Whether you are just getting into the game of golf or are an experienced pro, deciding between a set of irons with graphite or steel shafts can be overwhelming and confusing.
Here, we’ll cover the differences between steel and graphite shafts, the pros and cons of each, and how to choose the right golf shaft for your ability level and goals.
What Is the Difference Between Steel and Graphite Shafts?
Generally, there are two main types of golf shaft to choose from: graphite or steel. Your fairway woods and driver will almost always feature a graphite shaft.
So, the real choice comes when you are choosing between a graphite and steel shaft for your irons. In the past, low-handicap golfers and professionals used to use steel shafts, while beginners leaned toward graphite shafts. However, today it is entirely a personal choice.
To help you choose, we’ll look closely at the traits of graphite and steel shafts and the pros and cons of each type.
Pros and Cons of Steel Shafts
Steel shafts tend to be heavier, less expensive, and more durable than graphite shafts. Often, they are constructed from stainless steel and weigh between 90 and 120 grams.
Advantages of steel shafts:
- Additional control (ideal if you are looking to improve the consistency of your golf game)
- Higher accuracy
- Reduced lateral shifting and torque
- Higher feedback during a swing
- Less costly than graphite shafts
- May last a lifetime when properly cared for
Disadvantages of steel shafts include:
- May irritate chronic arm, shoulder, or hand issues due to the higher weight and rigid flex of the shaft
- Slightly reduced swing speed, which may result in reduced yardage
- Higher transmission of vibrations from the club up through the hands
Pros and Cons of Graphite Shafts
Graphite shafts are significantly lighter than steel shafts, coming in around 50 to 85 grams. This lighter shaft weight can help generate higher swing speed and power, but it comes at the cost of reduced control.
Although graphite shafts are less expensive than steel shafts, their lighter weight tends to make them less durable. With their lighter weight and increased flexibility, graphite shafts do not vibrate as much upon ball contact.
Advantages of graphite shafts:
- Higher yardage potential (typically at least 5 yards per club)
- Easier to swing for individuals who experience pain from vibrations in the shaft
- Less rigid
- Smoother feel during a swing
- Beneficial for players with slow swing speeds
Disadvantages of graphite shafts:
- More expensive (usually about 20% pricier than a set of irons with steel shafts)
- May exaggerate poor swing technique
- Potential for decreased accuracy
How To Choose Between a Steel or Graphite Shaft
Ultimately, the choice between a steel or graphite shaft will come down to your skill level, how the club feels to you, how much money you want to spend, and personal preference. However, there are some general tips that can help you choose between a graphite or steel shaft.
Steel shafts are often recommended for:
- Players with normal to high swing speeds who are looking for additional control
- Golfers who want a more responsive club
- Golfers who want reduced twisting
- Players who want a shaft that has more weight and less flex
- Players looking for a less expensive club
Graphite shafts are typically recommended for:
- General players
- Golfers who struggle to generate high enough swing speed to make the most out of a steel shaft
- Golfers with arm, shoulder, or hand problems or other injuries
- Elderly golfers
- Players looking for a wider range of colour and flex choices
How To Choose the Right Golf Shaft Flex
When choosing a golf shaft, it is also important to consider the flex – the shaft’s ability to bend during swings. The flex of the golf shaft will greatly affect distance, direction, and control, making it essential to choose the right shaft flex.
Beginners often opt for a shafter with higher flexibility, while players with high, powerful swing speed will benefit from a more rigid staff with less flex.
What If I Pick the Wrong Shaft?
If you end up choosing the wrong shaft, you will probably notice right away. Whether the ball doesn’t go as far as it should or you lose control, you’ll know if a club feels off.
The club may also feel “dead” if it is too stiff or heavy. Or, the club may feel too weak or soft for your preference and skill level.
Final Thoughts on Choosing Between a Steel or Graphite Shaft
Every golfer has unique abilities and preferences. If possible, test a wide range of shafts to discover which one is ideal for you.
If you have more questions or would like personalised advice on choosing between a steel or graphite shaft, please feel free to reach out to me. I also offer Online Golf Coaching, Remote Video Analysis, and a variety of other tools to help your golf game. Whether you are a beginner or a seasoned pro, I’m here to help you improve your skills and get the most out of your golf game.