In Their Own Words - Graphite Design International

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A Conversation with Robb Schikner
Robb Schikner is the Vice President of Research and Development for Graphite Design International. His primary responsibilities include materials and performance research, product development and evaluation, and advancing GDIs industry-leading graphite shaft brands.
 
Established in Japan in 1989, Graphite Design is one of the world's three largest golf-club shaft manufacturers. Graphite Design made its mark manufacturing high-performance shafts for most of golf's major OEMs worldwide, including the top four companies by sales volume.
 
In 1997, Graphite Design created Graphite Design International ' a U.S. based, 100 percent owned subsidiary company headquartered in San Diego. The company researches, develops and markets shafts throughout the U.S.
 
GDI's trademarks are revolutionary technology, design and sourcing the most advanced materials so GDI shafts are of highest quality and performance. GDI shafts specifically promote Accuracy and Distance by way of their Ultra-High Modulus Materials ' a combination of multiple types of carbon graphite fiber.
 
The core components of the companys AD logo, these key competitive advantages help professionals and amateurs optimize their game after switching to GDI shafts. The companys popular YS series, new PM (Prototype Model) shafts, and new Tour AD shafts are taking this message to the next level.
 
Casey / Q:
The PGA Champion this year used the PM 702 shaft in his driver and the PM 902 in his 3-wood and 5-wood. How did these shafts come about?
 
Rob / A:
We came up with the PM line to kind of capture some of the shafts that we use and promote out on tour that may not fit in to a current consumer product category. PM stands for prototype model. Originally they were prototype shafts. We wanted to be able to track those products out on the PGA Tour so we really knew what the usage was. Obviously when you get a high profile player playing a product like that then it gets some momentum and you have customers calling asking about that shaft and what that shaft is and is it available to the market. Eventually, the momentum gets such that thats when we make the decision to launch it out to the public. But I think the mystique of the PM shaftsthats still there. Its not necessarily a shaft for the masses.
 
Casey / Q:
The 702very stiff shaft. Developed for extremely strong players?
 
Rob / A:
The winner of the PGA Championship this year is a very strong man. Tremendous raw strength and enormous club head speed. The PM 702 we originally developedwe didnt make it for himbut we developed it with him in mind based of the kind of swing profile he has. So basically that goes in to how he loads and unloads the golf shaftthe way he actually hits the ballwith his strength hes going to be looking for a stiffer bend profile then a lot of other products that were in our product line at the time.
 
Casey / Q:
So you designed and made a shaft on spec that you thought this player might like?
 
Rob / A:
We came up with a bend profile that seemed to match the swing characteristics that he has. So you can have different kind of bend profiles for different shafts. You can have stiff butt with a soft tip, a stiff tip and a softer buttthe PM 702 is really a stiffer tip and butt section so the overall stiffness of that shaft is a lot higher than say YS 6 or YS 7 ' other shafts that we have that are very popular on the PGA Tour. The 702 is really a different animal altogether. It didnt really exist before.
Casey / Q:
Most players, even with similar looking swings, have different swing profiles. Are you using launch monitors to help determine what shaft a player should be using?
 
Rob / A:
We can do it by launch monitor, but also our tour representative, Robert Meyer, who is out on the PGA Tour every week ' he gives me excellent feedback of what he sees visually. Hes a great player in his own right and he has a very keen eye to really watch a player. Not only how hes swinging the club. Because Robert can tell if a guys swinging fast or not just because hes out there every weekbut also really watching the ball flight. You know you can use a launch monitor. It gives you a lot of good data, but, also visually you can really see if the ball flight a guy is hitting off of the driver is ideal or not in terms of too much backspin or sidespin or whatnot. Sometimes a trained eye like Roberts is more effective than a launch monitor.
 
Casey / Q:
Any more info on what type of player will fit best in to the PM 702?
 
Rob / A:
That shaft (PM702) is something stronger players with higher club head speed that need a stiffer bend profile might be interested in. A good example of that is on the long-drive tour. Those guys are playing fairly stiff shafts ' double X and triple X is really common out there. Apparently, from one of my conversations with one of the long-drive competitors, the PM 702 is starting to get some play out there. So, it is actually becoming a good long-drive shaft in addition to being used on the PGA Tour. Its a shaft we actually sell at 47 inches. The maximum shaft length out there on the long-drive tour is 48 inches finished club length. So they basically take that shaft and stick it straight in to the head and itll come out the perfect length at 48 inches in a finished club. I know there is at least one competitor out there that is using the PM 702 as a long-drive shaft. That was never the intention of that shaft but weve designed some long-drive shafts in the past and it does have a similar overall bend profile of a long-drive shaft.
 
Casey / Q:
And the overall weight of the 702?
 
Rob / A:
Its about 72 grams. Thats where the 7 and 2 come from in the name. And the 902 is about 92 grams. Same thing ' the 9 and the 2.
 
Casey / Q:
72 grams for such a stiff shaft. That seems light.
 
Rob / A:
Thats the great thing about composite materials, the graphite materials that we use. You can really tailor stiffness of the shaft more so than any other material thats used for golf shafts. Just the different types of fiber materials that are available to us allow us to create these unique designs at a low weight. If you look at the consumer level a majority of the shafts that are going in to OEM club heads are in the 50 to 60 gram range. So, the benefit to consumers is going in a lighter weight direction.
 
Casey / Q:
There are enormous forces placed on a shaft during the golf swing. Explain to our readers how a shaft loads and unloads.
 
Rob / A:
The two components of any golf shaft are flexural stiffness or stiffness along the length, but, also the torque of the shaft or torsional stiffness. On the backswing theres really very little load thats going on in the shaft because a backswing is not very quick. Its at the top of the swing and the transition ' the first movement down ' thats when youre starting to see the shaft bend. If you look at slow motion photography or still photographs in sequence youd see that the shaft on the initiation of the downswing is starting to load. The shaft would deflect backwards and the head would actually start to go backwards. As it cuts down through towards impact and the player rotates the hands, thats when youll see some of the torsional forces begin to be applied. Its just that head is trying to resist the twisting. As it gets down towards impact the shaft is starting to react and swing closed. Of course it depends on the individual swing and how that player loads and unloads the shaft. Typically, a PGA Tour playerthat shaft will still be bending back and away from the golf ball as it gets closer to impact. But as he releases, the shaft will start to square back up to hit the ball and right around the impact point the shaft should be back almost straight again. And just past impact then its going to move forward. The shaft releases the head through impact and then all of a sudden the shaft will be moving forward where its bending back up towards the player again.
 
Casey / Q:
Can you match data from a swing and pinpoint exactly what shaft a player should be playing?
 
Rob / A:
Its tough to analyze empirically how a particular swing ' how long a player holds the the angle of attack prior to impact ' what shaft exactly that swing will benefit from. Thats why a keen eye ' like Roberts (Meyer) on tourto really know a guys swing and see how hes swinging the golf club. From that he can get a very good idea based on his knowledge of our product how to fit players in to the right shaft. Its not an exact science. A lot of times you give it a logical guess. But, sometimes that guess is not going to be correct and thats where you have to work and maybe modify a few things in the shaft and the fitting in order to get that combination of the head and shaft correct for the player.
 
Casey / Q:
Talk us through the construction of a graphite shaft under the paint ' what we cant see.
 
Rob / A:
If you look at graphite shafts, layer by layer construction from one manufacturer to another is very similar. The basic philosophies of construction are the same but the design methodology and materials from one manufacturer to another can be completely different. Typically youd start off at the base of the shaft with bias plies which are at plus/minus anglestypically around 45 degrees. Theyre wrapped in multiple layers on the base. Our tooling does that. Then from there we have what we call unit directional bias or the straight lines that go down the length of the shaft which provides actual flexural stiffness. And based on the design there could be two, three, four, even five layers of those straight plies on the outside surface of the shaft.
 
Casey / Q:
We covered off the 702 driver shaft pretty well. What about the PM 902?
 
Rob / A:
The 902, if you compare that to the 702, its a completely different animal. Its not only 20 grams heavier but the deflection, the bend profile, is completely different. The 902, actually side-by-side, its slightly softer of a shaft ' its softer down in the tip section compared to the 702. I think with fairway woods you want to have enough options with the parallel length for trimming so you can tip up the shaft and tip it for a shorter fairway wood. If you look at what this years PGA Champion has in the bag ' its usually a 3-wood, 5-wood or 4-wood ' depends on the tournament hes playing. So in a fairway wood shaft, like the PM 902, he can tip that shaft up enough in to the shorter clubs or the higher lofted fairway woods allowing him to get the good performance hes looking for. A strong player with the PM 902 is going to be able to get the right trajectory, the right ball flight hes looking for.
 
Casey / Q:
Whats behind the fact that traditionally fairway wood shafts are heavier than driver shafts?
 
Rob / A:
The typical progression of weight ' driver shafts are going to be in the 60 or 70 even 80 gram range. Then fairway woods may go 10 or 20 grams heavier in a shaft. If you look at a total set make-up of clubs in a players bag, for drivers you typically want to go as light as possible in order to gain more club head speed. But some players arent happy or comfortable using lightweight shafts in their drivers so theyll go heavier. But, in the fairway woods typically you go a little bit heavier because then it progresses in to the overall club weight of your irons. If youre going up to 90 grams in a fairway wood shaft, then go in to your irons ' your irons are 120, 125 gram shafts - the weight progression in the shaftswell, its an easier transition to go heavier in to the irons. But then again, if you look at the Darrel Survey, that theory can be blown out. There are tour players that prefer a heavier shaft in the driver than in the irons. Theres actually one player out there actually playing a 75 gram iron shaft which is very surprising. Extremely light by tour standards.
 
Casey / Q:
So whats the rule? There are no rules?
 
Rob / A:
At the tour level there are no rules. There are trends but there are no hard and fast rules. The majority of players on tour are going to play what works for them and what feels right and what gives them the best performance. A lot of players, if you looked at them week in and week out on the Darrel Survey, theres a lot of change out of shafts. Not only is it very easy from a time standpoint to change shafts, players are always trying to tweak their equipment a little bit to get better performance. There are certain other players who been playing our product with little or no change. We put the shaft in, they love it, and they dont change. They can change any time but they tend to stay consistent. But, there are other guys out there who are constantly tinkering. They want to change shafts and try something thats new on the market when it comes out. So each player is completely different in their approach to the equipment and the shafts that theyre using.
 
Casey / Q:
Your final thoughts on the PM 702 and PM 902?
 
Rob / A:
The 702 may be a little narrower in player profile because of the stiffness of the shaft. The 902 is actually a little bit softer so it probably does fit a bit broader of a category of player.
 
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