Here in Japan we have Golf Digest Magazine just like the West but of course in Japanese covering Japanese golf gear and news about the Japanese golf market, tour and Japanese golfers. Golf Digest Japan also has a spin off magazine called Choice, a truly premium golf lifestyle magazine for enthusiasts who appreciate not only the philosophies behind golf but also intricate looks into golf club design, development and manufacturing. Detailed looks at forging, multi piece design, massive amounts of club performance data and scientific data are always present in Choice for hardcore readers who appreciate the finer details. Its probably my favorite magazine, and one that has taught me so much about golf in Japan.
Today I found out that in the April issue of Choice, Gold’s Factory was showcased as part of that issues feature article on golfers obtaining their best scores through getting the right equipment. Part 3 of the feature talks about putters how important they are for better scores and how Gold’s Factory specializes in making unique putters and tuning up putters to suit each specific golfer, thus helping improve scores. The article has some great pictures, a lot of what we’ve already showed here at the blog, with center shafted long Kombi putters, weighting of all kinds, shapes and sizes, as well as premium zone type milling which can make a difference over stock milling when it comes to forward roll, reducing side spin and making a putter feel even softer. Here are scans of the pages below!
Over the next few weeks we will begin introducing clubs for a new brand we will be carrying called Romaro Sports. Romaro is a smaller golf club maker who specializes in making premium forged irons and wedges as well as top quality woods for the demanding and better golfer. They also have some very cool accessories which you will be seeing in the pro shop. Today I’m do a brief introduction to their iron lineup before actually reviewing each iron one by one.
There are currently 4 models in Romaro’s lineup as you can see in the above picture. All 4 models are forged and aimed at the better golfer to low handicap and pro player. Romaro prides itself on its original designs and quality materials and workmanship which really shows in its product line. Here is a short description of each iron and I have listed them from smallest/most advanced to largest/most forgiving.
Romaro Pro Forged: The Romoro Pro Forged iron is the flagship muscle back and aimed at the better player and low handicapper who wants the ultimate in soft feel and control. Premium forged from S25C then CNC machined and finished in a satin plating, the Pro Forged is clean and compact with very little offset and a straight and thin top blade. The Pro Forged has a slightly killed leading edge and a subtle amount of trailing edge relief. With its thick muscle back, the CG is higher which creates a more penetrating and stable ball with more spin. More traditional lofts for the player who wants control when attacking the pin.
Romaro Ray H: The Romaro Ray H is what we call a half cavity (hence the H) or some may also refer to it as a Neo Blade. Almost as small and compact as the Pro Forged, the Ray H sets up like a blade but provides cavity back like performance and ease of use. Like the Pro Forged it is premium forged from S25C, CNC machined and then plated in a durable satin finish. It is one great looking iron and can easily pass for a blade at address but the half cavity brings the CG down to aid launch. Because of this, the Ray H has 1* stronger lofts for the 6 7 8 9 and PW vs the Pro Forged. The Ray H is for the better player who wants a blade like sized iron and setup with cavity back like forgiveness.
Romaro Ray V: The Romaro Ray V is a smaller cavity back featuring a V Cut sole (hence the V). The Ray V is an advanced forged iron made made to perform with technology. Forged from S20C steel, the Ray V features not only an undercut cavity but also a TPU or Thermoplastic Urethane insert behind the face which helps dampen vibrations and control impact sound. The CG is placed lower thanks to the weight moving into the undercut cavity which features something Romaro calls a Power Frame which is the internally ribbed portion of the undercut cavity. Romaro designed the cavity this way to increase ball speeds and create more distance. With stronger lofts and lots of technology the Ray V will help the improving better golfer hit purer shots and gain more distance.
Romaro CX Forged: The new Romaro CX Forged is the largest head of all the models but player target wise its similar to the Ray V. This premium forged S25C iron features a wide sweet area thanks to a cavity featuring toe heel weighting using a hexagonal design. The iron is CNC machined and finished with a satin plating. The head is slightly rounder and taller than all the other Romaro irons and some may consider it midsized but interestingly the lofts are more traditional and the same as the Ray H. For those players wanting a pure forged iron but with forgiveness and easy launch as well as overall balanced performance, the CX forged is a great choice.
I will be testing and giving more detailed feedback on each iron but in the meantime here are pictures of the Romaro irons at address which give you a good idea of top line and offset. Look for Romaro in the pro shop this coming week as heads only or custom made to your specs!
Most people outside of Japan know Srixon as the main brand under the Sri Sports/Dunlop umbrella, however in Japan, Srixon shares the spotlight with XXIO (pronounced zeh-ku-shi-oh). Both brands receive equal attention but focus on different market segments. While Srixon is mostly know for the better player and athlete golfer, XXIO in fact caters to the largest market in Japan, that being the average golfer and senior player (there are many golfers well in their 80’s here). Japan is a country full of golfers who are willing to pay for technology and premium materials and XXIO casters to these golfers by always offering cutting edge designs and automatic style performance for the recreational player and older more experienced senior golfer. Because of this the XXIO lineup is year in and year out one of the top lineups when it comes to not only sales but also performance. I’m going to review both the driver and fairway wood in two parts starting with the driver in this post.
Every two years XXIO releases a new line of XXIO clubs and this year we are on to XXIO7 which as you guessed is the 7th generation. Every year, XXIO tweaks its designs, to incorporate new technology and new materials, all for the sake of improved performance and feel. The XXIO7 driver is a departure from the previous XXIO model. While many average golfer models were moving towards bigger yet lighter heads built at longer lengths to try and gain more distance, the new XXIO7 has actually decreased the footprint of its 460cc head and increased the weight of the head while shortening the length to 45.5″. These are the kinds of changes I like to see manufacturers do.
I have always believed a longer driver, while it can produce more club head speed, is also a lot harder to hit squarely consistently. Also with a longer length club, comes a lighter head and overall club weight which may work for some but for others can simply be too light, sacrificing both feel and stability. The XXIO7 with its shorter length increases consistency at striking the sweet spot and with a heavier head and D1-D2 swing weight, creates more ball speed at impact thanks to increased kinetic energy from the heads increased motion and mass. The shorter length of the club has allowed the head to become heavier but the overall club weight is still rather light at just over 280g meaning its still quite easy to swing though for some this could be too light.
While the head dimensions have change, one thing that has not, is the bias of the XXIO7 and the face angle. XXIO drivers have long been the favorites of average golfers who battle a slice due to there draw biased heads and closed face angles. To help these average golfers straighten out their ball and create more distance, XXIO has introduced a new lightweight Ti body using a material they call T9S. Even though the head is not nearly as long from face to back the MOI has increased thanks to the lighter body, allowing for more weight to be placed in the sole of the head. The increased MOI paired with the forged Super TIX titanium cup face (Super TIX isdeveloped by Sri Sports themselves) widens the sweet spot which really aid distance on miss hits towards the toe and heel, the typical misses of average golfers.
The Super TIX face feels great. It is very springy (this driver is conforming) and the ball seems to jump off the face. As you can see from the photo I took above, the face is on the shallow side and rather long from heel to toe. It has a crisp but higher pitched sound at impact. Impact sound is very subjective and some may like it and some may not. Please click on the blue play button below to hear the sound at impact.
I actually like the wat it sounds but there are those players who prefer a more muted solid sound. The XXIO7 produces a nice soft draw. With its closed face and 3g stainless steel weight in the heel, the head rotates well for a square impact. If you are the kind of player who leaves the face open, the XXIO really does come around quite well, eliminating those weak cuts and open pushes. The driver is very automatic something older players and average golfers who struggle with consistency can appreciate. Now even though I say, the XXIO7 is aimed at the average golfer, its not to say the improving or more serious and better player cannot benefit from the XXIO7. Interestingly XXIO offers the driver with a VERY broad range of lofts from 8.5* which is a special order up to 12.5*. The stock shaft is an ultralight at under 50g and does have torque over 5* for all flexes which is meant to produce feel and help players sqaure the face. Because of this, I still would not recommend the XXIO7 for any aggressive player or a player who battles a hook and pull, especially since static club weight is still on the light side which can be a negative for those who rely on heavier clubs to manage tempo.
In closing, this driver is very automatic, it produces a higher launch, big carry and has very good feel. The average golfer and senior player will appreciate its ease of use and easy to swing nature, though harder hitters might want to opt for a stiffer Miyazaki shaft which is an option, though they would still have to take the drivers bias and closed face into consideration. If you are not as consistent as you would like to be, battle a slice and need more distance, the XXIO7 is one of your top choices. Tomorrow I will look at XXIO7 fairway wood which is a great compliment to the driver.
One of the cool clubs that really caught our eye back at the Japan Golf Fair was the ONOFF Labospec wedge specially made for top Japanese pro Shingo Katayama. Last week ONOFF sent me a sample for testing and I was able to spend some range time with it as well as a round out at Katsuura Country Club so here is a brief review. Katayama who played Ping Eye wedges early in his career requested a similar style wedge as homage to the Ping eye. Onoff created the new Limited Labospec wedge W358 and decided on ST22 steel as the material. ONOFF wanted a wedge with the durability of stainless steel but the soft feel of a forged club. ST22 is softer than typical cast stainless irons and wedges but it does not need to be forged. It can also be bent and adjusted like a forged club. The W358 is a 59* wedge and named 358 due to featuring a 3.5mm height cavity and 8* of bounce.
The 59* W358 in fact has 10* of bounce at its highest point but due to a multi grind sole, sits at address with 8* of bounce. The two stand out characteristics of the W358 are the head’s unorthodox shape and its wider than normal sole. Katayama has always been a strong believer that one can never have enough forgiveness, as a pro or an average golfer. He was one of the first tour pros in Japan to play graphite shafts in his irons and while he has the choice of playing ONOFF’s athlete model Type S or Black driver, he always plays the Red driver or Type D. The sole of the Labospec W358 while wide for easy bunker use and play on lusher fairways has a very versatile grind with multiple relief, allowing for the head to also excel in tighter lies and be opened up when necessary.
Its Ping Eye inspired shape may take getting used to for some but the design is rather effective. The very high toe creates a lot of real estate for the better player to work the ball thus creating more spin control. Yet again the rounded leading edge and offset create plenty of forgiveness and allow a player cleaner impact in various lies which result in more accurate shots and more spin.
Speaking of spin, the wedge performs admirably. The USGA conforming grooves are made to the limit allowed and the sand blasted face is micro milled for lots of additional friction and bite. I really appreciated its versatile sole. I used the wedge in bunkers of couse but also on short chips, approaches 75y or so in and even for a lob shot. In all cases, and no matter how I addressed the ball, the wedge kept its face and score lines squarely aimed at the target. The wider sole excelled in the sand and I was in and out of bunkers without any stress including one bunker that was as deep as I am tall. Just opened up the face, swung away and out it came.
Feel wise, the wedge is softer than some cast models but not mushy soft. It provides soft (soft enough to feel the ball compress on full shots) but solid feedback and you know exactly where you are hitting it on the face, ie picking it low on the face to bring trajectory down or running it right up the face for more spin and stopping power. I think its a good looking wedge, from the cavity side, its very slick, while at address it is shape may take getting used to but its gray matte finish is a plus. ONOFF is offering a very small amount of the Labospec Shingo Katayama W358 Wedges to the public and all custom built by their Labospec department for each customer who orders. It certainly is versatile enough and unique enough that I have ordered one for my bag. Get yours here while they last!
A huge box of Tourstage demos arrived over the weekend for photos, testing and reviewing but the terrible weather kept me from getting anything done. The sun broke through the clouds for a very short period of time today so I popped on the course and hit a few with the new X-Blade 707 Forged and then headed to my back yard to do a quick preview. All these years of watching Chris (Tourspecgolfer) make his great videos inspired me to give one a shot. In the past I had done a couple of low end video reviews as well as sound at impact at the driving range but today I decided to try and make something nicer.
Its hard filming oneself when one is alone so I had to set up a tripod. I used my Nikon D5100 which is quite capable for video and has reasonable manual control over the video settings. It was a bit overcast with the risk of rain any minute so I worked quickly to prepare and set the camera in manual mode at f2.8 with a 1/60 shutter speed, exposure is auto in the video mode which is fine with me, and I also set the white balance as cloudy. A tripod is a must when filming clubs alone as you already lose one hand to holding the club. For sound I took my steel series PC microphone and clipped it to my jacket as a lapel mic to keep out unwanted sounds (dogs barking, kids screaming etc).
I proceeded to take the video below in 3 straight takes, one with me in front of the camera, one with the club only in front of the camera and and one with the club at address with a ball (no tripod for this one). I took each take only one and spoke off the top of my head. I’m pretty happy with the way it turned out but there is definitely a lot of room for improvement in all areas including filming, speaking and what I cover. Please take this preview as my first experiment and hopefully it can only get better as I learn to edit and actually organize my thoughts rather that blurting out what ever comes to mind. (^_^)
So without further delay here is my first attempt at a preview!
The all new 2013 Lexus GS F-Sport sedan was just released in the middle of February. I saw the debut commercial during the superbowl and it really didn’t stand out to me all that much, but during our stay in Tokyo while covering the Japan Golf Fair I finally got to see it in person at Toyota Mega Web in Odaiba’s luxurious shopping area Venus Fort. That’s when It started to grow on me big time and near the tails end of our trip to Japan Tario and his wife Koko were kind enough to take my wife shopping in Chiba then later me to a Lexus dealership to have a look. That’s when I fell in love and just had to have it!
These pictures don’t do it justice, this thing is all business and reminds me of Darth Vader’s helmet but that’s not what sold me on it. I’ve owned many of the usual luxury brands from Mercedes to Porsche but how incongruent is that while I eat, breathe, and confess my love for all things Japanese. I never even considered a Lexus as I was attached to the status european autos exude but something was always missing and that something was Japanese Technology & Quality. It’s the interior that really caught my attention with it’s 12.3-inch high-resolution split-screen multimedia display. It provides immediate, simultaneous access to various systems and greets you with a customizable image when the ignition button is pressed. The new GS is packed with intuitive design and best of all everything makes sense and is stupid easy to figure out. It’s like an apple product, you don’t need to read the instruction manual to understand it, It’s just there. In my wife’s 2011 porsche I have to fiddle with the door locks, windows, not to mention the 3 visits to service for strange little issues and irritating rattles.
The F-Sport comes with a range of performance enhancements and exclusive styling, Inside, 16-way sport seats with power side bolsters embrace you. And outside, a specially tuned suspension keeps your wheels glued to the road with very little body roll. It feels almost like a sports coupe and sometimes you forget about the extra length the car has behind the drivers seat. The cabernet red interior is an F-Sport exclusive along with the brushed silver accents and F-Sport steering wheel. The car also has a more aggressive body kit and is the first lexus to come stock with 19″ forged ultra light wheels. Just by looking at the way Lexus designed the styling I can tell they had aftermarket tuners in mind. Expect some pretty stunning body kits coming very soon. Did I mention it’s made in Japan?
It’s 400 pounds heavier than the smaller and more sporty Lexus IS yet quicker at 0-60 5.7sec and scores better on the slalom, in breaking and on the skid pad all while getting 28mpg on the highway which is much better than the beast I was driving which got me 11 miles per gallon. Everything screams seamless quality you can totally tell it’s Japanese with it’s ambient LED lighting and a trunk that is specially designed for golfers with TOUR bags not those little carry bags. Options, I picked up quite a few of them on top of the F-Sport package such as the navigation, blind spot monitor, Intuitive parking assist, heated and air conditioned seats and a bunch of other cool little gadgets. They offer the new GS some pretty cool options like a heads up display that shows your navigation & speed displayed on the windshield, a pre collision system that has camera’s to watch your eye’s to see if you doze off then guides the car back into the lane if you go adrift also night vision and dynamic rear steering.
The big surprise was that while we were in Japan my wife Jacque aka (TourSpecGirl) secretly began putting calls into west coast dealerships after listening to me and Tario talk about what exterior, interior, and other options I wanted. Just several days ago she asked me to drive her to an appointment on the other side of town and on the way she said we should swing by lexus to see that car I liked in Japan. I said there is no way a black/red F-sport is available, and that’s when she told me “No pull into Lexus you never know what you’ll find”. Ok and as I pull up there it is all clean and pretty, I was still unaware that the car I’m standing in front of and drooling over already belonged to me, until my wife put the keys in my hand and said happy early birthday…:o) And here it is my new 2013 Lexus GS F-Sport, Enjoy the Video!
Royal Collection had quite a few new products on display at this years Japan Golf Fair. Last year we saw the released of the DB forged wedge line along with their Tour VS fairway woods and the popular TRC utility hybrid. This year RC headlined with the release of their new ENDO produced BBD 105 V Forged Driver that features a 450cc head volume with an ultra thin 0.35mm crown produced via chemical milling along with Endo’s performance enhancing and top grade VL Titanium face. The body is made of KS100 Ti similar to previous TourStage drivers.
RC’s newest release product is the BBD 505V Utility Hyrbid produced of SUS630 (body) + 455 stainless steel face which creates that satisfying semi crunchy impact we all know and love. The V sole helps the club cut through the turf at impact, reducing friction and lost swing speed resulting in better impact and better performance. Available in 3 lofts 18/21/24 with a stock graphite shaft the Tour AD RH produced by Graphite Design thats available in multiple weights from 50 grams to 77 grams. An optional NSPRO hybrid 100 which is a 99 gram shaft is also available and brings the price of the club down a bit. I would suggest steel for those who don’t require as much distance yet desire a straighter lower ball flight but most outside of that should go with the graphite.
We snuck a peak at a new Royal Collection wedge on the horizon called the DB Milled Wedge which isn’t even listed on their website yet. Compared to the DB Forged the DB milled features a smaller more compact head shape and size and is also made of soft stainless steel instead of carbon steel. There are two versions of DB milled wedges one is the straight face with nearly no offset and the other has a small amount of offset. The way to designate between the two types is by the letter T after the words TOUR GRIND. One of the things I liked most about the DB Forged was how soft it felt and how easy it was to hit. This new DB milled I have not hit but based on what we saw it is geared toward the better ball striker and tour player who usually requests a firmer feel and that may be why they chose stainless over carbon. As for most amateurs and normal players like myself we tend to gravitate toward softer feeling clubs.
There were several other new releases such as the Royal Collection PRO-TX Tour Trajectory fairway wood which is geared toward the better player as well as many mid to late 2011 releases were also on hand such as the SFD Black series aimed at the golfer seeking more forgiveness. The Tour VS Driver and Fairway woods and even past models like the Endo Tour VS Forged irons and the RC Forged muscle backs. Don’t forget to drop into our RC Forum thread to join the conversation (click here) and also check out the full image gallery featuring all of TSG’s high resolution images from Royal Collection at the 2012 Japan Golf Fair (click here).
Below we have a short Video of Tatsuro going over the highlights of RC’s newest clubs, Enjoy!
Yonex has always been a solid performing golf brand and a few years ago when they signed a 16 year old phenom named Ryo Ishikawa, many in the golf industry wondered what impact the singing would have on Yonex. Fast forward to 2012 and Ryo Ishikawa is certainly the face of Yonex Golf and while he has not had the same success overseas, he easily ranks among the most popular athletes in Japan. Ishikawa’s singing has not only increased Yonex’s marketability and image but has allowed Yonex to pump more of its resources into developing a wider and better line of golf clubs. This of course has resulted in more sales.
While the Yonex booth at this year’s fair did feature many models carried over from last year, they did have an update EZone SD series of clubs and an all new Royal EZone premium line of clubs. The SD line is a rather moderb looking line of clubs aimed at average golfers who want distance and ease of use performance without breaking the bank. On the other hand, their new Royal EZone line is a premium lineup made for slower swingers and average golfers ready to spend for the best in technology and design.
The above Royal Ezone driver is a multi piece carbon composite head which uses high intensity 8AL-1V Titanium and and a new HD-HM carbon crown. It is ultra lightweight at 276g or less depending on flex and 46.25″ for maximizing distance. The Royal EZone line also features a carbon composite FW and high rally maraging steel irons, all with distance in mind.
When snapping pics of the main EZone line it amazed me how traditional looking the heads are at address. For those who have never seen the new Yonex clubs in person, the pear shape at address (especially of the FW) may surprise many. And this goes for their fairway woods and utilities as well. No big heads at address here. Take a look starting with the EZone 380 driver at address:
And then the EZone St FW at address:
And here is the EZone Utility:
Overall a very nice flow across all those heads. On the irons side, we saw models for all levels of players from the premium Royal EZone irons, to the average golfer EZone SD and forged EZone cavity bags for the better player and of course the forged Ryo Ishikawa blades.
Tourspecgolfer has also put together his usual video on the Yonex both which you can view right here!
Admittedly Mizuno is probably one of the better know Japanese brands worldwide. With a strong involvement in all different kinds of sporting goods, Mizuno is well recognized for quality and performance. This year Mizuno Japan is working on a marketing campaign to even further stress the quality of Mizuno golf club manufacturing. The campaign promotes Yoro Japan Crafted and features many of Mizuno’s Japan’s top craftsmen. Commercials, print ads, posters all feature the work of these Japanese artists who forge and grind Mizuno’s top models for the Japanese market.
This years Mizuno booth focused not only on the current club lineup but also the manufacturing process, Mizuno takes from raw steel to forging, to grinding to finishing. Besides displays showing the step by step process of making an iron at Mizuno, the booth at the show featured a mini workshop right in the middle with different Yoro craftsmen through out the day, grinding and finishing forged irons and wedges.
In the last 6-7 years the JPX line has been a staple in the average golfer and premium offerings in the Japanese market. As of last year, the JPX brand became global, sharing many models with Japan. Mizuno did however, still save a few models just for the Japanese market and this year is no different with the average golfer model JPX AD line launching in Japan.
The new JPX AD line includes a new JPX AD driver which complements the JPX800 and Japan model JPX800S, as the high MOI, lightweight distance model for the average golfer and senior player. Two new irons will also be released the JPX800 AD which is a higher handicapper distance model and the JPX800 AD Forged you see above which is for the average golfer and better player wanting a forgiving soft forged iron.
There was also an all new MP Craft driver for the better player. This is Japan’s forged Mizuno driver, with a compact pear shaped head and its called The Craft 611 this time around. It features a varaible thickness webbed crown matched with a variable thickness ribbed face forged from ELF Titanium (which means we probably know who forges this one and its not Yoro Japan Crafted). The 425cc driver is very popular among athlete golfers and single digit players to pros looking for feel, stability and control.
But lets not kid ourselves, the real highlight every year at Mizuno is what new shoes they will have!
A couple of new light style shoes, a new stability shoe as well as an all new all leather pro model MP shoe means we all need new shoes for 2012!
I have to admit I don’t pay that much attention to MacGregor Golf and I was not a fan really of the look of their main NV line here in Japan last year. However, when I showed up at this years show, they had one of the classier looking booths with an emphasis on going back to basics and a look at the evolution of golf clubs and their own history, by displaying old persimmon drivers and old style golf balls. Hidden away in their booth was also a complete overhaul of their clubs featuring their 2012 lineup.
MacGregor is one of those companies that houses a complete different lineup in Japan versus what they do overeseas. Their NV line has been very popular in Japan over the last few years with the NV Blue for the average golfer and the NV Red for the better and faster swinging player. This year however instead of two NV lines, its just simply the MacTec NV line which is kinda blue in color and an all new Red Tourney line.
I have to admit the clubs look much better than last years MacTec 101 line which looked more like weapons out of some video game or Japanese anime. The new MacTec NV is cleaner without losing its high tech look and will again draw the average golfer into its distance performance and ease of use appeal. For the driver, they have split the models into two by offerinf a Long NV at 45.75″ and a Short NV at 44.75″. The longer model is weighted more for a draw and distance while the shorter model is weighted for a straighter ball and offers more control with the shorter length.
There are also handsome looking fairway woods and utilities along with a new MacTec NV201 iron. All the clubs in the new NV lineup have removeable/exchangeable weights to adjust bias and trajectory, yes even on the irons.
The MacGregor reps were very hyped about the revival of their Tourney lineup in Japan which explains why the NV is now only a “blue” line. The new Tourney models which look great are called Red Tourney. The Red Tourney iron you see above is FORGED and made for the mid capper to better player who wants a mix of great feel and overall performance.
The Red Tourney lines also feature very nice drivers and fairway woods, all with higher backs and more traditional and pear shaped heads (see the Red Tourney driver at address below).
MacGregor also added two other irons, a premium line Gold Tourney iron as well as a MacTec Dome hybrid style iron.
It seems MacGregor Golf Japan has really thought out their lineup this year and offer something for everyone whether an average golfer, to a better player, or from a beginner to a golfer playing for over 40 years. Looks like MacGregor will be back in the shop again this year!