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Graphite Design makes a bad move closing its doors

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Strategies don’t often change in the middle of a hot streak.

That’s why it came as a shock to the golf industry that Graphite Design International, the company that manufactures Tiger Woods’ driver shaft, has decided to vacate North America, closing its U.S. headquarters in San Diego and laying off all of its employees effective Nov. 30.

Margins for shaft makers have been shrinking in recent years, as OEMs have insisted on lower prices from component makers. But the timing of GDI’s decision is strange, given the success the company has enjoyed in recent years.

The company was founded in Japan in 1989, where it has dominated marketshare for more than a decade. But since Woods first began using the company’s Tour AD DI 6X shaft in his driver in 2010, the GDI products have seen a spike in usage on the PGA Tour.

Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar, Jonas Blixt, Mark Wilson and Johnson Wagner all trusted at least one GDI shaft in route to victory on the PGA Tour in 2012. And Adam Scott, who is No. 6 in the Official Golf World Rankings, plays the company’s shafts in his driver and hybrid.

According to sources who spoke on the condition of anonomity, GDI decided to consolidate operations to its world headquarters of Chichibu, Japan for tax purposes. They said that the company will also remove its shaft representatives from the PGA Tour in 2013 and is in the process of ending its current contracts in North America.

PGA Tour players depend on reps for product information and custom shaft services. How can GDI expect to maintain its presence on the PGA Tour and its affiliated tours in North America without representation? Does the company expect OEM tour reps to provide these services for them?

Chances are they won’t. In the ultra-competitive golf shaft industry, OEMs will work with companies that provide great products and great service. Who is Nike supposed to call for support when Tiger wants a new shaft for an updated driver model … Japan?

GDI will find out what a bad decision this was in the years to come. Graphite Design’s recent success can be directly attributed to the usage of its products by Woods and other top golfers. The company’s decision to leave North America jeopardizes PGA Tour usage of GDI products, and also adds communication hurdles between the GDI and major OEMs.

If Graphite Design sticks to their current strategy, “Graphite who?” will become the sentiment in the Americas.

Click here for more discussion in the forums.

This story was a combined effort of the GolfWRX Staff

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GolfWRX is the world's largest and best online golf community. Expert editorial reviews, breaking golf tour and industry news, what to play, how to play and where to play. GolfWRX surrounds consumers throughout the buying, learning and enrichment process from original photographic and video content, to peer to peer advice and camaraderie, to technical how-tos, and more. As the largest online golf community we continue to protect the purity of our members opinions and the platform to voice them. We want to protect the interests of golfers by providing an unbiased platform to feel proud to contribute to for years to come. You can follow GolfWRX on Twitter @GolfWRX and on Facebook.

24 Comments

24 Comments

  1. Dan

    Aug 6, 2014 at 5:08 pm

    GD shafts are very, very good but, so are Miyazaki, Aldila, Fujikura, etc. Now, if all of these companies jump ship we might need to panic.

  2. Joe Golfer

    Jul 8, 2014 at 11:23 pm

    I think the professional ranks will still have access to plenty of GDI shafts if they want them. It’s not like they have to order them and have them overnighted. They simply keep a fair amount in stock.
    As for the average golfer, they aren’t playing aftermarket shafts to a great extent, since they don’t want to pay $360 or whatever for that shaft after purchasing a driver.
    As for these being stock shafts in OEM drivers? Dream on. Some of these name brand shafts that go into OEM drivers are not even made by the actual company that is branded on the shaft. The name brand company allows some lesser company to make the shaft, then use their name and shaft model, then they stick it into an OEM clubhead, but it is no where near the quality of the real $300 to $400 shaft.
    The only aspect of this that would hurt GDI is if they eliminate their tour reps that tout their shafts to the professionals.
    If they were smart, they’d still keep a couple of tour reps on staff, as that would not be costly, and it would keep their shafts in the public eye. Keep putting those $360 shafts into pro’s bags, give them a very distinctive paint job that the public recognizes, then put cheap crappy $20 versions of that shaft with the same paint job into the OEM clubs that we buy in golf stores.

  3. gocanucksfan123

    Mar 17, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    For all those thinking this will go away on tour, just watch some really good emerging golfer (ex. young Tiger) start playing this shaft, and then watch everyone else start playing it too.

  4. phil

    Feb 24, 2014 at 11:21 am

    It just speaks to more greed and bigger margins for equipment companies….The industry speaks out of both sides of their mouth, on one hand they pay lip service to growing the game and making it more accessible to the masses but on the other hand make it hands down the most expensive recreational sport to participate in. That being said 70 plus rounds a year and a basement full of the latest gear I drink the kool-aid by the liter.

  5. Rixi

    Feb 24, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Well, let’s face it, other nations are emerging while we are submerging. Will Graphite Design lose market share because they left Cal? Doubtful.

    The price of my GD Tour AD 65i’s were included with my new 712 AP1s and well within budget. You can find GD shafts reasonably priced if you hunt.

    I love the reaction and the performance improvement with my Tour AD 65i’s over my former TT steels. I really, hopefully think they will very much remain in the US market, if they can keep up with the stiff competition. Pun intended.

    My $.02.

  6. Ben

    Feb 20, 2014 at 1:17 pm

    The problem with their shafts is that they are super high prices. The golf masses aren’t gonna kick down 300 bucks for a premium shaft when they can get a driver for 400 with a decent shaft.

    • Justin

      Sep 11, 2014 at 12:00 am

      I’ve had my best driver numbers with an 85g Wishon S2S Black shaft… Most people don’t realize that the $300 (heII, even $100+) models aren’t the only “it” models. Quality and decent price can go hand in hand, if a person’s willing to look.

  7. Ken Boucher

    Dec 29, 2012 at 2:29 pm

    I am a GD dealer, I have been informed of all the changes and it looks like it will be a better deal for customers. Cost of a shaft will decrease if anything and I will easily be able to get shafts be it for woods hybreds or irons. As a Miura dealer I can attest to the quaility these tour ad iron shafts are especially matched with Miura irons. Best of the best, so yes they are still going to be available and this was nothing more than a simple business decision

    • Rixi

      Feb 24, 2014 at 11:25 am

      I have to agree with you. These are the best shafts I have ever hit with my brand new 712 AP1s. I am an avid (Ah hem, wagering) recreational golfer. So I need/want the best equipment for the best price. GD shafts are a good choice for any player who wants to do better.

      I absolutely do not see them walking away from the US market.

  8. Mark Burke

    Nov 5, 2012 at 5:24 pm

    The Graphite Design Shafts are so expensive. Last time I broke my driver shaft when I threw a temper tantrum on the course during a tournament on my way to another 86. I reshafted with a stick I found by the homeless shelter. My buddy New York gave me some tape and bam new driver shaft.

    This has been a tip from Mark Burke Golf Bum

    PS I am Still trying to clear my name

    • Rixi

      Feb 24, 2014 at 11:30 am

      How many yards can you get with that new “whip flex” duck tape, El Cheapo driver stick? ;>)

  9. Carl

    Nov 4, 2012 at 5:36 am

    HOW WILL ANYONE GET IOMIC GRIPS IF THEY ARE ALL THE WAY IN JAPAN??? WHAT DO YOU THINK THERE IS SOME TYPE OF MAGICAL MACHINE THAT CAN FLY THEM THRU THE SKY AND INTO THE COUNTRY FOR DOMESTIC USE?!?!?! Oh wait….

    Look, The bottom line is that OEMs will do whatever it takes to get the shafts that tour players want to play, in the players hands and ready to play (and hopefully win).

    —“What are they going to do call JaPaN?”

    Yes. That is exactly what they are going to do. And I am positive that GDI will get the OEMs a truckload of their shafts, ready for play, within a reasonable timeframe (3-5 days).

    Graphite Design shafts are already manufactured in Japan. The only thing that is going to change for the NA consumer is where their shafts are being directly shipped from.

    The day that Graphite Design becomes “Graphite Who?” in the Americas, is the day that this site dies.

  10. Cameron

    Nov 3, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    People are misinformed if they think GDI is leaving because of California tax policy. If GDI is leaving because of tax issues it is due to federal taxes not state taxes.

  11. ACGOLFWRX

    Nov 3, 2012 at 7:30 am

    They have made the right decision! The company will do better outside the U.S.A anyway….

  12. Adam

    Nov 2, 2012 at 10:36 pm

    Smart move. Get out of Cali and away from the massive taxes. No smart company will stay in America. We are taxing ourselves to death. Hate to go overseas. But you have to do what you have to do to survive.

  13. Jay

    Nov 2, 2012 at 9:27 pm

    This might be one of the daftest golf related opeds i’ve ever read. Thanks for the entertainment zak.

  14. timmy

    Nov 2, 2012 at 6:15 pm

    I think its a good business decision

    Also not having a sales rep on site is not going to be a big deal

    Players will have access to the shaft no matter what and if they want to know more about the specifics they can simply send them an email or contact the rep in japan via social media.

    Will this decision diminish the presence of GDI shafts on the tour? Definitely not. Professional sports is all about performance and GDI has proven its quality and performance in such a powerful way people and players will continue to look for their product.

    • Richard

      Nov 4, 2012 at 8:43 am

      I disagree. Just my opinion but I see the future in this one. Only memories of GD shafts in a few years. Little on tour since no reps to peddle them and very little if any on OEM shafts since there will be no presence in North America.

  15. Nuke LaLoosh

    Nov 2, 2012 at 6:14 pm

    It is a result of California tax policy. Why stay in a high tax state/country when you can manufacture elsewhere and import. Simple economics!

  16. EJ

    Nov 2, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    WHO CARES, ROBOTI SAYS STEEL IS BETTER ANYWAY! LOL

  17. Paul Carlson

    Nov 2, 2012 at 2:53 pm

    This post seems a bit hasty to me. I would have appreciated a more thoughtful analysis of their US decision. If the shafts are in demand, the reps will find a way to get them. I agree with JR & John on this one.

    There must be a reason they’ve done this. Could it be they’d rather focus on eastern markets? China? Korea?

    Just my .02

  18. John Muir

    Nov 2, 2012 at 2:19 pm

    Graphite Design shafts will still be available, they’ve granted exclusive aftermarket distributorship to a group led by their current CFO and their current vp of sales.
    John Muir
    clubmaker online

  19. jr

    Nov 2, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    How can you say it’s a bad decision? Have you seen their books? Do you know what their making? Losing? Have you run a worldwide shaft manufacturing company? These companies don’t make decisions by the seat of their pants.

    • sdgfhjkhgjkdfsfg

      Nov 2, 2012 at 6:20 pm

      This article went from informative to an op-ed quicker than a Cameron scam.

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