Choosing a golf shaft: graphite vs. steel

Shafts for golf clubs are primarily made of either steel or graphite. The steel shafts are made from a carbon steel alloy and protective chrome plating is applied to prevent it from rusting. A graphite shaft can also be called a composite shaft because it made from multiple layers of carbon fiber and epoxy resin holding the layers together. There are even some shafts made of both steel and graphite. However, you are probably wondering which is best for you?

Steel shafts have been used for golf clubs since the 1920’s, although earlier versions can be dated back to the turn of the 20th century. Graphite shafts are a relatively new material used in golf, dating back to the late 1960’s, but didn’t gain widespread acceptance until the mid 1980’s. Both materials are used for some of the following reasons.

Steel shafts are less expensive to manufacturer and easily able to make consistent from shaft-to-shaft. Steel shafts are made from a single material, so creating a new model is limited to geometry changes to the shaft such as the outside diameters along its’ entire length, wall thickness, distance between each step (unless it is a stepless shaft) and usage of additional metals (such as chromium, vanadium and nickel) in the alloys. Premium steel shafts cost about the same as low end graphite shafts.

Graphite shafts were originally designed to make a lightweight alternative to steel shafts. However, there are graphite shafts that actually weigh more than some steel models, but this is very rare. Steel shafts range from approximately 90g to 130g, while graphite shafts can be a low as 39g. The most popular weight range of graphite shafts for woods is 60-70 grams and for iron shafts the weight is closer to 70 – 80 grams. One of the biggest advantages to graphite shafts is their lighter weight.

Since the graphite shafts are generally lighter than steel shafts, there is a potential for greater distance because they may be able to be swung slightly faster. Most graphite shafted clubs are assembled longer in length than standard steel-shafted clubs. Golfers that tend to be less consistent may find the steel shafts to give them greater control. But for those golfers, such as ladies and seniors, who need additional length to enjoy the game better, graphite shafts are a welcome alternative.

Another advantage of graphite shafts over steel is from a design standpoint. As earlier stated, graphite shafts are manufactured from multiple layers of carbon fiber. Each layer can be a different modulus (strength) material and can be applied at different angles to contribute independently to the stiffness or reduction in twisting along the length of the shaft. This allows graphite shaft manufactures almost limitless possibilities in new designs.

Because of the various materials able to be used in the manufacturer of the golf shaft, there is a much greater range in pricing as well. An inexpensive graphite shaft may cost $10.00, while the most expensive shaft can cost as much as $1000.00! Although most graphite shafts normally found in $10 – $90 range. Expect a club with a graphite shaft to cost more than with a steel shaft.

This is one reason why you so the majority of golfers have both steel and graphite shafted clubs in their bag. Greater than 90% of all drivers have graphite shafts in them. This is because the driver is designed for maximum distance and is much larger and easier-to-hit than they were just a few years ago. For fairway woods, more than 80% are equipped with graphite shafts as players tend to match the driver with the same type of shaft. Golfers, who tend to hit the ball a long way and/or need more control, may find steel to their liking. There are a number of lightweight steel shafts available as an alternative to graphite.

Irons and wedges are usually just the opposite in the shaft material choice. Approximately 75% of irons sold today are sold with steel shafts. The primary reason for choosing steel may be an economic factor as the irons and wedges make up a great percentage of the clubs in the bag. The other reason why golfers choose steel in their irons and wedges is for control rather than increasing distance, especially among stronger individuals. However, there are a number of quality graphite iron shafts that come in all different weights and stiffness to match nearly every golfer.

The choice between steel or graphite shafts for you will be based on if you are looking at greater distance or not. Greater distance will come at a greater cost, not only economically, but for those who already don’t hit their ball very straight, hitting the ball further may even compound the problem. Make sure to make the choice wisely based on your personal goals and current tendencies.

by Jeff Summitt
Hireko Technical Director

12 comments

  1. Jerry says:

    I am preparing to buy a set of Dynacraft Iron heads, will they come with a standard shaft? If i purchase shafts with them do they come assembled? The same questions for the Dynacraft Hybrids and Mantara Driver and Fairway woods. Thank you.

  2. Jeff Summitt says:

    Jerry:

    We actually sell both assembled clubs and components to make yourself. If you want assembled clubs make sure you click on the tab near the top of the Hireko home page that says “Custom Made Clubs”. There are stocks shafts for the clubs. For drivers and fairways, the standard shaft is the Aldila VL / VX and for the irons and hybrids it is the Apollo Standard Stepped steel. We have a lot of upgrade options available as well in both graphite and steel.

    Sincerely,

    Jeff Summitt
    Hireko Golf

  3. Great information here. I am sure that the senior golfers looking for a bit more distance with their drives will surely benefit from the advice in this article. From a durability standpoint. What type of shaft would you prefer. Steel or graphite

  4. Jeff Summitt says:

    George:

    You shouldn’t have to worry about durability with current graphite shafts as they are designed to withstand the force from golfers who are extremely strong. Just make sure to care of the clubs when putting them in and out of the bag, avoid tossing them on the ground, etc. to prevent scratching the painted surface or worse.

  5. Ray says:

    I’m an elderly senior golfer, and looking to buy Bangomatic and Fairway woods will a Aldida VX shaft give me enough distance??? I presently hit my balls straight… My alternate choice of clubs would be the Bang Mellow yellow driver and fair waywoods, same shaft.. Would a n Aldida BVX shaft be suitable on the Big Bang 525cc driver??? TIA

  6. Jeff Summitt says:

    Ray:

    If you are looking for more distance, you may want a lighter shaft than the VX. I don’t have enough information about your swing to know what flex you need or if a lighter shaft is truly what you need. But if you need senior flex, then you would actually want the VL shaft rather the VX. The VX is designed to be regular or stiff flex depending on how the shaft is trimmed. But most driver shafts are in the 60 and even 50 gram range. However, I don’t have problems suggesting a heavier shaft for the fairway woods if you are looking for some added control.

    Lastly, be sure to look at our selection of drivers and fairway woods.

  7. Joanne Pfeiffer says:

    I am planning to buy new irons. However, in the last two years I have had a great deal of trouble hitting irons. A friend suggested that I try the hybrid irons. I have a Taylor Rescue Club in my bag that I use very successfully, but it is a 4 iron. I have a driver, 3-wood, 7-wood, and 9-wood. I usually hit my nine about 110 yards. When I am closer and cannot use a wood I am lost. Not only is my distance copmpromised with an iron but so is the direction. There is no consistency whatsoever. I can go either left or right.
    I am a female, 66 years old and have a 24 handicap that was 22 last year and will steadily go up until I solve my problem.
    I am 5’9″ and have always used men’s clubs, however now they seem too heavy. Recently I used my husband”s Calloway steel shafted clubs and they seemed to work pretty good. I had heard that Hireco made very good clubs, and I really cannot afford to buy Calloway.
    Do you have any suggestions for me?
    Thank you,
    Joanne Pfeiffer

  8. Jeff Summitt says:

    Joanne:

    There are a couple directions you could go. One is to continue with higher lofted fairway woods. We have a line called the Synchron II that has 11, 13 and 15 woods. This may help replace a few more of the irons. There are also full sets of hybrids. Knowing that you feel that the clubs are heavy, plus like the fairway woods, I might suggest the Acer XDS Wide Sole hybrids. These will be the most similar to a fairway wood.

  9. Happy says:

    I am going to be 40 year old with height 172cm with 82 weight. I have started golf 12 months ago and my handicap is 19. I am using Ping G20 drivers w/ stif and R flex shaft.. and OK with both, I will keep one very soon as I understand them more. I also have Ping G20 utility and fair way woods. I use old Eye2 irons but I do not get length with them and looking for cavity irons. I have tried few and started thinking of why not G20 irons.
    However, I am confused with the shaft, R, SR or S or X? Steel or carbon. Let take away expensive or cheap factor away.
    My speed seems to be 90mph. I hit driver between 220 to 240 Y. And seven iron of old Eye 2 with S steel shaft to 130 Y. Where as when I tired new irons with same flex I can hit to 150Y.
    I do not understand my feeling and looking for advice??
    I am also confused because on Auction I can see caron R G20 irons and also NX100 are cheaper… it also confuse me.

  10. Jeff Summitt says:

    Happy:

    Your old Eye 2 irons had very stiff shafts and the lofts are weaker than today’s irons which is attributing to the distance increase you see on newer irons. If your swing speed with your driver is 90 mph, you would fall into most R-flex shafts assuming you don’t have a short, compact or quick swing. You are always best to be professionally fit. Buying name brand clubs on-line on auction sites, beware of counterfeit clubs.

  11. joe oster says:

    what would be the best shaft for a senior player? graphite or steel? is there a particular brand that is better than the rest?

  12. Jeff Summitt says:

    Joe:

    Much depends upon your swing and budget. If you have a long, full fluid swing, you may find a lighter shaft to your liking, which will most likely be graphite. If you have a shorter, more compact swing, you may need a heavier shaft for control. There are some graphite shafts that are as heavy as steel so you really need to concentrate on weight first.

    As far as brands – that comes down to your budget and your strength. Don’t always associate price with quality as much more goes into the pricing. For instance, a graphite shaft for a strong individual that is firmer, lower launching and low torque will cost more than a shaft that is softer and/or higher torque (or one designed for a slower swinger with a long, full fluid swing).

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