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 impermanent (some would even argue, ultimately meaningless), and eventually, the universe will be consumed by entropy and heat death.
Cheerful thought, no?
The point we’re trying to make is this: everything wears out eventually. But don’t fret…there’s plenty of wiggle-room in that “eventually.”
Sure, the universe will end one day. But the likelihood that it happens during your lifetime is relatively small, so seize the day!
You may be wondering, what in the world does this have to do with golf? Why am I reading a philosophical dissertation about the universe?
It’s all to set the stage for an important golf shaft question:
Do Graphite Shafts Wear Out?
The simple answer is no, graphite shafts do not wear out. From a technical standpoint, one could make the case that they actually do wear out, but they are more likely to snap or break than they are to “loosen” or “age.” The average golfer doesn’t need to worry about their graphite shafts letting them down anytime soon.
“But I heard somewhere that they should be replaced every 5 years…”
LIE. Whoever told you that is working with bad intel.
However, while there’s a fairly significant difference between the state of the universe and the shelf life of your golf clubs, there is some overlap in the logic.
Eventually, given enough exposure to weathering forces, a modern golf club shaft will wear out. But this isn’t something you should stress about, unless you’re a PGA Tour player with millions of dollars on the line.
You’re more likely to bend, break or lose your graphite irons before you ever need to replace them.
That being said, let’s fully explore the question: Do graphite shafts wear out?
Materials Used for Modern Shafts
The shafts of most modern golf clubs are made of either stainless steel, titanium or graphite. Composite shafts are increasingly popular.
Regardless of what material you land on for your new club set, these are relatively weatherproof materials, so they have an in-built resistance to wear, corrosion, shrinkage and damage by anything other than intense temperatures or impacts.
Free Golf Tip: Finding the right shaft for your game is important, so it’s worth getting fitted for clubs if you have no idea where to start. A golf pro can help determine if you need a stiff shaft or more flex based on your swing speed, ball flight, etc.
How can I make sure my golf club shafts don’t wear out or loosen?
If you take some basic responsibility for the care and protection of your golf clubs (by using head covers, storing them indoors, avoiding temperature extremes etc), then you have nothing to worry about. Your $500 Rogue driver shaft from Callaway Golf isn’t going to start rusting next year.
Its more likely that your club head will fail first, since it faces constant abuse from the ball, the ground and moisture.
Recommended Reading: Forged vs cast irons
Snapping or shattering might be a more valid concern with the shafts of modern graphite golf clubs, but even this is mitigated by the high-strength materials used in the construction of such clubs.
Do graphite shafts break easily? How long does a graphite shaft last?
Steel is the same material our bridges and pylons are made of. Titanium is technically harder still. And graphite, while probably the most fragile of the three, can still take years of pounding before it begins to show signs of stress or damage.
So, on a fundamental level, while the wearing out of modern golf club shafts is possible, you’re going to need to log an insane number of swings and mishits before you need to worry about a replacement.
You’re not Bryson Dechambeau or Rickie Fowler, so you should be more worried about the wearing out of your knees or a heart valve…but we digress.
How Often Should I Buy New Golf Clubs?
I’d say, less often than you think. If you’re worried about…
- Shafts that are showing signs of wear
- Moving from a stiffer shaft to more shaft flex
- Club heads that don’t pack enough “heat”
- Getting beat by Tiger Woods
…then feel free to explore the possibility of a fancy golf bag and a shiny set of new clubs.
However, if you bought clubs in the last few years, you really don’t need to buy a new set. Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, getting 10+ years out of your clubs is quite realistic.
As we mentioned before, with minimal effort on your part, you shouldn’t experience any real degradation of your graphite iron shaft.
Golf tip: A steel shaft probably won’t loosen or wear out, but it can get bent. Keep an eye on the steel golf shaft of your most commonly used clubs to ensure everything lines up as it should.
But what about newer and better technology? Should I upgrade my golf driver or my golf iron set?
Most major manufacturers put out a new set of golf clubs on a two or four year cycle.
Their goal is to make money, so they tout incredible advancements that will “transform” your game.
- Better ball flight…
- Faster ball speed…
- Lighter shaft…
All of these lines are part of the sales pitch. They contain hints of truths that may or may not be realities for your game. Your golf swing and grip don’t magically change, and buying a new sand wedge isn’t going to save you from that greenside bunker.
That being said, it is fun to buy a new golf irons or an impressive fairway wood. We’re not trying to kill the vibe.
We like to compare upgrades to golf clubs with upgrades to cellphones or laptops. You don’t need a new cell phone every year, but owning the latest technology isn’t necessarily a bad thing.
If you’re using clubs from the 1990s, you deserve the upgrade and should notice some real improvements in your distance. As a side note, the same would be true for your golf ball selection. If you’re using pond balls from the 1980s, it’s time to make a move. (See also: How Many Hits Can a Golf Ball Take?)
However, if your clubs are less than a decade old, you don’t need to upgrade yet. Your golf club shafts should be holding up just fine.
Do Golf Club Shafts Wear Out/Loosen? Dispelling Myths
The fear of loosening shafts is based on some urban myths. Here are some things you should know.
Myth: Stainless steel shafts will loosen over time with repeated strokes and impacts.
Reality: 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 that this tightening was scientifically measurable, but rarely detectable by golfers.
Myth: Graphite shafts will loosen over time.
Reality: Graphite shafts are more likely to crack as a result of being overstressed. In this case, there will usually be a clean break that follows. Loosening is the least of a golfer’s worries.
Dave Schneider, president and COO of Fujikura Composites America had a great Q&A with Golfweek a few years back. It covers many graphite shaft questions and is worth checking out.
So let’s recap this discussion.
- Entropy is real. Things do wear down over time.
- Your modern golf club shafts are pretty durable. Technically they will loosen or wear down, but we’re talking about MANY years before this is the case.
- Take decent care of your clubs and you shouldn’t have anything to worry about.
- Stop stressin’
Ending on a Philosophical Note
The universe is going to die one day, so buy some new clubs while you can.
We’re mostly kidding, but if you’re itching to buy new clubs every few years, you should view that move as a luxury purchase, not a necessity.