Director of Global Product
Interview with Matt Ward
HONMA BACKGROUNDER —
Founded in 1959, Honma utilizes the latest innovative technologies and traditional Japanese craftsmanship to provide golfers across the globe with premium, high-tech and top-performing golf clubs with state-of-the-art heads and proprietary shafts built by master artisans to perform together holistically. Renowned for creating the world’s highest quality and most beautiful golf clubs, Honma offers equipment — including balls, apparel and accessories — to fit all golfers, with the families aligned to suit the preferences and abilities of various segments of golfers: the world-renowned luxury BERES series and the Tour-validated T//World line, which includes the new game improvement XP- 1 line and the new Tour-inspired TR20 series.
The premium golf club manufacturer and lifestyle brand was founded inside a small Yokohama workshop six decades ago and now designs all products in Sakata, Japan. Honma operates as the only company that handles every step from design to final production in-house to create the highest-quality products on the market today. Honma’s products are sold in approximately 50 countries worldwide, primarily in Asia and across North America, Europe and other regions.
THE MYRHUM STORY —
Spent over 25-years in the golf industry specializing in product development for some of the leading brands in golf. Prior to joining Honma, Mark spent nine years leading the Titleist team in the development of metal woods as well as leading the Titleist team in Asia for product development.
Myrhum was also the founder and product designer for MCM Golf and lead product development for Wilson Sporting Goods for eight years. In addition, he has also served as a leading consultant for major Global golf brands for 14 years Clients include: McHenry Metals, Exotics/Tour Edge, Carbite, Taylor Made, Porsche Design, Tour Striker, Dynacraft plus 25 others.
Given the pandemic – how has Honma been impacted and what steps is the company doing now given the “new” normal the world find itself in now?
During these unprecedented times, Honma’s team was fortunate to be in a position to help others and subsequently created the Pick Up Your Pro campaign to assist in raising money for the PGA of America’s Emergency Golf Relief Fund. The Honma Museum in Japan even donated a priceless package of persimmon woods and iron relics which were auctioned off, combined with a percentage of online sales all helped to raise more than $20,000.
All of our Honma Experience and Mobile Experience master fitters are trained and committed to best practices in employing physical distancing and PPE safety precautions like face masks and cleaning and wiping clubs frequently. With a surge in golf participation and retail spending during the pandemic, our entire team is actively engaged in growing our brand’s presence in North America.
For many years the brand of Honma was geared to a certain type of golfer– often those in the mid to higher handicap range and with deep pockets to pursue their golf passion. How is the overall brand evolving and what key steps are being implemented with that in mind?
That’s the perception some people have. The truth is, Honma has been producing beautifully-crafted performance equipment since 1959. Honma has deep roots as the brand of choice for better players over the years, including several legends of the game who have used Honma to win majors.
Our super-premium BERES line catches people’s attention with its luxurious aesthetics and head turning price points, but better players have been putting Honma in their bags for generations.
Flash ahead to today with our Carlsbad team being led by Chris McGinley, who has spearheaded some of the most influential equipment advancements and popular designs of the last quarter century. Chris and I saw some incredible innovations being developed by Honma in Sakata, Japan, and that technology now lives in our TR20 line.
The TR20 P and TR20 V irons are regarded by testers as some of the best-performing players irons and players distance irons on the market today. The innovative TR20 drivers have been tested and shown to be some of the hottest and most consistent-performing drivers available.
Honma recently brought to market the TR20 driver and iron line. What makes these products stand apart from what Honma has done previously?
The TR20 line is Honma’s first-ever North American-led product line. It brings golfers the best of two masterfully-talented worlds, the Carlsbad team and the Sakata, Japan-based takumi (master craftsmen). The line provides fast, tour-level performance with uncompromising Honma artisanship for low, mid- and high handicaps. Like a race car, the TR20 drivers are drivers are built for speed.
They have a minimum lightweight TiCarbon Fast Frame with a maximum amount of carbon body area. That sits on top of a very thin titanium frame eliminating vibration and the variable face thickness increasing face repulsion and COR for more initial ball speed.
The TR20V is a true player’s iron that’s long. A traditional one-piece cavity back, it’s forged from soft carbon steel and helps launch shots quick and high, but with control.
TR20P is a player’s distance iron that incorporates game improvement-like playability. A forged steel body and thin L-cup face help generate ball speed, while a co-forged tungsten piece in the cavity lends forgiveness – as does a slightly wider sole.
How do the new products go beyond what other OEM companies are doing?
We can’t speak to other brands products. Honma is unique in several ways … we make our shafts in Japan, we design our clubs holistically with head and shaft performance harmonized, and our design and manufacturing processes include old world artisan techniques.
Who is the targeted customer with the new TR20 product line and how do you plan on getting them to switch from what they are using now to what you’re offering?
We’ve struck a desirable balance with the TR20 irons in that the blade lengths are small enough to be accepted by a tour pro, but big enough to be market playable. Performance-minded golfers who fit into the “players” or “players distance category are going to love the look, feel and performance of the irons.
With the drivers, golfers are going to be impressed with the speed and consistency of the TR20 460 and TR20 440. While these drivers are designed to perform exceptionally for the game’s most elite players, amateurs stand to gain the most, in terms of speed, feel and distance. Classic, sleek contours in the head design inspire confidence at address while the TiCarbon Fast Frame enables efficient speed and power swing after swing.
The Honma Experience and Honma Mobile experience custom fitting program is, in a word, “evangelizing” the TR20 line. Our team of master fitters is working in keys markets all over North America, sharing the full array of groundbreaking TR20 equipment along with the award-wining T//World W4 wedges that can be artfully customized by our Wedge Wizard, Jacob Sanborn.
Honma is planning an extensive effort via mobile vans in showcasing the products and in getting potential customers fitted. How will this effort go beyond what others are already doing via this method?
When our Carlsbad team led the design of the TR20 line and the clubs turned out to be every bit as innovative and discerning-player-friendly, we knew we needed a unique way to get Honma in front of avid golfers in the U.S. and Canada. We’re extremely proud to grow our Honma Mobile Experience markets with such a dynamic and golf-savvy staff.
When serious golfers see their ball flight and experience the feel Honma delivers, along with their performance data, we will open a lot of eyes. Golfers who might have been loyal to a specific brand have some exciting new equipment options. The Mobile Experiences make that process personal and enjoyable.
Companies throughout the golf industry routinely tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach followed by Honma?
Anyone who visits Honma House in Carlsbad, a Honma Experience or Honma Mobile Experience- or even calls our headquarters- will instantly see that our team is devoted to putting the most finely-designed and crafted golf equipment into their bags because they genuinely believe there’s a piece of Honma equipment that improve every golfer’s game.
Honma’s dedication to helping golfers play their absolutely best runs deep and it’s become a passion with our entire team. Our service is an extension of that passion and a commitment to genuinely wanting to see golfers play their best.
Product validation is a central factor for many equipment companies. How important is getting usage at the highest of levels — PGA TOUR, European Tour, LPGA, etc, etc, and what steps is the company doing in this regard?
Stay tuned. We aren’t announcing anything now, but I think you’ll enjoy future developments.
ln moving Honma ahead – what’s the biggest challenge?
We’re facing our biggest challenges of awareness and deep acceptance in the North American market with our expert Honma Mobile Experience teams. The more people who try Honma clubs will equate to higher numbers falling in love with the way they look, feel and perform.
We’ve got one of the most proven teams in the industry purpose-building Honma equipment for North America’s most avid golfers. It’s only a matter of time (and our effort) before a large contingent of golfers hop aboard our movement of beautifully-crafted performance.
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