For decades, the material of choice for iron shafts has been steel. Compared to the hickory shafts of yesteryear and composite shafts of the present, steel shafts proved to be more consistent and stable. On professional golf tours around the world, steel shafts have been the overwhelming shaft of choice for irons for many years. There are several great steel shafts available for irons, like the new KBS C-taper shaft and the venerable Dynamic Gold shaft that has been around for what seems like forever. There have also been many advancements in composite shaft technology in the last decade. Graphite shafts are getting longer, lighter and more stable, but there hasn’t been a significant advancement in steel shaft design in a long time. Until now.
Earlier this year while watching coverage of the PGA Tour on television, I noticed tour players Matt Kuchar and Brandt Snedeker playing iron shafts that weren’t like the rest. They appeared to be composite shafts, but after some research I found out they were Aerotech Steelfiber shafts. I reached out to Aerotech Golf for more information on the shafts and they agreed to send me a set of the very same constant weight, taper tip Steelfiber i95 shafts played by the PGA Tour pros. To help me test these shafts, I had them spine aligned and installed on a set of Cleveland CG16 Tour Concept iron heads by my club maker extraordinaire Glen Belden. He’s been building and fitting amateur golfers and touring pros since 1979. These iron heads are similar to the retail version but have a smaller head with less offset preferred by their tour players. They are also made of softer metal for better feel . In this case – 8620 with a raw satin finish.
Founded in 1991, Aerotech Sports was the first company to produce an NHL approved composite hockey stick. They made helmets, bike components, fishing rods and more until breaking into the golf industry in 1994 when they produced their first golf shaft. At first Aerotech operated as an OEM supplier, making shafts for companies like Cleveland, Adams, Fenwick, Zevo and Pure Spin. In 2002 they launched their own line of branded shafts, and in 2005 Aerotech Golf was born.
The Aerotech Steelfiber shaft is like nothing I’ve ever seen before. Aerotech has managed to combine materials to create a shaft that has all the best properties of composite and steel shafts without any of the drawbacks. The innovative Steelfiber shaft is a high modulus graphite core wrapped with very thin steel fibers. Each steel fiber has a diameter of only 8 microns, or approximately 1⁄10th the diameter of a human hair. That means there is over 59 miles of steel fiber covering the entire surface of each shaft! This construction translates to a shaft that is very stable & consistent like steel, but is light weight and absorbs vibration like a graphite shaft.
I’ve played with heavy (130+ gram) Dynamic Gold X100 steel shafts in my irons for most of my golfing career, so I was a bit worried when switching to a 95 gram Steelfiber shaft. Before even hitting the first shot with my new irons, I knew that these shafts were going to be special. Just flexing these shafts with my hands, they felt stiffer than any graphite iron shaft I’ve ever tried. In my hands they felt as stiff as my old X100 shafts, even though they are 35 grams lighter, and after hitting a few hundred balls on the range my predictions were confirmed. This shaft is remarkable. After playing with these shafts in my irons for over 20 rounds, hundreds of range balls and several months in temperatures ranging from 50 to 95 degrees, I can say that the Aerotech Steelfiber shaft is a winner.
The first thing that stands out about this shaft is the vibration dampening. The Aerotech Steelfiber shaft does a great job at mitigating the shock and vibration of hitting the ground with an iron swing. As a result, they make your irons feel softer. My cast 8620 irons heads feel like butter on a solid strike, and on a cold day they eliminate that “stinger” you get if you hit the ball a few grooves low. The second thing I noticed was the stability and consistency of the Steelfiber shafts. It took me almost 72 holes to adjust to the shaft’s tendency to want to go straighter than my old shafts. I’m used to working the ball left or right with my irons, but these shafts hit it straighter than my old X100s and I had to make an adjustment and play less fade or draw. This sounds like a good problem to have for most golfers! The steel fibers woven around the shaft make them incredibly stable too. I’m able to hit knockdown shots, high shots and everything in between with no fear of losing control or ballooning the ball like a graphite shaft. Finally, the lighter weight of this shaft allows me to swing the club a bit faster, producing a little more distance. For me the gain wasn’t much, maybe a half club, but for others it will be more significant. Compared directly to the Dynamic Gold X100, the Steelfiber i95 tends to hit the ball slightly higher.
Aerotech offers the Steelfiber shafts in five weight classes: 70, 80, 95, 110 and 125 grams. On the lighter end of the spectrum, the i70 and i80 shafts will benefit players looking for more distance and/or a more stable composite shaft option for their irons. The i80 shaft is the most popular shaft in the Steelfiber line, and the one I would recommend for most golfers out there. The i95 shaft that I tested for this review is a great transition shaft for those wanting to move into a lighter weight iron shaft without going too light and substantially changing the feel of the club during the swing. The 95 gram weight allows the player to see some good improvement in distance while still maintaining accuracy and incredibly consistent distance control. The Aerotech Steelfiber i110 and i125 shafts are generally preferred by stronger players that are looking to maintain the overall effort it takes to swing their steel shafted irons, but want to benefit from the vibration dampening characteristics of a composite shaft. Aerotech Golf is able to maintain the playability of the 125 gram shaft by minimizing the wall thickness with the use of metal to increase weight instead of adding more graphite. Because graphite is 1/5th the weight of steel, it would take 5 times the amount of graphite material for the same weight increase, which increases wall thickness and gives the shaft a boardy feel.
As with many other golf products, the biggest measure of success for a company can be adoption on the PGA Tour. Aerotech shafts are used by several players on the PGA Tour without paying the players to use them. Most notable is Matt Kuchar. Using the Steelfiber i95 in his irons, Matt was #1 on the 2010 money list, scoring average, all around ranking and top ten finishes. He also finished second in the FedEx Cup standings. “When I switched to Aerotech Golf shafts, I was looking for a lighter weight iron shaft that could provide me with consistent ball flight and spot on distance control. Aerotech’s SteelFiber shafts fit the bill perfectly. The SteelFiber technology has allowed me to take advantage of all the benefits of a graphite shaft yet still maintain complete control over my golf ball.”
The only negative I can find about these shafts is that for a player like myself who is used to playing heavy clubs, the adjustment to light weight shafts can take some time. Despite my love for these shafts in my irons, I’m hesitant to install them in my wedges. I think I would have to go with the i125 to maintain the same weight and feel I prefer in a wedge. That being said, if you get these I highly recommend a skilled club maker installs them in order to get the gram weighting of your iron heads right, or they may be way too light on the swing-weight scale. This is often an issue when moving from a steel shaft to graphite in your irons.
Aerotech Golf really has something with the Steelfiber shaft. To me it’s the most significant advancement in iron shaft technology in my lifetime. The construction is unique and the performance of the Steelfiber shafts far exceeded my expectations. Any golfer who is looking to take advantage of the benefits of composite shafts without sacrificing the control and consistency of steel shafts needs to take a look at these. The Steelfiber line of shafts is also available for woods and hybrids, and they have a composite wood shaft called the Claymore that has taken the world of professional Long Driving by storm. The Steelfiber shafts are priced comparably to other premium steel shafts, and I believe they are a better value. Give them a try, I know you won’t be disappointed. Let us know what you think or what your experience with them is like by leaving a comment.
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