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Graphite vs. steel iron shafts – what you need to know

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When it comes to selecting iron shafts, graphite vs steel continues to create debate among golfers at all skill levels.

As far as drivers, fairway woods, and hybrids are concerned, the train has left the station with the majority of players using graphite for some time. Graphite offers performance benefits that are impossible to achieve with steel including

  • Graphite can be made much stiffer at lighter weights
  • Bend profiles can be uniquely tuned thanks to multiple materials and composites (steel is a homogeneous material and very limited in this capacity)
  • Graphite has greater shock-absorbing properties to help reduce vibrations transferring to a players hands

It used to be that graphite shafts were only for slower speed players who needed something that was lighter and more “whippy,” but that was a big misconception that continues to have some staying people with golfers unfamiliar with modern technology.

The benefits of graphite shafts in irons

The benefits of graphite shafts in irons vary depending on the weight category they fall into. The weight categories also generally coincide with player swing profiles, which give golfers and fitters the best chance to see a performance gain.

  • >40-65 grams: The shafts in the lightest weight category offer players on the slow end of the swing speed spectrum the opportunity to generate more speed and additional high and spin on their shots. There are no steel shafts that are able to fit into this weight range, and graphite opens the door to a lot more players to enjoy that game thanks to total club weight reduction.
  • 65-95 grams: This is the biggest portion of the graphite shaft market and where most golfers are going to fit in. The lighter weight shafts in this range continue to help golfers that are looking for extra speed, while the heavier options are a great transition point for players looking to move away from steel. One of the biggest reasons for a golfer to transition into graphite from steel in this weight range would be for vibration reduction, or in some cases to get extra stability unavailable in lighter weight steel compared to the graphite equivalent. Depending on the shaft, 90-gram graphite shafts are just as, if not more stable than, steel.
  • 95-120+ grams: These shafts are for the fastest players, and from a materials and design perspective graphite, shafts in this weight range can be made extremely stiff —beyond the point of similar steel shafts. The argument used to be that graphite didn’t offer the same tight dispersion as steel, but that has been proven false and one of the biggest benefits for golfers looking in this category if all the stability (if not more) of steel but with greater injury/pain prevention.

Proven results

Graphite shafts have been commonly used on the PGA Tour for over a decade by players including Brandt Snedeker, Fred Couples, and Matt Kuchar, for the same reason regular weekend golfer use them—lighter weight and extra stability.

When speaking of stability, it was just over a year ago that PGA Tour player Bryson DeChambeau went from steel in his irons to graphite and became the first golfer on the PGA Tour to use 14 clubs with graphite shafts. The designer of those shafts had this to say about working with graphite,

“The versatility of composite materials allows us to add stiffness, drop torque, move the balance, and modify the flex profile without adding additional weight.”

It’s this kind of design versatility that benefits golfers at all levels.

Graphite versus Steel a deeper look

To get a better idea of what a properly fitted graphite shaft is capable of for faster players, the team at TXG have put together a number of videos to demonstrate and discuss their advantages.

Testing the stiffest iron shaft on the market

 

 

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Ryan Barath is part of the Digital Content Creation Team for GolfWRX. He hosts the "On Spec" Podcast on the GolfWRX Radio Network which focuses on discussing everything golf, including gear, technology, fitting, and course architecture. He is a club-fitter & master club builder with more than 17 years of experience working with golfers of all skill levels, including PGA Tour players. He is the former Build Shop Manager & Social Media Coordinator for Modern Golf. He now works independently from his home shop and is a member of advisory panels to a select number of golf equipment manufacturers. You can find Ryan on Twitter and Instagram where he's always willing to chat golf, and share his passion for club building, course architecture and wedge grinding.

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Scott

    Jan 11, 2021 at 10:59 am

    I’m an absolutely average speed golfer – 100 mph driver chs. Switched to graphite 2 years ago due to arthritis in shoulders and elbows. I wish I had done so 10 years ago. I first played KBS TGI and have alternately played Matrix Program F15 & MC MMT since. I’ve experienced all the noted benefits of graphite. The one benefit that was unexpected was the increase of spin/spin control on lower/flighted iron shots that I was unable to get with prior Nippon & PX steel.

  2. Dustin C Barrett

    Jan 10, 2021 at 9:17 pm

    I’m about to switch to graphite in my irons. I have plenty of speed and don’t need distance, but if I’m being honest I’m not going to turn it down. I’m switch because of chronic problems in my hands and wrist that will often keep me from playing and practicing as much as I would like. Especially this time of year. Steel Fiber here I come. PX 7.0 it’s been real but my hands can’t handle you anymore.

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Equipment

Best utility iron of 2021 – GolfWRXers discuss

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In our forums, our members have been discussing 2021 utility irons. WRXer ‘Krod10359’ kicks off the thread, saying:

“Just want to know your opinion on what new utility iron you have hit this year. Looks like a lot of solid offerings out right now from Ping, Srixon and Callaway. Let me hear what you have to say about these clubs.”

And our members have been sharing their thoughts in our forum.

Here are a few posts from the thread, but make sure to check out the entire discussion and have your say at the link below.

  • hypergolf: “This…(photo above)”
  • TigerInTheWoods: “Sim Udi is a beauty. Launches a bit higher and is a bit more forgiving than the P790 UDI which was really the benchmark for this kind of club.”
  • craz-e: “Hard to go past the Srixon for performance and value. The current offerings from Titleist (u500 & u501) and Mizuno (HMB) are also great options and worth trying.”
  • Golfingfanatic: “The new Callaway one is pretty good.”

Entire Thread: “Best utility iron of 2021”

Not yet a GolfWRX member? Sign up for FREE here.

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2021 Callaway Epic driver: Epic Speed, Epic Max & Epic LS drivers

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Callaway Golf introduces new Epic driver lineup for 2021—Epic Speed, Epic Max, and Epic Max LS drivers—giving us the best of everything.

When it comes to a hot face, Callaway Golf has been at the top of the heap since its introduction of Jailbreak Technology back in 2017. In simplest terms, Jailbreak allowed Callaway to vertically stiffen the face, which allows the face to absorb a ton of energy and release it right back into the golf ball.

When Epic hit the market, it was instantly the driver of that year due to its ball speeds and forgiveness across the face, but most importantly for Callaway, it gave the company a strong foundation to build from for models to come.

In 2020, with the help of artificial intelligence, Callaway engineers were able push that idea a bit further with the successful Mavrik line. This time, artificial intelligence took Jailbreak and found ways to make it even more efficient with the addition of the Flash Face.

Now, in 2021, using every piece of tech at its disposal, Callaway officially launches the new 2021 Epic Speed, Epic Max, and Epic Max LS drivers.

The new AI-designed, carbon-loaded, MOI machines are the culmination of now four iterations of Jailbreak technology, and in my opinion, Callaway has its fastest but more importantly—most golf-course friendly—driver ever.

Let’s dive in…

The new 2021 Callaway Epic Speed driver

New 2021 Callaway Epic Speed driver

The Epic Speed is the fastest swinging driver Callaway has ever made. The elevated Cyclone Aero Design gives players a clubhead that gets through the air and down into impact faster creating even more ball speed opportunities.

New 2021 Callaway Epic Speed Driver, Cyclone Aero Shaping

In addition, the AI-designed Flash Face SS21 and the new look Jailbreak Speed Frame create stiffness not only vertically across the face but east and west as well. The result? Speed, stability, and a ton of forgiveness.

The new 2021 Callaway driver, face on

“Spin robustness” is another key term in the 2021 Callaway campaign. What this means for us is giving players spin where we need it (i.e. off the heel spin stays down, off the toe spin stays up, out of the middle the ball goes forever).

Another key aspect to notice across the line is the enhanced composite crown. The new 2021 Callaway Epic Speed driver has a triaxial carbon crown that covers even more real estate allowing Callaway to redistribute 16 grams of discretionary weight. The larger carbon surface area also innately created a way for Callaway R&D to make the Epic Speed a bit more draw friendly without having to add external weight to the heel.

Callaway Epic Speed driver, address

2021 Callaway Epic Max driver

Sole view of the new Callaway Epic Max driver

Yes, the new 2021 Callaway Epic Max driver is a heater, but more than anything, it’s forgiving. Using all the tech bells and whistles from Epic Speed (AI-designed Jailbreak and Flash Face), Callaway made the Epic Max crown with even more triaxial carbon, saving 19 grams of discretionary weight, which allows them to create an even deeper CG and higher MOI. A rear sliding 17-gram weight in the trunk to tune in launch and shape and the OptiFit hosel provides up to 20 yards of shot shape correction.

The New 2021 Callaway Epic Max Driver, Sliding weight

The New 2021 Callaway Epic Max Driver, Address

2021 Callaway Epic Max LS

Incorporating the AI-designed Flash Face SS21 and Jailbreak technology, Callaway has created a new more forgiving profile in a players driver.

Out with the Sub Zero and in with the most playable players driver Callaway has created. With a neutral shape and weight configuration that is the more fade bias of the Callaway family, the new LS has a very high MOI (8,400+) for a tour-inspired driver. The idea was to give high speed players something fast all while mitigating the big miss better players fear. Yes, we all fear a big miss, but at high speeds, the foul ball is, well, a bit more foul. The new triaxial carbon crown saves 13 grams of weight, which was redistributed to increase MOI and lower CG.
Like Epic Max, LS also has a sliding weight to tune in adjustability.
Inspired by the Triple Diamond tour heads of the past, Callaway decided to go away from cranking spin down to oblivion and offer a driver that was actually closer to what the tour leans towards. Yes, they love a low spin head, but not too low spin. The Triple Diamond heads were basically a Sub Zero shape in a higher MOI profile. If you go through our tour photos, you will see more Triple Diamonds than anything. Obliterating launch and spin sounds good for Trackman, but it’s hard to play that way on the golf course all the time.

Initial Tour Reaction

I had a chance to chat with  Callaway’s PGA Tour Manager Jacob Davidson on the early response and this is what he had to say.

JW: In early testing, what is the first thing players are seeing with Speed and LS?

JD: Early feedback from the tour guys has been a noticeable difference in an increase in ball speed across the face but more importantly the dispersion has tightened down range. Many guys have also quickly fallen in love with the sound of the new metal woods.

JW: What most excited you with the new line?

JD: We knew early on with this product launch that we had an exceptional driver. To start- the look of the heads and the shaping allows the clubs to sit beautifully at the address position. From there the overall feel and sound matches exactly what tour guys prefer. The guys we have worked with have converted into the new woods extremely quickly with very positive feedback. For us, we are excited to have some great starting lines, a competitive ball speed advantage, and an increase in forgiveness.

We are constantly studying what makes world class drivers of the golf ball world class. After much research, we determined the ideal spin/ degree of launch and worked closely with our R&D team to reach these numbers. We were absolutely amazed to see what they came back to us with. Using AI they were able to figure out how to increase the MOI in this line of drivers while also focusing on more ball speed. It truly is remarkable the new frontier of technology we are using in our drivers to help our players play their best golf.

Overall Thoughts

I’ll be honest, I wasn’t a huge fan of Epic Flash (acoustics), and Mavrik was solid but didn’t blow me away. This new 2021 Callaway Epic line of drivers is exactly what players want: a golf club that is playable all while providing the distance and performance we have gotten used to over the past few years. It’s a new trend in the market that I’m loving. Drivers are becoming golf course friendly again. We tried to kill spin—when ultimately it was our best friend in the long run.

Specs

At Retail: 2/18

Lofts: 9, 10.5, 12 degrees (Epic Speed) 9, 10.5 degrees(Epic Max & Epic Max LS)

Price: $529.99

Stock Shaft Offerings

  • Epic Speed Driver: Project X Cypher 40g (WMS, L). Smoke IM 10 (50g – R,S. 60g – S)
  • Epic MAX Driver: Project X Cypher 40g (WMS, L). Smoke IM 10 (50g – R,S. 60g -S)
  • Epic MAX LS: Mitsubishi MMT (60g – S,X. 70g – S,X)
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Callaway unveils new 2021 Epic Speed and Epic Max fairway woods

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Callaway Golf has introduced its all-new Epic Speed and Epic Max fairway woods that contain the brand’s Jailbreak A.I. Velocity Blades.

2021 Callaway Epic Speed Fairway Woods

The 2021 Epic Speed fairway woods feature the brand’s new Jailbreak A.I. Velocity Blades. Callaway engineers used A.I. to design a completely new Jailbreak system which spreads and angles the Jailbreak blades. The result? Along with stiffening the body, the new design allows the forged face cup to flex more in design to provide exceptional ball speeds all across the face.

The A.I. Designed Flash Face SS21 across the brand’s Epic Speed fairway woods are uniquely designed using advanced A.I and are designed to put an even greater emphasis on center and off-center ball speeds. 

The Epic Speed fairway woods contain a forward center of gravity (CG) combined with a new leading-edge. This pairing aims to provide a strong ball flight, spin robustness, and consistent shot shape dispersion.

In addition, the new fairway woods from Callaway feature a forged C300 maraging steel face cup. The C300 maraging steel is engineered to offer maximum strength and flexibility, while the steel face cup is designed to provide speed and spin consistency across the clubface.

Specs, Pricing & Availability

Lofts: 3+, 3, 4, 5, 7

Price: $299.99

Availability: February 18

2021 Callaway Epic Max Fairway Woods

Just like the brand’s new Epic Speed woods, the Epic Max line also features the company’s new Jailbreak A.I. Velocity Blades in design to provide increased ball speeds as well as a club that is easy to launch.

As well as containing an A.I. Designed flash face SS21, the Epic Max fairway woods are engineered with a forged face cup to give golfers increased speed and spin consistency across the face.

The oversized head on the new Epic Max woods combines with a shallow face to make the clubs extremely easy to launch from the fairway while also offering added forgiveness.

The Epic Max line also offers adjustable weighting allowing golfers to adjust launch and spin using two and 14-gram weights. The added weight in the rear provides more forgiveness while more weight in the front offers lower launch and spin.

Specs, Pricing & Availability

Lofts: 3+, 3, 5, Heavenwood, 7, 9, 11

Price: $299.99

Availability: February 18

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