Shaft Month: Q&A with Fujikura's David Schnider

Fujikura MCI shaft
Fujikura MCI shaft ( Courtesy of Fujikura )

Monday, January 20, 2014

Editor's note: Often regarded as the engine of the golf club, modern shafts are marvels of science and technology. During Golfweek's Shaft Month, which begins today, we'll take an in-depth look at the category, including the latest innovations, the quest for "sub-40" and the battle of steel vs. graphite.

• • •

ORLANDO, Fla. – Dave Schnider is president and chief operating officer of golf shaft manufacturer Fujikura Composites America.

In addition to his business skills, Schnider is an excellent golfer who has qualified for the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.

For Shaft Month, he sat down with Golfweek's James Achenbach and shared his thoughts on graphite performance and the latest trends affecting product development.

• • •

Are graphite shafts better than ever?

Schnider: The materials have improved tremendously. They are better, stronger, lighter and more efficient. We have airplanes that essentially are made of composite (graphite) materials. So you can imagine how good the modern composite golf shaft really is.

• • •

Question: Do graphite shafts wear out, or does the flex change?

Schnider: No, there is no fatigue factor. If you get something (a crack or fracture) inside the shaft (because of, say, airline travel), you will know it very quickly.

• • •

Everybody knows that driver shafts are getting lighter, but isn’t this true of 3-wood shafts as well?

Schnider: Yes. This is being driven by the PGA Tour. We see dozens of guys going lighter in their 3-woods. The club has almost become an extension of the driver. That’s because it is used off the tee so often. A lot of amateurs, particularly the better players, are starting to follow the example set by the pros.

• • •

In modern golf, aren’t there more wedges with graphite shafts?

Schnider: Yes, but the growth is slow. It’s a matter of benefit versus cost. Some golfers don’t want to spend extra money for a graphite shaft, even if it is designed precisely for wedges.

• • •

Do colors and graphics get a lot of attention from graphite shaft manufacturers?

Schnider: We’re getting smarter at it. We’re doing a lot more research than ever before. In 2011, we took some product out to the Tour and had a test. It was entirely a cosmetics test, but we didn’t tell the players. We fooled them. Like most people, at some degree they tend to associate looks with performance. It definitely matters what the clubs look like.

• • •

You just introduced a new graphite iron shaft at the PGA Merchandise Show (which was held in late January). What’s different here?

Schnider: It’s called the MCI. It has a metal core with graphite around it. We are getting (moving) the balance in the lower end of the shaft. The result is that it doesn’t feel too light. It’s easier for better players to adapt. So many golfers are used to steel. We are slowly encouraging them to change over to graphite.

• • •

In any given week on the PGA Tour, there might be four, five or six guys using graphite in their irons. Will that number increase?

Schnider: My perception is that in the next two to three years we’re definitely going to see some significant movement on the PGA Tour. Because of the quality of the materials and the way we can fit individual players, the composite shafts we make now are pretty incredible.