Graphite vs. Steel vs. Steelfiber Shaft
In this test we compare three fundamentally different shafts, but all of them are suitable for this player. These are an extremely light and soft steel shaft, a mixture of steel and carbon and a classic carbon shaft. The three shafts are Nippon Zelos 7 as steel, Steelfiber i70 as hybrid version and Fujikura Pro 75 as graphite shaft. All three shafts are very similar or almost identical in terms of stiffness.
We build clubs with all three shafts for players in this category and it depends on the individual preferences. Steelfiber, for example, is a shaft that is naturally very innovative and has caused quite a sensation. It combines the advantages of graphite and does not look like a typical graphite shaft. However, it is not that Steelfiber solves all problems and also with this shaft you have to make compromises as we will see in a moment.
What do the numbers say?
The numbers can be seen in the following graphs. There are significant differences, especially in launch and spin. The Steelfiber shaft started much flatter with 19° than the Zelos and Pro shafts with 19.8°. The spin was lowest with the Steelfiber shaft with 5939rpm and highest with the Zelos 7.
What is also clear from these numbers: The player managed to accelerate the graphite shaft best, therefore the club head speed is 0.5mph higher and the ball speed is highest.
It is also very important to look at the carry and total length. The Steelfiber shaft showed the longest roll with 8m. Zelos only 5m and the Pro shaft 6m. This is a combination of trajectory and spin and shows one thing: The Steelfiber shaft flies too flat in this case and generates too little spin to be well controllable on the green.
What do we conclude from this comparison?
If you look at the dispersion above you will notice that it was lowest with the Zelos steel shaft. With the other two shafts there are hardly any differences to be seen. The steelfiber fluctuated even more in the length control which is due to the reasons mentioned above.
The advantages of a (well fitted) steel shaft are therefore
- maximum precision
- high spin
- maximum control on the green
- stronger feedback of the strike
The advantages of a graphite shaft, on the other hand:
- better acceleration of the club
- Vibration damping
For this player we would clearly recommend Zelos 7. The advantages outweigh the disadvantages in this case. The steelfiber shaft does not perform very well in this test, but that does not speak against this shaft. It is just that it could not convince this player with his values. But what we can say at this point: The Steelfiber technology is unfortunately not a miracle cure. It is not as if the advantages of both components are simply combined and the disadvantages are eliminated. Steelfiber is however always an option in a fitting. What is somewhat overlooked with all the technological progress is how well high quality and lightweight steel shafts like the Zelos 7 actually perform. Steel shafts have the wrong reputation of being hard and heavy. This is because most players have only had inferior and heavy steel shafts in their hands. And this is no wonder when you look at the range of shafts available from the major manufacturers. There are more and more 110g steel shafts where even the R-Flex is very stiff.
Advantages of carbon in the development of shafts
One thing must be said quite clearly: unlike steel, carbon is still a relatively young material that is constantly being researched. Carbon offers some options that are not possible with steel and other materials.
One trend that we have seen in recent years is that carbon shafts are being made extremely stiff - be it only at certain points in the shaft like with a Fujikura Ventus or overall. Players like Bryson Dechambeau use carbon shafts because even the stiffest steel shafts are not stiff enough for them or they become unplayably heavy. This is exactly the advantage of carbon: you can make these shafts extremely stiff without gaining much weight. This is not possible with steel. That's why there are more and more carbon shafts in putters on the tour as well. For amateurs, this is still a very expensive and questionable purchase, but the trend is going in this direction and there will certainly be more products of this kind on the market in the future.
But also in the normal amateur area, light but stiff carbon shafts offer some advantages. Basically, there are simply players who prefer a lower overall or swing weight but need a certain stiffness. Tour players like Abraham Ancer therefore also rely on carbon shafts in irons. Because with carbon you can make even a 105g shaft as stiff as a very stiff 130g steel shaft - and 25g weight is a lot.
From a clubmaker's point of view, it makes sense, among other things, if you have a player who needs very long shafts and there are simply limits to the swing weight adjustment. Here you can't just use a heavy steel shaft - which is unsuitable in terms of both flex and weight. Also, light steel shafts with excess length are more prone to shaft breakage - they are simply not designed for it. In such a case, we rely on Steelfiber shafts, for example.
We think that in the future there will be a much wider range of carbon shafts for irons, offering a wide choice of different stiffnesses, weight classes and above all bending profiles.