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.
This story was a combined effort of the GolfWRX Staff