Every now and then, we at PluggedInGolf encounter some golf equipment that is just flat out cool. It can literally stop you in your tracks. What I find interesting when this happens is that along with an overwhelming sense of satisfaction the club, you often find yourself with more questions that need to be answered. This is the exact experience I had when I recently tested and reviewed the Miura CB-501 irons. In my review I said, “I’ve honestly had very few golf equipment experiences like my first exposure to Miura irons.”
Miura Executive VP, Product Strategies, Bill Holowtay took a moment to answer some questions for us where he described the exact “ah-ha” moment I described. Read our interview below to gain some different perspective on the Miura CB-501 irons and Miura Golf. I found the insight very interesting and it’s no surprise to me that Miura is the leader they are in forged irons.
PluggedInGolf: Can you tell me a little more about the CB-501 irons beyond the bullet points and description on the website? Maybe something fun that the public doesn’t know yet?
Bill Holowaty: It continues to be our bestselling model of all time. KJ Choi used the CB 501’s to win the 2011 Players Championship. Miura Golf made 300 special edition sets to commemorate the victory. Sets were manufactured to the exact same specifications KJ used to win.
PIG: A big focus is put on the sole grinds of Miura irons and there have a been a lot of evolutions over the years and different models. After initially coming to the US market with sharper sole grinds, why did Mr. Miura change them for the US market?
BH: It’s no secret that playing conditions in Japan are significantly different to those in North America. Although difficult to be all things to all people, we would hear from customers that early models tended to “dig” a little. This was not really a criticism, but rather an observation based on a person’s swing. Obviously turf conditions can impact this as well. For example, fairways are different in the Pacific Northwest relative to the Southeast. In spite of the fact that Miura-san had worked with many of the biggest OEM’s, the Miuras knew that the best way to research what they needed to do was to visit North America. Subsequent visits included stops at PGA events, work with local PGA Professionals at their own courses and playing in multiple locations around North America. The result was a better understanding of how golfers and conditions differed between Japan and North America and how they were similar. How a new sole design could perform to the highest standards, regardless of the conditions. How the proper sole design could be embraced by both a “digger” and a “sweeper”. The result was not viewed as a compromise, but rather an innovation. This strategic design would allow the Miura family to continue to manufacture the best forged irons. Ones which could consistently produce and deliver the famous Miura feel and performance, regardless of where they were used.
PIG: Why does the Asian market prefer a different sole grind than the US?
BH: Playing conditions in Japan (and throughout Asia) are unique. In Japan, the ball really sits up and divots explode. Early Japanese models were more bulbous (particularly in the short irons and wedges) which meant the were designed with a slightly higher center of gravity. Although these designs and preferences were prevalent 10 to 15 years ago, we have seen the difference between domestic and international models lessen. Although there are some subtleties which exist between the two models, its fair to say that they are now more alike than they are different.
PIG: Given the evolution of Miura irons, what keeps the CB-501 a relevant and strong club in the US market as well as the rest of the world?
BH: Bottom line, it works. When you look at the CB 501 in the “address” position, it radiates confidence. And does so for a wide range of handicaps. One of the strengths of our company when we have a winning design, it will stay in our lineup until we can improve on that design. The 501 is the poster child for that. It’s popularity is as strong today as it was 3 years ago. To us, that means it is a winner! And once a golfer has discovered the 501, that golfer becomes our best sales person, often inviting fellow golfers to try his equipment.
PIG: Miura is known for very tight tolerances in the production of their irons, how many times does an iron head get weighed throughout the manufacturing process?
BH: The heads are weighed at each of the 14 steps, having to hit specific weight tolerances at each of those steps. This not only ensures quality control but also consistency in the attention to detail delivered at each step of the grinding process.
PIG: Given the precision and care that goes into producing a high-quality product, how many sets of irons will Miura make in a year, and what is the capacity of how many sets can be made?
BH: This is a question we often get but Mr. Miura is very vague with his answer. Having known him for almost 25 years, I can tell you that he keeps this information private, including not giving that number to his staff/workers. When translated the reason comes out as he believes if Miura Giken is manufacturing to a certain number or capacity, they will lose focus on the most important factor, that being dedicated to producing the world’s best forged iron.
That said, the Miura process does not lend itself to mass production. There is a finite number of sets which can be produced. We still have room to grow without affecting delivery.
PIG: You often read about how “soft” and “buttery” Miura irons are, but my impression was that they were very solid and strong (in a good way). They feel crisp and responsive as opposed to fluffy and mushy which is often what people feel when they describe soft. I know this is attributed to tight grains in the steel, but why is a solid feel so important for a club like the CB-501?
BH: Your impressions are absolutely correct. Soft and buttery are adjectives often used, but, solid is more accurate. I also have explained it as being the difference between a “punch and a slap”
Its important to not only the 501 but every model we manufacture. Mr. Miura believes that golfers want to experience what a good shot feels like rather that masking what a poor shot feels like. Our good friend Lorne Rubenstein, after hitting a Miura iron for the first time, told us he had experienced an epiphany. After playing golf for 40 years, he experienced something he had never felt with any other golf club. That story has always resonated and explains why solid feel is so important.
PIG: Mr. Miura is known for his ability to listen to a club and the turf interaction to suggest changes. Why is turf interaction so important? What is Mr. Miura listening for? How can Mr. Miura change that sound? What impacts/plays a role in turf interaction the most?
BH: Turf interaction is important because the ability of the club head to glide thru the turf is what contributes to ball on face contact. Solid contact = better shots.
Miura-san doesn’t have an easy explanation to what he is listening to. It might be that he is “experiencing” the strike rather than listening to something specific. Of course he can hear when you make contact with turf before the ball, or the ball then the turf. He’s also watching and looking at divots. Does the club head get the square at impact? He may offer a little advice on setup or ball position which he knows will help to influence where the ball makes contact with the club face.
Leading edge and bounce on the sole play the biggest role in turf interaction. But Miura-san also points to the integrity of the club head when speaking about irons. The “balance” of the head, taking in to account the weight of the head, the density of the head and the dimensions of the head, all contribute to the clubs performance. If the club head “wants to get to square at impact” then the other design components (leading edge and bounce) will have an opportunity to shine.
PIG: Aside from looks, what are the biggest differences between the CB-501 and the newer CB57s?
BH: Looks certainly matter. There is a size difference in the two heads, which, when at address, can influence confidence. The CB57 is a little smaller and more compact. It also has marginally less offset.
Early in the design process, I asked Miura san about the difference between the two models. Although it had more to do with translation than my specific question, here is what Miura-san said: “There is no difference. They are both the same. Both (in this case) 8 irons weigh the same, both 8 irons are the same loft, and both are designed to hit the ball the same distance.” Ultimately, this continues to be one of my favorite anecdotes from Miura-san. How simple. How true.
PIG: What would you say to the person that’s never heard of Miura to educate them on why Miura irons are some of the best clubs in the game?
BH: Although our brand has grown significantly in recent times, we continue to come across people who have not heard of Miura. This can be both frustrating and encouraging at the same time. We have so much opportunity to grow. We love to tell newcomers: there is a Mr. Miura. There is a Miura factory. There is a story! We talk of how Miura-san has worked with the best equipment companies in golf through the years. We tell how the Miura factory has made clubs for some of the greatest golfers of all time. We tell of the major tournaments that irons manufactured in the Miura factory has won. But most of all we ask them to #discoverperfection. That can happen the first time you hit a ball.
Couple of fun questions:
PIG: What irons does Mr. Miura currently play?
BH: Not surprisingly, Mr. Miura plays a variety of sets of irons. Right now he is playing a custom set of “Miura – Hagane” irons. A mid-size cavity back with no offset.
PIG: What irons do you currently play, and why?
BH: I am playing the MB001 although as we move in to the summer, the Small Blade (LF01’s) will make their way back in to the rotation.
PIG: What’s your favorite all-time Miura club?
BH: I would have to say the K grind wedge. So easy to hit, so efficient and such a unique design.
Many thanks for Bill Holowaty for taking time to speak with us and provide a little deeper glimpse into of the best iron makers in golf.