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!
Callaway always has one of the biggest booths at the Japan Golf Fair and this year was no exception. In past years there was a huge emphasis on the Japan only Legacy line but this year focus was instead placed on the new RAZR Fit series which took up most of the booth. Callaway however was not without its Japan only models as the Legacy Black line and domestic market Odyssey putters were also on showcase.
Among the most popular selling putters in Japan year in and out have always been the iX branded Japan only putters featuring a black PVD finish and firmer Japan tour prototype insert. Along with the new ProType Tour Series, Limited Edition models and Flip Face putters, Odyssey Japan will also release the Flip Face iX and ProType Forged iX Milled putters in Japan.
The black PVD Flip Face iX will feature two inserts, a white insert and a black insert, chosen depending on the green speeds and desired feel. The white insert is for faster greens and a soft feel at impact. For slower greens and a more firm feel at impact the black insert should be used . Using the current White Ice insert as a guideline, the white insert is softer and the black insert is firmer. The Flip Face iX will bve available in #1 #5 and #9 shapes.
The new top of the line iX model will now be the black PVD ProType Forged iX Milled putter. This Japan only model will feature a brand new white hot insert and removeable weights. Each putter comes with a weight kit with 2 x 10g, 2 x 15g and 2 x 20g weights allowing a player to adjust headweight from 340 to 360g depending on the type of greens he or she is playing on. There will be 6 models, #1, #4HT (high toe), #5, #5CS, #9 and #9HT (high toe).
Besides the putters, Callaway also showed off their new Legacy Black irons and their Legacy Black woods.
Fourteen is one of the smaller brands in Japan that garners respect as much as the big brands like Tourstage, Mizuno, Titleist and others. They are well know for excelling in designing and producing high performance clubs that also look and feel fantastic. For the past decade, Fourteen has especially been popular with pros and top amateurs in Japan when it comes to wedges, battling it out for top spot along with Titleist Vokeys. Their MT-28 Series has been a best selling wedge in all its genrations and with the release of their new RM-11 wedge last fall, they look to continue that trend.
The bit news however at the Golf Fair for Fourteen was not about any clubs but rather the signing of PGA pro Ryuji Imada who will now sport Fourteen clubs as he plys his trade on the PGA Tour (joining Arjun Atwal and Chad Collins). Ryuji’s specially made 3 wedge set was on display at the show featuring a 48* and 53* in the new RM-11 Forged as well as a specially made 61* from the previous MT-28 V5 T.S. model.
The RM-11 Forged is one of the cleanest and nicest looking wedges around with its tapered blade and and uncluttered back face. The versatile grind of the Fourteens are always a big draw for golfers of all levels. Along with the RM-11 released late last year, Fourteen showed off its new MT28 J.Spec V4. Those of you who know Fourteen and its JDM releases will know that the Forged J.Spec is designed for the Japanese market, with a rounder head and leading edge as well as a wider sole with more offset. It has always been the automatic wedge in Fourteen’s lineup and is very popular with the average golfer and this year it feartures a new reverse taper design and new trapezoid style score line that increases area by 15% resulting in more spin. Spin is further enhanced by having the face mirror milled to ensure perfect flatness and more bite due to increased contact with the ball. Good news for lefties is that Fourteen will be offering the J.Spec left handed this year as well!
One surprise at the show was the introduction of a new speciality sand wedge, the D-030. As I walked by it I took a second take as the design looked very much inspired by Yururi’s Fried Egg wedge release a few years ago. The D-030 with its wide sole, increased offset and spatula like design, is designed to open up easily and flip the ball right out of the sand by easily entering and exiting bunkers with minimal effort.
Besides all the great wedges, Fourteen also showed off their new forged irons including the TC-930 and TC-530 which join the T-710. The TC-930 is a smaller cavity made for the better player while the TC-530 is mid sized and aimed at the mid capper to average golfer wanting ease of use and foriveness. Both show off Fourteen’s usual clean design and handsome looks and we will soon get to test their performance to match their looks.
All in all, Fourteen had a very nice showing at the Japan Golf Fair. They are very much unappreciated outside of Japan but are a very well rounded brand, with great woods, irons and wedges. Look for more Fourteen reviews soon on the blog and in the meantime check out the Fourteen Gallery in the forum!
It’s been quite a hectic week for all of us here in Japan with meetings most days in Tokyo to help set up many new exciting offerings coming in the near future. Because of this we’ve fallen a bit behind on our show coverage. Today we are back at it with Titleist Japan. Two years ago when Titleist Japan announced the first generation Japan only VG3 lineup, it grew to be one of the most popular releases ever in Japan. The VG3 Forged iron was one of the most in demand models we have ever seen, constantly back ordered at Titleist. It was discontinued last November and customers were still asking for it. It simply was one of the the best irons Titleist had ever produced with very balanced performance and great feel which appealed to both better players and average golfers. The drivers and woods were very forgiving and provided great feel and performance.
In the months leading up to the Golf Fair, there were a lot of questions from customers wanting to find out if a new vG3 would be coming out. Titleist kept quite mum on this but the moment we arrived at the show, the Titleist booths were one of the first we saw and we were very happy to see an entirely new VG3 lineup. The new Forged iron features a premium forged S20C body that features a lower cavity this time around. The undercut is more pronouced and can be seen more clearly because the cavity is more open unlike the previous model. Besides looking quite different, Titleist has decided to make a few design changes in order to improve performance and ease of use. The irons still feature variable sole weighting which changes from long irons to mid irons and disappears in the short irons. The tungsten weighting is now also placed in the neck of the iron creating a 3 point triangle to increase overall MOI. In order to counter more weight higher up on the neck and to maintain an easy and higher launch, the CG was brought lower thanks to the lower cavity area. I could not compare the new model to the older one but it looked as if the top line was thinner with similar offset. The overall design of the new VG3 Forged points at easy distance with great feel in a visually balanced package. It looks like it will be just as hot as the previous generation.
The new VG3 Driver features a new weighing system called PTW or Precision Tungsten Weight. Like the previous VG3 the positioning of the weight depends on the loft of the head, affecting launch and bias of the head and its abilility to square to the ball. Ovearall the new driver features a deeper and lower center of gravity to produce a high but strong low spin trajectory. The driver which is forged by Endo features a new hybrid oval cup face which expands the overall sweet spot by varying the face thickness towards the center. This reduces distance lost on off center hits and also produces soft feel at impact.
As always Titleist is known for their wedges, and their Japan only flagship models, the heavily in demand Vokey Forged, as well as the Vokey TVD CC were both front and center at the show. Titleist knows Japanese golfers love their Vokeys so we are always very lucky to get full Vokey releases here as retail. This looks to be another very in demand year for Titleist as they are still trying to keep up with Vokey Forged orders and preparing for the onslaught of demand for the new VG3 Irons. We suggest you pre order the irons to be sure you get them early or definitely expect to wait after their April release!
Here’s a short video featuring the latest TourStage products as seen at the 2012 Japan Golf Fair. Most notably the newly redesigned X-Drive 707, X-Blade 707 along with the new GR Series. They had a great layout this year with the TourStage Pro Support Van smack in the middle.
Our first brand recap from this years Japan Golf Fair is the every popular Taylormade. The last couple of shows has seen an all white booth, with all white lights, staff members dressed in white and all white clubs. Some may say its almost like being in a hospital but one thing is for sure, the way Taylormade can market and produce clubs, is in some ways like the medical precision of a top surgeon. They know how to create an image as well as release clubs everyone wants and are interested in. The Golf Show was no different as whenever TM was ready to make a presentation event, spectators as well as press/media would gather at the TM booth like no other.
The great thing about Taylormade Japan is they know how to attract the paying golfer in Japan and that is by releasing a lot of options for golfers to choose from. Not only does Japan get all the TM models the rest of the world does, every year they also get Japan only Taylormade clubs. So for those from outside of Japan, I can say the usual suspects were at the show including the new R11S and Rocket Ballz lineup, and the new Ghost Tour Putters and ATV stainless steel wedge. So what does Japan get so far this year that the rest of the world doesn’t?
The new ATV wedge is marketed in Japan by Taylormade under two models, a stainless steel head model, and for Japan only, a forged head model. Both models share the same design and All Terrain Vesatility sole. They share the same specs, same micro milled face, as well as pretty much the same graphics. The differences are, the Japan model is forged from soft carbon steel and finished in a dark Smoke IP (Ion Plated) Finish vs the cast stainless steel ATV model in a tour Satin finish. The Japanese have an obsession with forged clubs and Taylormade always seems to oblige (though we are still waiting for word on Japan only forged irons). We’ll have both ATV wedges for side by side testing but there probably is no doubt the carbon steel model will feel softer. Our pro Tatsuro told me he preferred the look of the Smoked IP carbon steel model as its dark finish creates contrast and frames a white golf ball very well.
Taylormade seems to love giving Japan exclusive and limited edition putters like the Itsy Bitsy Ghost Limited. This year while Japan gets the new stainless steel Pure Roll insert Ghost Tour putters like the rest of the world, it also gets a new forged and milled premium S20C carbon steel Tour Preferred Ghost model which is designed to produce the ultimate in roll and feel. There will be 4 shapes which also utilize interchangeable weights like the Ghost Tour. The Daytona-12, Maranello-81, Fontana-12, and Monte Carlo-72 all featuring the new FM face. The model above is the Fontana-12 and in the top banner for this post you can see the back cavity of the TP Ghost putters.
Taylormade Japan in the past has always tweaked its flagship driver into a more forgiving easy to use model for the average golfer in Japan. Like the R9 Max and R9 Supermax which were Japan only models, TM will also release an all new R11J model which like the R11S, is a 460cc head but with ease of use and a focus on distance and forgiveness. It provides the Japanese golfer who wants to tweak and tune with the Adjustable Sole Plate as well as Flight Control Technology but in a simpler to use and swing package. The ASP sticks with a triple adjustment versus the 5 way adjustment in the R11S to keep it simpler. A higher MOI as well as lighter overall club weight also point towards more ase of use. The bulge and roll of the R11J are increased to create more gear action to help average golfers recover from off center hits by still going as straight as possible. An overall friendlier setup with higher trajectory for max carry.
The Japanese seem to always crave titanium fairway woods and will not hesitate to pay the additional costs associated with producing a Ti FW. Taylormade knows this and always seems to oblige with various Ti model fairway woods over the last decade. Titanium produces a hotter driver like feel and is preferred by many average golfers in Japan who want more distance and ease of use. The R11 Ti FW, which will be released along with the R11J, is the larger head fairway wood, light weight and hot titanium face and body that Japanese golfers embrace. Besides the softer feeling impact the R11 Ti FW is 16g lighter than the typical R11 FW. The 3 wood is also 20cc larger than the standard R11 FW. All in all, these features mean better feel and more distance and forgivness for the average golfer.
Finally there was the new GLOIRE lineup. As those who know french Gloire means Glory and while Taylormade Japan has named the lineup using the French name Gloire, they do in fact pronounce it gu ro re. The Gloire line is Taylormade’s new premium lineup which in a way takes it a level up from its previous XR Japan only line. Appealing to golfers who want premium design, materials and performance, Gloire clubs are also made for ease of use and big distance. The big draw of the new Gloire line up is its new Forged alpha beta Titanium driver. The Gloire forged driver is designed for not only premium feel but big carry and big distance thanks to a 46.5″ club length, ultra light club weight (280-292g depending on flex). It of course has FCT, as well as a weighted tuning port which controls trajectory by altering the CG. The Gloire and its tuned inverted cone technology face creates a sweet spot 20% larger than the previous generation ICT face.
The Gloire lineup also includes an all titanium fairway wood with an even larger head than the R11 Ti FW. The Gloire 3W sports a huge 195cc head and again is designed to be ultra lightweight with maximum distance in mind. Even at 195cc, the face is actually on the deeper side making it excel both of the deck as well as the tee. Because of this, it doesn’t look overly huge at address (see below in the link to pictures in our Taylormade Japan Golf Fair gallery for examples). Even the 24* 9W is a whopping 175cc which is in fact the same size as the R11 Ti FW 3 wood. The Gloire FW features very low CG thanks to two large tungsten weights which makes it very easy to get the ball in the air for big carry and distance. However the weighting is kept forward in the head to keep spin under control for just the right balance of carry and run.
As many of you who read the blog know, maraging steel has been gaining popularity in high performance golf clubs over the last decade. Soft forged like feel, hot Titanium like performance but lower cost make it very attractive for manufacturers to use in their irons which a lot more material is needed. The new Gloire irons do indeed feature a thin maraging steel face matched with a soft 450 stainless body. Tungsten in the sole creates a very low center of gravity, increasing MOI and ease of use and forgivness. The Gloire iron is again made for easy launch and big distance. The ribbed maraging face produces soft feel but high ball speeds and a huge sweet area thanks to a pocket type cavity. With its light 50g range graphite shaft we’re talking ultra light weight for irons and very easy to swing and lots of confidence with its larger head and offset to help square the ball.
There were also new Gloire golf balls, a Gloire utility iron (which I somehow missed taking pictures off!) and a women’s Gloire lineup as well. Overall some pretty nice clubs especially for the average golfer wanting more distance and more forgiveness. For the better golfer interested in JDM gear, they have the TP Ghost as well as the ATV Forged wedge but as I said above we are still crossing our fingers for an R11 and R11 TP forged…. Most of the new products begin launching late March and early April so look for the pre orders in the pro shop to reserve!
I was in Akasaka yesterday attending the Pro Support meeting for the LPGA. I met up with Miysohi-san from Yururi and we headed out after the meeting for lunch and to talk about some new clubs in the works for Yururi. One of the clubs he showed me, and keep in mind this is NOT the finished product so it may be a bit rough around the edge, is the new MH-1112 forged cavity back for 2012. Yururi has always been known for intricate CNC Machining on its irons and the MH-1112 takes it a level further. Many advanced cavity designs these days are simply produced by either a cast or forging moulds. Cavity steps or design features are all created in that mould. Yururi has always premium forged their head and rather than just mould the cavity shape, they CNC machine the head which makes it look like art and is much more costly to do. Miyoshi-san told me that some of the Yururi models take 3 hours to machine a single iron. He passed the head on to me so I could bring it home for pictures.
The older KM-0107 is a beautiful iron and features some very nice CNC machining in the cavity however if you look closely, each machined step is flat. The new MH-1112 is the first Yururi iron to feature a 3D CNC machined cavity. This diamond shaped cavity is machined so the center is the highest and thickest point of the cavity. Its in line with the sweet spot of the iron so center strikes are rewarded with pure and buttery feel.
As with most of Yururi’s better player irons, there is very little offset. The clean satin finish is pleasing to the eyes.
The face of the MH-1112 Forged features a straight top blade and taller toe area for more spin control and a nice strong appearance. The MH-1112 is a smaller cavity but at the same time its not tiny so better players all the way up to good ball striking mid cappers should have no problems enjoying this beautiful iron. As I mentioned here, this head is not the final finished product. It will still be fine tuned and the finish will be tweaked to look much better. Lucky enough we were able to provide the first sneak peak of this iron though it probably will not be revealed until later next month at the Golf Fair!
We received samples of the new Yururi Seida KM-0312 Forged iron today. They look simply fantastic. Before shafting them up for some testing I thought I would post a little preview here. The KM-0302 is new for 2012 and does feature conforming grooves.
The premium Kyoei forged S25C head fits somewhere between a small and mid sized cavity back. The beautiful satin finished and CNC machined cavity look great and each iron has the loft engraved in the cavity which is kind of a cool design feature.
The cavity is low but deep and the face actually is thicker where the loft is engraved increasing soft feel right in the center of the face. Because of the pearl like satin finish the head just looks so clean!
The Seida Forged Iron is aimed at the mid capper to better player wanting an easy launch and some forgiveness but with premium feel. The face is not overly boxy but features a sharper toe with a rounder leading edge making it more versatile in various lies.
At address the sharp toe adds to the irons lines and defines where the face begins Less offset and a reasonably thin and straight top top line all add to the irons pleasing appearance. I’m looking forward to shafting these up for a go and a more detailed review!