In his 14-year tenure at Mizuno, Chris Voshall has spent the majority of his career as a Golf Club Engineer, designing and developing a number of Mizuno clubs including the JPX919, JPX900 and MP-18 lines. In addition to developing product lines, Voshall works on the development and improvement of Mizuno’s custom-fitting programs. Now, he serves as the Golf Marketing Manager, launching new product lines and interacting directly with PGA professional athletes. Voshall earned his bachelor’s degree in engineering science from Vanderbilt University in 2003.
In early 2004 as a recent graduate from Vanderbilt University I had that scary moment most have when I realized that the fun was over and now I had to do something with my life and get a job! Going into the School of Engineering I had that idea that I’m going to figure everything out and land a cool job making cool things. However years of collegiate level engineering courses taught me that the real world of engineering typically isn’t that fun.
That’s when I started digging, scratching, and looking around as hard as I could do find how to apply my fresh degree towards something I was passionate about. After a number of interviews for many different types of engineering jobs that never really lit the fire inside of me, I came across a job posting for a Golf Club Engineer with Mizuno. This was it, this was the one I had been waiting for. I have been a golfer since I was 11 years old and had even treated myself to a brand new set of Mizuno irons the summer before I left for college. Everything was perfect, except that the role called for 10 years of industry experience and countless other prerequisites that I did not have. Oh well, I applied anyway.
A few weeks later my phone rang and it was a man by the name of Masao Nagai. Nagai-san was the man responsible for Mizuno beginning a Research & Development department in the United States. His resume of club design and engineering reads up there with the greatest of all time. Anyway, back to the call. He quickly let me know that I was grossly underqualified for the position to which I applied; however, Mizuno was considering opening up a testing facility (the first of its type in the Western World) and was curious if I would be interested in applying for a job running that facility.
Naturally, my answer was a quick yes. That was my foot in the door. My first job in golf as Mizuno Golf’s Testing Engineer. From there I was able to learn what makes a club perform. What makes a club sound right, feel right, look right, etc. The engineering and design quickly followed and that was how I was able to get my start at Mizuno Golf.
You wake up in the morning — what’s the driving passion?
I have always been a golf club equipment nerd. Love spending my free time in the golf store looking at clubs and testing them. My dad and I used to do this every weekend as he was much the same way. Ultimately, my driving passion is to work with the team at Mizuno to simply make cool, and beautiful clubs.
Who is the Mizuno customer?
The Mizuno customer tends to be the more knowledgeable golfing consumer. We’re not the biggest, but we truly believe that we are the best in what we do and how we do it. Our customers are the ones who have done their research and can see through a lot of the marketing mess that lives out in this market.
What differentiates your efforts in the equipment category versus that of your competitors.
We feel that the use of the most premium materials and premium processes to create your clubs will ultimate lead to the most consistent results. Ultimately this means that we put more cost into each of our heads, but the performance benefits to the consumer justify doing so. Our Grain Flow Forging process is a perfect example of that. It’s a pricey process, but the resulting feel and consistency from piece to piece is unmatched in the industry.
Mizuno has broadened its approach by offering other equipment choices beyond its traditional bedrock strength in irons. Is the total equipment line offerings working with core golfers?
We don’t want to be viewed as simply a manufacturer that makes irons for better players. We put the same quality, effort, and processes into the out entire line of offerings from drivers down to wedges. We know that within our offerings, we can precisely fit the Tour level player all the way up to the highest handicap golfers.
Your biggest pet peeve is what?
The perception that Mizuno drivers aren’t up to the quality of our irons or our competitor drivers. The driver products we have put out over the last few years, and will continue to going forward, are engineered to perform. They feature exotic face materials and designs and benefit any level player. We just want people to try them! Reputations are hard to break.
Explain the surge in consumer interest in the JPX line of irons.
The JPX line has really expanded over the past few year for a number of reasons. The easiest thing to point out is that the clubs look great and flat out perform. The other big change we have made though is that have begun to expand the JPX line from being just a game Improvement / high handicap line into being a line for all levels of golfers with the introduction of the Tour model. This has helped JPX get play on the PGA Tour and ultimately given the line more exposure.
If you could change one thing in golf unilaterally — what would it be?
It’s easy for us to say, as club a club manufacturer, but I would love to see some of the equipment handcuffs taken off. This game is already hard. The added restrictions in terms of head size, COR, length, grooves, etc., are only making the game harder for average players and having little effect on the tour professionals. Without those handcuffs, we could create some incredible things.
Many companies tout the importance of customer service. Define the term and the approach taken at Mizuno.
For Mizuno, we want the customer to have the best experience possible at every touch point. This is why we have highly trained people both in the field and within out walls. Additionally, we encourage every single user to be custom fit for their clubs. We encourage this by offering all of our shafts/grips at no upcharge. This will lead to a better fit, better golf, and ultimately a better experience with your Mizuno clubs.
The short and long term challenges for Mizuno are what?
A short term challenge for Mizuno is how to break some of the stereotypes in the industry around our products. We are taking great steps in doing this by expanding out JPX line, our wood offerings, and our custom options. A long term challenge, along with many in this industry, is how to get more people playing golf. It’s such a great game and we want to see participation numbers growing.
Best advice you ever received — what was it and who from?
The best advice I ever received within this industry came from my first boss, Masao Nagai. He said that in every club designed or decision made, you have to slightly offend somebody. What he meant by this was to not be predictable. To be true to who you are and what you stand for, but to always have a little twist in there to keep things changing and fresh.
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