Fully Equipped mailbag: Are carbon composites here to stay?

Welcome to another edition of the Fully Equipped mailbag, an interactive GOLF.com series in which we field your hard-hitting gear questions.

Is carbon technology here to stay or is it just a passing fad until the next big thing? – Adam B., Louisiana

Great question and no need to bury the answer — yes, it’s definitely here to stay and no, we don’t think it’s a passing fad.

But before we tell you why we feel that way, let’s get some of the terminologies right. Carbon, or more specifically, carbon fiber, is a flexible fiber that’s typically oriented in a weave pattern to form a sheet. The difference between carbon fiber and composite is simple. Carbon is a fiber, and a composite is a mixture of different materials that combine to form a singular structure.

Therefore, a “carbon composite” is a mixture of carbon with other substances that include things like epoxy, ceramics, plastics polymers and fillers to form a rigid, albeit flexible shape.

Aside from the common usage in shafts, we’ve seen carbon composites used in driver and fairway clubheads for quite a while, mostly in the crown region to lower the clubhead’s CG and increase the MOI. In the last couple of years, carbon has encompassed the entire clubhead to varying degrees, with some clubheads using composite tech in the clubface, crown and sole of the club. Carbon has also found its way into iron designs too, sometimes employed as a medallion or vibration dampener behind the clubface.

All that being said, here’s why we think carbon composite is here to stay and for that matter, why we think we’re just scraping the surface of composite tech. Granted, these are mere predictions/our hot takes on the subject because we don’t really know what the future holds in store when it comes to golf equipment DNA. But, we’re willing to put our money where our mouth is on a few of the below.

Composite shafts will soon be in everyone’s irons, wedges and putters

We’ve been using composite shafts (it’s okay to call them “graphite shafts” if you want) in our drivers, woods and hybrids for several decades now. The predominant reasons why we didn’t use them in irons and wedges was they weren’t all that durable and they were too difficult to match in a full set of irons.

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Also, cost was prohibitive for most of us. Fast forward to 2023 and composite tech is as consistent (if not more) than steel, and it’s even more customizable to placate a huge array of swing types. We aren’t sure when the time will come where composite shafts are the norm and steel becomes a specialty/custom option in irons, wedges and putters, but we suspect it’ll be in the next 20 years or so.

Carbon composites are more durable (and finely tuned) than ever

We’ve seen carbon composite integrated into clubheads before, but not with the kind of performance that we’ve seen in the last few years. And, never has it been so durable that equipment manufacturers have been willing to put it to use in so many different regions of the club head.

Also, remember this: every equipment manufacturer has its own blend of carbon composite. Some forms are focused on strength and rigidity, with others are designed for added flex and responsiveness. No two composites are exactly the same, but it’s safe to say the full spectrum of today’s carbon composites used by top equipment manufacturers is the best stuff we’ve ever seen. And odds are, it’ll only get better.

Follow the LPGA

While most of us aspire to swing like Justin Thomas or Tony Finau, the reality is most of us have golf swing speeds that are closer to what’s found on the LPGA Tour. That’s not a knock on anyone, but a truism that should shape how many of us go about choosing our golf gear.

Composite shafts are very popular through the bag amongst LPGA players and more of us (men and women) should take notice and follow their lead. Also, we’ve talked with many club fitters through the years, and almost every single one would agree that most players who are ill-fit are playing clubs that are too stiff and heavy for their swings. Opting for lightweight composite technology is a quick fix to lighten your sticks to add more speed to hit the ball further.

Carbon composite is here to stay and the sky’s the limit to where we go from here.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2023? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf. For more on the latest gear news and information, check out our latest Fully Equipped podcast below.

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Ryan Noll

Golf.com Contributor