Since the beginning of golf man has spent immeasurable time and effort trying to propel the golf ball farther. Club makers had very few options in shaft material, wood was it. They tried all types and shapes to get the ball to go straighter. Hickory, lemonwood, ash, lancewood and greenhart all had the same inherent problem with warpage, moisture retention and inconsistency. It was not until the turn of the 19th century that golf got it's first look at steel as a alternative to wood. The American Fork and Hoe company was the first to come out with a step-down steel shaft that not only put golf on the right path to the technology of today, but also caused one of the most misunderstood cries of displeasure in golf. As the first steel shafts were incredibly heavy, unbalanced and inaccurate, many a golfer was heard shouting the curse: "OH!, this fork and hoe". Anyway, it was this advancement that helped golf move through steel shafts, aluminum shafts and to the graphite shafts of today.
Science and technology has now enabled the golfer to hit a golf ball farther and straighter than ever before. Graphite now can offer tighter tolerances, lower weights and the energy storing and unloading that steel cannot. Both steel and graphite can afford the golfer choices of flex, flex point, overall length, weight of the club and the trajectory they want. All of these greatly affect the flight of the ball and can be used to the advantage of the golfer if fitted correctly with the right shaft.
The size and weight of the head dictate the length and weight of the shaft needed to build a balanced club. The longer the shaft the greater the club head speed generated during the swing. When the mass at the end of the club is traveling faster the ball is hit farther. The faster the head travels, the greater the need for control on the bending and recovery of the shafts. There is about 2 mph added to the swing with every 1/2" of club length.
As the club lengths increase, the shafts and head weights have to decrease so the swing weight of each club stays the same within the sets. Swing weight is the relative feel of the of the club head when held by the grip. Theoretically, a well balanced, properly made set of clubs should all have the same swing weight, and a player should not be able to tell the difference between, say, the #3 iron and the #8 iron if handed them both while his eyes are closed. It has taken over 200 years of development to get the modern golf shaft where it is today. One should take advantage of all this new technology and consult with their club supplier/builder before ever buying a new golf club. It is truly worth it.
Sir Ben Neblin Richards