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Steel Vs. Graphite Golf Shafts: What's Right For Your Game?

Steel vs. Graphite Golf Shafts: What's Right For Your Game?

Should you go with steel shafts or graphite shafts in your golf clubs? What are the differences between the two types of shaft materials? Is one type of shaft better for your game than the other?

These are questions that many newcomers to golf—and even many golfers who have played for years—have in mind when they go shopping for a new set of clubs.

In the "old days," the general feeling was that recreational golfers, mid- and high-handicappers, should use graphite shafts, while the better players, low-handicappers, should stick with steel shafts. That's not necessarily true anymore, however. If PGA Tour golfers are using graphite shafts, that puts the lie to the idea that graphite is only for mid- and high-handicap golfers. All the way back in 2004, Tiger Woods switched from a steel shaft to a graphite shaft in his driver (most pros made that switch even earlier).

As with every type of golf equipment, the key is to try out both kinds and determine which type best fits your swing. But there are real differences between steel and graphite shafts that can help you choose one over the other.

Steel Shafts Cost Less Than Graphite

Generally speaking, steel shafts are less expensive than graphite shafts, so the same set of clubs will cost less with steel shafts vs. graphite shafts. In a set of irons, that price difference is often around $100 (more as the total cost of the set goes up). Of course, that has to do with your bank account, not with what's best for your golf game—but budget considerations are very important in a sport that can be quite expensive.

Steel vs. Graphite Durability? Don't Worry About It

Steel shafts were once considered much more durable than graphite shafts. That's not so much the case anymore. Quality graphite shafts will last as long as you do so long as they are not chipped, cracked, or the laminate-seal is not peeling. Steel shafts will last forever so long as they are not bent, rusted or pitted.

Biggest Difference and Key Factor in Graphite vs. Steel: Weight

The biggest and by far most important difference between steel and graphite shafts is this: Graphite shafts are lighter than steel shafts, in some cases significantly so. (Note: The lightest steel shafts weigh less than the heaviest graphite shafts, but generally speaking, graphite is usually the lighter option by a significant amount.) So golf clubs that have graphite shafts will be lighter than otherwise identical clubs that have steel shafts.

"The big reason graphite shafts became popular is their ability to offer stiffness and durability suited to the most powerful swings while being very light in weight," Wishon said. He further explained:

"Remember, the shaft's weight is the number one factor that controls the total weight of the entire golf club. Lighter total weight equals the potential to increase the golfer's swing speed, which equals the potential to increase the distance of the shot."

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