The “New” SuperLite Shaft Trend – Who’s it For?

Posted by on Oct 14, 2011 in Shaft Fitting | 25 comments

One of the advantages to getting “longer in the tooth” in any area of interest is it gives you the opportunity to separate the “been there done that” from the things that truly are new and different.  One of the latest “rages” in the golf equipment industry is the current trend among some of the companies to offer “superlite” drivers – drivers made with a graphite shaft that weighs less than 50 grams to allow the total weight of the driver to be less than 300 grams (@10.5 oz).

The marketing concept behind these very light weight drivers is simple – the lighter weight driver can be swung with the same effort to achieve a higher swing speed, from which comes more distance.   This concept of go lighter to swing faster is definitely not a new direction in club design.  Veteran clubmakers may remember the short lived fad started by the Dave Pelz Featherlite clubs of the 1980s with their B-8 to C-O swingweights, as well as the mid-90s era of superlight weight drivers whose sub-300 gram total weight was made possible through the design of light graphite shafts with a huge butt diameter that required a very light weight grip.

Today’s trip down superlite memory lane is fueled by the design of graphite shafts which weigh less than 50 grams yet can still be made with a flex and bend profile to meet the needs of the most powerful swingers in the game.

To give credit where credit is due, it is a remarkable step forward in graphite shaft design to be able to make a 45 gram shaft with a flex and bend profile design that could fit a golfer with a 110mph clubhead speed and aggressive swing characteristics.   Shaft makers have achieved this by using expensive high modulus composite materials in a thin wall shaft construction.   Up until a few years ago, a 50 gram graphite shaft was chiefly for easy swinging golfers with swing speeds under 90mph.

But now that we do have access to superlight weight shafts in any variety of stiffness design, the question that has to be answered is “who are these shafts and resulting super light weight drivers for?”  if you buy into the big companies’ marketing, they’re for EVERY golfer.  But if you buy into the concept of professional clubfitting, determining what golfers are best matched into such a light weight design is a matter of probing the golfers’ strength, the force they apply when starting the downswing (transition force), and their downswing aggressiveness.

Typically, the stronger the golfer, the shorter the backswing and more forceful the transition, and the more aggressive the downswing, the heavier the shaft and total weight of the club should be to ensure the golfer can maintain a consistent, repeating swing tempo that allows the highest percentage of on center hits.

However, there is one “fudge factor” in this which will allow some golfers with stronger, more aggressive move at the ball to potentially use a very light weight shaft to gain clubhead speed while retaining their proper sense of swing tempo and timing – and that is by partnering the very light shaft with a higher than normal swingweight or more pronounced headweight feel in the club.   What you don’t want to do is give an aggressive swinging golfer a very light shaft with a low swingweight.

By cranking the swingweight higher than normal, this can offset the strong aggressive swinging golfer’s tendency to get too quick with their tempo when using a club with a very light weight shaft.

On the other hand, the biggest population that can gain from a sub-300 gram driver total weight are golfers of average to lower strength who swing more smoothly with a less aggressive downswing move at the ball.  But even with these golfers, you still have to experiment with the headweight to get to a point that each golfer can feel the presence of the head enough during the swing so as to maintain a consistent swing tempo.

Until next time, best wishes in this great game,



  1. I am 64 male of average strength. ultimately i know its more about the swing than equipment. i love the game but do not get to play much which leads to bad habits. hdcp is 18. my issue according to club pro is a way-to-long back swing that leads to inconsistent ball striking. but whenever i try to shorten my back swing, i feel like i am holding back, restricting or forcing things which leads to still inconsistent hits. i hit a cleveland 9degree Launcher with 50g fukikara stiff shaft….stock club. i am trying to figure out if its too heavy or too long or maybe just looking for tips when i do fitting that allows me to feel more fluid as i try to shorten my backswing. appreciate any thoughts

    • GEORGE:

      There is no question that the swing is most important for hitting the ball consistently well, but if the equipment is not matched to the swing characteristics, the swing and the clubs fight each other and even more inconsistency will result. Typically for a golfer trying to shorten the backswing, increasing the weight of the club being used to retrain the swing has been known to help a little bit. Having the club be very light such as to have a very light shaft and a normal to low swingweight make it far more difficult to shorten the swing. I would not recommend making a wholesale change of the whole set to be heavier but to take one club from some other set and install as heavy of a shaft as you can and then use lead tape to greatly increase the weight of the head – this club would be a training club from which you begin to work to get the rhythm and feel of shortening the backswing without fighting it. Then after MANY training swings and hits, you gradually go with a little lower weight in the shaft and the head as you keep training the swing length. It won’t be easy and it won’t happen fast. Or as a former swing instructor with a Ph.D in biomechanics once told me, “it takes 10,000 repetitions to re train the body into a different swing motion.”


    • thank you for quick response. it was not what i was expecting but i will try. at 64, the old dog and new trick thing is my biomechanics analogy. thanks again

  2. Tom, I am a 58 year old male with a 1-4 handicap depending on business and time spent on the range. A few years ago I switched iron shafts from KBS tour stiff shafts to steel fiber Stiff
    95 gram shafts with positive results once I got used to the feel…I kept the wedges a little heavier with 110 stiff steel fibers. I would like to start the process with the woods to lighten
    the shaft, especially the driver. My playing partner ( good playing PGA professional) recently
    started using the project x 39 gram driver shaft in stiff. I tried his setup, Ping driver, 9 degree
    setup and was amazed at how stable this shaft felt…no give in the shaft…but you do recognize it’s a light shaft. I intend to hit it a few more times before I decide if the early results
    were a mirage. If I get good results do you then consider lightening fairway woods and hybrid…the Thump series intrigues me because of the 65 gram three wood weights and 75 hybrid which is 20 grams less than today’s hybrid weight. My reasoning is if driver gets good results at 39 grams fairways should be lightened as well…am I looking at this the right way…

    Regards, RG

    P/S my club fitter continues to tell me you are “the man” when it comes to clubs and understanding the engineering dynamics of what works and does not. One thing to note
    is my club head speed is still over 100 mph with driver, sometimes in the 107/8 range…
    Getting older I have seen greater disparity in swing speed on different days depending on
    my workouts, travel schedules, practice time…Reasoning again is lighter might suit bad
    days better than 65/70 gram driver shafts if it performs on good swing speed days. It’s also early in season here and I hesitate to judge a shaft on one or two rounds or practice sessions.

    • RANDY
      Since you are a very good player and since you sound very analytical about your equipment, I would not commit to this 39g shaft until you spend at least 5-6 range sessions and 3-4 rounds actually playing with the driver that has that shaft – if you can do that. Reason being is that for you with your speed and having played with relatively higher total weight clubs (95 and 110g in iron shafts is not light, though it is a drop from the typical 120g of steel) you will want to have some real time and experience with that light of a shaft/total weight in the driver that you could hit as many as 14 times in a round. Do remember that it is always possible to “mask” or “hide” the lightness of a shaft with a higher swingweight. Also, if your tempo is more avg to smoother, that is a mark in the favor of potentially getting used to that light of a shaft in the driver vs if you are more aggressive with your downswing move. In the end, it very well could be fine for you with this shaft, but you really need to spend some time with it and definitely experiment with the swingweight when you do. What you are looking for is a total weight AND headweight FEEL that allows you to never have to tell yourself something like “if I could just slow it down a little, it would be fine.” That is a definite indicator that something in a club is too light for your tempo and sense of timing with a club.

  3. I’m 62, playing in 2 to 3 hcp range. I’ve played 130g iron shafts most of my life with Flex in the Med-Stiff area. I am not hugely strong but still carry my 7 iron about 155y. I have been playing around with a used set with 87g Nippon shafts. I have good results but sometimes they lack feel and I don’t know where the head is. What sort of SW do you suggest for irons with a 87g shaft? I have been at SW of mainly D2 with the heavier shaft in Med-Stiff flex. Thanks.

    • Johnny

      Whenever a better player notes a lack of headweight feel, it always means that the swingweight should be higher than it is to bring that feel back to you. Headweight feel vs swingweight is different in terms of an actual swingweight measurement as the weight of the shaft decreases. The head weight feel you get at say, D1 with a 130 gram shaft is not the same when the shaft is lighter. As the shaft gets lighter, you need to bump up the swingweight reading of the clubs to achieve a similar head weight feel that you had in clubs with heavier shafts. So if D1 with the 130g shaft was sufficient for head weight feel, then in an 87g shaft you should kick the swingweight up to D3, then play with that for a few sessions to see how you sense the feel. Then go up gradually with the swingweight from there until you get to that point that you feel the head enough for your timing. Never worry about a higher swingweight causing the clubs to be heavy. You already dropped the total weight of the clubs by 43g when you went from 130g to 87g with the shaft weight. Getting the swingweight up to say D3 gives back only a small part of that 43g shaft weight decrease.


  4. Hi Tom,
    I like the way you simplify complex technical equipment issues. I’m a seventy year old golfer who is about to buy what will probably be my last set of new clubs.

    I was particularly interested in your comments to Doug about the comparison between cheap and expensive shafts and wondered whether you could also email the comparison graphs to me. I am confident that it would help me in deciding which shaft to buy.


    • MIKE
      Thanks very much for your interest and for your nice comment about my way of explaining things. I appreciate that very much. The information you asked for was sent to you by email. I hope it will help you a little,

  5. I’m recovering from 3 pinched nerves. After 5 months of therapy, including many strengthening exercises and stretching the spine, I’m ready to return to golf. My swing speed has slowed substantially to 70 mph with a 7 iron although I expect this to improve over time. I need to buy new clubs and am looking at the lightweight options. Do you have any suggestions for this 65 year old? Thanks

    • GARY:

      I can relate to what you are going through from my own pinched nerve situation from a neck fracture some years back, so I do wish you all the best in your continued recovery and urge you to stay with the PT and training as long as you can to keep making it better. The process of choosing the right shaft weight and headweight/Swingweight for any golfer is always done on the basis of judgment and feedback from the golfer as to what total weight and swingweight feels too light vs too heavy vs just right for their own personal sense of weight feel. This is regardless of any injury or physical condition since it applies to all golfers.

      Since your nerve damage and inactivity from the game due to that injury has been a primary cause of your loss of clubhead speed, yes, it is very logical to be thinking of going lighter in the shaft weight to get that total weight lighter in the clubs. Lighter total weight does open the door for a slight increase in clubhead speed, no question about that. But whether that also includes being able to more consistently hit the ball on center so the increased speed actually results in more distance depends on getting the swingweight right to go with that lighter shaft to then be a proper match for your own personal sense of what feels too head light vs what feels too head heavy. And that is something best done by working with a good, experienced clubfitter who can provide a starting point from which he then can gradually work on a trial and experimentation basis to carefully take you through the process of starting very light, then gradually increasing headweight until you get to a point that you find that weighting combination between shaft and head that best matches your sense of feel for your best swing tempo, timing and rhythm. If you can respond to and tell us what town/city you live in, we’ll check all our resources to see if there is a good clubmaker in your area or within reasonable proximity to where you live and we’ll let you know.

      thanks for coming to us so we can offer some help,

  6. Tom,

    I currently play Project X 6.0 shafts in my Ping S57 irons and Tour W wedges. I am searching for a shaft that is lighter in weight and also lowers my ball flight. I can’t simply tip a new set of shafts as I have taper tip bore on all of those clubs. I have debated hard stepping a set of lighter weight shafts such as the new True Temper XP95 or XP105 shafts to achieve the desired results but I would like you opinion there first. Is there a shaft out there that is in the 105 gram range that will flex similar to my Project X shafts and lower launch or is hard stepping an ultralite set of shafts the way to go? Thanks.

    • RYAN
      In steel the Dynamic Gold SL shafts still offer a tip stiff profile in the realm of that of the PX shafts while dropping the weight down to the low 100s. The XP’s while being somewhat tip stiff are not as tip stiff as the PX you have. But within some of the graphite iron shafts such as SteelFiber you can get into the 95g range and still have plenty of tip stiffness.


  7. Hi Tom, Iplay golf in Melbourne now the summer time courses are here, I have sore elbows due to the hard ground, i play ping G25 irons , would changing to graphite shafts benefit me in any way ? can re-shafting with graphite be carried out on these irons Ping want you to buy the next best thing Iv’e only had these about a year there not worn in yet,
    Tom any suggestions would be gratelly excepted Ernie

    • ERNIE
      There are no sure cures for joint discomfort with regard to changes in the shafts. All of these things tend to fall into the category of “try it and if it works, that’s great.” I can tell you that if the joint pain comes from normal impacts of just the ball striking the face whether on or off center, then changing from steel to graphite can help a little bit, but also using a shaft dampener inside the shaft tends to work a little better. But if the joint pain comes not from impact with the ball on the clubhead but from the head itself banging into the ground, that’s a tough one to expect much relief just from a change to graphite or to use a dampener in the shaft. I know it isn’t what you wanted to hear, but really, the best thing I can tell you is to take one of the irons and change to graphite and then install a shaft dampener in the shaft and hit shots over a 2-3 week period to see if you get any relief.


  8. Tom,

    I am one of those unusual players in that I am not very tall and do not generate a lot of clubhead speed but I am used to a 46 inch driver. I am also an accurate driver and do not miss many fairways often hitting all 14 in a round. I am always looking for more distance with the driver though and wonder if the 45 gram shaft at 46 inches will work for me as lately a 46 inch shaft with a 65 gram shaft feels heavy to me now?

    • JEFF:

      In all of our work over the years in fitting research, we definitely figured out that there are certain swing characteristics that do match better to a longer driver length than with a shorter one. Thing is that very few golfers possess enough of these swing characteristics to benefit from such longer lengths. You must have many of these specific swing characteristics so good for you! It is true that a drop in shaft weight will reduce the total weight to bring about the POSSIBILITY for a little higher clubhead speed. But again, in our research work we have found that the typical swing speed increase for a golfer from a lighter weight shaft runs in the area of gaining about 1 to not more than 2mph for each 20 grams that the shaft weight and total weight with it, is decreased. A 1mph in clubhead speed represents about a 3 yard increase in carry distance.

      However, a golfer’s personal perception for the weight FEEL of the club most definitely plays a BIG role in all this. So since you are noting that the club feels heavy now with the 65g shaft, it is possible that the drop to a 45g shaft could lower the total weight enough to allow the driver at 46″ to not feel quite as heavy as before. And from getting the club into position of not feeling uncomfortably heavy, this may help your swing timing, rhythm and your release such that you could gain a little more clubhead speed simply because you now are not over working to generate your best swings.

      One other related thing – it is very possible that a part of the heaviness you feel is coming from the fact that at 46″, the Moment of Inertia of the whole driver is quite high compared to the MOI of shorter length drivers. In the science of MOI as it relates to the fully assembled club, LENGTH is the biggest factor affecting the MOI. It’s effect on the MOI of the club is far greater than the weight. So it is possible if you did switch to a 45g shaft, the fact that the driver is still 46″ might still cause you to sense that the club doesn’t feel as light in comparison to what it did before because the same high MOI is causing that heaviness feeling.

      At any rate, those are the facts and yes, dropping the shaft weight by 20g should help a little. But you also have to make sure the stiffness design of the 45g shaft is not totally different than the stiffness design of the shaft you currently play. Many of the super light shafts under 50g are also a little more flexible for their flex letter code on the shaft because it is difficult to make very light shafts to be that stiff.


  9. Tom; Can you give some insight on the argument that the $300 and up shafts are a lot better for you than the shaft that costs under $100.
    I have a $14 graphite design “red ice” shaft in my driver and it is the best feeling and longest distance shaft I have ever had. It was pured and trimmed by a fitter.
    My friend insists that I would pick up 15 to 20 yards having the fitter pure and trim an expensive shaft.
    Thanks …..Doug

    • DOUG

      Your friend isn’t going to like it, and he’s still going to go on believing that price means quality, but he is very wrong in thinking that the higher the price of the shaft, the better it plays. This matter of the $100, $200, $300 and even higher priced shafts is a very sad commentary on how companies have learned that marketing is king when it comes to generating demand for a product. And within that comes one of the oldest marketing “strategies” around, which is “if it costs more it has to be better.”

      There are 5 elements that determine everything about the performance and the feel of a shaft. 1) Weight, 2) overall stiffness design, aka the “flex”, 3) the bend profile, aka the distribution of the stiffness over the full length of the shaft, 4) torque, 5) weight distribution, aka the balance point of a shaft.

      That’s it. That is 100% of what determines how any shaft will play, perform, feel to a golfer. As such there are many shafts priced at $50, $40, even $30 or less which have the same exact 5 performance elements as many of the high dollar shafts. If it were possible to post a screen image from our Bend Profile Software program on this comments section, I would show you. heck for that matter, let’s do this since I am sure your friend will want to believe what he wants to believe and needs to see some proof. Send me an email to and I will send you back some graphs and actual stiffness measurement data charts showing a few of the expensive shafts in the industry along with others that are far less pricey with the actual measurements to show they are the same.


  10. how about adressing the problems of the shorter golfers @5’2 to 5’4 have been waiting for this to be adressed for 3yrs.

    • Larry:
      Happy to help. The two main areas that typically need to be addressed for golfers of this height are LENGTH and LIE ANGLE. Do realize though that LENGTH is not 100% dictated by the golfer’s height. It is eminently possible for a golfer of shorter height to be properly fit into clubs that may be more “standard length” if that golfer has a smooth tempo, gradual build up of their downswing acceleration, an inside out to square swing path, and a good level of golf athletic ability. Granted, most people don;t fall into that swing skill category so it is more typical for the lengths to need to be shorter to better match the height + average swing characteristics of the shorter golfer.

      Lie angle wise, it is generally true that pretty much every shorter golfer will need to have their clubs adjusted flatter to fit. This is never done on a chart or assumption basis but must always be done by a dynamic lie fit test – so that each golfer’s swing characteristics are taken into account to determine the proper lies.

      No question whatsoever that any golfer who is shorter than average should definitely find a good clubmaker to work with to get their proper fit. Good clubmakers know how to look at each golfer on the basis of their swing characteristics first and not to make automatic assumptions simply based on a person’s height. People who work in the golf stores and pro shops tend to not know as much about matching swing characteristics to the clubs’ fitting specs as do the independent custom clubmakers WHO HAVE GOOD EXPERIENCE.

      Hope this helps a little,

  11. Hi Tom, I am still trying to understand the effects of swing weight and club weight and hope you can help me understand. After reading your “search for the perfect club” book and also seeing a club fitter last month. I’ve decided to try 2 things, have my driver length reduced to 43″ but also to replace the shaft with one of the new lightweight steel shafts. Jim Von, my fitter thought that should work fine for me. My best club currently is my 9w with a steel shaft and I thought the extra weight in my driver might help me with a consistant swing speed. I mentioned this on a golf forum and someone replied with this advice.

    “a 43 inch steel shafted driver will most likely improve accuracy in the short term but in all probability you wont be hitting it very far. The added weight will reduce swing speed and as above will likely steepen the angle of attack. Taken to extreme the steepness will invoke an out to in swing and any existent fade or slice will soon negate any short term benefits experienced.”

    I carry my 9w on average 170 and my current driver, (when I hit it in the fairway) 225ish. My tendency with the driver when I get tired or anxious, is to swing too fast and slice.

    So I guess I’m asking for your take on my plan and if what that forum member said has any basis for me to be concerned.

    Thank you Larry

    • Larry:
      Please understand that each golfer is different in terms of their swing characteristics AND in terms of what driver specifications they were playing before and what were the average shot results with that driver. So by email, without seeing you swing and without measuring your current driver specs, I can only tell you the average results from what you are thinking about. In a real face to face fitting, Jim Von Lossow, who by the way is a long time friend and an experienced fitter, might see things that prompt other recommendations to help you the most.

      43″ might be a little too short – but here again, that all depends on the length of your current driver. if your driver now is 46″, a move down to 44″ can certainly be enough to bring about more control, more on center hits, and not reduce your clubhead speed all that much. Going with steel just because you hit your 9w well with a steel shaft is not quite enough of a reason to think steel in the driver. Yes, the heavier total weight of the 9w with its steel shaft can definitely be a reason you hit this club well. But going steel in a driver that would be probably at least 2″ or more longer than the 9w might push the moment of inertia of the longer driver much higher than the MOI of the 9w so it all might be too heavy feeling. Heavier shaft weight with short length is not as cumbersome to swing as heavier shaft weight with a longer length.

      There are graphite shafts up in the 80 to 90 gram weight range that still can increase the total weight of the driver higher than what you have now, but still keep it from being too heavy as if you used a 110-120 gram steel shaft. If you bought your current driver off the rack, its graphite shaft is more than likely in the 65-70g range. So an increase to 80-90g in the shaft would not push the total weight up as high as with a 110-120g steel shaft, so you should still get the potential benefit of control from the heavier total weight than you now have, but not as high as with steel to potentially not decrease your swing speed as much.

      In the end, let Jim do his fitting analysis and let him make the initial recommendations fromwhich you can then talk with him to finalize what you might best need to improve your driving game.


  12. Tom : Very good technical article ,yet easy to understand . I’m getting used to my Cleve.SL290-9′. I’m 64,low hdcp.,100 mph swing at best. The Miyasaki S shaft weighs 51g , and it works well for me – I think it was designed for guys like me. My only gripe is that it feels like the shaft recovers in a flash , and along with my delayed release , makes it impossible for me to draw the ball. I recently tested the SL 310 and I much prefer the SL 290 . Does my amateur analysis make sense ? Thanks…JWW

    • JWW:

      If a shaft or a club makes you feel that you have to “slow down”, “swing a little different way”, or do anything different than what is your most normal and most comfortable swing motion at the ball, then the shaft or the club is not right for you and your swing. When it comes to late release players, the sign of a really good shaft fit is that you don’t have to change one thing in your swing, you can swing with a full free release, and you can still get good shot results when you need to “lean on the shot” a little bit.


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