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Golf Club Shafts: Steel vs. Graphite

Golf Club Shafts: Steel vs. Graphite

Which one is better for your Game?


It used to be that recreational golfers and those with a mid- and high-handicap would stick with the graphite while the more advanced players and low-handicappers would switch to steel. But times change and so did that mindset. Most pros have made the move from steel to graphite in recent years and in 2004 Tiger Woods joined them, switching to a graphite shaft in his driver.

When deciding whether or not you wish to make the switch from steel to graphite – or vice versa – there are some key differences between the two that you should note:

Key points

  • Steel shafts are less expensive than graphite, meaning the cost of a steel set of clubs is substantially less than a graphite set of clubs.
  • Graphite shafts are now as durable as steel shafts, though both have their weak points. Quality graphite shafts last a long time so long as they are not chipped or cracked, or the laminate-seal is not peeling. Steel shafts will last forever so long as they are not bent, rusted or pitted.
  • You get less vibration in your hands with graphite shafts, and more vibrations with steel shafts. It depends on how much vibrations you want. Some amateurs like the extra feedback that steel provides while many prefer as little vibration as possible. If you are prone to a lot of bad hits, your hands might be buzzing after a round with a steel shaft.
  • Most important is the weight difference. Graphite shafts, and therefore graphite clubs, are much lighter than steel shafts and steel clubs.

In the ever-lasting quest to gain even precious yardage on their swing, many golfers have made the switch from steel to graphite. According to club-making and equipment guru Tom Wishon, you can gain an extra 6-12 yards of distance on your drive with graphite.

Before you say “Well that’s it then, I’m switching to graphite” there are some other points you will want to consider:

Steel shafts are still very much a part of the great game of golf. Many players, namely low-handicappers and scratch players, even prefer them. So do those big swingers who feel they don’t need extra distance in their swing that a graphite shaft can provide. Many feel that a steel shaft gives them better control over their club head. Others like the added feedback (as we discussed) that comes from more vibrations up and down the shaft on a bad shot.

Tom Wishon himself says this: “If gaining more distance is a primary goal for the golfer, they should definitely be fit with the proper graphite shaft design in their woods and irons to match their swing. On the other hand, if distance is not the main focus for the golfer because they already have a high swing speed, if they like the feel of steel and their swing tempo matches a little better to the higher total weight steel shafts bring to the clubs, then steel is the better option.”

It may be said that steel shafts are for steely players, those who are physically strong and have no problems in their hands, forearms or shoulders. Everyone else may want to go with graphite. There is no shame in making the choice because that’s the way the majority go these days.

To take the guess work away you should try online fitting. Getting custom fitted online is easy and hassle free with web-based fitting tools like the ‘club fitting wizard’ at Pinemeadow Golf. This tool is free, you can just try it out. It helps to have a partner who assists with some of the measurements required, like your full height and your wrist height from the ground.

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