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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.

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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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Jason Day’s performance coach, Jason Goldsmith, joins the 19th hole

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In this episode of the 19th Hole, Jason Goldsmith of FocusBand talks about how the breakthrough technology has helped PGA Tour stars Jason Day and Justin Rose to major wins. Also, host Michael Williams gives his take on Tiger Woods’ return to golf.

Click here to listen on iTunes!

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Ari’s Course Reviews: Oakmont Country Club

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Editor’s Note: Ari Techner is a well-traveled, golf-course connoisseur who’s setting out to review the best golf courses in the world. The views and opinions expressed in these reviews are his own. 

Oakmont Country Club. The name alone strikes fear into the heart of any mortal golfer. Oakmont has a reputation for difficulty unmatched in the golf world; it’s fear forged in the public’s eye while watching best players in the world struggle during the U.S. Open every 10-plus years or so. There is a notion that Oakmont could hold a U.S. Open just about any day of the year. This is not a course that needs to be tweaked from its daily setup to test the best in the world.

All that said, a close look at the course reveals that there is so much more to Oakmont than just difficulty. Since around 1950, MANY courses have been built with the dilebrate intention of holding a U.S. Open. Most, if not all, of these courses are filled with water hazards, extremely long holes and very little variety. Oakmont is the exact opposite of that, and this is what is at the core of its greatness.

A view from the ninth fairway

Oakmont Country Club first opened in 1903 and was designed by Henry Fownes, who built it because he felt the other courses around Pittsburgh were not difficult enough. The course was constantly tweaked in the early years by Fownes and his son William. Both Fownes were accomplished players with William winning the U.S. Amateur in 1910 and serving as the playing captain of the first U.S. Walker Cup team in 1922.

Trees, or no trees?

The 18th tee

The course was extremely influential in the development of early golf courses in America. It was equally influential in future years by setting trends that have changed the way many other courses have evolved. When Oakmont opened, it was built in an open field and had no trees on the course, adding to the links-like flavor that Fownes wanted from his visits overseas. In the 1950s (after all the Fownes had left the club) Oakmont added thousands of non-native trees to line the corridors of the holes, a look that was a heavy trend of the time. This work was mostly done by Robert Trent Jones, who also modified the bunkers to fit more of his style of the time.

The course continued to evolve over the years with the bunkers being restored by Tom Fazio… but the trees remained. In preparation for the 2008 U.S. Open, Oakmont cut down thousands of trees, returning the course to its open, windswept origins. This was very controversial among the members, and much of the work was done in the middle of the night in the off-season so as not to cause a big stir. After 2008, thousands more trees have been cut down, opening all of the amazing long views across the property. You can see almost every hole on the property from just about every spot on the course. Oakmont was the first course to embrace this massive tree removal and it has turned into a trend with hundreds of classic courses removing their non-native trees and going back to their more open original layouts.

Oakmont is the only course that Fownes designed and I believe that contributes greatly to its uniqueness. Fownes’ version of difficulty did not include artificial water hazards, out of bounds or excessive bunkering fronting greens, and it did not rely simply on longer-than-average holes to challenge the golfer. Instead, it has an amazingly varied mix of holes that challenge the golfer in a variety of ways both mentally and physically. Overall, the course requires you to be a straight driver of the ball, a good iron player and to have a deft short game and putting touch. You also need to be able to think your way around the course while you execute the shots you choose at a high level.

A good variety

Oakmont has its share of length with long par 4s, such as hole Nos. 1, 10, 15 and 18, the monster par-5 12th and long par 3s such as Nos. 8 and 16.  What sets the course apart to me, however, are the short holes and the holes that require strategic decision-making off the tee. These include short par 4s such Nos. 2, 11 and 17 and mid-length par 4s including Nos. 5 and 14.  These holes can be just as difficult as the long ones, and they require a completely different skill set.  The short par-3 13th and short par-5 9th (plays as a par 4 for the U.S. Open) round out what is an amazing set of shorter holes.

A view of the ninth fairway from across the Pennsylvania Turnpike

The course uses the natural movement of the site very well and has a tight, extremely walkable routing despite being bisected by the Pennsylvania Turnpike at the bottom of the hill in the middle of the property. I particularly love the fallaway greens at 1, 10, 12, and to a lesser degree 3 and 15 where the front of the green is higher than the back. This is a unique look that you do not see in the USA very often. Without the little backboard that a back-to-front sloping green provides, you must hit the ball solid or execute a well played run-up shot to hold the green. The short par 4s temp the long hitter just enough to make them think about hitting driver, but wayward shots are punished enough to make most think twice. The 17th, at a little under 300 yards, could be the hardest hole on the course, and yet it is definitely drivable for the right player who hits a great drive. The small and extremely narrow green requires a short shot be hit the perfect distance if you decide to lay up to the right down the fairway. Hit it even a little short and you end up in the aptly named “Big Mouth” bunker which is extremely deep. Hit it a hair long or with not enough spin to hold the green and you end up rolling over the green into one of a few smaller bunkers. Carry the bunkers on the left side off the tee into the sliver of fairway up by the green and you have a short, open shot from a much better angle into the fatter part of the green. Such risk/reward and great use of angles is paramount to Oakmont’s genius.

Green complexes are…complex

The green on the 18th hole

Oakmont also sports one of the best sets of greens anywhere in the world.  They are all heavily contoured and very challenging, yet playable. You can certainly make putts out there if you are putting well, but get on the wrong side of the hole and you are left with an extremely difficult, but rarely impossible 2 putt. They are also very unique due to Fownes only designing one course, as they do not look like any other classic course; they have a feel all their own. They are mostly open in front, coming from the correct angle, and they have many squarish edges. They also cut the tight fringe far back into the fairway, which aids in run-up shots; it also gives a great look where the green and the fairway blend together seamlessly.

The bunkering is also very unique and very special… and they are true hazards. Find yourself in a fairway bunker off the tee, and you are likely wedging out without much of any chance of reaching the greens. The green-side bunkers are fearsome, very deep and difficult. The construction of the bunkers is unique too — most of them have very steep and tall faces that were built up in the line of play. Oakmont is also home to one of the most famous bunkers in golf; the “Church Pews” bunkers — a large, long rectangular bunker between the fairways of holes 3 and 4 with strips of grass in the middle like the pews in a church. There is also a smaller “Church Pews” bunker left of the fairway off the tee on hole 15. Hit it into one of these two bunkers and good luck finding a descent lie.

Ari’s last word

All-in-all, along with being one of the hardest courses in the world, Oakmont is also one of the best courses in the world. It is hard enough to challenge even the best players in the world day-in and day-out, but it can easily be played by a 15-handicap without losing a ball. It is extremely unique and varied and requires you to use every club in your bag along with your brain to be successful. Add that to a club that has as much history as any other in the county, and Oakmont is one of golf’s incredibly special places.

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Coming Up: A Big Golf Adventure

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My name is Jacob Sjöman, and I’m a 35-year-old golf photographer who also enjoys the game we all love. I will be sharing some experiences here on a big golf trip that we are doing. With me I’ve got my friend Johan. I will introduce him properly later, but he is quite a funny character. According to Johan, he is the best golf photo assistant in the world, and we will see about that since this is probably his biggest test yet doing this trip. Previously on our trips, Johan almost got us killed in Dubai with a lack of driving skills. He also missed a recent evening photo shoot in Bulgaria while having a few beers too many… and that’s not all.

Anyway, the last couple of days I’ve been packing my bags over and over. I came home from the Canary Islands this Sunday and I’ve been constantly checking and rechecking that we’ve got all the required equipment, batteries, and that the cameras are 100 percent functional and good to go for this golf trip. I’m still not sure, but in a couple of minutes I will be sitting in a taxi to the airport and there will be no turning back.

Where are we going then? We are going to visit some of the very best golf courses in New Zealand and Australia. There will be breathtaking golf on cliffsides, jaw-dropping scenic courses, and some hidden gems. And probably a big amount of lost balls with a lot of material produced in the end.

I couldn’t be more excited for a golf journey like this one. Flying around the globe to these special golf courses I’ve only dreamed about visiting before gives me a big kick and I feel almost feel like a Indiana Jones. The only thing we’ve got in common, though, is that we don’t like snakes. Australia seems to be one of the worst destinations to visit in that purpose, but all the upsides are massive in this.

First, we will take off from a cold Stockholm (it’s raining heavily outside at the moment) and then we will do our first stop at Doha in Quatar. Then after two more hours, we are finally heading off to Auckland on the north island of New Zealand, a mega-flight of 16 hours. I believe that could very well be one of the longest flights available for a ordinary airplane. I need to check that.

Flights for me usually mean work, editing photos from different golf courses I’ve visited, writing some texts, editing some films, and planning for the future. Last time, though, I finally managed to sleep a little, which is a welcome progress for a guy that was deadly scared of flying until 2008.

Now, I am perfectly fine with flying. A few rocky flights over the Atlantic Sea to Detroit helped me a lot, and my motto is now, “If those flights got me down on the ground safely, it takes a lot of failures to bring down a plane.”

Anyway, I hope you will join me on this golf trip. Stay tuned!

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