When Fujikura Composites developed the Tour Release shaft, its marketers set two goals:
Roll out the company’s first soft-tip offering for the U.S. market, filling a noticeable gap in its product lineup.
More important, give Fujikura – long a favorite of elite players – a chance to court high-handicappers, too.
The addition of the Tour Release, which is designed to suit golfers of all abilities, doesn’t necessarily signify a change in business strategy for the Vista, Calif.-based shaft maker.
But it does promise to broaden Fujikura’s consumer base beyond devotees of products such as the Speeder, an immensely popular, high-performance shaft, albeit one suitable only for a limited audience: True players who can afford its $300 price tag.
“Our products throughout the line, whether Vista Pro or Vista Tour or the Speeder series, all fit a particular range of player – and that is the better player with a tip-stiff shaft style,” says Pete Sanchez, Fujikura’s president and chief operating officer.
“The idea with Tour Release is to expand our range of customers.
“And with the great trend toward customization, it is important that when a golfer gets on a launch monitor, we have a variety of products to fit his needs.”
The Tour Release also will be easier on the wallet. The shaft’s suggested retail price is $125, and it will be available initially in two models: the 26.3 and the 27.3, which weigh 67 and 72 grams, respectively. Later this spring, Fujikura plans to introduce another version, the 36.3, which will feature a slightly stiffer tip and weighs 62 grams. The Tour Release already is being used on tour and is available at Fujikura’s charter dealers, which have expertise in fitting and selling the company’s shafts.
Several members of this retail network applauded Fujikura’s latest introduction. Jerrett Garner, owner of Garner Golf in Fairfield, Conn., is one of them.
“I think the Tour Release will be a home run,” he says. “It is a very user-friendly shaft with great graphics, and it will fit the majority of players that walk into my shop, instead of the minority. Frankly, we have seen a lot of people asking for Fujikura shafts in the past, but as mid- or high-handicappers, they never really realized the benefits.”
Adds Mark Timms, owner and founder of Hot Stix Golf shop in Scottsdale, Ariz.: “(Fujikura) didn’t have anything with a softer tip or lower kick point that helps people get the ball in the air. Until now, that is. The Tour Release fills that spot and broadens the spectrum of people who we can fit into a Fujikura shaft.”
The component manufacturer, a division of Tokyo-based Fujikura Rubber, has been operating in the United States for more than nine years. It established a base domestically to support production of TaylorMade’s Burner Bubble shaft, which it co-developed.
Since then, Fujikura has become a major supplier for other club manufacturers, including Ping, Titleist, Callaway, Cleveland and Nike. The company also has boosted “after-market” sales, those made directly to consumers, through its charter dealer network that now has 600 members scattered nationwide.
“We felt it was important to use recognized clubmakers who had their own shops and were very knowledgeable in both club-fitting and repair as a way of building our business,” explains Sanchez, a Lakewood, Calif., native who joined Fujikura in 1996 after more than 20 years in the clubhead casting business.
As for the Tour Release, he’s betting it will attract new consumers – and satisfy the company’s cult-like following of better players who have made Fujikura a household name.
“It is important to realize that what makes this shaft series different is that it can fit a wide range of players,” Sanchez says. “It’s not just for pros and serious amateur players, and it is not just for the weekend golfer.”