graphite shaft

Graphite golf shafts have been around for decades, but truly rose to prominence in the 1990s. Today, practically all tour pros -- male, female and senior -- uses graphite composite shafts in their woods and hybrid clubs.

Graphite's primary advantage over steel is its lighter weight. This is especially important with the driver, since a lighter shaft can be swung faster, producing greater clubhead speed and longer shots. The same holds true for fairway woods and hybrids.

Because graphite shafts are made by wrapping multiple layers of fiber around a core, manufacturers can fine-tune them to offer a wide range of weights and flexes. This makes golf club graphite shafts highly customizable to a player's swing speed, tempo and other clubfitting factors.

While graphite shafts dominate the wood and hybrid market, they're not as popular a pick for irons. That may have something to do with an outdated stigma which holds that graphite shafts don't produce the consistent ball flight of steel. Recent advances have eliminated this drawback, although graphite's higher price tag discourages its widespread acceptance as an iron shaft.

A final advantage of graphite over steel: Seniors or golfers with arthritis often find graphite's vibration-dampening effects to be easier on the hands and arms.

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Equipment Choices – Graphite Shafts Lighter and Faster than Steel?

Equipment Choices – Graphite Shafts Lighter and Faster than Steel?

When buying new clubs, or thinking about making changes to current clubs, you have two basic choices – graphite shafts, or steel shafts. As you probably know, there are pros and cons to each of these two options. For most golfers, the right choice is actually a combination of the two. It is common for golfers to carry some clubs with graphite shafts, often the woods, and other clubs with steel shafts, such as the irons. However, there is no need to feel compelled to stick with convention in this case. The only thing that matters is picking the right shafts for your needs.

In this article, we are going to explain how graphite shafts tend to differ from steel shafts, and how you can use each of their characteristics to your advantage on the course. As you can see from the title of the article, weight is one main difference that will have an impact on your buying decision. Graphite shafts are generally lighter than steel shafts, which often allows the user to swing a graphite-shafted club at a higher rate of speed. The topic is far more complicated than just this single point, however. While adding swing speed is generally good, you have to make sure the other elements of the club's performance fall in line with your needs as well.

It is common for amateur golfers to look towards the professional game for guidance when picking out equipment, but that is typically a mistake. It is certainly a mistake in this case, as you don't want to simply copy the graphite/steel arrangement of your favorite player. It is likely that your favorite pro possesses a higher swing speed and more powerful overall game than you bring with you to the course. That means the assortment of graphite and steel shafts that your favorite pro has selected will not necessarily match up with your abilities. The right set of clubs for you is going to be unique to your game. Take the time necessary to work through the process and find a set composition that highlights your skills while minimizing your weaknesses.

In addition to the technical aspects of this conversation, which we will get into below, it is important to note that there is a feel component at play here as well. You need to like the way your clubs feel as you swing them, and they need to give you confidence. If you are uncomfortable with your clubs in some way, or you can't feel the club head properly during the swing, you won't be happy with the results. Trusting your swing out on the course is hugely important, so your clubs should be giving you confidence rather than taking it away.

All of the content below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.

The Benefits of Graphite

The Benefits of Graphite

To get started, we are going to look separately at the advantages of graphite and steel shafts. First up, graphite. As you already know, graphite shafts are particularly popular in drivers and fairway woods, yet they can be found throughout the bag depending on the player and his or her needs and preferences. Most likely, you will have at least one graphite shaft in your bag, even if you prefer steel overall. The advantages of using graphite in your driver are simply too powerful to ignore, so placing a graphite shaft in your driver club head is almost an automatic decision in the modern game.

What is it about graphite shafts that give the player a potential advantage? Let's take a look at some key points.

  • Lighter overall weight. This is the advantage which was mentioned in the title of the article, and it is an important one to be sure. Graphite shafts tend to be lighter than steel shafts, although that is not going to be the case 100% of the time (some rather heavy graphite shafts are available). Most golfers pick graphite for their driver in large part because they want to maximize swing speed, and lowering the overall weight of the club is a great way to do just that. While this advantage is not as important in the irons as it is in the woods, plenty of golfers still go with graphite throughout the bag as a way to gain some distance through a faster swing. Whether you want to swing faster thanks to the use of a lighter shaft, or just don't want to have to work as hard during the swing, utilizing the lighter weight of graphite is an option worth considering.
  • Less vibration. Some golfers lean toward the graphite side of this debate simply because they will feel less vibration coming up through the shaft of the club. This is particularly important on miss-hit shots. If you hit a poor shot with a steel-shafted club, you are likely to feel a significant amount of vibration come up into your hands and wrists. This is uncomfortable, especially on cold days. With graphite, less of that vibration is going to be passed through to your hands, and playing the game will be a more pleasant experience as a result. This point is not as important as the difference in weight between the two options, but it is still something to keep in mind.
  • Higher launch angle. Another reason to opt for graphite is the ability to launch the ball higher into the air right off the face of the club. Many golfers are able to achieve a higher launch when using graphite as opposed to steel. This is another benefit which is frequently enjoyed with the driver. Launching the ball high off the face of the driver can lead to tremendous distance, especially when that launch is combined with a relatively low spin rate. If you have been using steel-shafted clubs and you've been having trouble hitting the ball as high as you would like, think about making the switch to graphite. With the right graphite shaft, it is possible to raise your launch angle without making any other changes to your swing.

It is easy to see, based on nothing more than the three points listed above, why so many people like graphite shafts. If you can make a faster swing, hit higher shots, and feel less vibration on miss-hits, why wouldn't you take that opportunity? Graphite shafts are certainly a strong contender for a spot in your bag, but they shouldn't be considered perfect. Along with the benefits above come some potential drawbacks, which will become clear in the next section.

The Benefits of Steel

The Benefits of Steel

Moving on, we are now going to highlight some of the benefits of using steel shafts. Of course, the points included below won't be seen as benefits for all golfers, as your experience is going to vary based on your ability level, strength, playing style, and more. In the process of examining which benefits you will enjoy through the use of steel, we will wind up exposing some of the potential downfalls of graphite. Once you have a clear understanding of the pros and cons on each side, you can then make an informed decision.

Let's take a quick look at a few benefits frequently associated with steel shafts.

  • Solid feel. When you strike the ball cleanly with a steel-shafted club, you will get a feeling that does not come from hitting the same kind of shot with a graphite shaft. This is the other side of the coin from talking about the vibration problem earlier. Yes, you can experience bad vibrations with a steel shaft when you hit a poor shot, but you can also enjoy the great feedback that comes from striking one right on the sweet spot. Simply put, there is more feedback offered through a steel shaft, for better or worse. If you are a reasonably capable player who is able to strike solid shots more often than not, you may decide that you prefer the feel of a steel shaft over the graphite option.
  • Lower launch angle. We listed a higher launch angle as an advantage of graphite shafts, but what if you don't need that kind of help? What if your swing naturally launches the ball high into the air, and you want a little help keeping it down lower? When that is the case, you will likely want to turn to a steel option. Steel shafts typically launch the ball lower than graphite shafts, so you can use this characteristic to your advantage if you are a player who normally hits the ball rather high. Hitting high golf shots can be beneficial to a point, but hitting the ball too high is sure to lead to trouble.
  • Consistency. This is a tough one to measure, but many players feel they are more consistent with steel shafts than graphite. Steel shafts often feature less torque, meaning they are less prone to twisting through the hitting area. That can help you hold the ball on its line more frequently, so you might have a more precise game when you opt for steel. This point is a big part of the reason why so many golfers go for steel in their irons while using graphite in the driver. The graphite shaft lends itself to greater distance, so it is a natural fit in the driver, while steel shafts in your irons should help you control the ball more effectively.
  • Variety of ball flights. For some players, it is difficult to create a variety of shots with a graphite shaft. Once you settle on a graphite shaft which is tuned to your needs, that shaft will excel at producing your stock ball flight over and over again – but it might not be able to do much else. With steel, you should have more flexibility to create other kinds of shots. This is another reason why steel shafts tend to be so popular in the professional ranks. Pro golfers have the ability, and the need, to create different shots in different situations. If you are a skilled golfer, and you like to alter your shots on command based on the situation in front of you, steel could be your optimal choice.

Steel shafts have a lot to offer, and not surprisingly, the benefits they can claim are largely opposite to those claimed by graphite shafts. In other words, if you don't like one of the features included in a graphite shaft, you can probably look to a steel shaft for different performance. This isn't a case of one option being 'better' than the other, because that simply isn't how it works. Each of these options can work perfectly, so it is up to you to settle on the right one, in the right clubs, for your game.