Can A 5 Handicap Golfer Use Graphite Shafts?

Graphite shafts in irons have long been considered an option almost exclusively for senior and lady golfers, but is there more to them than you might think?

I met up with Darren Burgess from Yonex to try its new Ezone Forged irons in steel and graphite shafts to find out what the differences were and decide if the performance could be beneficial to my game.

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After testing the 501 CB model in a stiff Nippon Modus3 NS Pro Tour 120 steel shaft, I then hit shots with the same head using a Yonex 44g NST 400 graphite shaft in SR (stiff regular) flex on Darren’s Flightscope launch monitor.

You instantly notice the lighter pick up of the graphite shaft – it naturally makes the head feel heavier – which is unsurprising given it is around 80 grams lighter.

I approached the first swing with trepidation but was surprised to see the shot fly straight towards to target, albeit on a much higher flight!

Comparing the numbers from steel to graphite, it was interesting to see that my clubhead speed increased significantly with the graphite shaft by over 3mph, which resulted in 2mph more ball speed, possibly because the strikes weren’t as consistent.

The graphite shaft launched the ball over 2.5° higher and it came off with around 900 rpm more spin. Factor in the five-yard higher flight, and the graphite shaft was producing carries of 173 yards, four yards longer than the steel equivalent.

So I was getting more club and ball speed as well as distance, but at the cost of trajectory. The higher flight with more spin would struggle to penetrate a head wind, although the steeper angle of descent would stop quicker on firmer greens.

What was interesting for me was that the graphite shaft seemed just as easy to control in terms of direction and I was able to flight the ball down if I wanted to. The low torque design felt far from whippy and the reduced weight meant the strain on the body was much less – I felt like I could hit balls on the range for hours.

In summary, I probably wouldn’t decide to switch into this particular graphite model, but with a greater array of weights and flex profiles to choose from, I could certainly see me finding a model that could keep the flight and spin down while remaining relatively lightweight compared to steel.

The other drawback is the price. The Yonex steel shaft I tested comes in at £50 more expensive per club in graphite, which is significant. My gains weren’t overly large but there will be other types of golfer that would see even bigger gains than me. Any low launch, low spin player for example, or even slower swing speeds or force-limited players that need help to maximize club speed, could well see a larger jump in distance as well as the reduced physical strain.

So when getting fitted for your next set of irons, don’t discount graphite shafts. Give them a try alongside a steel equivalent to find out if the performance justifies the added investment.