When it comes to choosing between graphite and steel shafts for golf clubs, it all boils down to one thing: personal preference. As a guide, here’s a quick summary of their differences.
|Graphite Shaft||Steel Shaft|
|Developed by Frank Thomas in 1969||Developed in 1893 by Thomas Horsburgh|
|Usually weighs between 65 to 70 grams||Usually weighs between 115 to 125 grams|
|Generates faster swings||Generates slower swings|
|Offers less control||Offers more control|
|Does not always produce low-trajectory shots||Usually produces low-trajectory shots|
|Generally offers greater distances||Generally offers shorter distances|
|Performs less consistently in terms of distance variations||Performs more consistently in terms of distance variations|
|Transmits less vibration||Transmits more vibration|
A graphite shaft is an essential part of a golf club. It is a long, narrow tube made with carbon fiber.
A steel shaft, on the other hand, is a long, tapered tube made with either stainless steel or carbon steel.
Graphite Shafts vs Steel Shafts
While both are indispensable tools in the golf industry, there is still a significant difference between graphite and steel shafts.
Between the two, steel shafts are the older and the more traditional type of golf shaft. They were first developed in 1893 by Thomas Horsburgh, who later lost his patent as he grew disinterested with the material because of weight issues. Between 1910 and 1930, a new era of steel shaft development emerged as lighter and more functional variants rose into popularity.
Around four decades later, graphite shafts entered the golf scene. They were originally created by Frank Thomas in 1969, but upgraded versions were only released a few years after. Today, both steel and graphite-shafted clubs are a popular choice among amateur and professional golfers.
Pricing greatly depends on manufacturing costs. Since steel is cheaper than graphite, steel-shafted golf clubs usually cost less.
Weight greatly influences swinging speeds and overall play. Technically, a steel shaft weighs between 115 to 125 grams – almost double the weight of a graphite shaft, which ranges between 65 to 70 grams. However, there are some steel-shafted club models that are lighter than graphite shafts, so it’s always important to check specific product specifications.
Speed and Trajectory
As a rule of thumb, lightweight shafts produce faster swings while heavy ones translate to a low-trajectory shot. Following this principle, using graphite-shafted clubs can increase swinging speed, leaving players with less control. Steel-shafted clubs, by contrast, offer more control but are more likely to result in low-trajectory shots, which can be counteracted by proper body mechanics and grip.
There are two major factors that affect distance: shaft material and the force generated by the player. Graphite shafts generally offer greater distances, while steel shafts perform more consistently in terms of distance variations.
Both steel and graphite shafts transmit vibration from the golf club to the hands of the player, but between the two, steel shafts absorb more feedback especially during cold winter days. Since mishit shots always generate more vibration, steel shafts are not preferred by most players with sensitive hands. Some, by contrast, prefer the feedback produced by steel shafts since it helps them distinguish a mishit shot from a perfect, spot-on one.