According to Golf.com, graphite shafts for golf clubs have been in production since the 1970s and offer a lightweight alternative to steel shafts, which debuted in the 1930s. Generally recommended for those with slower swing speeds (75 mph or less), 84 percent of woods and 28 percent of irons had graphite shafts as of 2006, according to Golf.com. Graphite shafts are traditionally more expensive than steel.
The key benefit of graphite shafts is weight, according to Golf.com. Shafts made of graphite are significantly lighter than those made of steel. Steel shafts can weigh up to 4 1/2 ozs. while graphite shafts weigh in at between 2 and 3. Because of this, clubs with graphite shafts are often recommended for women, young junior golfers and older men.
Graphite absorbs vibration better than steel, which translates into less stress on your hands and wrists. Should you mis-hit a shot and hit the ground, graphite will absorb much of the vibration so your hands and wrists won't hurt as much as they would with steel. Graphite shafts are recommended for golfers with arthritis, golfer's elbow or other conditions that may make the hands or wrists tender.
Because of the reduced weight, graphite shafts may increase swing speed, which in theory will make the ball fly farther. Women's clubs and clubs made for older male golfers usually have graphite shafts on all the clubs, while clubs used by younger men and low-handicap and professional players usually have graphite shafts on the woods and steel on the irons. In general, graphite shafts are used on clubs that require less accuracy but more distance. According to LearnAboutGolf, the introduction of graphite shafts on drivers added between 1/2 and 2 1/2 inches to the length, increasing distance potential but making them more difficult to control.