory.

Failure to generate sufficient ball velocity will cause the ionomer to drop out of the sky sooner than planned, causing a loss of carry distance. This messes with your distance control and is dangerous when trying to clear a water hazard or a bunker.

Sliced Shots

If your grip, wrist angles, and angle of attack are on point, but you still slice your shots, your club shafts may be at fault. Stiffer golf shafts provide little assistance on your downswing. As a result, your rotation, rhythm, and tempo must be on point for a clean strike.

Failure to execute a clean transition from the backswing to the downswing can leave your clubface open at impact. This position generates left to right sidespin, which causes a slice. In this scenario, you might consider switching to a regular shaft.

 

Pros of Extra Stiff Shafts

Lowest Spin

I touched on the beauty of low spin in my review on stiff shafts. However, an extra-stiff design takes it to the next level. You will not find a shaft that produces less spin rpm than an extra-stiff construction.

Golfers who generate excess spin with a stiff shaft should contemplate an extra-stiff setup. This may help limit spin for a more controlled ball flight.

Lowest Launch

The result of the lowest spinning shaft is the lowest launching shot. This suits golfers looking for piercing flight to achieve consistency in their distance and accuracy. Plus, it prevents very fast swingers from ballooning their shots and losing yards.

Built For Super Fast Swing Speeds

Extra stiff shafts are reserved for the fastest swingers in our game. These are golfers producing more than 92 mph of velocity on the downswing. An aspiring professional and PGA Tour Pros are the most likely golfers to fill this bracket.

I suggest that these individuals test steel iron shafts and see how they go. If you launch your shots too low, think about a graphite shaft with the same flex.

 

Cons of Extra Stiff Shafts

Limited Spin

Extra stiff shafts provided limited spin assistance. This means you are required to do all the work, and failure to generate sufficient spin will lead to a low-flying golf shot. This reduces your carry distance and, at times, causes the ball to roll further than intended.

Erratic Dispersion

When your shaft is too stiff for your swing, it leads to erratic dispersion. The lack of clubface spring through impact makes it difficult to square the grooves up through contact. This results in a wayward shot caused by an open clubface that prompts shots to the right of your target.

 

How to Determine Which Type of Iron Shafts Better Suit You

Swing Speed

Swing speed provides a guideline for golfers who have no idea how to find the best iron shaft constructions for their game. Those who swing a 6-iron between 75 and 83 mph have an average swing speed. Therefore, regular flex designs are considered best for your game.

Moreover, a 6-iron swing speed below 75 mph is set up for a seniors shaft. A ladies’ shaft is also worth testing if that is still too stiff for your game.

Launch

The next factor to analyze is launch. Are you producing your desired launch and ball flight to maximize distance control and accuracy in your iron game? If you are launching the ball consistently low, your shaft may be too stiff for your swing. Therefore, you need to consider a more flexible design.

Conversely, players who frequently balloon their shots may opt for a stiffer flex that takes out an additional clubface spring through impact.

Spin

Spin is necessary to get your ball airborne and landing softly on the green. However, excessive spin can cause you to sky your shot and lose considerable carry distance. Conversely, inadequate spin can send your ball flying low and hitting the ground earlier than intended.

Ultimately think about a lighter and more flexible shaft if you demand a higher launching shot. However, lower ball flight seekers should stick to stiffer shaft constructions.

Dispersion

Several factors can prompt an erratic shot wide of your target. This starts with a bad grip, followed by a lack of rotation, then by a wrong angle of attack. These factors produce an open or closed clubface sending the ball left or right of the landing zone.

If your coach is satisfied that your swing mechanics are optimized and your grip is secure, your shafts may prove the issue. Typically, extra stiff shafts cause slower swinging golfers to leave their clubface open at impact, causing a slice.

On the other hand, a light, flexible golf shaft can prompt a player to close its clubface through contact and hook their ball.

Therefore, if you are consistently slicing your shots and have your swing and grip in order, contemplate a more flexible shaft. Conversely, golfers frequently hooking their shots should consider a stiff shaft design.

 

Related Reading: If this post made you realize you need to switch out your golf shafts , read our post on how much it costs to reshaft irons. The process is far more straightforward than you may think.

 

Matt Stevens

Matt Callcott-Stevens started playing golf at the age of 4 when Rory Sabattini's father put a 7-iron and putter in his hand. He has experienced all the highs and lows the game can throw at you and has now settled down as a professional golf writer. He holds a Postgraduate in Sports Marketing and has played golf for 28 years.