The three main components of the game of golf are the golf swing, the golf clubs, and the golf balls, plus a golf course, where to play the game. However, few players or fans think of the industry that stands behind this sport, trying to satisfy the increasing need for better clubs and balls in the golf market. Nowadays, engineers need to constantly improve materials and technologies to achieve competitiveness in golf clubs and ball production.
Metals, of which the majority of the golf clubs traditionally consist, have also been developed into composites, specialty alloys, and more. The high competitiveness of the game often requires the usage of cutting-edge metals and alloys for making the different categories of golf clubs. In this article, we present you with 20 metals that make up golf clubs.
Many people may think that today using metals for making up your golf clubs is an old-fashioned technology. Modern composite materials, such as carbon fiber or graphite, offer almost the same if not better properties and have been taken up by many manufacturers. However, metals still play an important part, and there is good reason for that. Metals and metal alloys provide some essential qualities that do not have an equivalent when compared to composite materials.
Golf Clubs Overview
Although historians attribute the origin of golf to 14th -century Scottish society, some historical versions trace the appearance of the prototype of golf in ancient Rome. Romans used to play a game called Pangania, in which the basic idea was to hit a filled leather ball with a bent stick. (1) Nowadays, golf is conceptualized under the regulations of the R& A and USGA, which ratify every single component of this fantastic game.
Generally speaking, a golf club is a type of stick used to hit the golf ball in golf. The golf club consists of a shaft, club head, and golf grip. (2) Golfers use different sizes and types of golf clubs for the different strokes during the game.
Initially, golf clubs consisted of different types of wood, some of them very sturdy. However, they were still susceptible to breaking at the top of the backswing, so in the 19th century, wood was substituted by metal. Despite that, wood has been used for a long time and gave the name of some types of golf clubs. These are the leading golf club types as follows:
List 1 Source: (2)
Different types of golf clubs find use in different cases during the game and for different strokes. A set of golf clubs include 14 clubs, arranged according to the player’s needs and style. Below, we provide a list of golf clubs, which comprise a club set for beginners, to give you a sample idea.
- 3 Wood
- 3 Hybrid
- 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 Irons
- Pitching Wedge
- Sand Wedge
List 2 Source: (3)
Metals Used For Golf Club Manufacture
The implementation of metals in the golf club industry significantly improved their strength and durability and their mechanical and physical properties. The shaft and the golf club head usually consist of metal, or metal, tapered with other material, depending on the type of club. Different metals and alloys support the elements of the game differently.
Although composite materials gained popularity rapidly, manufacturers still prefer some metals due to their qualities and price. Below we present you 20 metals and metal alloys that make up the modern golf clubs.
- 304 Stainless Steel
- 431 Stainless Steel
- 17-4 Stainless Steel
- 15-5 Stainless Steel
- Carbon Steel
- Chrome-plated steel
- 6-4 Titanium
- Beta Titanium
- Die-Cast Aluminum HST
- 6061 Aluminum
- Maraging Metal
- Beryllium nickel
- Beryllium copper
- Investment – cast
For some people, the enumeration of different types of steel in the list instead of their generalization as Stainless steel, for example, probably does not make sense. However, the different types of steel have different mechanical and physical characteristics and are used for different purposes. Such differences influence the performance of the golf clubs, so engineers have to consider the properties of every type of steel when constructing their clubs.
Metals are still preferred materials for making some golf clubs, especially irons, because of their resistance to torque during the impact with the golf ball. Modern composite materials are lighter, durable, and practical, but the shafts are susceptible to torque at the clubface’s impact with the golf ball. The table below illustrates some mechanical and physical advantages of metal alloys used for making up golf heads and shafts in terms of resilience.
|Material||Microstructure||Nominal composition (wt %)||Density (g/cc)||E (GPa)||σYS (MPa)||KIC (Mpa√m)||Corrosion resistance|
|Al 6061||polycrystalline (FCC)||Al-Mg 1.0, Si 0.60, Cr 0.20, Cu 0.28||2.7||69||270||30||Yes|
|431 Stainless||tempered martensite||Fe – C 0.20max, Mn 1.0max, Cr 16, Ni 1.9||7.8||200||700 – 1000||Yes|
|17-4PH Stainless||δ-ferrite (BCC) precipitates, martensite matrix||Fe – C 0.07max, Mn 1.0max, Cr 16, Ni 4.0, Cu 4.0, Nb+Ta 0.30||7.8||200||700 – 1200||Yes|
|C350 Maraging Steel||Ni3(Co, Mo) precipitates, martensite matrix||Fe – 0.03max, Mn 0.10max, Ni 19, Co 12, Mo 4.8, Ti 1.4||8.0||200||1700 – 2300||60||No|
|Ti-6Al-4V||polycrystalline duplex: α (HCP) + β (BCC)||Ti-Al 6.0, V 4.0||4.5||110||900||30||Yes|
|Ti-3Al8V6Cr4Mo4Zr||polycrystalline β (BCC)||Ti-Al 3.0, V 8.0, Cr 6.0, Mo 4.0, Zr 4.0||4.8||105||1100 – 1160||65||Yes|
|ZA27||polycrystalline duplex: α (FCC) + β (HCP)||Zn – Al 27, Mg 0.015, Cu 2.2||5.0||78||200 – 300||18||Yes|
|Zr – based ternary BMG||amorphous||Zr – Cu 40, Al 10||6.8||88||1860||17||Yes|
Table 1 Note (1)
In today’s golf club industry, usage of upgraded metal alloys and materials is prevailing. The traditional stereotype that relates metals to extra weight is not valid for modern alloys. The innovative technologies include even prototypes of metals used for building up space crafts and space stations.
Iron was the first material that altered the so popular persimmon, by which golf clubs, especially golf shafts, were made up to the 19th century. Today is scarce to find a golf club made of pure iron. Developed alloys dominate in the production of the club heads and shafts.
304 Stainless Steel
304 Stainless Steel is not among the often used materials for making up golf clubs. It is mild steel and offers an excellent feel for clubs. However, it does not provide enough compression and distance, so desired by many golfers.
431 Stainless Steel
431 Stainless Steel is soft steel, comprised of 0.2% carbon, 15-17% chromium, 1.25 – 2.5% nickel, iron, and few microelements. This type of steel typically finds use in making high-quality iron heads. It provides the most forgiving and smoothest feeling possible for an iron club.
17- 4 Stainless Steel
17- 4 Stainless Steel is a harder type of steel, typically used in professional-style woods. It consists of 0.07% carbon, 15 to 17% chromium, 4% nickel, 2.75% copper, 75% iron and microelements. (4) As a harder material, it consequently creates more compression on the ball and generates more distance. The seasoned golfers commonly prefer clubs made of 17-4 Stainless Steel.
15 – 5 Stainless Steel
15 – 5 Stainless Steel is another type of hard steel, which considerably decreases the soft feel created by 431 steel. It typically finds use for woods’ club heads, rarely for iron heads. 15 – 5 Stainless Steel also produces a better ball compression for farther ball distance.
Carbon Steel is another type of soft steel, along with 304 steel, one of the softest known steels. Consequently, it provides perhaps the best feel possible for woods and irons. However, the restricted capability to compress the ball and lower distance makes Carbon Steel unpopular among professional golfers.
Chrome-plated steel is another very commonly used steel in the golf club industry. It is a complex type of steel similar to the qualities of titanium, used to make both shafts and club heads. It is a prevalent material for making up irons and wedges with proven compression and distance characteristics.
Titanium is considered the bijou among the metals for golf clubs due to its price and excellent qualities. Besides that, it is more robust; titanium is lighter and more flexible than other metals. 6-4 Titanium typically finds use for making drivers, but irons and even putters, made of titanium, can also be seen. (5)
Beta Titanium has similar characteristics to 6-4 Titanium but a bit lighter. It is used preferably for making up club heads for woods, allowing the design of larger heads with more prominent sweet spots. Such design facilitates golfers with much better ball control and distance.
Another progressive metal used for making up golf clubs is Scandium. Scandium provides an excellent transfer of energy from the clubface to the golf ball, enabling more compression and distance. Scandium is commonly used for making driver shafts but also resides in other types of golf clubs.
Zink golf clubs commonly find use with beginners or junior golf sets. Zink is a soft metal, not so durable, and its application in golf club production has a more introductory purpose. Additionally, it is not a very expensive material, making it very suitable for both manufacturers and customers.
Die-Cast Aluminum HST
HST Aluminum is more rigid than standard Aluminum, and it also finds use for golf clubs among entry-level golfers. You can see most drivers made by HST Aluminum due to its lightweight nature. Its light but well-balanced weight allows the golfer to feel comfortable and confident during the swing.
6061 Aluminum or Alloy 61S is comprised mainly of magnesium and silicon. Similar to HST, they are used basically for drivers and club heads on the entry golf level. They are inexpensive, like Zink clubs, and for junior golfers, they are the preference.
Maraging Metal is considered the hardest metal in golf. It is a type of Stainless Steel, got through a unique process of hardening. It is not among the most popular materials in the golf industry but finds preference for making up high-performing woods and utility irons.
Ti – Alloy is an aluminum product with microelements of titanium. It is an inexpensive alternative to the more valuable alloys used in the golf club industry. Just like Zink and Aluminum, they also find use by beginners and junior golfers.
Tungsten is another preferred metal alloy for making up golf clubs due to its strength, density, and high resistance to wear. The alloy is mainly used for making club heads. Club heads made by Tungsten provide the necessary strength and durability without adding extra weight, which makes them quite comfortable.
Beryllium Nickel is another highly rigid alloy known for its thermal stability and thermal conduction. The alloy is used mainly for making up putters, but some manufacturers use it to make Irons, too. There is discussion in the sports circles whether Beryllium Nickel is safe for making up sports goods, but irrefutable evidence for their toxicity is not yet available.
Beryllium Copper is a malleable metal that golf club makers can quickly form in any shape after heating. In the golf industry, manufacturers used it to extend the life of the die for casting the clubs. In the 80s, Beryllium Copper wedges were quite popular with their softer feel, but they are not in production anymore.
Investment – Cast
Investment-cast metals are a composition of metal alloys used for making up modern Irons, mostly. Mixing of different alloys allows engineers to design clubs with lower mass centers and higher inertia for more considerable distances. Investment–cast technology finds use for making almost all types of golf clubs. (2)
Zeemet Golf Clubs
Zeemet is an alloy of a new generation, perhaps the metal alloy of the future. It is a proprietary, high-dumping, shape memory alloy based on technologies used by NASA for space construction. As a result, an entirely new line of golf wedges and putters, called Zeemet, appeared on the market. (6)
The Metal Of The Future
Metals of the future, such as Zeemet alloy, deserve a bit more attention. New technologies implemented in the game of golf improve metals’ properties and players’ performance in general. Shape memory alloys are one of these technologies that pave the way for the future development of golf.
Shape memory alloys were intended for application in space stations by NASA. Alloys’ innovative properties are their ability to change from shape to shape, depending on temperature variation. The Zeemet golf club line, created by an American company from Florida, is based exclusively on shape memory technology.
Shape memory alloys provide golf clubs with super elasticity and high dumping qualities. It means more spin on the ball, better control, and a compact feel in golf language. The principle of this new technology is that the club’s head goes through a structural change during the impact with the ball for a split second. The elastic property ensures more spin and more “bite” without decreasing the distance. (6)
Shape memory alloys gain more and more popularity with their innovative technology. Except in space and the golf industry, shape memory alloys also find a use when making microprocessors and a new generation of helicopter blades. Implementing shape memory alloy may bring a revolution in golf club mechanics.
The 3 Top-Notch FAQ About Club Metals
What Is The Best Metal For Golf Clubs?
Which is the best metal for golf clubs depends on whether we consider club shafts or club heads. However, if we have to summarize, we could develop a list of five metals and alloys that are proven to be one of the best for making up golf clubs.
- Stainless Steel
- Carbon Steel
Each one of these metals is best for different types and purposes of golf clubs.
What Is Better For Golf Clubs Graphite Or Steel?
It depends on the purpose and the moment of play you use a specific golf club for. If you need help with the launch and swing speed, you may prefer a graphite golf club. If you need a more rigid feel and minimize torque at the moment of the impact with the ball, you will use a steel golf club.
Are Steel Shafts More Accurate Than Graphite?
The accuracy of a golf shot is a complex element of play that cannot depend only on the club material. According to golfers and specialists, Steel shafts contribute to an increased swing speed and carry distance. On the other hand, due to their flexibility, graphite shafts decrease the shock of impact with the ball in case of a mis-hit.
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- 2. Wikipedia, “Golf Club.” Wikimedia Foundation, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golf_club#Grip Assessed May 21, 2021
- 3. “Essential Golf Clubs for Beginners.” PRO TIPS by DICK’S Sporting Goods, https://protips.dickssportinggoods.com/sports-and-activities/golf/essential-golf-clubs-beginners Assessed May 21, 2021
- 4. Anzalone, Peter. “Are You a Master at Manufacturing Golf Clubs?” Analyzing Metals, www.thermofisher.com/blog/metals/are-you-a-master-at-manufacturing-golf-clubs/ Assessed May 22, 2021
- 5. Thomas, Jim. “Why Are Golf Clubs Made of Titanium?” USA Today, Gannett Satellite Information Network, https://golftips.golfweek.usatoday.com/golf-clubs-made-titanium-20483.html Assessed May 22, 2021
- 6. NASA “Memory Golf Clubs.”, NASA SPINOFF, https://spinoff.nasa.gov/spinoff1997/ch8.html Assessed May 23, 2021