Lots of new products coming in April from Fujikura Shaft co. Let:s start with the Diamond Speeder, this is a high end softer profile design shaft to be sold through Fujikura authorized work shops only in Japan.
Next we have the MC Putter shaft there are two types and your choice will depend on the stroke. Retail will be around $250 and release is 4/14.
Finally a new weight of MCI Black Shaft. The MCI black is one of the best carbon shafts for irons that money can buy today. One of the gaps in this offering was the availability of a lighter weight version and it appears Fujikura has resolved this, now we are patiently waiting for a heavier 120g version.
The new Diamond Speeder, MC Putter Shaft, and MCI Black 60 will be out mid April 2017 and available for Pre-Order in the TSG ProShop!
Honma TW-BM Limited Edition Irons - Introducing a new limited edition Honma muscle back iron coming June 17th to TourSpecGolf. Designed with specific input from JPGA Tour champion Hideo Tanihara for a more forgiving user-friendly blade design. While it looks very similar to the TW727 series muscle back's this one features a unique forged material process that Honma has labelled VPF or Variation Productive Force. This combination of a more user-friendly design and manufacturing also produces a softer more supple feel at impact.
The only shafts available will be the Vizard series I and IB models with the standard shaft being the IB-95 Stiff Flex. I have a lot of experience with these shafts as do many of TSG's Honma's customers, they improve feel at impact as they are made of carbon yet the IB models play stiff to flex even compared to steel shafts in the same weight. These shafts feature steel fibers in the tip section for improved accuracy via a stiffer tip section.
As you can see in the image below the new Honma TW-BM is slighter longer heel to toe and taller from bottom to top. The sole is also more narrow, and it does have a touch more offset. TSG will be announcing more info as it becomes available with in hand photos before release. These are limited edition and will go quickly, so we are adding these to the TSG ProShop as soon as possible.
Nobody in the golf industry even comes close to the success that Yuji Numazawa has had in his career in regards to golf equipment design. No one...
Payne Stewart, Seve Ballesteros, Greg Norman, Bernhard Langer, Gene Sarazan, Lee Travino, Jose Maria Olazabal and that is just a fraction of the players who used his handmade equipment back in the day. This is Numazawa-san's story...
Mitsubishi OT Iron Shaft by FRANKI - Last year TSG visited Mitsubishi Japan at the Tokyo Golf Fair and saw several prototypes labelled FRANKI they were extremely light weight as in less than 25 grams!!! Just this week Mitsubishi Japan is showing off it's official creation the OT Iron Shaft by FRANKI.
Who is Franki? I have no clue but this shaft has peaked our interest as it is a major departure in how carbon shafts are made. Mitsubishi's goal was to create an affordable and highly capable iron shaft that has the soft feel of carbon yet the tight trajectory and stability of a steel shaft. Follow the jump below this image to read on and see it's specs...
The PHYZ line is something we've rarely touched on in the blog but, with the brand restructuring at Bridgestone, PHYZ has come more into the spotlight, as the Bridgestone lineup targeting Japan's largest segment of golfers, the average golfer. PHYZ has only been around since it's introduction in 2011, so barely over 3 years. However it's stock has continued to rise since that time. It was introduced at a time when Bridgestone was of course still Tourstage, and initially for many it was just another lineup in Tourstage's pocket buried beneath X-Drive, GR and ViQ. There was so much overlap among the lines that they competed amongst themselves for market share. So with Bridgestone's restructuring and rebranding here in Japan, there are now only two lines, the new J715 series targeting the better player and the PHYZ line which is aimed at the more average golfer. The average golfer should be thankful that PHYZ is still around as it does a far more focused job at making golf more enjoyable versus the ViQ line which was originally slated as Tourstage's average golfer line.
I actually happened upon reviewing the PHYZ irons and originally had no intention of doing so. 2014 has been a tough year for me in golf as I battled shoulder issues which kept me from enjoying the game for much of the last 16 months. I went stretches of months where I didn't play at all which to say the least, really sucked. In the past few months however, I've built back enough shoulder strength to start practicing again and I've been able to get a few rounds under my belt. Naturally that meant finding new clubs and I went searching for irons with very specific requirements. Those of you who know me know that I do consider myself an average golfer, someone who loves golf clubs and their designs and who loves the game of golf but doesn't get out there nearly enough to become "very good". Taking all that time off didn't help as well so my search called for "forgiving" clubs which translates into 3 things in my mind: 1. Easy to use, 2. Covers up mistakes and miss hits well 3. Automatic distance and accuracy. Adding to the forgiveness aspect, I also wanted something lightweight due to my shoulder issues. Irons are probably a weak spot for me so I decided I would try everything out there to see what would work.
One of the driving ranges I frequent out in Sakura happens to have a lot of demo clubs so every time I went to practice I would grab a few, and this was not limited to JDM models only as I tried TM Speedblade, the new RSi 1, Callaway BB Beta's, X2 Hot's, Titleist VG3 Type E, ONOFF Red, XXIO 8, PRGR Super Egg, Epon AF-703 and the list goes on. After trying out all these irons, I had to change my criteria a bit to include "FEEL". Golf is very much about feel and my years of testing top flight irons for TSG have spoiled me thanks to being able to hit many of the most pure forged irons in Japan. Sadly some or should I say many of the average golfer (you may call them GI) irons lack feel or come across as simply hard. The TM and Callaway irons, while I liked there performance, I hated their feel (and before you jump on me about the feel, please keep in mind feel is subjective and we all perceive feel differently). A lot of this can of course be because of comparing cast irons to forged carbon steel but it's more than just that. Feel of a club not only comes down to materials, but also the design, the manufacturing, the shaft, an even how the sole interacts with the turf, which all equal what kind of impact you get. That said, I have hit Ti Face as well as Maraging irons that feel very close to forged as well as irons with AS Rolled Faces or Super Spring Steel as they call it.
I was leaning towards XXIO or ONOFF both coming very close too all my criteria - I'm sorry I just could not get over the looks of the Super Eggs nor the feel, when I saw they had the new 2014 PHYZ III iron demo in the rack. I thought what the heck, I'll give it a hit. I'm not going to beat around the bush. I BOUGHT THE PHYZ IRONS. So I guess I should tell you why.
The last five years have seem some extreme ups and downs for the ever popular Crazy Shaft brand. Since introducing Crazy to the global market, TSG and golf enthusiasts have witnessed their spectacular climb to success in just a few years. We've also witnessed their quite unspectacular decline due to mismanagement and some poor decision making by their original owner. There is no doubt Crazy has made some cool and amazing products and will continue to do so but for much of last year and early this year, there was a huge cloud of uncertainty over what would happen to the brand. For those who were not aware of what happened, here's a bit of a recap since none of what happened is a secret in any way.
Many things can be attributed Crazy's success including fantastic brand image and marketing as well as solid, premium quality products. Crazy not only made golf shafts but created an image and a lifestyle. Their influence was not only prevalent in Japan but also overseas where Crazy enjoyed tons of success. Early in 2013, several key staff, designers and craftsmen suddenly left the company to form TRPX, and in a way this was a prelude to things to come. In June of last year, Crazy's charismatic president and primary owner and founder, Tachibana-san, was arrested for insurance fraud. Tachibana-san's personal wrong doings began the decline what had become a very good company with great staff and great products. Here in Japan (and probably every where else in the world but especially here) pride, honor, respect and image is everything. Japanese shops and businesses began cutting ties with Crazy even though Tachibana-san who acted on his own had been removed from the company, and the Crazy brand and it's staff had done nothing wrong. Domestically sales began to decline, putting huge pressure on the companies ability to financially sustain their operations. This lead to layoffs and a stagnation in new product development. A reduction in Crazy's staff from 50 hard working golf enthusiasts to less than half that number put a huge strain on their efficiency which hurt them even further.
Crazy began to look at options as to how to save the brand. Staff members could have easily given up and let the company go under but speaking with many of the staff last year who were riding out the tough times, not a single one wanted to jump ship and abandon Crazy. They all had hope that the company would pull through and rise from those dark days. Crazy began looking for suitors but it wasn't that easy finding not only an investor who was financially sound, but one who had genuine interest in Crazy's development and growth as a golf company. Crazy after all was not just looking for a quick buyout for their problems but rather a road to it's previous glory and beyond. They met with many possible buyers and investors, from banks, to other golf brands and shaft brands, and even spread their search overseas, and yes Crazy even suggested TSG take the helm of Crazy but unfortunately it was not the right fit for us, as we wouldn't have been able to give a brand like Crazy the true focus it deserved.
Earlier this year around the golf fair time, rumors began circulating that Crazy was on the verge of being taken over by a new investor who was ready and willing to guide Crazy to new heights. The name Red Wall Japan and the All Japan Pro Wrestling group came up as the potential buyer but in the end a well off entrepreneur with family relations to Red Wall Japan ended up taking over Crazy. The new president Shiraishi-san is a stark contrast to the former president. Shiraishi-san is focused and serious unlike Tachibana-san who was far more laid back with a whatever goes style. He himself is a former Japan amateur champion so takes his approach to the company is both from the perspective of an owner and as a golfer and customer. Shiraishi-san's initial focus was to get Crazy back on track here in Japan and in order to do that a new corporation was formed called Single B. Single B would give the company a new clean corporate slate to deal with domestic businesses. At the same time the image and growth of the Crazy "brand" was far too much to simply give up. So Crazy has become a "line" under Single B. When I stopped by the Crazy Factory last month to talk to staff about the changes, I was surprised to see that the exterior of their flagship shop had been changed to White from it's previous Black. The color change very much represents an image change for Crazy while, still cool and fashionable, more serious and corporate. I was very happy to see many familiar faces and to be able to sit down with staff and talk about new products and future products.
Here in Japan, Tourstage is as synonymous with golf as wasabi is with sushi. But as many of you who follow the Japanese golf scene know, Tourstage is no more after a global branding unification done by Bridgestone. What kind of impact this unification will have is yet to be fully realized except for perhaps the obvious marketing and brand image benefits of having one name globally. It has been common practice here for larger brands to keep their golf "wing" separate from their main business. It allowed the golf brands to develop their own unique identities, separate from the parent company. In other words, there was no mistaking Tourstage as a tire company, instead it stood out on its own as one of Japan's premier golf brands. The same went for Srixon and XXIO who are wings of Dunlop and PRGR who are the golf wing of Yokohama Rubber. Tourstage has always been among the top JDM brands if not the top. With the most advanced designs and hugest product line offerings as well as what once was the largest Japanese tour staff which also boasted the likes of Ai Miyazato and Shigeki Maruyama in America, Tourstage excelled while Bridgestone Golf struggled outside of Japan "without" the Tourstage moniker.
Over the years this separation of brands at Bridgestone continued and there was reasoning for it as Japan is a very different market from the rest of the world. Some may say it's the most demanding and most "enthusiast" based hence the extra effort and capital brands put into clubs released here (and this goes for US brands here as well like Taylormade, Callaway, Titleist etc who all create JDM specific lines). Tourstage's use of the latest and greatest materials and technologies drew in Japanese golfers but at a price point that would never be fathomed out West. I've discussed this several times on the blog, 800.00 to 1200.00 for a driver is not out of the ordinary here (nor is 1500.00 and up it seems!) while in the U.S. it would be unthinkable as an average price, even for a top brand driver. Because of this Bridgestone was left with watered down designs and "older hand me downs" when it came to their club lineup. I don't know for sure but it's possible Bridgestone balls were more well known than its clubs.
However, markets can evolve and change for both the better and worse, and in the case of Japan, the golf market has turned towards the latter. High prices plus an influx of too many brands have flooded the market with excess stock and product. One would think that choice is a good thing and for the consumer it is, but from a brand's market standpoint, it creates too much competition. Larger Japanese brands like Tourstage have struggled over recent years and much of it could also be attributed to Tourstage's product line strategy which saw no less, than 5 distinctively different lines in previous years (X-Drive, GR, ViQ, PHYZ, Premium, EXE just to name some off the top of my head), sometimes competing amongst themselves. Last summer Tourstage's tour staff suddenly dwindled to mere minimal numbers and left many a Japanese pro trying to hitch rides with new brands and sponsors. This was a prelude of what was to come as it was announced shortly after that next release of Tourstage clubs, specifically the X-Drive line would fall under the Bridgestone name. This also saw the end of the GR and VIQ lines, two designs that focused on the more mid range golfer and two designs to more often than not, overlapped one another. The only original cast member who seems to have survived this brand realignment is PHYZ which interestingly enough didn't even exist 3 years ago. The reason for PHYZ's survival is that it has actually done quite well for the average golfer and can easily fill the shoes of VIQ as well and to some extent GR (as can the new Bridgestone J715 line). As the smoke clears what this gives us is a more focused Bridgestone brand in my opinion, one that can create two strong lines of clubs that cover golfers of all ranges.
That's probably enough chatter about Tourstage's transition to a unified global brand and while this post was supposed to talk about it's new flagship driver, I felt it was a good opportunity to address the change and to give a little insight. So without further delay let's take a look at the J715 driver which was released this summer. I received a B5 demo in 9.5* with the stock Tour AD shaft. The B5 is the 445cc model which is of course slightly more compact than the 460cc B5. The main differences between the two are the volume and a slight difference in head shape as well as the ball flight. The more forgiving B3 provides a higher launch and a bit more forgiveness while the B5 provides a more powerful trajectory and more stability and control. Both heads feature adjustable sleeves and new adjustable weight cartridges as Bridgestone calls them. The faces use pressed/forged 6AL-4V Ti and a precision cast Ti811 body. The J715 inherits Tourstage's Turbo Rubber technology which aids in the spring effect of the head and contributes to feel.
New features include a power slit design which are flowing ribs spanning across the crown from heel to toe in 3 locations. These slits stabalize the head at impact and direct the energy forward by moving the deflection point towards the front of the crown at the face. I think this is a good idea as when I have looked at other driver designs over the past couple of years, many brands have tried to tweak the crown using variable thickness in order to maximize energy transfer (and this head does have variable thickness as one of the aspects of the crown). However, when you think of it, the amount of time a ball stays on the face is just mere milli-seconds meaning there isn't exactly a lot of time for the crown to deflect and return the balls energy back to the ball at launch. Because of this the point of deflection is focused at the front so that it can instantaneously return the energy of the ball for increased ball speeds. If an entire crown has to flex, there most likely would be a loss of energy due to the amount of time it would take for it to return to it's original shape. Continue Reading
Taylormade announced their new 2015 R15 lineup today here in Tokyo. The mid December release includes 4 black IP soles with white crowns in the form of a high launch shallower face low spin 460 driver, a mid launch deeper face low spin 430 driver, a fairway wood and a rescue. Stock shafts will be made by Mitsubishi Rayon and all top end Japan market aftermarket shafts are also available for custom order directly from TM Japan. The drivers feature a new 25g adjustable slider which is split into two weights for more versatility. The adjustable sleeve will allow for 12 positions with a 2 degree range of adjustability. The fairway wood uses one adjustable 22g weight and also has 12 positions and a 2* range of adjustability. The Rescue has no slider weight but does feature the speed slot with a low forward design and 12 positions with 1.5* of adjustability.
This blog post is so we can get the announcement out quickly to all those who are interested in the R15 launch. We'll continue updating specs and features through social media including our forum and facebook.
In recent years Taylormade Japan has slowed it's pace a tad when it comes to releasing Japan market only specific models but we are still lucky enough to get a taste here and there. Back in late spring several online golf communities and blogs noticed a new prototype putter being used on the PGA tour, a neo-mallet with a huge ring for a body. This putter was aptly named the arc1 by Taylormade and we all began to wonder at what point TM would release this putter to the public if ever. Fast forward to late summer when Taylormade announced that Japan would be he retail test market for the arc1 which is not surprising considering TM has been known to release more unorthodox and technology testing type of products here before anywhere else (or only here in many cases). It's been nearly a month since the arc1 has come out and I was able to finally get a demo from TM Japan to try out.
You have to give TM credit for daring to be different in designing something they believe to make a functional difference in a golfer's putter game. A more radical design can sometimes take the risk of being called ugly because it's different and that certainly was the case earlier this years as photos of the tour prototypes began surfacing. Cries around the web proclaimed it to be ugly and something out of Star Trek along the lines of the Starship Enterprise - and that's whatever one said when TM first showed off it's spider putter years ago. (Though in my opinion, the arc1 is more deserving of the Starship Enterprise comparison.) Truth be told though, TM is not the first one to create a mallet putter that looks like a hole. Many years ago Mizuno created a line called the Draino putters in which the 100 model looks eerily similar. Even Odyssey's Marxman putter has similar ring to it but looking at the arc1, the execution of TM's design is probably the best of all.
Looks of any club is certainly subjective and a personal preference and many times we see clubs "grow on us". I'll be honest when I say that I didn't mind the looks when I first got the putter. If one can get over the looks, the primary concern is of course does this design help make putts. Looks aside, one thing TM did get right with the arc1 is the head weight. The majority of golfers want a heavier head. In all the years I worked at TSG, I never once had a customer come to me to make or find a LIGHTER putter head. All the talk about head weight and it's affect on greens of different speeds is certainly valid, but in the end, I'm a believer that a heavier head stabilizes my stroke and gives me a much more consistent feel and direction than a head I cannot feel. The combination of the arc1's SUS304 ring and 220g aluminum body result in a very healthy 385g (give or take 2-3g for variance) head. I very much like the weight in my hands and with this heavy head, at all the lengths offered by TM 32" 33" 34" 34.5" 36.5" you can expect a nice had heavy feeling swing weight. Keep in mind though to keep swing weight from going overboard in the 34.5" and 36.5" lengths, TM has countered the balance with heavier 130g TM Smart arc Grips. The 32" 33" and 34" come with a 63g TM Winn arc Grip and the 33" and 34" also have an option of the 103 Super Stroke Mid Slim 2.0R. My demo is a 34" with Winn arc Grip so the swing weight is right up there around E9.5.
Most JDM golf club enthusiasts are very familiar with the brand Epon and it's parent company Endo Manufacturing, the largest forging house in the world. You will also know that Epon has always maintained a premium image when it comes to manufacturing, materials, performance and ultimately cost. Endo has came to realize that focusing solely on the high end and boutique market is very challenging for growth and profitability. With Endo juggling and rethinking some of its business strategies this past year, they decided to come up with an entirely new "brand" separate from their treasured Epon brand. Thus Endo Golf Lab was born.
Some of you may wonder why Epon would not just create new models under the Epon brand. Endo decided that Epon and Endo Golf Lab would essentially focus on different target audiences. Epon would continue to be the top premium brand which focuses on all golfer levels from pro/scratch to mid cappers to average golfers. On the other hand Endo Golf Lab is to focus on more average golfers, especially those with a focus on distance performance. The pricing structure would also be lower than Epon models (though not by much) and materials and of course designs would also be different. Even both showrooms are separate but both located at the Endo factory in Niigata as seen in the photo above.