Shaft Exchange

Which type of shaft is right for your game?

Labels: ShaftsEquipment
FEEL
When it comes to composite shafts, there's no question they feel better than steel. The vibration dampening was a huge improvement over the steel shafts. It's not as though the graphite felt overly mushy—I could still feel mis-hits, but flushed shots felt sublime. As for how the lightness of the shaft (the composite equivalent was about 30 grams lighter than the steel versions) felt in the iron head, there was a detectable difference in swing weight, but not enough for me to say I noticed a whole lot. I expected the clubhead to feel heavier and the shaft way lighter, but it didn't. It still had a nice balance to it.

Summary: When it comes to feel, you can't beat graphite. The Project X composite shafts felt just awesome.

Arguments against composite shafts pertained to composite being more expensive, less durable, too flexy and less consistent than steel (in other words, it's harder to have the same flex profile in a variety of graphite shafts than it is in steel shafts—a claim that even I know isn't necessarily true).
FLEX
How any club flexes is, in my opinion, the most important performance variable. With composite shafts in my irons, I noticed that how my steel 6.0 shafts flexed vs. my composite 6.0 shafts wasn't quite the same. The graphite models felt more "flexy," and whether they actually were or not isn't my point. The reduction in weight sure made it feel that way, and it changed how I swung. I noticed this more in my longer irons, as it seemed I hit better shots when I slowed down and let the clubhead catch up. In the rough, or with shots that required some extra oomph, I ended up pulling a lot of shots left—a big no-no in my golf-shot repertoire. I'm not saying that graphite necessarily has to flex more than steel. The quick fix is to consider a stiffer version of graphite than you have in your steel shafts (that is, if you want composite shafts to flex like your steel ones). Maybe you'll benefit from more flex, maybe not. Just don't do what I did and expect an S-flex in steel to match an S-flex in graphite. It's just not an apples-to-apples comparison, in my opinion.

Summary: I prefer the way steel flexes. I also feel more confident hitting shots harder and/or from the rough with a steel shaft than doing so with a composite one. It seemed that the graphite shafts needed more time in my swing to load and unload—something that's easier to accomplish when you have a big, wide swing arc (like that of a wood or driver). However, and this is a big one, had I had a stiffer set of graphite shafts, none of the above might have applied.

CONTROL/DISTANCE
While I had some control issues swinging harder (faster) with the composite shafts I tried, I didn't feel as though I gained a huge boost in distance. Maybe this is because I scaled back on my swing speed due to the more flexible shaft, but even with short irons, it's not as though I tacked on noticeable distance gains over my steel set. Another reason for this is, I hit the ball higher with composite shafts. I spun it more too, both of which negated an increase in distance. Had I been fitted properly for these shafts, I bet I could have increased my total distance by several yards. And even though the claim may true that the Project X graphite shafts have a more penetrating ballflight, that would be only when compared to other graphite shafts. But for me, the steel Project X clearly produced shots that bore through the air more efficiently.

Summary: If you get fitted properly, there's no doubt in my mind that graphite shafts can help you increase your iron-shot distances. Or if distance isn't what you want, composite shafts can help you hit the ball higher and with more spin—something to be desired for certain types of players.


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