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|Miura Golf's CB-501 irons are more forgiving than the company's forged blades, but are still a player's club. (Mike Bailey/TravelGolf)|
Nobody will ever confuse Miura Golf's irons with game-improvement clubs. That's not their purpose.
Miura irons, which are handcrafted one at a time in Japan and retail for more than $200 a club, are more about the look, the feel and the instrument than they are about promising distance.
But that's not to say Miura Golf is oblivious to the modern game. No, the new CB-501 irons aren't jacked up to make pitching wedges go as far as 8-irons, but there is technology in these forged beauties. At address they look like blades or muscle backs, but they do have small cavities, slight sole weighting and, more important than anything, perfect balance. Right now, the CB-501s are Miura's best-selling model, and they are in the bags of several tour players.
For those who aren't familiar with Miuras -- and many golfers aren't -- these are the ultimate in players clubs. For years, Japanese master craftsman Katsuhiro Miura crafted clubs for the world's top players. It's common knowledge that many major champions had his irons in their bags, though the clubs might have been stamped with whatever manufacturer the tour player was under contract to at the time.
In the past decade or so, however, Mr. Miura, his two sons and a small group of workers in Japan have been making irons under the Miura brand, which has been growing worldwide, particularly in North America.
Last year, they added more than 50 dealers to bring the number to more than 130 in North America (Miura has headquarters in British Columbia, Canada). You won't find the golf clubs in sporting goods stores, and you basically can't get them unless a certified fitter takes you through the process.
Perhaps the company's most noteworthy signature win as of late was K.J. Choi's victory at the 2011 Players Championship. In his bag are the CB-501s, 4-iron through pitching wedge, not because he's paid to do so, but because he believes they're the best tools in the trade. These aren't clubs that will make your misses better -- there are lots of golf clubs that will do that -- but they will make your better shots better, more accurate and give you more feel.
In that sense, the CB-501s do make players better. There's a little bit of offset, a small cavity and a classic forged blade-looking topline. There's a little bit of weight in the bottom that helps get the ball up in the air, but the shots will never balloon, said Adam Barr, president of Miura Inc.
"I play this club myself and I'm a 23 index, and I have a lot of success with them," Barr said. "They do improve your game by helping your focus. It's a classic forged look and feel with a little bit of technology."
It's sort of like a violin player using a Stradivarius. The great violinist will get the most out of the priceless instrument, but even the average musician can appreciate its precision. It's the same with these clubs.
The question then is why are Miuras and the CB-501s so great? What sets them apart?
Generally speaking, it's that these clubs have the tightest tolerances in the business, and they're not mass-produced. Like any good forged clubs, they are made with a high-grade, low-carbon steel -- strong enough to be consistent, but soft enough for great feel. One of the things that sets Miuras apart is that they only forge them from the heel to toe. The hosels are spun on separately, which makes them even more exacting. It's also a family business, and the Miuras have their hands on the clubs through every step of the process.
"The difference is that they are not and never will be mass-produced," Barr said. "In this day and age, that sort of relationship with the people who make things for you is becoming more and more rare."
Miuras Golf and the CB-501 irons aren't for every player; they are for avid golfers, or perhaps even more accurately, serious golfers.
Notice that I didn't say low handicap or professionals. It's for them, too, of course, but these are clubs for people who play, and perhaps practice, a lot. They are more forgiving than the Miura blades, but not that much more. Mishit these and you will not be rewarded, which is exactly what an avid golfer appreciates. These clubs are also devoid of hotspots. It's these characteristics that make players better, more precise. And getting them precisely fitted through an authorized dealer, as I did at Matt Swanson's Golf Center in Houston, completes the process.
The other characteristic that I like is that these are true lofts. Pitching wedges are pitching wedges, not 8 ½-irons with "P" stamped on them. Knowing that, it never bothered me that I had to take a little more club into greens than what I was used to. After all, the only number that's important is the one you put on the scorecard. And with more feel, especially with the scoring clubs, the potential for smaller numbers is certainly there.
For more information, visit www.miuragolf.com.
January 11, 2012
Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 15 years in the golf industry. Before joining the WorldGolf.com team in 2008, he held positions at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Read Mike's golf blog here and follow him on Twitter here.
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