Here’s a quick clip of Tatsuro commenting on the 2012 Titleist Japan Only VG3 series. In a nutshell the new VG3’s cater to the same type of golfer and have almost identical profiles. The big deal is the new 2012 version features better head balance, weighting, and most importantly forgiveness.
The Epon ZERO is the best looking Epon driver I have ever laid my eyes on. There I said it and got it out of the way. That is in fact exactly how I felt when I first pulled the driver out of the black Epon box that was shipped to me today. It’s simple and clean yet powerful looking. Powerful looking is a key word here as the Epon ZERO, a 415cc conforming driver was made specifically with the faster and more powerful swinging golfer in mind. The all forged 4 piece titanium head comes in only one loft, a real 10.5 degrees, and is aimed at the better player swinging 105mph or more. As most readers know, I don’t swing anywhere near 105mph so I won’t actually be testing this drivers performance but rather just taking some photos and giving my impressions on its design and looks. I’ll be sending the head off tomorrow to Tourspecgolfer and Tatsuro who will be more than happy to test it.
Some first wondered when Epon first announced the ZERO driver why there was only one loft, and why 10.5* especially if it was designed for the faster swinger most likely wanting a more penetrating trajectory. It IS because this driver provides such a strong penetrating trajectory that Epon decided on 10.5* to create the launch needed to get the ball in the air. The Epon ZERO is designed to spin very low thanks to a very high back design which allows for the center of gravity to be placed higher and shorter in the head.
In Epon’s testing, the actual loft of the face compliments the the center of gravity to provide the optimal launch to create that monster carry PLUS big run. You could have a 9* driver with a shallow head and deep and low CG and it would launch and fly higher than this Epon. Thanks to its very high back design, the 415cc head has a deeper face than many drivers we see on the market today.
The ZERO features a forged hybrid cup face plasma welded to the forged body. The shape of the face is very eye pleasing and while many golfers don’t necessarily look at the face of a club for beauty points, its obvious the face of he Epon ZERO is quite pretty, well at least I think so.
The high back and deep face all lead to a compact shape at address. We have many single digit and better player customers who are always asking me for a compact very pear shaped head. Well the Epon ZERO is exactly that. Epon specs the ZERO as having a square face angle, but I’m guessing we can probably get some variance with 0.5* either way. The Zero is also made to be a heavier driver, with standard shafts being the Tour AD BB6 and BB7 plus the usual awesome shaft upgrades like Crazy, Quadra, FSP, Diamana and others.
I love the way Epon carried the brushed satin face over to the leading edge, its a very nice touch. If looks were the ultimate deciding factor for choosing a driver, this Epon ZERO would blow the Ryoma and many other drivers away. Technology and high tech looks are nice but sometimes with drivers today its way overdone. this simple look reminds me of the old Technity 460 but even simpler. My only concern about the ZERO is the mirror polished sole. As you can see taking photos was quite a challenge and it will be interesting to see how it stands up against any contact with the ground. So on first impressions, I love the way this driver looks and the design and concept sound very appealing. I just wish they made a version I could play as well! The Epon ZERO is already in the pro shop here.Stay tuned for a review from Tourspecgolfer and Tatsuro!
PS. Off topic but my Nikon D5100 is in for cleaning at Nikon so I took these pictures with my wife’s Lumix. Not bad at all!
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.
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!
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!