Graphite or Steel?
One of the most common problems I see when fitting and teaching amatuers is they have purchased clubs that just don't suit. The price may be cheap but it is of little comfort when they play WORSE than they did with their K-Mart set! This guide is written in response to customer requests on the basic steps for buying golf equipment that will improve their game. This tip is entitled: "Is a Graphite Shaft Right For Me?"
Myth: Graphite is more flexible than steel.
Truth: This is commonly misunderstood. In fact the flex of the shaft (how much it bends) is EXACTLY the same between steel and graphite; that is, it is rated the same. Graphite can feel more flexible because it is generally lighter than steel. This means that your clubhead speed is usually increased with graphite and thus you put more loading (downward force) on the shaft. Remember: more clubhead speed generally means more distance.
Who Should Buy?: Slower swingers generally benefit from a lighter club and this usually includes senior, lady and junior golfers although not exclusively. I fit many amatuers who may have had injuries that prevent them from swinging the club at more than 70%. Some just prefer the feel of graphite because it deadens the vibration through the club from off-centre hits and physically, some players cannot fit into a steel shaft for various reasons. NOTE: Very tall golfers can really benefit from a carbon shaft as the extra length needed will not change the deadweight of the club to the extent steel will.
What to buy: Graphite, like most things is life, gets better the more you spend. One fact that is not disputed is that graphite will definately damage more easily than steel. Do your clubs get airbourne sometimes? If your temper can be an issue then maybe steel is for you. :) Remember that most of the top shelf manufacturers use decent graphite and with this comes a warranty.
Who makes the good stuff? I will list some price vs. quality brands for you that I have fitted, used and had good feedback from students and customers. This list is by no means comprehensive or in rating order so feel free to do your own homework.
1. Grafalloy (made by True Temper): a good range and fair pricing. ProLite range is well established. Grafalloy
2. UST: Had a great success with the ProGold range which was easily recognised by a bright yellow finish. UST
3. Aldila: very innovative and well priced. The NV series is popular - bright green (and others) in colour. Aldila
4. Graphite Design: Used by many top players including Greg Norman (Purple Ice). Can be pricey but worth it. GD
5. Fujikura: Japanese makers and well respected. Make shafts for brands like: Adams, Taylor Made, etc. Fujikura
6. Harrison: USA manufacturers. Higher priced but perform very well. Ping fits this shaft in the WRX range. Harrison
7. AJ Tech: A smaller range but a personal favourite. High price but outstanding performance. AJ Tech
Again, this is the range I have dealt with and fitted for the past 13 years. There are many brands out there so go surfing to check out the reviews.
4 easy steps for your satisfaction
1. What's my swing speed? Usually rated in MPH or KPH. Faster = stiffer.
2. What's my level of play? Is buying the $1000 shaft like feeding strawberries to pigs? :)
3. Straighter or Longer? 300 yards is no good in the rough. Choose a shaft that blends the two.
4. Have I been fitted by a professional clubfitter? Do yourself a favour and get tested.
Final thoughts: Why The Pros Use Graphite
Most drivers that the tour pros use are fitted with a graphite shaft. You may be thinking why this is seeing as how their swing speeds are usually greater than the average golfer, and you may remember seeing Tiger using steel in his driver not too long ago. The reason is distance. Remember that clubhead speed is the dominant factor in hitting the ball further and a steel shaft hampers this factor.
I hope this has helped you to understand some basic questions about golf shafts, nothing pleases me more than seeing people enjoy our great game. Remember that correct fitting is always worth investing in and it will save you the heartache and frustration of a poor day on the course.