This article is from the Golf FAQ, by marcelo@nntpserver.Princeton.EDU (Marcelo A. Gallardo) with numerous contributions by others.
I found this to be the most difficult FAQ to answer. The shaft is the
most complex piece of a golf club, and probably the most important.
With varying degrees of flex, flex locations, weight, length,
materials, torque, etc., an article devoted entirely to the shaft is
needed, but not available. I'll do my best to answer some of the
questions regarding them.
Steel shafts are generally made from carbon steel or occasionally from
stainless steel. For the most part, the manufacturing process between
the two are similar. A steel strip is rolled into a tube, and is drawn
over a mandrel until the diameter and wall thickness are reduced to
their exact specifications. At this point the step pattern is formed on
the shaft. Then the walls are made thinner at the grip and thicker at
the tip to give the shaft its flex characteristics. Then it is
hardened, tempered, straightened and stress relieved. The final step is
to polish and chrome plate the shaft. One of the best features of the
steel shaft is the ability to have the same "feel" throughout the
entire set. This means that the stiffness in the 3 iron will will be
the same as the 9 iron. Other features are its durability and price.
Graphite shafts are made from a graphite tape. The tape, which has an
epoxy binder, is wrapped around a steel mandrel. The wrapped shaft is
then temperature cured and the mandrel removed. The raw shaft is then
sanded and cut to proper length, at which point it receives a clear or
colored paint coating. Its most talked about feature is its light
weight. It also helps dampen the vibration caused by clubhead impact
with the ground. A few of the drawbacks are the "feel" of the shaft
(some people complain that a stiff graphite shaft does not feel like a
stiff steel shaft), the stiffness may not be consistent throughout a
set, and its price tag. A new manufacturing process called "filament
winding" can produce a set with more consistency, but at a higher
I have very little information regarding the titanium shaft and its
manufacturing process. Among some of its features are its weight
(lighter than steel), and its vibration dampening. Some complaints are
that the shafts are too stiff, and it carries a big price.
The stiffness, flex, or deflection of a shaft defines the bending
characteristics of the tube, when a load is applied to the shaft. The
most common shaft flexes are designated as X (extra-stiff), S (stiff),
R (regular), A (man's flexible), or L (ladies'). For people with high
swing speeds, it's desirable to have a stiffer shaft to keep the club
head from lagging behind. For people with slower swing speeds, the more
flexible shafts offer an extra "kick" at the bottom of the downswing to
help propel the ball.
Some shafts are rated for "frequency", an alternative way to express
stiffness.The "frequency" indicates how how fast a "standard" club
would vibrate if made with that shaft. The stiffer the shaft, the
faster it will vibrate. A rough guide to translate between frequency
and traditional stiffness ratings is:
FREQUENCY STIFFNESS cycles Grade per minute ---------- --------- <240 L 245 A 255 R 265 S >270 X