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GolfWRX Interivew – Miura Golf Part 1

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GolfWRX, your all inclusive internet golf headquarters is proud to present an interview with Miura Golf and Bill Holowaty.

Part I Audio Here

0:10 – GolfWRX: We are here with Bill Holowaty from Miura golf. Bill, before we get started into the products and the story behind your company, can you give us a little bit of background about your history in golf and the golf industry?

0:23 – Bill Holowaty: Sure can. I guess the passion for me like all of us grabbed me at a young age. I played, my dad was a golfer, and I played from the time I was probably eight or nine years old. I’m from, there’s a town or a city in Canada called Regina, Saskatchewan, where my dad was a member at the Regina Golf and Country Club and that is where I first got exposed to golf. Just has basically been something that has always been my summer passion if you will from that time forward. I had played hockey, minor hockey up through university and then professionally in Japan. While I was playing professionally in Japan, I came to know Mr. Miura more on a casual basis and certainly a nonprofessional basis. We would go down and visit him at the end of the hockey season every year before I came back to Canada. And at that time that’s when my interest in golf was really peaked. When you are lucky enough to be exposed to the way Miura does things I think it leaves you a little bit jaded but I was very lucky in a sense that I was able to parlay that passion for golf into a meeting with Mr. Miura and eventually entered into the company in early 2002 on a full time basis. Before that we had done a pilot project with Miura golf which began in the late 1990s, so there was a little bit involvement back then, but 2002 is when I entered into it with Miura golf.  

02:35 – GolfWRX: Excellent. Now how about the history of Miura as a company itself, how did it get its start and what is Mr. Miura’s exact background?

02:44 – Bill Holowaty: Well Mr. Miura, and it is a little bit of a journey for him because he began in the golf business in 1957. Working as he did in Himeji which is the Hyogo Prefecture which is where the factory is, the specific city is Himeji. It is well known as the steel region of Japan. In fact, that region was well known for making samurai swords back in the Edo Era. Mr. Miura got involved in the golf business, being from that area and got his start in 1957. He eventually started his own company in 1977 and just recently celebrated the 30th Anniversary of his factory. Since that time, since he made the commitment to get into the golf business on his own he has spent every day at that factory refining his club making, designing and grinding skills, as he will tell you. But as far as formal training he entered into it at the age of 16, I believe, and has been involved in that business ever since. 

04:26 – GolfWRX: Now, I‘ve heard it’s true that Mr. Miura still has a position on the forging line and grinding line, is that true?   

04:34 – Bill Holowaty: Absolutely! One of the truly engaging things about Mr. Miura when you met him, is when you shake his hands he has the hands of a craftsman. You can tell that they have shaped and modeled and have been scraped and skin torn off over the years – I’m sure from the grinding wheel – but his chair is still number one. But now doesn’t necessarily see him there eight hours a day. But you will see him on that wheel every day at sometime. Be it making a custom set of irons for someone, be it looking to see how and what types of designs he can apply to a wedge, or new prototypes that he is working with. He does it all, one of the truly amazing things to see for anyone who is lucky enough to get to the Miura factory is to see him work with a professional, someone who comes in and will say to him, Mr. Miura, I would like the top line to look like this, or I’m looking for a leading edge like this, and to have him take his craft to the wheel work for a matter of seconds and then hand you a club head and say is that what you had in mind and in evidently get a look of bewilderment from the profession as he says yes that is exactly what I had in mind. So he still has the number one chair in the line, it is something that the workers and the grinders at the factory look towards. The number two chair would be occupied by his son, Yoshitaka. Yoshitaka is in his mid-thirties and has been doing this for about sixteen years and certainly has talent that is – well, we wouldn’t want to say it is the equal of Mr. Miura obviously that is going to take a lifetime to achieve, but certainly he has a talent that many of the Japanese touring professionals and certainly a number of the PGA and European touring professionals who use Miura made products have sought out to do the grinding for so the legacy of Miura golf is a strong one with the talent of Yoshitaka and those two at number one and two on the line are very impressive. 

07:17 – GolfWRX: Wow, that is really great to hear that a company still feels strong in the family.

07:23 – Bill Hollwhatty: Well Kiran, and I don’t mean to go off topic here a little bit but it truly is a family business and that’s the unique part. There is a Mr. Miura and two sons that are involved both in their mid-thirties, Shinei looks after the raw side, or the forging side at the company. Yoshitaka looks after the finishing side. Mr. Miura would tell you that they both don’t know anything yet, having been only on fifteen years and I think that is spoken like a true father of a family business. They recognize that there is something to learn every day. They are both ultimately talented in design, especially Shinei who has a real mind for golf. Yoshitaka when Mr. Miura, when the Miura factory was doing work on behalf of TaylorMade he was the lead guy, he was the guy who undertook the work on behalf of TaylorMade. And that in itself is no secret, TaylorMade made mention of it on their website up until 2004 but it was Yoshitaka, obviously under his dad’s guidance that was responsible for that. 

08:48 – GolfWRX: Excellent. Well that is just great information. Now, Miura forgings are so well known for their super soft feel. What separates Miura from other forging houses? 

09:01 – Bill Holowaty: Well certainly it’s a manufacturing technique and your question is a great one and it’s one that we often receive. Early on I would come back from Japan with a set of Miura irons and I would have colleagues and friends and acquaintances hit the clubs. They would feel something different and ask does Mr. Miura use a special metal? The case is no, he doesn’t. He uses a soft carbon steel like many and all manufactures have access to. It is his manufacturing technique which is responsible for the feel and the performance. The other side of that is that Mr. Miura believes that you could have steel companies produce high quality golf raw materials for you but unfortunately the amount that you would need to purchase to get the grain structure to where he wants it is just not economically feasible. So the forging process has to produce the grain structure and the molecular structure that gives the Miura clubs the feel. As I said it is done via the manufacturing process that Mr. Miura uses. Ultimately I think the analogy or the picture that I draw in your minds eye is the grain structure of a Miura head under magnification would be like a glass jar filled with sand. The grain is tight together, when you strike the ball with that jar of sand, if you will, there is little to no vibration within the head, or within the molecules in the club head, and thus there is transfer of the energy to the ball and there is no transfer of that vibration up the shaft of the club. So when people often describe the feel of a Miura club head as being soft like butter, really what I think they’re saying is that it’s very solid. In our case we would equate soft or buttery to a solid feel. The vibrations that you can, or that others will describe when they hit their own irons might be reflected in that glass jar filled with marbles. Still a grain structure that is tight and uniform but there is a little void or space between the marbles and when that jar hits the ball there is a little bit of vibration that travels up the shaft and accounts for a different feel from that of a Miura. 

12:08 – GolfWRX: That is a great analogy, and I know that will explain to a lot of people exactly why Miura clubs have such a unique feel. 

12:17 – Bill Holowaty: And again Kiran, and I don’t mean to jump in here, but as we talk about the forging process that’s what is responsible for getting the grain structure as tight as it is. 

12:29 – GolfWRX: Right. Now, I’ve heard from different places about the number of steps involved in forging. I guess, a lot of people take a lot of pride in the number of steps they use to strike the metal. Does that have any say in how the grain is laid out? 

12:48 – Bill Holowaty: Most definitely. The manufacturing technique that Mr. Miura uses, you know, on our website we describe eleven steps, there’s actually fourteen steps that happen. And Mr. Miura would say that there are three steps that are the secret recipe, if you will, but you know each step is responsible for getting there. There’s the initial pressing, and then there’s three strikes along the way that happen, at a precise amount of weight being used at a precise amount of heat. All those things contribute to how the club ultimately ends up making its way to the golfer. So it is a process of fourteen steps. Mr. Miura, and I think we will probably get to this because it has been a topical question of late, but Mr. Miura realized in his mind that the process by which forged clubs were being manufactured was in his mind fundamentally flawed because a great deal of care had to be given to protecting the hosel during the forging process. He believed that because the hosel was so delicate you weren’t able to get the grain structure within the head to the tightness that he was looking for so he determined from a great research and expense that by separating the two processes – i.e. doing the head separately from doing the hosel that he would be able to provide a more precise strike to the club head. Be able to provide and produce a more uniform and precise amount of heat to the club head in order to manipulate that grain structure as tight as possible. 

15:06 – GolfWRX: Now I know you touched on this briefly but we were wondering if you could go into a little more detail about exactly what sort of impact metallurgy has on forging. There are so many different carbon steels on the market, 8620, 1020, 1030, 1025, how do you know which one is the best for golf clubs and is there a best?

15:25 – Bill Holowaty: I can only go by what Mr. Miura tells me and he would tell you, I think that ultimately the way he does things is the way he does things and somebody else can do them a different way and that’s okay, their way maybe good in their minds. Mr. Miura uses soft carbon steel 1025 and as I mentioned to you earlier, he believes that his process is responsible for getting the grain structure. As he said the time it takes and the Miura process does not lend itself to mass production but the time it takes to get that grain structure to where he is happy with it could be eliminated because he believes that the steel companies would be able to produce more of a final product for him. But again, the amount that you would have to buy and the expense to pay to get it that way just isn’t economically feasible. It’s not that he is doing anything magical. His process is certainly unique but it’s the process to get the metal to where it performs best. It isn’t anything special or magical that he buys.

17:00 – GolfWRX: Excellent. Now Miura’s had long history of producing some of the best forging for a lot of the OEMs. Can you describe your relationships with OEMs in the past and are you still working with any OEMs currently?

17:17 – Bill Holowaty: This is always a delicate subject when talking about this and delicate only from the stand point of I absolutely want to make certain that everyone knows it’s not meant for us to be secretive at all. In fact, we would love, or I would love to make known what Mr. Miura has done on the behalf of others, because many have probably been exposed, seen, or hit irons made at the Miura factory in the past but just didn’t know it, they had another name on them. The reason that there is a little bit of a cloud of secrecy has everything to do with the integrity of Mr. Miura and nothing else. He has gone into agreements with these manufactures over the years and worked on behalf of them and his belief is that if they want to make known where they had the clubs made that’s fine. But he won’t speak specifically about it with the exception of one company and that company would be Maruman. Mr. Miura had a relationship with the President of Maruman back in the early 90s and he has no problem talking to and about that. With respect to other OEM companies, it is most secret and common knowledge that Mr. Miura has worked with the top equipment companies at some time or another over the past fifteen to twenty years and those companies would include Maruman, PRGR, Taylormade, Titleist, Nike, Hogan, MacGregor, Armour, the list goes on. This is common knowledge, I’m not talking out of school, so to speak, but the relationship that was or is with OEM companies stopped in 2004. He still does and produces some OEM stuff on a very limited basis just for Japanese markets. In 2004 was the last work that he did on behalf of Taylormade and again that is something they made mention of on their website at that time. That their true preferred models were forged at the Miura factory but that ended in 2004. To date we can say that he does do some specific work on behalf of some PGA professionals and Japanese professionals and European professionals. He does on a one and two off basis for those individuals on the behalf of equipment companies but again that is usually one or two sets at a time and nothing in the production numbers.

Part II Audio Here

0:10 – GolfWRX:  We have a couple of big Miura fans on our board, and one of them asked, "Are all U.S. Miura irons and wedges forged and manufactured in Japan, or is the rumor true that Miura has started to forge and finish some of it’s product in Taiwan and China?"

0:30 – Bill Holowaty:  Well, again, I will say to everyone on your board that there is only one Miura factory.  That Miura factory is in Himeji, Japan.  It is a family business, as I said.  The process of producing clubs doesn’t lend itself to mass production, so the only place that Miura clubs come from is Himeji, Japan.  Unfortunately, part of becoming more well known is there are people out there who will go out and try to make counterfeits and knock offs to try and take advantage of what has happened.  With forgings, it is difficult to do that.  One of the reasons we began to put genuine on the back of our hosels was so that we could make difficult, the attempt to counterfeit or copy our irons.  We do know there are a couple of companies or individuals manufacturing clubs they say are Miura.  They have an awkward or unusual logo which in no way resembled ours, but in terms of genuine Miura product, there is only one factory and that is the one located in Himeji, Japan. 

2:11 – GolfWRX:  Thank you for clearing that up for us.  Can you describe the design process for Miura clubs?  I know you guys don’t have the extensive design teams of some of the larger OEM’s, but you are still able to produce some beautiful looking clubs that play wonderfully.  How are you guys able to do this?

2:30 – Bill Holowaty:  Again, Mr. Miura has had the benefit of working with top equipment companies over the years, so obviously there is a connection there.  Mr. Miura’s mind, I would say to you is very unique.  We often talk in golf about begin a feel player.  I would say that he is a look and feel designer.  What I mean by that is in working with professionals, you can see him squatting down on his haunches, just outside the ball on the turf and listening for hte sound and watching the ball come off the club face, literally being inches away from the golf ball.  Listening to the sound, observing divots, observing ball flights.  So in this say and age when we look ot modern technology – launch monitors, ball flight monitors, robots – Mr. Miura still relies a great deal on what he sees and what he feels.  Now having said that, one of the advantages of a forged golf club is it’s really impossible to redesign the wheel.  Our Tournament Blade is our Tournament Blade, and out side of some cosmetics, you really aren’t going to be able to reinvent that.  So, there is some small tweaking that goes on, you can change profiles, top lines, and leading edges but the overall design of the club is pretty solid.  You can look at all manufacturers and the shapes of their blades.  We often hear comments, "This reminds me of an old MacGregor, or this reminds me of my old Titleists," and you can see that’s been the case.  I can you the example of Mr. Miura’s old blades he sells in Japan.  It is in fact been in his line in Japan for seven years.  That’s unheard of in terms of having one product and not reintroducing something every year.  Having said that he feels there isn’t much to do to that and it will be in there.  His designing now is changing a little bit.  Again, with his sons involved and certainly a keener and more current eye for design, there is the use of computer and robot at the Miura facility that the sons are championing.  In terms of the actual design, I think it’s very much a connection with tradition and history, understanding how golf clubs have evolved in the past fifty years.  When we understand or know how Mr. Miura has been involved in producing golf clubs for that time, I think you will find he has a very good understanding of all the designs that are out there and has been able to incorporate them into our current one.

6:16 – GolfWRX:  Once you have that design, can you walk us through exactly how they’re manufactured.  I know you said there are 14 steps, so can you give us a brief run-down of what happens once you get the metal?

6:33 – Bill Holowaty:  Step one, you have your billets of steel.  Basically, if you can imagine a little bit larger than a roll of quarters – that is heated up and put into the die.  That becomes literally the shape of the club head.  When I first went to look and travel to Japan to see the process, I was expecting something that was a little bit higher tech than what it originally appeared to be.  But that being said, it has to start somewhere.  So, once it’s heated and struck, it takes the shape of the club head and design.  One of the things that is a little bit unique is recognizing that the dies that are needed to produce the heads is quite an extensive process in itself.  Producing the amount of dies that are needed to produce the heads is a little bit surprising to most because at every step along the way, there has to be a five iron die, six iron die, seven iron die. etc.  Once that original shape is made, the club head is transferred.  Again, it is heated and placed in another die where again, due to a precise force, the metal is again shaped and manipulated.  We suggest on our web site that the third and final strike which is responsible for defining the molecular structure or stabilizing the molecular structure in the head.  Ultimately at this time, there is another strike that produces another smooth, and really makes the club appear it could go to finishing at that stage.  It really does present the extra step, the basis for what eventually will become the best feeling iron we feel in the industry.  Just prior to that, the process begins with keeping a really tight eye on tolerances with that club.  All along the fourteen steps with that club, the tolerances are continually measured to maintain the tolerances along the way.  As you move along with initial grinding of the faces and taking off the rough edges prior to getting to the finishing side, they have to maintain their head weights along the way.  That eventually results in Miura having the tightest tolerances in the industry at plus or minus half a gram.  It starts early in the process.  You may find that club head has to lose – depending on the model and depending on the finish – a number of grams of head weight.  Each step along the way, those tolerances are maintained.  You can step in before scoring lines are pressed into the club face and measure the head weights of all those clubs and find that they are going to be within plus or minus half a gram, even at that early process.  Once the name and score lines are pressed into the head, it comes time again to put the hosel onto the club.  Again, the reason Mr. Miura does this is to get the grain structure to the tightness he felt his clubs deserved.  The other component was to produce a hosel that was absolutely perfect.  he felt along the way that had a lot to do with how his club was going to perform, or how his club was going to play.  I think in many respects that is the most fascinating part of the whole Miura process.  When the hosel is spun weld onto the club head.  Each one of the hosels starts out as a small cylinder.  Each one is milled and pre-drilled using a CNC milling machine so the hosel itself is drilled to an exact and precise depth.  Every one is identical, every weight is identical.  You can be sure that the hosel is dead center and again as i mention to the exact depth.  So when everyone is attached to the hosel, the spin welding process there are no material is added.  It is done by friction on a proprietary piece of machinery Mr. Miura has designed.  The club head is held in place in the die.  The club head is held in place in another die.  The hosel is brought to the club head by high RPM’s and is held in place by high friction and heat.  We are sure the hosel is attached at a precise angle.  The loft we are sure is consistent on every one that comes off the production.  You can be sure again the tolerance for weight is very tight.  It is a very unique process, that part of it is probably the most labor intensive and takes the longest in the production process.  People often ask how many clubs can be produced in the Miura factory in a day, in a week, in a month, in a year – really you’re only as fast as the most labor intensive or slowest part of the process.  That is the part of the process that takes the most time.

Again, if I could just summarize, the two piece hosel with head first and foremost ensures the hosel is exactly centered.  That’s very important to have the shaft in the exact middle in order to deliver the type of performance the golfer deserves.  Forging the head separately allows the grain structure to be the tightest in the industry.  It allows for a more consistent strike and specific heat to be applied.  During that process, if you weren’t to do it, you would really have to take care of the hosel.  Ultimately, that would cause, Mr. Miura believes, that hosel to become a little bit weaker.  That’s why using a two piece system as he does, the hosel is stronger and ultimately that will make a stronger club.  Finally, attaching the hosel allows for really specific loft, lie and offset.  For those three things to be consistent and precise at that point in the manufacturing process means that at the end of the process and finishing process you basically deliver a club head that is as perfect as can be.  Whether you buy a seven iron from a dealer in California, or a seven iron two years later from a dealer in Florida, the weight of those heads, the hosel depth on those heads, the offset of those heads, the lie of those heads, assuming they both came off standard would be identical.  That’s pretty uniqueto have the confidence to say a seven iron is a seven iron is a seven iron no matter where or when you purchase it.  That part of the process again is the most labor intensive and takes the most time.  Grinders then take over.  They’re making the final adjustments to the weight, finish, and design using polishing techniques they’ve honed over the years.  There is an interesting process that again is unique to the Miura factory.  There is a machine called the profiler Mr. Miura has developed that ensures the toe profile on every club is consistent and is as close to identical as you cant get.  I think sometimes we forget that forged clubs are hand made clubs in the literal sense of the word, the finishing of the clubs is done by hand – there is a human element to every club.  As tight as the Miura processes are along the way, you’re only as good as the guys who are grinding the clubs.  Mr. Miura has developed a unique setup for the grinders.  You’ll see some factory grinders will be standing up.  The master grinders Mr. Miura has  sit down when they’re grinding.  He has a technique where they rest the clubs on their knees.  He believed a long time ago when he was doing it another way, once the grinders got tired while grinding with their arms, their technique suffered and the consistency wasn’t there.  It’s an old school mentality, but because there’s a human element involved, he wanted to take the chances for all variables out of it.  The grinding process is the final – as I said grinding design and adjustments to weight.  Mr. Miura believed a golfer could feel the difference in a club weight as small as one gram.  So the ability to keep the weight tolerances in the process just made sure he was going to the best possible club.  The polishing process is next.  One of the things that can’t be done by hand is perfect polishing.  He uses a polishing barrel like most companies.  This is done by different techniques including vibration, centrifugal, and dry barrel polishing.  Those are pretty consistent and Mr. Miura will often receive comments about the look of his clubs.  Miura satin finish appears to be something special – again, it starts with the forging process, but the finishing helps.  To help give what Mr. Miura feels is a perfect feel, he uses nickel chrome, or W nickel which is satin plating on the face of the club and the finish of the rest of the club.  Copper is added to the club.  Mr. Miura has a proprietary plating technique and that has resulted in the ability to produce a raw face in some of our older models.  It may show itself again.  We hae a wedge that’s a grindable wedge that comes out a little heavier when it’s  produced.  It allows custom club fitters to put a special grind on the club.  It can be done in a totally raw state because of the consistency of the Miura finsih.  That’s something that may show itself a little more in the future, but right now we only have the wedge offering.  The club is then masked and taped in the sandblasting process.  That’s where grit is blasted into the face to help give it a little bit of additional gripping action on the ball.  One of the unique sides of this is you can often find Mrs. Miura in the finishing room taping off heads pre-sandblast.  That in itself is pretty amazing, you really get a feel for the family business side of it.   Mr. Miura would tell the story that early on Mrs. Miura would walk into the finishing room and go through clubs that were destined for stores or individuals and pick out the ones she felt were not up to standard and go back to Mr. Miura and say, "You can’t send these out."  He tells the story that many years he gave up trying to argue with her and worry about what was or wasn’t acceptable, he just changed the system so everything has to be perfect and everyone bought into that.  Finally, if I’m right, color and final painting is added to finish off the club, making sure there are no imperfections in the club.  That being the case they’re then ready to be assembled.

 

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4 Comments

4 Comments

  1. Alberto M Lozoya

    Mar 11, 2008 at 4:58 pm

    I’ve spoken to Bob on the phone about when the new left handed blades will come out. He was very helpful and informative. I just can’t wait to order my first set of Miura’s. Keep up the great job.

  2. Greg (clnconcpts)

    Nov 4, 2007 at 10:35 pm

    Being an owner of miura irons,this was an awsome article for me to read.Also being a lefty golfer and knowing how hard it is to find a good set of irons to play,this are the best..I am on my second set of miura blades due to wearing the face out on my previous set.These by far are the best blades avil on the market today..Nothing will ever replace these except another set of miura’s..Thanks for the best set of irons, i have ever owned..

  3. Rob (rankoutsider)

    Nov 1, 2007 at 12:15 pm

    i’ve spoken to Bill a couple of times on the phone about the left handed blades. you won’t find a more genuine and helpful person anywhere. he is simply a fantastic guy.

  4. Claus

    Oct 29, 2007 at 4:01 am

    Great ! Looking forward to part 2 Kiran ūüôā

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Whats in the Bag

Wyndham Clark WITB 2021 (May)

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Driver: PXG 0811 X+ Proto (10.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana TB 60 X

3-wood: PXG 0341 X Gen4

Irons: PXG 0311 T Gen3 (3-5), PXG 0311 ST Gen4 (6-9)
Shafts: Nippon Modus3 130X

Wedges: PXG 0311 Sugar Daddy (46, 52, 56, 60)
Shafts: Nippon Modus3 130X

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #7
Shaft: Stroke Lab Red

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord

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At GolfWRX, we love golf, plain and simple.

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To check out the full listing in our BST forum, head through the link: TaylorMade MySpider Tour red slant putter.

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In our forums, our members have been discussing older hybrids. WRXer ‘Collegefbfan’ is on the hunt for a hybrid and also wants to know how WRXers decide on which hybrid to replace which iron, saying:

“So, any older used hybrids that do a great job (not breaking the bank $100 or less per hybrid)? Does a beginner golfer usually replace the 2, 3, and/or 4 iron with a 2, 3, and/or 4 hybrid? Or does one around the middle of those usually do the trick?”

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Entire Thread: “What GolfWRXers are saying about the best hybrids for under $100”

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