Are graphite golf clubs better than steel?

Are you considering a new set of golf clubs? 

A few years ago as I got older, my swing started to slow down. I was losing distance on my irons and having a real tough time reaching long par 3’s. 

My younger friends (if they really are friends) would laugh at me that I was an old man and losing distance. So, I decided to take matters in my hands and get a new set of graphite irons.

After that, my distance was back, and I was able to reach those long par 3s easier without having to go to my woods–giving me better control and accuracy,

Whether it’s your first set or a replacement set, you’ve probably come across one of the oldest debates in golf. There are articles and videos and interviews discussing one critical question about golf clubs: are graphite golf clubs better than steel? 

Before setting out to purchase a gorgeous set of golf clubs, take a moment to catch up on the main issues in the graphite vs. steel debate and decide for yourself.

The Anatomy of a Golf Club

To decide between graphite and steel, you need to understand the parts of a golf club. Though a club appears to be one solid piece of equipment, that’s not the case.

Different parts of a golf club can be composed of different materials. Aside from materials used to make a club, multiple alterations can be made to almost any component.

Grip

The grip is the topmost portion of the club. It is a hollow, rubber sleeve intended to improve your hold on the club. There are many options for altering your grip, including size, surface texture, firmness, and color. 

Shaft

The part of the club that connects to the clubhead is the shaft. Not only is it the center of a golf club, but it will also be the center of this discussion. As we talk about the differences between a steel and graphite shaft, we are referring to the material used for the shaft. 

Golf Club shaft
From Golf Distillery

Clubhead

Also called the head, this is the part of the club that strikes the ball. There are more than a dozen areas of variation on a clubhead. Each adjustment can alter a different aspect of how the ball comes off the club. T

he clubheads can be made of a variety of materials, including steel, titanium, and wood.

Exploring Your Options

Golf club shafts are made of steel or graphite, and each material has advantages. However, several other shaft design elements affect the performance of a club.

Since some of the aspects of shaft design can be affected by the material you choose, understanding them may help you decide between steel and graphite.

Length

Shaft length varies between the types of clubs, with drivers having the longest shafts and putters the shortest. Golfers should also factor in their height when selecting clubs.

Taller golfers will probably prefer a shaft that’s a bit longer than the default length. Keep in mind, longer shafts will give you distance, but shorter shafts provide more control.

Weight

The weight of a club affects swing speed and control. Lighter clubs will increase swing speed, but heavier clubs will help you feel the movements of your swing and give you more control.

A shaft with a lighter weight is more comfortable to swing for those of us who are older golfers.

Flex

When a golfer takes a swing, the shaft will bow during the downswing. The amount of bowing, or flex, can be extra stiff, stiff, or regular, depending on the speed of your swing.

Golfers with faster swings will prefer stiff or extra stiff shafts. Those with slower swings will prefer regular flex.

Kick Point

Kick points, also known as bend points, are often associated with the flex level of a shaft because they identify the part with the most bend. The higher the kick point, the lower the flight path of the ball.

High kick points are better for golfers with fast swings and can be challenging for those with slow to mid-range swings.

Torque

Torque refers to the amount of twisting the tip of the shaft does during the swing. The amount of twist affects how the clubface hits the ball. High-torque shafts are generally preferred by golfers with slower swings or those who tend to slice the ball.

Golfers with faster swings and low handicaps may see an improvement in accuracy with low-torque shafts.

golf clubs on sale

The Benefits of Steel 

  • Cost
  • Feel
  • Heavier Weight

If there were no benefits to using steel shafts in our golf clubs, nobody would manufacture them anymore. The first argument for steel is the cost. Steel shafts are the cheaper option, sometimes by $100 or more per set. 

It’s not just about finances for some golfers. Some competitive golfers prefer steel clubs because they allow you to feel more vibrations in your hands.

Experienced golfers rely on this feedback to know what they’re doing wrong so they can make adjustments during play. For example, by hitting the sweet spot of a steel club, the golfer will know it because the vibration is stronger.

The most significant difference between steel and graphite shafts is weight. Steel shafts are heavier than graphite, making them the better choice for golfers with quick swings and excellent control.

Advantages of Graphite

  • Lighter
  • Flexibility
  • Absorbs Vibration

Graphite shafts have gained popularity over the past several years across all levels of golf. There are two big reasons for this shift. 

First, graphite shafts are lighter than steel. Second, a graphite shaft is more flexible. The combination of lighter weight and more flexibility adds speed and forgiveness to a swing, which makes the ball travel a greater distance. 

One more note about graphite relates to a natural property of the material. Graphite absorbs vibration, so golfers with chronic hand, arm, or shoulder issues may prefer graphite shafts for the muted feedback. 

Are graphite shafts less accurate?

Generally, it has been considered common knowledge that clubs with steel shafts are considered to be more accurate than graphite clubs.

But I don’t think that’s really the case.

Since I switched over to graphite clubs, I have not noticed any real difference with accuracy. Now it’s true that I’m not as accurate as your average tour player, I can still tell when I’m better than usual.

And I’ve never noticed any drop off in accuracy with my graphite clubs.

Should You Choose Graphite Over Steel?

Historically, graphite shafts have been marketed to women golfers and older golfers, but that dynamic has changed. Over the past decade, more and more graphite shafts have been spotted on the PGA Tour.

Graphite shafts have become a popular choice across demographics.

At the end of the day, your choice between graphite and steel shafts should come down to personal preference. There are advantages to both clubs depending on what type of golfer you are, how much you care to spend, and how often you intend to golf.

To help you narrow your search, we’ve created a series of questions to help you decide.

  • How Much Are You Willing To Spend?
  • What Are You Hoping To Gain From New Clubs?
  • How Hard Are You On Your Clubs?
  • How Hard Are You On Your Clubs?
  • Do You Have Any Injuries Or Chronic Upper Body Pain?
  • What Have You Used In The Past?
  • Do You Need A Whole Set?
driver ready to hit ball

How Much Are You Willing to Spend?

If the price is a significant factor in purchasing clubs, you may want to explore the selection of steel shafts. This is especially true for occasional golfers who won’t likely see enough impact from the graphite shafts to justify the purchase if you don’t play enough.

Of note, manufacturers are working to narrow the price gap between steel and graphite.

What Are You Hoping to Gain from New Clubs?

One of the biggest arguments for graphite is the opportunity to gain more distance on your shot. Even professional golfers have started incorporating graphite woods into their bags during tournaments. 

Keep in mind, if you’re counting on brand new graphite clubs to drop ten strokes off your game immediately, you’re going to be disappointed.

Graphite clubs will add some speed to your swing and give you a little more distance, but the key to improving your game is practice.

How Hard Are You on Your Clubs?

Traditionally, one of the biggest arguments for steel shafts was durability. However, this is no longer a significant issue. Modern graphite shafts can last as long as the golfer using them as long as they don’t chip or crack them.

Steel shafts only need to be replaced if they are bent, pitted, or rusted. Ultimately, the lifespan of a golf club depends on the golfer, not whether it is graphite or steel.

How Fast is Your Swing?

Don’t adjust your swing speed to fit a club, find a club that works for your swing. If you struggle to get a club around smoothly, it’s probably not a good fit for you.

Steel shafts are heavier, so if you already have a slower swing, they can make things worse.

Generally, if your swing is slower, choose graphite shafts.

Do You Have Any Injuries or Chronic Upper Body Pain?

A graphite shaft is more forgiving because they are more flexible and limit the amount of vibration you’ll feel. They’re also lighter, so they put less stress on your body while the vibrations and weight of a steel club may exacerbate your symptoms.

What Have You Used in the Past?

For new golfers, this probably isn’t an issue. However, if you’ve only used steel in the past, you may need to adjust your swing if you switch to graphite.

The differences between the two shafts that give graphite shafts an advantage can feel very different for golfers accustomed to the weight and stiffness of steel shafts.

Do You Need a Whole Set?

You can always experiment. If you have a set of irons, try one graphite club to see how you like it. No rule says you can’t have a blend of clubs in your bag. You may find that you prefer steel for your irons and graphite for your drivers, but you’ll never know until you try. 

Do pros use graphite or steel irons?

Way back in 2002, Rich Beem made history when he was the first player to win a major championship with a set of graphite shafts in both his irons and wedges.

For quite some time, the preferred choice of shafts for drivers and woods has been graphite. Pros like the increased distance and swing speed that graphite provides for their long hitting clubs.

Quite famously, in 2004, Tiger Woods began using a graphite shaft on his driver, even though most pros had started using graphite in their drivers long before that.

Today, it’s common to see many pros play week in and week out with graphite irons and wedges.

Most players still use steel shafts, but more and more pros are using and winning with graphite irons.

Is graphite or steel better for golf clubs?

My own personal preference is for graphite shafted clubs. The lighter club is better for my slower swing.

But for you, we’ve laid out the basics, provided the key facts, and even asked some tough questions about graphite vs. steel. Have you made a decision? 

The choice is yours, and only you can determine if graphite or steel is better. Just remember, choosing the right club for you can improve your game a little, but don’t forget to keep practicing!

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