By Tom Wishon,

The number one difference between graphite and steel shafts is
their weight.  While steel shafts today can be made to weigh as little
as 90 grams (3.2 oz.), and some graphite shafts as heavy as 120
grams (4.2 oz.), the big reason graphite shafts became popular is
their ability to offer stiffness and durability suited to the most
powerful swings while being very light in weight.

Remember, the shaft's weight is the number one factor that controls
the total weight of the entire golf club.  Lighter total weight equals the
potential to increase the golfer's swing speed, which equals the
potential to increase the distance of the shot.

The average steel shaft today weighs between 115g to 125g (4.0 to
4.4 oz.).  Put that together with a typical 195-gram (6.9-oz.) driver
head and a normal 50-gram (1.75-oz.) grip and you have a total
weight for the driver of some 365 grams (12.9 oz.).  Most graphite
shafts for drivers today are made to a weight of around 65-70 grams.
Assemble that with the driver head and the grip, and the total weight
of a typical graphite shaft driver will be about 11 oz.

That 1.9-oz.-lighter total weight (compared to the typical
steel-shafted driver) can mean as much as 2-4 mph more swing
speed for the golfer, which in turn translates to about 6-12 yards
more distance.

Makes it sound like all golfers should be using graphite shafts in all
their clubs, right?  On the surface that is true.  However, some
golfers who are very strong physically, and/or who are quick to very
quick with their swing tempo, need to have a little heavier total
weight to help them gain a little more control over their swing.
In addition, steel and graphite shafts are totally different in the
manner in which they transfer the vibrations from impact up to the
hands, which in turn affects the feel of the shot.  Simply stated, some
golfers prefer the more crisp, sharper feel of hitting the ball with
steel shafts, while some prefer the softer, more dampened feel of

If gaining more distance is a primary goal for the golfer, they should
definitely be fit with the proper graphite shaft design in their woods
and irons to match their swing.  On the other hand, if distance is not
the main focus for the golfer because they already have a high swing
speed, if they like the feel of steel and their swing tempo matches a
little better to the higher total weight steel shafts bring to the clubs,
then steel is the better option.

Tom Wishon is one of the most highly respected members of the
golf equipment industry.  He specializes in clubhead design, shaft
analysis, and clubfitting research and development, and is the
owner of his own golf equipment company,  Tom is a member of
the Golf Digest Technical Panel, and is the Technical Advisor to, the website of the PGA of America.
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