When buying a new set of clubs, the old steel vs graphite shaft irons debate will inevitably cross your mind. This can be a very important consideration because each option will offer different benefits depending on your swing and skill level. Some people feel that the graphite shafts are meant for seniors (less distance), juniors, and high handicappers, while the lower handicap golfers and better ball strikers typically play with steel shafts, but this is not always the case.
In our opinion, the benefits of steel vs graphite shafts vary greatly depending on the user, and since no two swings are exactly alike, we highly recommend you always invest the time in getting fitted for your particular equipment. Nowadays, just about every sporting goods store selling golf equipment is equipped with a virtual range or swing room used to analyze your swing, so don’t be afraid to ask for a fitting when you’re out there shopping for new sticks.
Keep these points in mind when buying your next set of irons:
- Steel is typically less expensive in comparison to graphite. A set of graphite irons, even with the same manufacturer, may result in a heftier price-tag and you may “over-buy” for something that’s not well suited for your game anyway. Spending a bit extra on graphite is only justified if it fits your swing and style of play.
- A good quality graphite shaft should last as long as a durable steel shaft, but graphite is more susceptible to breaking. Steel shafts will typically last forever as long as they are kept in good condition and not permitted to rust.
- Graphite shafts give off less of a vibration during ball strike which may decrease the sting felt in your hands on a miss-hit but for this same reason graphite may provide less feedback than steel.
- Some say steel shafts give you more distance and enhanced ball control. On the contrary, the graphite material weighs less then steel, allowing your swing speed to increase by 2-3 mph. This speed could result in 5-10 more yards in distance, but again, this faster swing could alter your control.
Our advice is to visit your local golf equipment store, try both and record the results. View the flight pattern of the ball and determine which shafts gave you more distance and control and then determine which best fits your game. Personally, we don’t mind giving up an extra 5-10 yards in favor of more consistent accuracy. I think we can all agree that a nice fairway lie always beats trying to rescue your hole from the rough.
We also suggest taking a set of sticks out on the range or course before committing to a purchase if possible. Some ranges, stores, higher end pro shops have “demo” clubs that you can use to “try before you buy.” A good idea is to call around to see which local facilities have demo units available in the clubs you like. Additionally, many golf courses have scheduled “demo days” when manufacturers bring their equipment in for players to try. Keep your eye on your local facilities’ schedules and try to take advantage of as many of these resources as you can. Remember to take your time with this decision as you’ll most likely be using your new irons for many seasons to come.
Most importantly, try to stay away from the “steel vs graphite” stereotypes like the ones mentioned earlier. We all have subtle nuances to our swings that may give one material a slight edge over the other. Buying new clubs can be a serious investment so put the time in swinging both and see which provides you with a more confident stroke on the ball. After all, you wouldn’t buy a new car without test driving a few, so why would you do so with your clubs?
Remember, selecting the right clubs has the potential to shave strokes off your game – so don’t purchase new clubs without doing your homework!