Having worked in the golf industry for more than 20 years, jumping on the golf equipment treadmill is just a fact of life.
Every year something new and different comes along and if you even have just a passing interest in golf clubs, it is hard to resist trying them all out.
And if you are admitted golf club junkie…it’s gets even worse than that.
In adding to my golf club collection through the years, not much has passed me by, whether it is drivers, putters, wedges, or my greatest vice – irons.
For me the ultimate quest has always been to find a set of irons that I am completely comfortable with. I was glad last year when a set of Titleist 710CB irons came into my bag. They have been a fine addition to my arsenal and brought with me the rewards of improved play. They have definitely been the prescription to fix my ailing iron play that has been hindered by less practice time.
As I have come to play less and less, I welcome their forgiving tendencies. It makes golf a joy to play. Even with that satisfaction there has always been one iron experiment that has eluded me. And this past Fall I made the leap to finally fulfill it.
Like many golfers in their 40’s I grew up playing with classic blade designs for irons. The ultimate was to have a set of Wilson staff blades. Their clean top-lines, minimal offset, and soft feel (when you hit the ball on centre) simply screamed “golf” for many of my generation.
I have always had a thing for blades even when they have not loved me back. When the golf season is in its peak, as the turf greens up and my golf swing starts to feel more balanced, it’s usually the time to bring out some of my old irons just for fun. While it does not always produce the most favorable results, especially when it comes to hitting long irons with the modern, low-spin golf ball, there is still something that fans the flame of my youth – even for just a round. Instead of that modern, high/straight ball flight I find myself trying to hit shots again – curving the ball to fit the required shot. It’s just plain fun.
Last Fall, I got to thinking about shot shapes quite a bit. I had the pleasure of playing on hallowed ground in Scotland where creative ball-striking was at a premium. My current irons were more than up to the task but it got me thinking about all that inspired me when I first started to play and how it might be nice to have a set of blades, more modern ones, to play around with again.
This would not be an everyday set, but one I could use a few times a year, just for kicks and when my confidence supported it.
A few years back I got to know Bill Holowaty, V.P. of Miura Golf, and have developed quite a respect for his company’s premium Japanese forged irons only sold by certified fitters and club makers. It was a perfect fit for the project I had in mind.
Having waited so long to create a set I was not in a real hurry, which was perfect, since it became clear the process would be a detailed one.
Bill and I spoke a few times by phone. From his Vancouver-area office we talked about exactly what I was seeking in my irons from the amount of offset through to the head size, toe shape, and top-line appearance. And once we came down to two head options the final decision was not left up to a coin toss – he proceeded to send out six irons from each of the sets to my club maker so we could work with them.
This brings us to a very big part of this process, the club maker. Having somebody who understands not only how to build golf clubs but how the club options will affect ball flight is key and Miura seems to have done a great job in selecting their circle of dealers. They have ensured that they have the proper skills to build and fit their premium golf clubs.
I am fortunate that I have such a talented person, Bob Collins, working about fifteen minutes from my house in Kingston, Ontario. Bob, a former top level hockey player and an amateur golfer of some renown took up building golf clubs years ago, has done work for players of all levels including average amateurs and those playing on the PGA Tour. He is meticulous and it is all about getting things right, whatever that takes.
That thirst for perfection is a perfect match for the way Miura makes clubs. Craftsmen and company founder Katsuhiro Miura, his sons, and staff demand nothing but the best from the products they sell. They use an exacting process to design, forge, and shape their irons so they can be as precise as possible while delivering great looks, exceptional performance and an impressive feel at impact. It’s no wonder that great ball-strikers like major champion Nick Price have chosen to depend on them in play at the highest levels of the game.
The fitting process began in earnest with me bringing my “gamer” set to a session with Bob. Before we took a look at the Miura clubs we sat down to talk about my ball flight tendencies and my expectations for the set he would be building.
“It’s part of what is necessary for a proper fitting,” says Collins who works out an extensive workshop at the headquarters for golf shaft manufacturer ACCRA Golf and their distribution company, Premium Golf Management. The facility includes a High Definition Simulator outfitted with the latest assessment tools that use high speed cameras and advanced modules designed to measure all characteristics of the ball flight and motion of the club throughout the swing. “It’s a fantastic tool and lets us really pinpoint the right shafts and club-heads so golfers can get the most out of their game,” says Collins.
After blueprinting my current irons to determine lengths, lies, lofts, shaft flex and just about every other detail we had a baseline to work with as we looked to put together the Miura set.
Now we were ready for the real work, an extensive fitting session that lasted nearly two hours – typical of the process Collins and certified dealers in the Miura network of employ.
Before we could even embark on the full fit I had a decision to make. In talking to Bill Holowaty we had discussed clubheads with limited offset, my personal preference based on the visual appeal, ease of alignment, and preferred ball flight. That resulted in us working with two 6 irons, one from the Miura CB-202 line-up and the other from a set of Tournament Blade models. As sharp as the 202’s were, a blade was what I was after and hitting more than a few shots with them confirmed that intention.
Little did I know just how many more balls I would hit in our session. Once we found the right head to work with, Bob went about determining exactly what the right shaft would be (we settled on a set of KBS Tour X Flex), the proper length (slightly shorter than I had been playing), lie angle (on the flatter side), and grip size (a little larger than standard). All this was verified by monitoring the contact point on the face and the ball flight data. Bob took into account a full analysis of the ball flight including spin rates (back and side), trajectory, dispersion, distance, and consistency until it was where it needed to be.
With all my information Bob bid me adieu and said he would be in touch in a few days. Just as promised I returned three days later to find a completed set of irons.
Before I grabbed the set and ran, as I wanted to do, Bob and I talked about his process of building the Miura Tournament blades. A couple of his comments stood out – most notably that in building the irons he had found the heads to be precisely weighted as labeled, to the exact gram. “You don’t find many clubheads from companies that don’t use a tolerance of a gram or two but they were bang on,” he noted to me.
That detail made it all that much easier for him to build my set to exacting standards, right down to grips sorted by weight, to ensure swingweight and overall weight were as consistent as possible.
To validate the tests I once again headed back to the simulator to hit some shots and ensure that the clubs helped me to produce the exact flight pattern we had agreed on in the original fitting.
A week later I was able to get outside and hit those irons in the sunshine of central Florida. Fortunately, that was during the PGA Show week and Bob was on hand in Orlando as well and checked in on my progress, just as he does a follow-up with all his clients after they try their new clubs outdoors. “How do they feel; how’s the ball flight?” he asked as I gleefully hit balls at the Falcon’s Fire Golf Club range.
“It’s wonderful,” I replied after striking another ball perfectly along my intended flight. “These clubs are way better than me; that’s for sure. They are exactly what I had imagined. When I hit them I feel like a kid again!”
So this year, when I need just that little bit of boost to show me why I fell in love with golf in the first place, eight little clubs borne of excellence by a craftsmen in Japan will be around to do the trick.
I might not have the skills to employ them every single day but the Miura blades’ ability to spark a child-like smile when I do break them out makes them worth every last penny.
For more on Miura Golf and their product visit www.miuragolf.com