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