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If you’ve been golfing for any amount of time, you’ve probably wondered about the difference between steel and graphite golf shafts and which one is best suited for your game.
The answer to this question will vary depending on your unique swing. However, in this article, we’ve laid out the pros and cons of steel and graphite golf shafts to help you decide between the two. Let’s take a look!
Graphite Vs. Steel Golf Clubs – Pros and Cons
Let’s take a look at a few of the advantages and disadvantages of both steel and graphite shafts.
Steel Golf Shafts – Pros
Steel shafts are more durable and less prone to damage compared to graphite shafts. Of course, a hidden tree root can be the demise of any golf club, but as far as withstanding the force of contacting the golf ball over time, steel shafts tend to do much better.
Once you find a steel shaft that’s right for your game, it’ll probably last until you upgrade your irons.
Steel shafts send more vibrations to the golfer’s hands through (and after) impact. This helps players have a better idea of where contact was made on the clubface so they can make adjustments for the next shot.
Steel shafts will generally cost less than graphite shafts, sometimes as much as $10-$30 less per shaft. You might not think a $10 difference is a big deal, but remember, you’ll need to buy the same shaft for all of your irons and wedges. This can add up to a difference of $110+ for your entire set.
Steel Golf Shafts – Cons
Steel golf shafts typically weigh about 120-130 grams. This is about 25% more than graphite shafts, which average between 55 and 85 grams. This is important because the weight of the club shaft has a significant impact on your swing speed.
While more vibration throughout the club can be a great source of feedback, not all golfers appreciate it. Most high handicappers and beginners have not achieved a level of consistency to take advantage of this feedback. Instead, they’ll often be frustrated with the numbing sensation created by these vibrations when they miss-hit a shot.
Graphite Golf Shafts – Pros
Graphite shafts weigh between 55 and 85 grams, which is as much as 25% lighter than the 120 to 130 gram average of steel shafts mentioned above. This means you’ll be able to swing graphite irons much faster, helping you to achieve more distance.
Unlike steel shafts, graphite shafts tend to muffle vibrations through the club shaft and prevent them from reaching the hands. For beginner golfers, this is nice because it reduces the shock to the hands when you blade a shot or do not make contact with the center of the clubface.
Graphite Golf Shafts – Cons
Graphite shafts are usually more expensive than steel shafts. If you’re just purchasing one shaft, this might not be a problem. However, if you’re buying shafts for all your irons, the cost can add up quickly.
Graphite shafts are less durable compared to steel. Over time, the impact from thousands of shots can weaken the shaft, until it eventually snaps. Also, if you’re not careful with how you store them in your golf bag, the shafts can rub against the sides and get damaged.
If you’re a player who likes “feeling” the golf ball through impact, graphite shafts might not be for you. As mentioned before, graphite tends to muffle vibrations at the point of impact with the golf ball, resulting in less feedback.
Should You Use Graphite Or Steel Shafts?
Again, this depends on the unique characteristics of your own golf swing. However, there are certain scenarios where you should choose graphite shafts over steel, and vice-versa. Let’s start off by taking a look at who might benefit from using graphite shafts:
Who Should Use Graphite Shafts?
Seniors will likely benefit from using irons with graphite shafts because they’re much lighter, which helps combat the reduction in club head speed that naturally occurs as you age.
However, if you’ve used steel shafts for most of your life, and you enjoy how they feel, you might be hesitant to make the switch to graphite.
In this case, there’s no reason why you can’t keep your steel shafts for the shorter precision clubs (wedges, 9I, 8I, 7I) and switch your mid-long iron shafts to graphite.
This way, you’ll still get plenty of feedback on precise approach shots while recovering the distance you lost with your longer clubs.
Just make sure to watch out for any gaps in yardages as you switch from graphite to steel.
2. Beginners and High-Handicappers
Most beginners and high handicappers would benefit from using graphite shafts. This is because they probably haven’t developed an efficient swing that maximizes clubhead speed.
The lighter graphite shafts will allow them to pick up a few extra yards while you make improvements to your swing.
Also, these players will appreciate how the graphite shafts muffle the vibrations that occur on off-center hits. After all, no one likes that numb-stinging feeling in the hands that results from a bladed iron shot!
One of the biggest challenges for ladies on the golf course is generating enough clubhead speed to get their irons into the air so that they can maximize their distance.
Graphite shafts are a great choice for ladies because they help boost their clubhead speed to get the ball into the air and travel a greater distance. These shafts also tend to be more flexible compared to steel, which helps add a little “whip” to their golf swing.
4. Junior Golfers
Junior golfers can benefit from the use of graphite shafts because they’re still learning the golf swing and building their strength. The lightweight design of graphite shafts will increase their swing speed, helping them to consistently get the ball into the air.
Who Should Use Steel Shafts?
Graphite isn’t always the answer. Many players can improve their game by electing to use steel shafts. These include:
1. Low-Mid Handicappers
Steel shafts are ideal for low-handicappers because they provide consistent feedback on every shot. Unlike beginners, advanced players will know how to make adjustments based on this feedback and improve their game.
2. Players With Fast Swing Speeds
Those with fast swing speeds might find steel shafts helpful because the added weight of these shafts helps keep their swing under control and improves accuracy.
With graphite shafts, the reduced weight combined with a “whippy” feel makes it difficult for these types of players to achieve consistent contact.
Steel Vs. Graphite Golf Shaft FAQ
Do Pros Use Graphite or Steel Irons?
The majority of PGA Tour pros will use graphite shafts for their woods and steel shafts for their irons. This is because they generally have high swing speeds and benefit from the stiffer, more durable, steel shafts.
Also, steel shafts provide more feedback through the hands after each shot. This is appreciated by tour pros because their game has reached a level where every little insight is important.
On the LPGA tour, you see a lot more players using graphite shafts for both woods AND irons. This is likely because the average LPGA clubhead speed (94 mph) is 19 mph slower than the average clubhead speed on the PGA tour (113 mph).
The lighter graphite shafts allow ladies to increase their swing speed and hit the golf ball further.
Are graphite shafts easier to hit?
It depends, players with slow swing speeds might find it easier to hit graphite shafts because they help them pick up clubhead speed and get the ball into the air.
On the other hand, players with high swing speeds might find it difficult to control the lightweight “whippy” feeling often associated with graphite shafts.
Do graphite shafts break easily?
Graphite golf shafts are less durable when compared to steel shafts and might be easier to break.
However, depending on how much you play and how well you care for your clubs, graphite shafts will still last a reasonable amount of time.
There are both pros and cons when using graphite and steel golf shafts. The material you should select is based on your unique swing.
For beginners and high-handicappers, graphite shafts are probably your best bet. For low-handicappers with high swing speeds, steel shafts will most likely be the right choice.
Be sure to carefully consider the points mentioned in this post before buying a new set of irons.
As always, hope this was helpful and feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section down below!
Looking to take your game to the next level? Check out our recommendations page which is packed with helpful resources for golfers!
Ivan Boychuk is a freelance writer, golf-enthusiast, and the founder of wired2golf.com. From writing about golf to playing in tournaments to instructing junior golfers, he has been heavily involved in the golf scene for more than 15 years.