Perhaps more than any other sport, golf requires the right equipment to perform at your best. And with all the different brands, makes, and options out there, finding the best clubs for your game can be overwhelming.
A great place to start is determining whether you need graphite or steel shafts.
Let’s dive right in for a comprehensive look at the graphite vs. steel shaft debate.
A Brief History
The history of golf shafts is a curious one. When the game originated in the British Isles, clubmakers used hickory to make golf shafts. This wood was durable enough to stand up to reasonably fast swing speeds, but was also flexible enough to transfer energy to the golf ball and propel it forward.
After a few hundred years and some serious advances in technology, steel shafts became the mainstay. The consistency with which steel shafts could be mass produced was far greater than that of hickory shafts which had to be individually by hand. Steel shafts were the only option for decades.
Then along came graphite shafts. They were first introduced at the PGA Merchandise Show in 1970. However, they weren’t met with immediate popularity. In fact, it took until the late 1980s and early 1990s for them to become more widely adopted by both professionals and amateurs.
Present day, both graphite and steel shafts are popular with golfers of all abilities.
What Are the Differences Between Graphite and Steel Shafts?
You might not think so, but there are some drastic differences between steel and graphite shafts.
By nature of what each material is, graphite is significantly lighter than steel. For this reason alone, graphite shafts are a great option for people with slower swing speeds.
On average, graphite shafts weigh between 60 and 70 grams while steel shafts weigh between 90 and 130 grams.
Feel and Responsiveness
While graphite shafts are lighter and allow golfers to swing the club faster, steel shafts give players more feel and responsiveness. In other words, you’ll be able to feel both solid shots and mishits more. Due to the composition of the material, steel shafts have more vibration.
When the clubhead hits the ball at impact, the shaft twists a little. With steel shafts, you’ll usually get one to three degrees of torque, and with graphite shafts you could see as much as eight degrees of torque.
Both graphite and steel shafts come in different flexes. However, graphite is much more flexible than graphite.
As an example, a regular flex graphite shaft is going to be more flexible than a regular flex steel shaft.
Both graphite and steel shafts are paper-thin. With that said, steel is much more durable than graphite. That means your chances of breaking a shaft are far greater with graphite than steel.
Choosing the Best Shaft for Your Game
As you can see, there are a lot of factors to consider when deciding between graphite and steel shafts.
As a general rule of thumb, if your swing speed is slower, you have trouble getting the ball in the air, or need more distance, you’ll likely benefit from graphite shafts.
On the other hand, if you swing the club at a faster than average rate of speed, and want more control and responsiveness, steel shafts are the way to go.
Once you’ve decided on either steel or graphite, you need to determine what shaft flex suits you best. Shaft flexes include junior, women’s, senior, regular, stiff, and extra stiff. This decision is best made with the help club of a PGA Professional and certified club fitter. They’ll be able to watch you hit shots, analyze metrics and data, and make the best recommendation for your swing.
Choosing between graphite and steel shafts might seem like a simple choice on the surface. But if you’re going to make the best decision for your game, there are a lot of factors to consider, and everyone here at Golfer’s Authority advocates for getting properly fitted by a professional.
What kind of shaft do you prefer? Do you have any recommendations for our readers? If so, we’d love to hear from you in the comments below.