PluggedInGolf: Mr. Holowaty, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. Can you start by telling our readers how long you’ve been working with Miura Golf?
Bill Holowaty: I’ve been with Miura Golf since 2002 but have known the Miura family since the early 1990’s.
PIG: Can you explain what your current role – Executive VP, Product Strategies – entails?
BH: Although the title is self-explanatory, my role with Miura Golf goes beyond the products themselves. As one of the principles of the company, I oversee distribution and dealer development worldwide as well as taking an active role in day to day operations.
PIG: Miura is obviously at the opposite end of the spectrum from the OEMs that crank out new products twice a year. Can you discuss the process of new product creation at Miura?
BH: The Miura family is constantly reaching and designing with the hopes of being able to deliver the finest products to golfers. But, they will only introduce a new model or technology when it improves the current edition. Sometimes that can happen annually, sometimes, like in the case of the Tournament Blades, it can remain in the line for 7 years. They key here is that anything which is produced must meet the high standards established by Mr. Miura so many years ago.
PIG: With your audience primarily wanting high quality traditional irons, how do you come up with new products that don’t veer too far from your core identity?
BH: Again, the challenge isn’t to introduce new, it’s to improve on what we already have. Recently, Shinei Miura (one of two Miura sons) visited the Waste Management Open in Phoenix and spent a number of hours on the range watching and listening to the pros hit balls. Yes, listening! The sound of ball on club face is very important to the Miuras. What evolved was the importance of turf interaction and the subsequent new sole design of the 1957 CB. So, although the look of a forged blade or cavity back doesn’t seem to change substantially from model to model, the subtle changes in leading edge, bounce angle, and sole design can allow each new model to make a significant impact in improving the performance of our irons.
PIG: Clearly Miura doesn’t seek to be the biggest golf club company, but what does it strive to be?
BH: The corporate philosophy mirrors that of the Miura family. Mr. Miura has a saying in Japanese that translates roughly into “the good golfer will find me.” It doesn’t speak to the abilities of the golfers, but rather to the following statement: “If we (Miura) continue to strike to produce the world’s best forged irons, then the result will be that golfers will discover the Miura name and what we represent.” The feeling is that organic growth serves us well.
PIG: From where I’m sitting, Miura seems to have grown tremendously over the past few years in terms of brand recognition. How have you accomplished that?
BH: There are so many who have helped to make this happen. First and foremost is our Chairman, Tom Kusumoto. He has encouraged a long term vision for Miura, all the time conveying patience and unending support when it comes to building our brand. Next comes the golfers from around the world who have been able to discover perfection. Our best sales people are the ones who have found and purchased Miura irons. They are so proud of their irons that they are anxious to spread the word. Our dealers and distributors from around the world share the credit for building the brand. And this happens not only in the USA but also in non-traditional golf markets in Europe and APAC. Of course, we couldn’t do it without social media. We have managed to engage our fans through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. The credit for this is shared by Mary Beth Lacy and Blair Kaplan. Mary Beth has also been able to get Miura products into the hands of the writers around the globe. For many, it’s their first look at Miura and they are never disappointed. Which ultimately gets us to where we are. Living up to or exceeding expectations.
PIG: What would you say to the average big box golf shopper that may have never heard of Miura and why should they take a look?
BH: The IS a Miura factory and there IS a Mr. Miura. What does that translate to? A company which is committed to delivering the best forged irons, manufactured to the highest standards. We often suggest that just one shot with a Miura club can deliver an epiphany. Our challenge is to try and become ubiquitous. That will only come about by delivering the best quality products. We can find it in other consumables – watches, cars, headphones, clothes – why not our golf equipment?
PIG: Is it difficult to grow without a strong presence on the PGA Tour?
BH: I believe it is difficult to grow any company, but I understand your question. Having visibility on tour can obviously help, but that has its own challenges. Miura has chosen not to “pay for play.” The reality is that endorsements are a reality on all tours. As such, we don’t have a large presence. Although we are approached frequently about opportunities, we maintain that philosophy. That doesn’t mean you cannot find professionals from around the world on all tours who choose to play Miura irons because they believe Miura gives them the best chance to win.
PIG: From your perspective, what separates Miura irons from your competitors, specifically other forged iron makers?
BH: The Miura forging process is unique. It doesn’t lend itself to mass production but rather allows Miura Golf to manufacture our irons to what we believe to be the industry’s tightest tolerances. This includes a grain structure within the club head which delivers feel and performance found in every Miura iron. Because we have our own factory, we control every one of the fourteen steps in that manufacturing process. That means that no iron leaves the Miura factory that cannot meet the highest of standards. Mr. Miura has always preferred to talk about what Miura does well and not spend time on how others manufacture their products.
PIG: How do the standards that have made your irons so successful carry into other products like putters and woods?
BH: “Tour quality” is a phrase which is too often taken for granted. When the Miura family decided to deliver woods and hybrids to the marketplace, one thing was for certain. If the Miura names was to be found on clubs other than those forged at the Miura factory, then those clubs would have to not only live up to Miura standards, they would also have to perform to those standards. The process was a long and frustrating one, often resulting in multiple trips to the manufacturers in order to insure the same high standards instituted at the factory in Himeji were also in place. The results have proven that we are as proud of our drivers, fairway woods, and hybrids as we are of our irons.
PIG: What’s in your bag right now?
BH: Miura SIT Driver, Miura Precious Edition 3W, Miura 1975 CB irons (4-PW), 51° Miura Wedge Series, 56° Miura Black Series, 60° Miura Raw with a custom grind by Trevor Parkinson and a Miura KM-006 White Chrome Prototype Putter.
PIG: Thank you for taking the time to speak with us.