QA Steel vs Graphite Shafts

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Editor's Note: This is the latest in a weekly Q&A feature from The Golf Channel's Chief Technical Advisor Frank Thomas. To submit a question for possible use in this column, email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com
 

Frank,
I just read your three articles on the 'Shaft.' I understand there is a new grade of steel now being used. How would you compare this new steel shaft and the graphite shaft? Considering going to steel soon. Thanks, Gilbert

 
Gilbert,
There are some innovations in materials which will allow shafts to be made lighter and approach the weight of graphite. I dont believe that these metal shafts will ever be lighter or even the same weight as graphite.
 
When I first introduced graphite to the world of golf in 1970 the shafts I made weighed about 75 grams for an XS shaft. A comparable stiffness steel shaft weighed approximately 135 grams. This was a 60 grams or a 44% reduction in weight which made a significant difference. Todays graphite shafts will weigh about 60 grams and the light weight steel shafts about 105 grams. The performance difference from steel to graphite (60 grams difference in weight) in 1970 resulted in about 4 to 5 yards increase in distance.
 
So I leave it to up to you to determine how much difference in performance you think there will be between the old graphite 75 grams and the new graphite 55 grams (20 grams difference in weight). Most graphite shafts are heavier than 55 grams and closer to 65 grams.
 
Now I can answer the question about the newer steel shafts. These will be delving into Nanotechnology and probably weigh close to the 90 gram mark. The advantage of the metal shafts is that they are more consistent in their flex and rotational properties than a number of graphite shafts just because it is easier to do this with the production process.
 
The cost of these shafts will probably be higher than the existing light weight steel shafts but they will be better shafts.
 
I dont think my game (5-handicap) is good enough to detect the difference in performance but when I get everything right in my swing and have judged the distance and wind correctly and using the perfect ball, I dont want the wrong shaft to get between me and that hole in one.
 
Hi Frank,
I really enjoy your info. I get the chance to play golf year round here in Las Vegas but with the winter months upon us should I store golf balls were its at least room temperature or just leave them in the garage with my clubs. I'm sure it all depends on the type of ball I use. - Joe

 
Joe,
You can store these in the garage for the winter.
 
Normal temperatures are not going to affect the balls but high humidity may. If the cover absorbs moisture this could affect the performance next summer. Depending on how good you are at determining very small differences in performances you may or may not be able to tell the difference even after two to three years of storage in your garage. As you live in Las Vegas I dont think you have a problem in the winter but would suggest that you bring them indoors during the hot summer months. If you are only talking about a dozen balls then dont worry as you will probably lose them before there will be any perceptible change in performance. I would also suggest that you put scuffed balls in your shag bag as the scuff on the cover will probably affect performance considerably more than the moisture absorption over a period of a year in your garage.
 

Frank,
I just purchased a Callaway X460 driver. However, the shaft seems too soft for me. It's regular. Can I have the shaft tipped to make it a little more stiffer? If so, how much tipping and do I add some length to the butt end to compensate for the tipping.
Thanks, Tom

 
Tom,
I would strongly urge you not to tip the shaft purely to change the shaft flex.
Tipping a shaft means that you cut a certain portion off the tip end of the shaft. This does a couple of things.
 
It will change the flex profile making the tip end of the shaft a little stiffer which will lower the launch angle, flight trajectory and also reduce the spin. If shortening the shaft is the objective, this is normally achieved by cutting a section off the butt end as this affects the bending profile minimally.
 
In both cases these changes are small and tipping is done as a method of tweaking the flight and launch conditions as well as changing the feel. You do this only after you have made the other major changes to shaft flex and loft angle etc. to get into the right ball park of launch conditions which are right for you.
 
Tipping will make the shaft feel slightly stiffer but in your case Tom I would suggest that change shafts rather than trying to trim it to get the stiffness you want. Before you change shafts I would suggest you go and try a few at a demo day or in a store where you can test these.
 
Good luck.
 
Click to purchase the Frog PutterFrank Thomas, inventor of the graphite shaft, is founder of Frankly Golf, a company dedicated to Helping Golfers. Frank is Chief Technical Advisor to The Golf Channel and Golf Digest. He served as Technical Director of the USGA for 26 years and directed the development of the GHIN System and introduced the Stimpmeter to the world of golf. To email a question for possible use in an upcoming Let's Be Frank column, please email letsbefrank@franklygolf.com