Why are Clubs with Graphite Shafts Sometimes Longer than those with Steel?

One dilemma golf manufacturers and custom clubmaking shops have to consider is what the “standard” lengths of their products will be aside from one size for men and another for ladies.

It would be easy if all you had was one shaft and one grip, but in the world of custom fitting and building, it doesn’t work that way. One time you may be building an iron with a 125g steel shaft and the next with an 80 gram graphite shaft. Assuming the balance point of the graphite shaft wasn’t intentionally shafted to the tip Download Hireko Golf 2014 Catalogend, the clubs will end up with a different balance or heft when held in the golfer’s hands and this will also affect the shaft flex.

When manufacturers build a product they do so to a certain specification. Many times this specification will be a specific swingweight range for each gender. For men, clubs typically range between a D0 and D2 and C4-C6 for ladies at standard lengths. Sometimes you might see a product slightly higher or lower than this but it is not by much. For those of you not familiar with that term, swingweight is the relationship between the overall weight of the club and its balance point. Generally a lighter swingweight will be a result if a lighter shaft is used with all else being the same.

Here is a matrix of 5-irons with standard weight grips (50g) and what you can expect with various weight shafts. Note there is not always a linear relation in swingweight reduction as you decrease weight. This can be explained by the fact that manufacturers will often reduce weight near the upper portion of the shaft is where there is less stress so the balance points will be closer to the tip of the shaft.

Swingweighting Graphite ShaftsThe clubmakers has two options if they want the swingweight to be the same with steel or graphite shafts. There is a practice of making the lighter graphite shafts longer. That is the graphite-shafted clubs will be ¼” or ½” longer than the steel-shafted standard and this varies from manufacturer to manufacturer. Hireko’s standard has ½” variance between the two materials and accounts for a 3 swingweight point drop between standard weight steel and lightweight graphite.

One of the downsides to having the graphite-shafted club longer than the steel is when golfers are sensitive to additional length that makes it harder for him or her to hit the ball solidly. In those cases if the person let’s say fits into “standard” length with steel, but if they want graphite, they may have to order shorter than standard to achieve the same length.

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One way to avoid making the clubs longer to maintain the same swingweight is the use of tip pins. This may require 4-6 grams of material inserted into the tip of the shaft. The clubmaker can also opt to use tungsten powder and a cork and tamp it down with a ram rod in a steel shafted club, but you never want to use these items in a graphite shaft because the opening is much too small. As long as the weight is at a minimum, then it has no adverse effect on the club’s performance.

The third option is to keep the “standard” lengths the same, but let the swingweight of the graphite shafted clubs be a couple points lighter than the steel. Again, it is up to the discretion of the manufacturer or the clubmaker to exercise this option.

It doesn’t matter whether you are ordering custom made clubs or building them yourself, it is a good habit to know which method is utilized to avoid confusion. Hopefully you have a better understanding and know there is a rhyme and reason why some manufacturers will employ the practice of making their graphite-shafted clubs longer than with steel and others do not.

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