Soft and Hard Stepping in Golf Explained!

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The flex of your golf club’s shaft makes a big difference to the way that you strike the ball. It’s for this reason that some golfers undertake a process known as stepping, which offers slight changes to the flex of each club in the bag.

But what is meant by hard and soft stepping, and why are they advantageous?

Here, we take a closer look at soft and hard stepping in golf and explain what you need to know about the process and whether it can help your golf game.

What is Stepping in Golf?

Stepping in golf is when you take action to adjust the flex of your shaft. For instance, you might reshaft your clubs from a regular to a stiff flex. You can hard or soft step your golf clubs, with the former making a shaft stiffer and the latter making the shaft more flexible.

Some golfers step their shafts so they can achieve an in-between flex on their golf clubs, which is capable of producing a slightly different ball flight.* This practice is something usually undertaken by elite golfers who are looking for a slight advantage rather than beginner players and recreational golfers more generally.

But, if you’re considering stepping your golf clubs, it’s important to know exactly what’s required and how to go about it. So, read on to find out everything you need to know about soft and hard stepping your golf club shafts and why it might be advantageous to do so.

What is Soft Stepping?

Soft stepping is when you adjust the shafts on your golf clubs to make them more flexible. When done correctly, soft stepping a golf shaft can make it feel a little softer, which can help when it comes to ball striking for some players.

Typically, if you wish to soft step a set of irons, it’s common to move the 3 iron shaft into the 4 iron head and copy this pattern throughout your bag. The effect on each of the clubs in your bag would mean that they feel slightly softer than they did originally, which would result in a slightly higher ball flight.

As well as adjusting the ball flight, soft stepping your irons can improve the launch angle and can even affect the spin that you can generate with your clubs.

For many beginner and recreational golfers, the slight change in flex will be barely noticeable, but for those competing at the top level of golf, soft stepping irons can make all the difference as they look to gain a slight advantage over their competitors in the field.

The Benefits of Soft Stepping

The main benefit of soft stepping your shafts is that it can result in a slightly higher ball flight. For most golfers, a higher ball flight offers slightly more control, and it brings more spin into play, which can have positive results in and around the greens.

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Golf is a game of fine margins, and soft stepping your shafts can make a big difference if you want to improve the way that your golf clubs feel on impact, as well as the trajectory that the ball takes after making your shot.

Another benefit of soft stepping your clubs is that they result in fewer vibrations at impact and don’t have nearly as much impact on your hands and joints. This can help senior players, as soft stepping your shafts can result in a much softer feel.

So, if you’re struggling with the stiffness of your shafts and want to make some slight adjustments, soft stepping your golf clubs could be a good option for you this season.

What Is Hard Stepping?

Hard stepping is the opposite of soft stepping your golf shafts, and instead of making them more flexible, the process makes them stiffer. As a result, most golfers experience a lower ball flight and launch angle.

To hard step your irons, you would attach the 9 iron shaft into the 8 iron, the 8 into the 7, and so on. You would need to order a new shaft for your pitching wedge, as there would be no shaft from your current set to replace it.

You should also be mindful that hard stepping your shafts decreases the length of the clubs in your bag, so your 4 iron becomes as long as a 5 iron, while a 5 iron becomes the length of a 6 iron, and so on.*

However, if you’re looking for a stiffer flex in your irons and you don’t want to invest in a brand new set of shafts, hard stepping your clubs is a good option and can result in a range of benefits, as we explain below.

The Benefits of Hard Stepping

The main benefit of hard stepping your golf clubs is that stiffer shafts provide you with more efficiency when striking the ball. This is because they make it easier for you to control the speed and landing distance of the ball more efficiently.

But it’s important to recognize that stiff shafts are best suited to golfers who are capable of generating high clubhead speeds.*** This is because the speed at which you hit through the golf ball affects its overall trajectory, influencing how far you can hit the ball.

Hard stepping your shafts is beneficial if you don’t want to buy brand-new shafts for your clubs but want the added power that opting for stiffer shafts can bring.

Again, hard stepping is something that elite-level golfers might undertake and is not necessarily something that beginner golfers would benefit from.

What Club Type is Best for Stepping?

The best clubs to step in golf are your irons. This is because they naturally progress from one length to another, and it’s easy to adjust the clubheads with the shafts from the next club up or down in the bag.

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Theoretically, you could also step hybrid golf clubs, but the practice isn’t as common, and most players that hard or soft step their clubs do so with their irons. However, if you’re confident with club adjustment, there’s no reason why you can’t step your hybrids.

In terms of wedges, you need to be careful when adjusting their flex, as it can make a big difference to the ball’s flight and can affect the way that you get the ball up and down around the green.

The bottom line with stepping is that your irons are best suited to the process. If you’re interested in changing the flex of your other clubs, it’s worth reaching out to a professional club fitter for advice before pressing ahead with the project.

How Does Stepping Affect Ball Flight?

When you soft step your clubs, you slightly increase your ball flight, which can aid with ball control and spin. Soft stepping is better suited to players with lower clubhead speeds.

However, if you generate a lot of speed when you play through the ball, it could be a good idea to hard step your clubs. This will lower the ball flight somewhat, as you’re essentially shifting your clubs down a gear, making your 8 iron fly like a 7, your 7 like a 6, and so on.

While the process of stepping isn’t likely to make a huge difference to most recreational players, it can be significantly advantageous to single-digit handicappers and professional players alike.

This is because slight adjustments in ball flight can bring new opportunities into play, providing better players with more control over the shots that they execute on the golf course.

Should Beginners Consider Stepping Their Golf Clubs?

No,  club stepping is not advised for recreational players and beginners. This is because the very slight difference between shaft flex and the resulting ball flight isn’t likely to significantly affect a beginner’s performance level.

Therefore, stepping is only really advantageous to players who have the skill level necessary to exploit such changes, be it by generating more clubhead speed or increasing the spin control generated from approach shots, for instance.

That being said, it is important to consider the flex of your shafts, and most beginner golfers benefit from using flexible shafts instead of stiffer options.

So, bear this in mind when selecting the ideal clubs to use as a beginner, and you won’t need to worry a great deal about stepping your shafts in the near future.

Conclusion

Soft and hard stepping golf club shafts can make a small difference to the flight of the ball after impact, which is something that single-digit players and professional golfers can take advantage of.

However, because the changes are so small, stepping isn’t something that beginner golfers necessarily need to worry about. Rather, just make sure that you opt for clubs that aren’t too stiff in the first place, and you shouldn’t need to worry about the process of stepping anytime soon.

Sources:

  1. http://www.golfclubshaftreview.com/hard-stepping–soft-stepping.html*
  2. https://www.golfidential.com/tips/soft-stepping-hard-stepping/**  
  3. https://golftips.golfweek.usatoday.com/advantages-stiffshaft-irons-20497.html***