Graphite vs Steel Shaft | What’s the difference?

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So, you are looking to choose a new club or two and wonder which is better when it comes to graphite vs steel shaft. Well, there's probably a bigger difference than you'd think… No, it isn't that graphite is harder to break over your knee (ask me how I know). Both steel shafts and graphite shafts have some great qualities and some not so great. In this article, I will look at some of the benefits to decide when choosing the type of shaft that's right for you.

Quick Jump -

Steel or Graphite Shafts | Which are the Best?

As with the vast majority of golf equipment, the true answer to which is best depends almost entirely on who will be using them. If golf and golfers were simply a one size fits all model, there’d be quite a few unhappy golf manufacturers.

You’ll find a range of shaft options in most clubs (including putters). And you can normally get a good idea as to which shaft is best for a specific club by looking at who the club is aimed at and what it is designed to achieve.

Here’s what I mean

Take the TaylorMade Sim Max. This driver is designed to maximize distance and has a really hot face. While the shaft is only available in graphite, you’ll notice that the maximum flex you can purchase is ‘regular’. As a result, this wouldn’t be the best shaft for someone with a really slow swing. They wouldn’t be able to generate enough torque.

Speaking of swing speeds, let’s look at it from the other side.

A player with a fast swing definitely wants to avoid more flexible golf club shafts, like graphite.

Once you get above a certain speed, those things can become pretty wild and loose. You’ll find that with a fast golf swing and a softer shaft, the clubhead lags behind your swing significantly. If you aren’t in control of the clubhead, you won’t hit the ball accurately.

You’ll often be able to tell if the shaft isn’t right as the golf ball flight will have an irregular shape, even when you make good contact.

Recommended Reading: Cobra Radspeed Review

⛳️ - Are Graphite Shafts Easier to Hit With?

Graphite shafts tend to be lightweight. Depending on which you choose, they can also be a little ‘softer’… And by softer, we mean ‘more whippy’. These two things can combine to make an ideal combination for certain types of golf players…

Certain types? Like who?

Maybe like you if you have a slow swing speed… or for players who are older than your gross score.

As graphite shafts are much more flexible, they bend during the golf stroke. This bending helps generate speed and inertia, adding a significant number of yards to a golf shot.

This is only valid if you have chosen the right graphite shaft however.

⛳️ - Are Steel Shafts More Accurate Than Graphite?

On a shot-by-shot basis? Probably not. When it comes to becoming more accurate over time, steel shafts might be of benefit to your average golf player.

Here’s why.

Due to the way that steel is made, you’ll find that steel is almost always harder than graphite. With steel shafts, the vibrations you’d get from mishit shots are fed back to your hands much better. If you hit a bad shot with a graphite shaft, you might find that this effect is somewhat less.

Do you know what I hate?

Stinging fingers from thinned shots.


Do you know how I stop it?

I make sure to hit the ball more accurately. Therefore, steel shafts have made my golf game more accurate.

Ok, so now we have an idea of what we are dealing with, let’s dig down into the nitty-gritty of steel shafts and graphite shafts and show you a few key points to both type of shaft.

Steel shafts | Pros and Cons

— PROS —

— CONS —

Why Use Steel Shafts?

If there’s one thing that I like when playing golf, it’s control (disclaimer: not including my temper). Steel shafts are a great way for you to feel truly connected to the clubhead.

There’s no hiding with a steel shaft. If you hit one off the toe or low on the clubface, you will feel it.

Over the years, I’ve managed to develop a reasonably fast swing speed… (that’s right when I smack it into the crap, it goes a long way into the crap)… As a result, I find that the ‘slowing’ effect of steel-shafted clubs, particularly in my mid-to-long irons, helps keep my swing tempo consistent.

If you are a golfer who has a fast swing, you might want to consider getting fitted for steel shafts as a way to ‘calm things down’.

How much do steel shafted golf clubs slow your swing? I’d say anywhere between 3-5mph. That’s enough to knock between 5 and 10 yards off each shot. If you pick a strong lofted set of clubs, then you’ll find that this isn’t the end of the world.

One additional benefit worth mentioning is those golfers who play carrying an injury (you hero!). The increased weight and stiffness (I’m talking about the shaft, not you) can often aggravate chronic problems. Graphite provides a lighter alternative that lets you keep playing…

Speaking of which, let’s see what composite shafts have to offer…

Graphite Shafts Pros and Cons

— PROS —

— CONS —

Why Use Graphite Shafts?

Graphite shafts are generally lighter than steel shafts. The average graphite shaft weights something around 75-90 grams. If you compare this to a steel golf shaft weighing around 100 grams, the difference is obvious.

Graphite iron shafts are much ‘quicker’ than a steel shaft. You’ll find that you’ll gain around five mph of swing speed compared to the same steel shafted golf club. If you were paying attention above, that’d mean a few extra yards.

If you have a slower swing speed, you might find that a graphite shaft will vastly improve your game.

So it’s all good, right? Graphite is the way?

Well, not quite. In the wrong hands, graphite, in particular very flexible graphite, can lead to some bad side effects. If the clubhead isn’t square on contact, you will get sidespin, even if your swing path is A1 perfect. Graphite and carbon fiber shafts prone to twisting. This can lead to a large wobble if you put some effort into making your swing speed faster.

The above all rely on a consistent swing too. While graphite is often recommended for beginners, one thing that won’t fix flaws in a golf swing is a super flexible shaft. If anything, it will make things worse!

⛳️ Frequently Asked Questions ️

You’re bound to have questions about golf shafts. You wouldn’t be here if you didn’t. Here’s what we hear most often…

Ultimately it is down to how you play. You've seen the benefits (and downsides) of what playing with a different type of shaft can do for (or to) your golf game.

When it comes to choosing a shaft, you are best sitting down and having a careful think about what you want to achieve.

Do you have a slow swing speed and are looking to increase it? Do you struggle to gain distance? And, of course, it can be the opposite. Are you looking to regain some tempo or slow the clubhead down?

The best bet is to get measured on a launch monitor using a range of different golf shafts. Once you have established a baseline, you have something to work from.

Don't forget, as we mentioned above. Carbon fiber golf shafts tend to be a little more expensive, so if you are at the limit of your budget, this might be a limiting factor.
Indeed, nothing lasts forever… And yes, this does include graphite iron shafts. When you bend and flex any material, it gains microscopic 'tears' and becomes fatigued. Over time it becomes less resilient and springy.

In both steel or graphite shafts, they can become what is affectionately known as 'dead'. This is where they lose both their sparkle and feel and start to give the impression of being somewhat dull.

The good news is that in steel or graphite shafts, this process will take around six years… By which point, you'll have undoubtedly spotted a new set of irons, and we'll no doubt be telling you the benefits of some new space-age material.

Generally speaking, yes, graphite shafts are great for high handicap golfers. High handicappers tend to fall into two groups: beginners and older players. Besides being high handicap golfers, they share another trait (no, I know it's not an amazing pension)… They both have slower swing speeds.

Graphite shafts are a perfect solution to get a bit more juice out of a slow swing, as we saw above.

Closing Thoughts

Should I switch to graphite shafts? Well, the answer is entirely based on your style of play. Remember, if you are spending a lot, you also want to future-proof your set for a few years at least. Deciding between a graphite vs steel shaft requires careful thought. After all, you are going to be playing with them for a while. Thanks for reading!

Your Guru Author


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