The Age-Old Battle: Graphite vs. Steel
Despite decades of success on Tour, SST PURE remains one of the most controversial topics in golf. And since we at Plugged In Golf love nothing more than a spicy comments section, we decided this myth should include not only SST PURE but also the battle between steel and graphite shafts. Is steel more consistent? Does only graphite benefit from SST PURE? Learn all that and more in this edition of Golf Myths Unplugged.
Find our giant SST PURE FAQ HERE
Golf Myths Unplugged puts PUREing to the test HERE
Myth #1 – Steel shafts are naturally more consistent than graphite shafts
Myth #2 – Graphite shafts benefit from SST PURE more than steel shafts
Myth #3 – Shafts will PURE to their “logo up” position
Myth #4 – Stiffer shafts don’t need SST PURE as much as softer shafts
How We Tested
For this test, we randomly selected 36 iron shafts from Club Champion’s inventory. They were a mix of graphite and steel representing all flexes, numerous weights, and almost every major manufacturer. Each shaft was SST PUREd, and the results of each PUREing were recorded.
All testing was done at and with the help of Club Champion.
The first data point produced by the SST PURE machine is the Load Symmetry Index. This is essentially a measure of how round the shaft is, with a perfect score being 100. By this metric, we found no meaningful difference between steel and graphite shafts.
The average for the steel shafts was 95.2; the graphite shafts averaged 94.8. Steel had a slightly larger range, and the best graphite shaft scored a fraction of a percent better than the best steel. Overall, both steel and graphite are impressively consistent.
To test this myth, we looked at the SST PURE’s Out of Plane Oscillation Improvement. This gives us the percentage improvement from the starting position to the PURE position. In our sample, we found that graphite shafts did benefit from SST PURE more than steel shafts.
On average, the graphite shafts we tested improved their out of plane oscillation by 75.2%. The range of improvements ran from 53% to 94.7%. For steel shafts, the average improvement was 64.7% with a range of 46.4% to 79.9%.
While that is interesting, the bigger point is how much SST PURE improves the performance of both steel and graphite. Even the very lowest number in the entire test – 46.4% – is a massive improvement.
This myth was shattered. Among the 18 graphite shafts that we tested, the average SST PURE position was 75 degrees from “logo up.” This means that if players are installing shafts “logo up,” they are often as far as possible from the PURE position!
Two shafts were two degrees from PUREing to a “logo down” position, but no other shafts were with 15 degrees of the logo.
This final myth also bites the dust. In our test group, which included some of the same shafts in different flexes, we saw no correlation between flex and Out of Plane Oscillation Improvement. In fact, a set of regular flex shafts was one of the most consistent in our entire test.
Modern golf shafts are very high quality products. To consistently produce shafts that are 95% round is an impressive manufacturing feat. However, SST PUREing still makes a significant difference in both graphite and steel shafts.
To borrow an analogy that Nick Sherburne uses, modern golf shafts are like Mercedes automobiles. No one would argue that they aren’t very good. However, it’s similarly inarguable that a Mercedes-AMG is better. SST PURE is that extra step, taking something very good and making it great.
Whether you’re playing steel or graphite, regular flex or extra stiff, SST PURE can help you get the most out of your game.
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I like your conclusion.
There are golfers in favor and others that they do not believe in SST pure.
For me, the F.l.o method gives good results. I never trust a shaft that wobbel in every directions.
If you want a shaft that gives you more chance to hit the sweet spot of the head, you better believe in something more than luck.
There’s really no question of belief with SST PURE. The data the machine provides is clear cut. If someone wants to say that they’re happy enough with the shaft as is and they don’t want to pay for it, that’s certainly their right, but that it has an effect is unquestionable.
I have played with graphite shafted iron’s for over twenty years now. Finding them more forgiving for someone of a senior age I play of a handicap of 4 and find graphite helps with my joints especially the elbows as you grow older.
The modern shafts are much more reliable than years gone by.
Thanks for the article. I am a firm believer in puring shafts. I have seen the difference that it makes. The dispersion alone is worth it.
Has anyone done a double-blind randomized control trial to see if SST Pure improves accuracy when using a golf robot? You pick a random driver shaft and random iron shaft and do the following test.
100 shots with a driver with unpured shaft.
100 shots with driver with pured shaft (same shaft or at least same model).
100 shots with 7-iron unpured shaft.
100 shots with 7-iron with pured shaft (same shaft or at least same model).
It would not be that hard to do. And the results would provide close to definitive proof one way or the other if SST Pure actually improves dispersion. But I have yet to see any study doing that. So right now the only thing I see is that SST Pure improves the thing it is measuring. But there is no proof that the thing it is measuring results in better dispersion.
It is amazing to FLO a shaft and see the difference in oscillation from one orientation to another. I can’t say for sure what FLO’ing or PURE’ing a shaft really does when combined with my inconsistent swing, but I prefer building everything as consistently as possible.
I find it difficult to understand whether or not SST PURE shafts PERFORM better than shafts that not have been through the process. All the data above talks about various measurements that are “better” but no context as to what that specifically translates to on course. Todays major manufacturers of graphite shafts have developed very high levels of quality control and I would argue that the nominal differences in PUREd vs UnPUREd shafts in actual playing conditions could not be ascertained by at least 90% of the golfing public.