What Are Golf Clubs Made Of?
You might not think that the material from which your golf club is made would make much difference to its performance.
But that is a common misconception of new golfers.
In fact, at a professional level, the materials are one of the most important things to look at when choosing a club so in this guide, we have put together some information on the most commonly used materials and their pros and cons.
Golf Shaft Materials
One of the first things a lot of golfers think about when choosing the material for their club is the shaft. Generally speaking, there are two types of golf shaft, these are graphite or steel. But is there much of a difference between these and does it really matter which you choose?
Well, you might be surprised to learn that a steel shaft is far heavier than its graphite counterpart and they’ll typically weigh in anywhere between 90 and 120 grams.
You’ll also notice that the price of steel shafts is far more affordable but it’s important to keep in mind that doesn’t mean you are getting lower quality.
Stainless steel is one of the most durable materials around and is ideal for golf shafts.
Another great thing about the steel shaft is that you get more back from it.
By this, we mean that you get more feedback from the club which can often sway buyers one way or the other.
While they don’t give you quite as much distance as a graphite club would, having the feel is sometimes worth the sacrifice.
On the other hand, a graphite shaft is the more expensive option but you are getting a much more lightweight piece of equipment, which is something that many people prefer.
However, it is very much down to your personal preference.
Typically, a lightweight graphite shaft would suit someone with a faster swing speed and as a result, you’ll get far more power in your swing too.
It isn’t only the material of the golf shaft that plays an important role in deciding on the best golf club for you.
The clubhead material is just as, if not more important than the shaft material.
Where golf shafts generally only come in one of two materials, the club heads may come in a much wider range, giving you a lot more to think about.
Titanium was first used in the aerospace industry but golf club makers in the early 90s soon realised how effective this material was. It was from here that manufacturers began using titanium for their clubs and they had some amazing benefits.
For starters, the clubs had an excellent strength to weight ratio and when you compare the weight of titanium to something like stainless steel, it isn’t difficult to see the difference. Because the material is far lighter, this means that golf club makers are able to make much larger club heads that still fall into line with the weight standards of a driver. Plus, when you think about how durable titanium is, it isn’t difficult to understand why this is the material of choice for a lot of golfers, both pro and amateur.
When choosing a golf club with a titanium head, it is important to keep in mind that there are a lot of titanium alloys out there and depending on which is used, the strength and weight will be different. For example, if you have a driver head that reaches the top volume of 460cm³, a manufacturer would probably opt for 6/4 titanium which is a blend of 90% titanium as well as 6% aluminium and 4% vanadium. This is the most common alloy although there are many others.
Another key factor that manufacturers must take into account when producing club heads is that there are standards set out by various golfing bodies that dictate the top speed at which a ball can come off the club head. Usually, a manufacturer would make its drivers up to the limit here and this is another reason that 6/4 titanium is used as it provides just the right conditions for meeting but not exceeding the maximum speed.
You will usually see titanium being used to make drivers although there are some other clubs that it can be used for.
The thing is that titanium is generally a more expensive material and so it doesn’t make as much sense when used for clubs like woods, irons and hybrids.
In this case, it is more beneficial to use something like stainless steel. Moreover, you have to think about the size and weight of the club.
A fairway wood made from titanium would need to be much bigger than average to account for the lightweight nature of the material.
The result of this is a club that is much harder to hit and gives you less control.
That said, it isn’t uncommon to see irons that are made from titanium where increased speed is needed.
If there is any material that is used more commonly in golf than anything else, it is stainless steel.
One of the reasons for this is that it is so affordable and versatile. It can be made into a variety of different shapes but offers immense durability meaning that it will stand up to vigorous play every day without sustaining much damage.
When making club heads, manufacturers will typically use one of two types of stainless steel.
The first is 17/4 stainless steel which among other things, contains traces of carbon, nickel, copper and up to 75% iron.
This type of stainless steel is preferred for hybrids, certain types of irons and some metal woods.
On the other hand, there is 431 stainless steel which contains carbon, chromium, nickel and other trace elements alongside the majority of iron.
You’ll normally find that this is used for putters and irons but owing to its strength, it is possible that it could be used in hybrids and fairway woods.
For the most part, however, fairway woods will be made from 17/4 steel and this is also the case for a lot of drivers.
That said, there is a limit on the size of drivers made from this material before there is a chance that it will begin to crack under the pressure of everyday play.
While there is no preference between the types of stainless steel, it is widely accepted that 431 is the better choice where adjusting the club head for loft is concerned.
As well as regular stainless steel, modern golf club manufacturers are also opting for speciality stainless steel which is sometimes called maraging steel.
Unlike normal stainless steel, this alloy has its own set of unique properties.
Generally speaking, this material is used for face inserts as opposed to being used to make the entire club head.
Unless you are talking about a driver, in which case, it is entirely possible to make the head completely from maraging steel.
The problem is, however, that the size limit wouldn’t be able to exceed 300cc and the cost of the material is comparable to titanium so you would have to be willing to part with more money.
The good thing about maraging steel is that it is an incredibly hard material and so when making face inserts, manufacturers can make the material thinner without compromising on its properties.
In addition, this material is known for its superior performance which is another reason that you’ll pay more than usual for a club head of this type.
If you are looking for a lightweight material then aluminium is the way to go; it’s certainly far lighter than stainless steel.
The issue is that it does not have the same level of durability and while manufacturers in the 70s and 80s favoured this material, the clubs were lacking in strength.
However, this does mean that you get a much more affordable club.
But if you don’t want to be the laughing stock on the golf course, we wouldn’t recommend aluminium as these clubs have gotten something of a bad reputation over the years.
But, the material is making a comeback and modern manufacturers are now understanding the benefits of modern aluminium alloys whose properties are far greater than those of days gone by.
While some dab hands might still turn their noses up at aluminium clubs, we wouldn’t be surprised if that all soon changed.
If you’re a beginner, aluminium clubs might be the best choice. They are lightweight and often make up starter sets.
However, do keep in mind that the ball speed is never going to be as fast as materials like titanium but then, at a novice level, that isn’t such a bad thing.
One of the most lightweight materials out there is carbon graphite which is commonly used to make woods.
The material is usually combined with others to improve its durability and weight and it’s unlikely that you’ll find a club made solely from carbon graphite.
One of the big benefits of carbon graphite is that it is not as dense as some of the other materials used to make golf clubs and so is ideal for replacing the top shell.
If you are looking to distribute weight differently across the club head, this is essential in improving its design.
While this material is excellent, it also comes at a higher cost so when purchasing carbon graphite clubs, you will need to be willing to part with more cash.
It may come as a surprise to learn that carbon steel is one of the longest used materials for making golf clubs.
It has been favoured for hundreds of years and its popularity doesn’t appear to be waning.
You’ll typically find it used in the manufacture of wedges, putters and irons and back in the day, traditional forging methods would have been used.
The bad thing about carbon steel is that it is a soft material which needs to be coated in a protective layer in order to prevent it from rusting.
That said, on the plus side, many pro golfers will tell you that the feel of the club is far superior and work very well for golfers with a lower handicap.
For the most affordable type of golf club head, you should be looking at zinc.
This material is generally used in the manufacturing of wedges, putters and irons, typically in golf clubs designed for amateurs or junior players.
They are not as durable as other types of club but these players do not need that level of durability at this stage of their golfing journey.
In years gone by, it wasn’t uncommon for golf club heads to be made from wood but this isn’t something that we typically see anymore.
The reason for this is that other, more superior materials like titanium have quickly taken over as the go-to for pro golfers.
Golf clubs can be made from a variety of different materials and which you choose will be based on several factors.
Things like swing speed, experience, weight and cost are all factors that will come into play when choosing a club and over the years, manufacturers have drifted from one material to another in terms of which is the best.