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Miura: A Voice of Reason In A Fast Moving Golf Equipment Market

Driven to capture the imagination of the average golfer many a golf manufacturer has taken the approach of introducing new club models at a very rapid pace. To some degree this has created problems for both retailers and consumers whose selling and buying cycle might not quite match what the manufacturer hopes them to be.

Then along comes Miura Golf. Long known for their purist approach to the creation of forged irons and wedges, it has taken some time for the company to even consider moving into the wood and utility market. And this is not a bad thing. That painstaking and methodical approach may not produce mass instant success but it adheres to the principals of the company and their founder, Katsuhiro Miura. Quality come first and sales, well, they follow as players discover clubs that fit them and perfom as they are supposed to.

For more than 40 years Miura has crafted clubs, all created in a process that is totally in contrast with the mass manufacturing process that many companies employ.

Today, commercial sucess has come upon the company, driven by their Vancouver-based operation (incorporated in 1994) that has enlightened North American golfers (the largest golf market in the world) to the quality that Miura can provide.

I recently caught up with Bill Holowaty, V.P. of General Operations, to talk about their latest market entries.

First on the agenda was understanding why Miura would even delve into woods and utility clubs.

“Our company wants to, and will, maintain our focus on what Mr. Miura does best and that is irons,” responded Holowaty. “The question continually came up ‘Do you, will you offer, have you got, woods?’ . I think it really came about with an epiphany by people hitting Miura irons for the first time and knowing that there was something different there, then wanting that for the rest of their bag.'”

Holowaty says the positive way people have responded to the new products is no surprise. “Those who are familiar with Mr. Miura and the way he runs his business – putting performance first over everything – they seem to have an inherent confidence in anything that the Miura name is on. They know it will be something special.”

The result is products that in some way go against the grain of the current market, especially in the terms of driver size and even into the design of the utility clubs. “We’ve been able to build up the brand so that when people see the Miura name they know they might see something different, something exceptional, so when it came to the manufacture of utilities, fairway woods, and drivers Mr. Miura was really leery for a long time.”

Miura’s main concern was that he would not be in complete control of the manufacturing process from start to finish. The reality of the current industry is that the club heads for these products could not be fully manufactured in the Miura factories, unlike all the other Miura products. As a result it took some time to pin down exactly how the process would play out. “He wanted to make sure he was getting something that he would be willing to put his name on,” explains Holowaty.

Luckily manufacturers familiar with Mr. Miura’s reputation were willing to work with him to ensure the utmost in quality products as they knew working with the man known as having “The Hands of God” would be great for their reputation as well. The product had to be the best they could make, created to the highest standards.

Of course that didn’t mean that Mr. Miura took in the outside work readily. Holowaty says early on Miura would meticulously check the products searching for any sign of imperfection. “It took a while and he would check a lot of things. The paint, the weights – it all had to be to a standard he was happy with and that took some time. The term ‘tour-quality’ is thrown about pretty loosely but these were tour quality, not designed to be mass produced and not designed to be replaced. Like all Miura products they needed to have a shelf life attached to them.”

Part of that shelf-life formula was coming up with the right products not just the flavor of the day.

“These were all stepping stones to getting to where we are today,” Bill remarks. “What you buy today is what you would have gotten six months ago and it’s what you will get six months from now.” “There is not an urgency to launch products as opposed to meld them into our line because they are going to be there going forward.

In the driver category that meant a 390cc driver (the Precious Edition) in a market crowded by 460cc club heads. “There wasn’t going to be a driver introduced unless it fit into the philosophy of Mr. Miura in regards to performance. That was optimum in allowing the club to get back to square at impact.” Bill says that often he will play golf and let others try his driver. He told me that pretty soon they forget about how big a driver is “supposed” to be and recognize that they like it for the feel, the sound and the performance.

And then there is the most recent introduction, the Precious Utility Club. Like the driver that has now been out for almost two years the intent of the Miura Utility Club was well defined from the very beginning.

Designed to provide a high trajectory with a slight draw bias, the Miura utility proved it could provide just that in testing by our Flagstick Magazine staff. Curious about why the company chose to make a club with those characteristics we pointed the question to our friend at Miura. “That’s a question not only from you but our dealers and from the end users,” Bill states. “Again it comes back to what Mr. Miura thinks will work best with his philosophy,” he explains further. “He wanted to have something that would blend in with Miura irons, especially for the player who plans to take the 3 and 4 iron out and replace them with a utility. We want to give them a club that will perform in concert with the irons. He wanted to provide them with clubs that would confirm with a consistency of trajectory and yardage that would fall in with the set.”

Holowaty says Mr. Miura wanted to give golfers a utility club that would go a precise yardage not an “about a” yardage. He also heard concerns from golfers that the light shaft and head weight of some utility clubs was of concern. Some golfers felt this combination resulted in poor performance (in distance control and ball flight) when the golfer was under pressure, such as what they feel in playing tournament golf.

In response Miura wanted to provide a club that could be relied on, resulting in the current design. “Mr. Miura recognizes it may not be the club design that is for everyone but for the player looking for the precison of an iron with the ease of use of a hybrid this will fit nicely.” “We’re not trying to re-invent the hybrid market, it’s simply a niche product that fits with a sound philiosophy centred on performance and quality. That just fits with who we are,” Bill concludes.

“We want to make the right clubs, not just any clubs. Mr. Miura has a strong philosophy and it will continue to be the foundation for us.”

Notes:
– Miura had their first pro player success with J.L. Lewis and Ray Floyd.
– 2009 Futures Tour winner and gradute to the 2010 LPGA Tour member Samantha Richdale actually bought her set of Miura Irons on her own.
– Miura does not solicit club use by tour players but more and more calls from them keep coming in for requesting access to their equipment.
– With diminishing numbers of complete equipment contracts the number of pro tour golfers playing 1 or 2 Miura clubs is growing.
– The Yoshitaka (Mr. Miura’s #1 son, age-wise) Miura wedge line (60 degree currently) will be expanded this Fall with 49, 51, and 53 degree models.
– The R&A has already approved new Miura clubs for 2010 under the new Groove Rule.
– Yoshitaka Miura was responsible for the Miura work with TaylorMade until 2004.
– Yoshitaka continues to be the one who works directly with many of the pros.
– C Grind Wedges, with more heel and toe relief, with lofts of 55, 57, and 59, will be introduced shortly
– For 2010 Katsuhiro Miura is working on a new iron model that conforms to the new Groove Standards with traditonal Miura feel and perfomance.
– All current Miura models will be made available with conforming grooves starting later this year.

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