Advertisers have made it obvious that titanium is this year’s “Flavor of the Month” material for golf club design.
Manufacturers worldwide are using the sturdy, lightweight metal in the heads of their oversized irons and oversized woods.
But the space-age material of choice in shafts continues to be graphite, which has maintained a steady growth in popularity the past five or six years, according to Ross Henry, president of Henry Griffitts Precision Club Fitting Service in Hayden Lake.
Henry, who manufactures his own line of custom-fitted clubs, says nearly 70 percent of all woods and 40 percent of all irons being sold today have graphite shafts.
“It’s a material that can kind of be all things to all golfers,” he explains.
But is it the best material for all golfers?
“Graphite has the potential to help just about anybody, as long as they get a shaft that fits them,” said Gary Lindeblad, the head professional at Indian Canyon Golf Course. “But because there are so many variables with graphite - where it flexes, how much it flexes, how much it torques - you need to be fitted for it.”
Graphite offers numerous advantages, according to Henry.
“It’s lighter,” he explains. “And manufacturers can change the flex points and torque much easier than they can with a steel shaft, which is virtually impossible to change.”
Henry adds that graphite shafts can also help absorb the shock that comes from hitting a golf ball.
The main selling points of steel, according to Henry, have been its added weight, which some golfers prefer, and its consistency.
But recent advances have made it possible to make graphite shafts as heavy and nearly as stiff as most steel shafts. That seems to make the cost trade-off the only downside of graphite.
“If you go low end, the difference between the two isn’t that much - maybe $10 a shaft,” said Brian Howes, the manager of Spokane’s Wide World of Golf. “But at the high end, you really notice a difference.”
Henry also warns that it can be difficult for the consumer to distinguish between the various grades of graphite.
“For virtually nothing, you can paint graphite a pretty color and it’s hard for the untrained eye to differentiate between one shaft or another,” he says, “even though there might be a night-and-day difference.”
In shopping for graphite for his clubs, Henry said he looks at 14 different characteristics and up to 20 variables within each of those characteristics.
“Don’t necessarily think the graphite you’re getting is a top-quality graphite,” adds Lindeblad. “There are hundreds of graphite companies out there, and some are quantum leaps better than the others - and for really not a lot more money.”
Henry suggests that the only true way a consumer can determine which kind of graphite shaft, if any, is ideal for his or her swing is to try a variety of clubs with a variety of shafts - in the company of a trusted professional on a driving range where you can watch the complete flight of the ball.
“You hit a bunch of different clubs and the one that goes best for you is the one you should probably get,” he explains.
“You want to find a piece of equipment that rewards your best athletic motion, and between the two of you, you can decide which one that is and which one you can afford.”
, DataTimes MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: WHAT PRICE GRAPHITE Brian Howes, the manager of Spokane’s Wide World of Golf, says he can install a top-of-the line, shock-absorbing steel shaft for $27.50. But a deluxe-model graphite shaft that has to be special ordered could cost as much as $150.
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