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Soft Stepping and Hard Stepping
 
There is a practice known as Soft stepping, and Hard stepping.
 
It is typically done with shafts that come as matched sets from the factory already cut in discrete lengths such as taper tip shafts.
Many parallel tip shafts also come this way, such as Aldila NV's and VS Protos.
They both are made in parallel and taper tips, but regardless of parallel or taper each come in discrete lengths as matched bagged sets.
 
This practice of Soft and Hard stepping is used to build in between flex's, and to raise or lower the ball flight where tip trimming is not an option.
 
An example of Soft stepping would be to use  3 iron shaft in a 4 iron head, this will make the club play about one third of a flex softer and will raise the ball flight.
Using a two iron shaft in a 4 iron head would be a double soft step, or Soft stepping twice and will make the club play about two thirds of a flex softer.
Soft stepping thrice would drop the club a full flex from say an R to an A, but will produce a much higher ball flight than you would have received by just going with the A's to start with.
 
Likewise Hard stepping once would be to use five iron shaft in that 4 iron which will make it play about one third of a flex stiffer and bring the ball flight down some.
 
You can hard or soft step as much as you like within the limitations of your raw shaft lengths
For example, Aldila NV 85 iron shafts come 40.5"-36.5" (2-W) meaning the six iron shaft would come at 38.5"  That will build a 39.5" six iron in most heads that are not thru bores. Most six irons today will be built at a finished length of 37.5" which means under traditional circumstances 2" will be trimmed from the butt.
 
So you could conceivably go all the way down to the wedge shaft in the 6 iron thereby Hard stepping it 4 times and still get a standard length club with no shaft trimming.
If you did this and started with an R shaft the result would be that the club would play about a third of a flex stiffer than if you had used the S shaft but with a much lower ball flight.
One challenge  with this is that you will not have a stiffer shaft for the 5-W so if you over hard step you will not be able to get a frequency matched set with all R shafts, you will need to go up to S and maybe even X shafts in the shorter irons.
 
Conversely if you used the two iron shaft in R flex in that 6 iron you would be butt cutting near 2" to your final playing length and the club would play about a third of a flex softer than it would if you had used the A flex shaft, and the ball flight will be considerable higher.
Until next time,
David Dugally