We live in a universe governed by the forces of matter and entropy. Where matter exists, entropy follows, dissolving the bonds that hold matter together over time. Everything is ultimately meaningless and impermanent, and eventually, the universe will be consumed by entropy and heat death.
Cheerful thought, no?
Really, all we mean is that everything wears out eventually. But there’s a lot of wiggle-room in that “eventually.”
Sure, the universe will end one day. But the likelihood that it’s something about which we need to worry or do anything is vanishingly small.
While there’s a fairly significant difference between the whole universe and the shafts of a set of golf clubs, the logic carries through quite neatly.
Eventually, given enough exposure to weathering forces, the shafts of modern golf clubs will wear out. But the likelihood that that’s a thing about which we need to worry is also small, bordering on minuscule.
The shafts of most modern golf clubs are made of either stainless steel, titanium, graphite, or some other composite material.
In the first place, these are relatively weatherproof materials, so they have an in-built resistance to wear, corrosion, or damage by anything but the most intense of temperatures or impacts.
In the second place, we take a degree of responsibility for the care and protection of our golf clubs (using head covers, storing them indoors, out of the reach of the weather, etc). All this is very basic activity, but it all makes it less likely that our shafts will wear out.
And in the third place, it’s worth considering the make-up of a golf club overall. Of all the parts of a club, the head is the part that comes into most frequent contact, at impressive speed, with a golf ball, and occasionally the earth.
As such, it stands to at least some reason that the head would be the part of the club most likely to suffer from wear over time.
Snapping or shattering might be a more valid concern with the shafts of modern golf clubs, but even this is immediately mitigated by the high-strength materials used in the construction of such clubs.
Steel is the same material our bridges and pylons are made of. Titanium is technically harder still. And graphite, while probably the most shatterable of the three, can still take years of pounding before it begins to show signs of stress or damage.
So, on a fundamental level, the wearing out of modern golf club shafts is something that we know will probably happen someday. Whether it happens before, say, the wearing out of our heart valves, knees, lungs, or brains is an altogether less certain prospect.
The Length of a Buying Cycle
While there’s no denying the morbidity of that thought, it’s a gateway to another aspect of golf club longevity that plays a role in the worry-cycle we engage in over our shafts.
How long do you use your clubs?
Seriously, it’s an issue. Obviously, there are other factors, like how many rounds you play with them per year, how you care for and store them, and so on, but on average, how long do you keep a set of golf clubs?
We ask because most modern clubs and club sets should give you at least 10 years before you even think of replacing them due to need. No significant wear should be an issue before that point.
Meanwhile, most major manufacturers put out a new set of golf clubs on something between a 2-4-year cycle.
Even if you skip a cycle, that’s around 8 years before your golf clubs can be expected to be showing their age. Even if they’re still in perfectly good physical working order, which they should be, upgrades to golf clubs are akin to upgrades to cellphones or laptops.
Two generations behind the curve, your numbers are probably going to start slipping per round (at least in competition with anyone who has the latest invention on the market).
That puts a notional bound on the timeframe during which you have to worry about wear or loosening of your golf club shafts.
It was never going to be in quite the same league as “waiting for the molecular bonds that hold the universe together to dissolve” in any case.
But on the basis that you probably need to upgrade or renew your clubs within that relatively short space of time anyway, it greatly reduces the likelihood that shaft wear or loosening is something you’ll have to worry about.
When it comes to loosening, there’s something of an urban myth at the heart of that fear. Many golfers worry that their stainless steel shafts will loosen over time with repeated strokes and impacts.
If anything, the reverse is true. Testing has shown that over time, stainless steel shafts in fact get slightly tighter. The tests have also shown, however, that this tightening was scientifically measurable, but rarely detectable by golfers using their club.
So while, ultimately, it may be physically unavoidable that golf club shafts will eventually suffer from wear, the likelihood that it’s a thing about which we need to spend time worrying is bounded by a whole host of factors:
- The weatherproof and extremely strong materials out of which modern golf club shafts are made – compared with shafts of the past, which were thinner and made of cheaper, more easily corroded materials.
- The likelihood that we take at least minimally decent care of our clubs when they’re not in use, which extends their wear-free lifespan significantly.
- The small likelihood that wear on the shaft is going to be the first noticeable indication of club decay, given the impact being usually taken mostly by the head of the club.
- The temporal bound in which we are likely to replace our clubs in any case, to keep up to date with the latest technological advancement or design improvement, so we can keep our stroke numbers looking healthy.
- The likelihood that shafts tighten, rather than loosen, over time, and in any case, the minimal degree to which any such effect is detectable during play.
The Philosophical Route
And if all this is not enough to keep our golf club shafts from significant wear during their lifetime, the philosophical route is always open to us. Just remember – the universe is going to die one day.
Buy some new clubs while you can.