Can Women Play With Men's Golf Clubs?
To some, the distinguishing characteristic of women’s golf clubs is pink highlights on the clubheads. In reality, the standard women’s golf club is designed for the typical woman player -- someone who’s smaller and less powerful than a man. But not all women are standard. If you’re very tall, for example, then you can use men’s clubs.
Differences Between Men’s and Women’s Clubs
A standard women’s golf club is 1 inch shorter and more flexible than a comparable men’s club. For example, a standard men’s steel-shafted 5-iron is typically 37.75 inches long, while the women’s version is 36.75 inches long. A standard women’s shaft is more flexible than the comparable men’s shaft because players with slower swing speeds require more flexible clubs. But don’t be fooled by the fact that the most flexible shafts are labeled as “ladies” shafts. That label is just a marketing convention used by manufacturers. Even if you use a standard women’s-size club, the shaft flex should be matched to your swing speed, not to your gender. Additionally, women’s clubs are designed to make it easier to hit the ball in the air, particularly with fairway woods and long or middle irons.
Who Should Use Men’s Clubs
Although height isn’t the only criteria considered if you’re fit for new clubs, as a general rule of thumb, the taller a woman is, the better fit she'll probably be for men's clubs. Teaching pro Cindy Miller recommends that women who are 5 feet, 6 inches or taller should at least try men’s clubs. Additionally, she suggests that taller women with large breasts may also need to use the longer, men’s-size clubs. Golf teacher Debbie Steinbach sometimes fits her female students with women’s clubs, but orders longer-than-standard shafts, giving the students the best of the male and female golf club worlds.
Professional Women Play Men’s Clubs
Miller notes that women who play professionally on the LPGA Tour use men’s golf clubs. For example, the 6-foot-tall Michelle Wie uses an X, or extra stiff, flex in her clubs, which is the stiffest type of shaft. Lexi Thompson, who’s 5 feet, 11 inches, also plays an X-flex and uses a men's-sized 45-inch driver. Remember that to use the same clubs as Wie or Thompson, you must not only be tall, but have an LPGA-quality swing speed in excess of 90 mph with your driver.
Fit the Clubs to the Golfer
If you’re a typical woman golfer, then women’s clubs are probably right for you -- although every golfer should be fitted personally. Just understand that some aspects of women’s clubs -- like those pink highlights -- are nothing but marketing touches. If possible, obtain your next set of clubs from a professional clubfitter, who will tailor the clubs to your size and swing, whether you need men’s or women’s equipment.
M.L. Rose has worked as a print and online journalist for more than 20 years. He has contributed to a variety of national and local publications, specializing in sports writing. Rose holds a B.A. in communications.