What is the Difference Between Graphite and Steel Shafts? 

November 12, 2022
5 min

What is the Difference Between Graphite and Steel Shafts? 

Clubheads tend to get the most attention when it comes to equipment — and for obvious reasons, given how important the loft, lie angle and weighting is for a clubhead. However, the shaft is arguably an even more vital piece of your club. 

A shaft of a golf club is the long, thin piece that connects the grip to the clubhead. This connection is typically made out of graphite or steel. 

Neither material is inherently better than the other. Which one you use will come down to a variety of factors, including swing speed. It’s a matter of personal preference and the ability to get the most out of your game. 

In this article, we will break down the role a shaft plays in a golf shot and the difference between graphite and steel shafts. 

Why Do Shafts Matter in the First Place? 

The feel, durability, flexibility, length and overall weight of a golf shaft is critical to any golf swing. 

The most obvious place to start is with weight. A golf shaft that is too heavy for a player will be burdensome, uncomfortable and inefficient to use. Generating swing speed will be incredibly difficult. On the other side, a golf shaft that is too light will be hard to control because there is a lack of feel. Awareness for where the clubface is will hurt a player’s consistency. 

Shafts also matter for the amount of flexibility they have. A shaft with more flex will aid slower swing speed players hoping to generate more speed so they can get height to their shot. A shaft that is stiffer will aid faster swing speed players who want more control. 

If either player were to switch shaft flexes, it would present a problem. The slower swing speed player would struggle to get the ball airborne with a stiff shaft. Conversely, a higher swing speed player would have little control over a more flexible shaft that bends too much for them. 

There is also a general “responsiveness” category when it comes to picking out a shaft that matches your swing. All shafts have something called a kick point — this is the point where a shaft begins to flex during the swing. Shafts typically have a low, mid or high kick point.  

The kick point is one of the main factors in the feel of a shot. A high kick point, which means the shaft starts bending closer to the grip, produces a lower shot. This is usually geared toward faster swing speed players. 

The opposite is true for a low kick point, which means the shaft starts bending closer to the clubhead. This raises the launch angle, providing a lift for slower swing speed players. It’s possible the same player may need different kick points in their shafts depending on how they perform with certain clubs. 

If you want to get even more into the weeds, there are even additional elements, such as torque — a measure of how much the club twists during the swing — and shaft tip stiffness, which refers to the level of flexibility a shaft has right next to the clubhead. This is not to mention the length of a shaft, which will influence all of the above characteristics. 

As you can see, there is a lot to consider when it comes to shafts. Choosing the right one is critical to make sure you get the most of your game. It’s highly recommended to get a custom fit so you can understand what you need. 

The Difference Between Graphite and Steel Shafts

Golf shafts are usually only made from two materials: graphite or steel. While there are now multi-material shafts that combine the two, it’s still early in the development of those shafts. 

Overall, a graphite shaft is lighter, easier to hit, has more torque and flexibility, more expensive, is harder to control, has less durability and doesn’t offer as much vibration feedback at impact. Because of these properties, you will find them mostly in longer clubs such as drivers, fairway woods and hybrids. However, slower swing speed players also benefit from using graphite shafts for their irons and wedges. Women and junior golfers regularly use graphite throughout their set. 

Steel shafts are heavier, offer more control, have less torque and flexibility, less expensive, are extremely durable and offer more vibration feedback at impact. With these characteristics, they increase accuracy and feel. Steel is commonly used in irons, wedges and putters, although it can also be used in other clubs depending on the circumstance. 

More than any other factor, swing speed is the biggest component of whether you need a graphite or steel shaft.  

This is mainly because graphite shafts are so much lighter than steel shafts, although modern day technology has given both of them the ability to be heavier or lighter than they used to be. 

Graphite still rules the day when it comes to drivers and fairway woods. And if you are a faster swing speed player who swings above 90 mph or so, steel will likely be your choice for irons and wedges. 

Shaft choice always comes down to personal preference. One of the nice parts about getting clubs now is that you can easily try a variety of shafts to get immediate feedback about what is right for you. 

So go out and try different options. Experiment with both materials, different flexes, multiple kick points and other differences. Quickly you will get data to help you make a decision.  

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