500 wins: Mitsubishi Chemical’s history of tour success, innovation
Mitsubishi, broadly, is one of the most recognizable brands in the world, owing largely to the visibility Mitsubishi Motors. Golf gearheads, however, are just as familiar with Mitsubishi Chemical, makers of some of the most popular golf shafts at both amateur and professional levels.
With respect to the latter, Mitsubishi’s history is impressive: More winning driver shafts than any other brand for 16 of the past 17 years on the PGA Tour—and the past seven years straight on the European Tour. Indeed, Mitsubishi Diamana models also have more than 270 wins and Tensei has 80. Kuro Kage and Fubuki, names well known to GolfWRXers and often seen in tour WITBs over the years, have more than 80 wins combined.
With win totals this high across multiple shaft families, it shouldn’t be surprising to hear a Mitsubishi driver shaft was played for the 500th time in a win on a major professional tour.
A little more about the makers of the Diamana DF gamed in victory number 500. In the golf equipment world, you’ll often see Mitsubishi designated “MCA.” Perhaps puzzling to the carbon fiber and kick point neophyte, “MCA” merely stands for Mitsubishi Chemical America. As a sidebar, many GolfWRXers familiar with “MCA” think it denotes the combined companies of Mitsubishi Chemical and Aldila — both venerable shaft houses in their own right — as Mitsubishi acquired Aldila in 2013, but isn’t the case.
With respect to Mitsubishi proper, the Japanese company established a carbon fiber division way back in 1974. In other words, the company, broadly, has been active in the space since, well, it was a space to be active in. Mitsubishi began making carbon shafts in 1979, doing so for decades for its domestic OEM partners in Japan.
It wasn’t until 2004, however, that Mitsubishi Rayon Composites, Inc. proper hung a shingle in Carlsbad, California, to begin developing its own branded products for sale to the aftermarket to satisfy the graphite boom.
The first solo Mitsubishi win (non co-branded shaft) came in July of 2004 at the European Open, and it was also the first victory for the Diamana.
In any industry where innovation and improvement are expected with each product iteration and where new materials are being developed all the time, it’s difficult to pinpoint inflection points and key technologies.
Nevertheless, we asked Mark Gunther, MCA’s Vice President of Sales & Marketing, to highlight a few touchstone innovations and how they informed future shaft developments.
Gunther told us the decision to use metal wire in the butt section of the Diamana Ali’Islei shaft in 2008 led to the development of the TiNi Wire prepreg (the sheets of carbon fiber and resin that are rolled together into golf shafts), which featured in the Kuro Kage line. That technology eventually begat the 304 Stainless Steel Metal Mesh, which is the centerpiece of the popular MMT (Metal Mesh Technology) iron shafts, which debuted in 2019.
Additionally, Gunther highlighted the use of pitch fiber in Diamana X shafts in 2012. Shortly after Mitsubishi merged its pitch fiber production with, at the time, Mitsubishi Rayon’s carbon fiber division to form one business unit, pitch fiber was used for the first time in an $800 Mitsubishi shaft. This led to the use of pitch fiber in the third generation of the Diamana series, and later, the popular Aldila Rogue series. It continues to be the platform for innovation in MCA pitch fiber today.
Mitsubishi has leveraged the GEARS full swing and body tracking system as a secondary testing process after running products through internal testing protocols. MMT (Metal Mesh Technology) shafts were validated via GEARS prior to PGA Tour seeding and rapid adoption by many of the game’s best.
With these innovations as a bedrock — and 500 professional wins under their belts — looking to the future, Gunther says
“There’s every reason to be excited about the future. We’ve built a very talented team that covers tours and golfers globally, we continue to create breakthrough technologies and materials that you’ve seen in Tensei Pro White 1K and in things you’ll see soon like Kai’li and Ascent, and we’re more committed than ever to validating the performance of our products through testing systems like GEARS. Whenever it’s possible to turn over a stone to help golfers shoot lower scores, we’re going to explore it.”
No doubt those explorations — and foundational shaft families like Diamana and Tensei — will have Mitsubishi’s win tally ticking toward 600 faster than, say, a Mitsubishi Lancer EVO GSR.
Spotted: Luke Donald’s new Odyssey Versa 12 CS putter
Luke Donald has been using a center-shafted Odyssey #7 putter for a very, very long time. Recently Luke decided that he wanted to change it up and try some new putters, according to Joe Toulon, Callaway’s PGA Tour manager.
The new putter is an Odyssey Versa Twelve CS mallet, center-shafted, of course. Odyssey’s Versa high contrast alignment system debuted in 2013 and brought back this year with a full line of head shapes. The Twelve CS is a high MOI mallet with a raised center section and “wings” on the sides. The head is finished in black and then a large white rectangle runs down the center of the putter to aid in aligning the putter towards the target. There is also a short site line on the top, right next to where the shaft attached to the head.
Odyssey’s famous White Hot insert is a two-part urethane formula that offers a soft feel and consistent distance control. The sole features two weights that are interchangeable to dial in the desired head weight and feel. The Versa Twelve CS usually comes with Odyssey’s Stroke Lab counterbalanced graphite shaft but Luke looks to have gone with a traditional steel shaft and a Super Stroke Claw 2.0 Zenergy grip in Red and White.
Our own Andrew Tursky asked Joe Toulon about the type of player who gravitates towards a center-shafted putter:
“Since it’s easy to manipulate the face angle with something center shafted, probably someone with good hands. If you’re a good chipper you may like the face control that a center shafted putter offers.”
Check out more photos of the Odyssey Versa Twelve CS Putter.
7 takeaways from an AWESOME equipment talk with Padraig Harrington
Fans of golf equipment have long known that Padraig Harrington is one of us. Throughout his career, Harrington has been willing to test new products, make changes from week to week, and play with a bag of mixed equipment brands.
What equipment fans may not know, however, is just how brilliant of an equipment mind Harrington truly has.
Ahead of the 2023 Valero Texas Open, I caught up with Harrington to pick his brain about what clubs are currently in his bag, and why. The conversation turned into Harrington discussing topics such as the broader equipment landscape, brand deals in 2023, his driver testing process, why he still uses a TaylorMade ZTP wedge from 2008, square grooves vs. V-grooves, and using a knockoff set of Ping Eye 1 irons as a junior.
Padraig Harrington’s 2023 WITB
Below are my 7 major takeaways from the extensive gear talk with Harrington.
1) Padraig’s stance on equipment contracts, and why he prefers Wilson
Harrington is a longtime Wilson staffer, and although he supports the brand and uses their equipment, he doesn’t use a full bag of Wilson clubs. He finds Wilson’s understanding of a player’s need for flexibility to be beneficial to the player, and it’s attracting more and more professional players to the company (such as Kevin Kisner and Trey Mullinax).
“Wilson wants me to play whatever I’m comfortable with. It’s very important. They’re not a manufacturer that says, ‘We want you to play 14 clubs.’ There’s always a club you don’t like. That’s just the way it is. So Wilson is like, ‘We want you playing well and playing the best clubs for you.’
“I am very comfortable with their irons. I’m very comfortable with their wedges, as you can see. They have an old hybrid 4 iron that I love. They have a new hybrid 4-iron that is too powerful. I put it in the bag last week and I had to take it out. The thing is, I use a 4-iron and a 5-wood. My 4-iron has to go somewhat relative to my 5-iron, and then I have to bridge that gap between 4-iron and 5-wood, so it has to do both. The new 4-iron was going 230 yards. My 4-iron goes about 215-235, maybe 240 on a warm day. And my 5-wood is like a warm-day 265 in the air, but I have no problem hitting it 235, so I can cross it over. But this 4-iron, the new version, it just went. I couldn’t hit the 215 shot with it; it’s just too powerful. That’s why I have the old 4-iron in the bag, but it does the job to bridge the gap…
“As players get more money, they’re less dependent on manufacturers. They need the service of a manufacturer – because, like I need to be on that truck and get things checked. But you’re seeing more players see Wilson as an attractive option because you don’t have to use 14 clubs. If you’re not happy this week with the putter; you know, Wilson has the putters, they have everything, but if you want to chase something else for a moment…remember, there’s two things you’re chasing. If you’re a free agent, it’s not good to be changing a lot. That is a distraction. But it’s nice to have the option that if somebody…like I feel Titleist has come out with a great driver. And I’m able to work my way straight into Titleist and say, ‘Hey, gimmie a go with that. Oh, this is a great driver, I’m going to use this.’ Wilson is aware of that. They want their players to be happy and playing well. Like it’s still 10 clubs, but it’s just not 14 and the ball.
“The irons are great, there’s no doubt about that. They’ve won the most majors. They make a gambit of irons. If you want to use a blade, they have the blade. If you want to use my iron, which is just a good tour composite, it has a bit of a cavity-back, you can do that. If you want to use the D irons that have rockets going off there, you can have them. Like the 4 iron, the one they gave me, it was a rocket! And guys are happy to carry driving irons like that, but mine has to match in with the 5-iron. It was just too high and too fast.
“So yeah, I think you’re going to see manufacturers go more of that way. Our players want to be independent, but the problem is that full independence is not great. You don’t want a situation where you’re turning up – as you see kids who make it into their first tournament, and the manufacturers start giving them stuff, and they’re changing. You don’t want to be the guy changing too much.”
2) The dangers of a 64-degree wedge
Although Harrington himself uses a Wilson Staff High Toe 64-degree wedge, he seldom practices with it. Here’s why he warns against it:
“The big key with a 64 wedge is DO NOT use it. No, seriously, do not use it. It’s a terrible wedge for your technique. That club is in the bag and it gets used on the golf course, and it gets used when it’s needed, but you don’t practice with it, because it’s awful. So much loft will get you leading too much, and you’re going to deloft it. Hit one or two shots with it, then put it away. You’re better off practicing with a pitching wedge and adding loft to be a good chipper instead of practicing with a lob wedge and taking loft off. A 64-degree wedge is accentuating that problem. It’s a dangerous club. It does a great job at times, but it certainly can do harm.
“It’s not bad having it in the bag for a certain shot, but it’s a terrible club to practice with. I literally hit one or two full shots with it, a couple chips with it, and that’s it. I know if I spend too long with it, I’ll start de-lofting.”
3) The interchangeable faces on TaylorMade’s ZTP wedges from 2008 were Padraig’s idea?!
I couldn’t believe it myself, but Harrington says that the idea for TaylorMade to offer interchangeable face technology on its ZTP wedges in 2008 was originally his idea…
“The TaylorMade is obviously attracting a lot of attention, but that was my idea! Myself and a consultant for Wilson, I got him to build changeable faces and he sold that to TaylorMade…that’s fully my idea. He sold that then to TaylorMade, and TaylorMade produced them, which I was happy about. But TaylorMade couldn’t sell them. You can’t get people to clean the grooves, so they weren’t going to buy a new face. Why have 400 faces at home? So I went out and bought these faces to make sure I had them for life. And I was home chipping a while ago, and I have a nice 58. I like the grind on that wedge, and the fact I can just replace the face and have a fresh face every three weeks, it’s just easy, so that’s why that’s in there.”
4) Driver testing isn’t all about speed
“The driver companies know I’m a free agent when it comes to drivers, so every time a new driver comes out, they’ll come to me and say, ‘Hey, would you have a look at this?’
“I will test everything, yeah, but it has to beat what I have in the bag. And Wilson’s new driver is the same. They brought out a new driver and it’s great, but I love the driver I’m using. So I say, ‘Look, guys, not only do you have to be as good as the incumbent, you have to be better, because I already know this and I’m familiar with it.’
“Wilson has built a very, very good driver. There’s know doubt about it. But I love the driver I’m using. And none of these manufacturers can build me a driver that’s better.
“Ball speed gets a driver into the conversation, and then you bring it to the golf course. So the driver has to be going as good as my current driver, and then I bring it to the course and see if I can hit the thing straight. I have gone down the road [of prioritizing speed]…I used a driver in 2014, and it never worked weekends. But it was fast. I used it for about six weeks I’d say – six tournaments – and I missed six straight cuts. It never worked the weekend. It was really fast on the range, but it just wasn’t good on the course.”
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5) Playing with knockoff irons as a junior
“I played as a junior for Ireland, under 18’s, and I owned half a set of golf clubs, and they were imitation Ping Eye 1’s. I borrowed the other half set off my brother. We had a half set each. I had the evens, he had the odds. In that tournament, there was a guy playing with Ping Berylliums with graphite shafts. They cost 1,900 pounds. Mine cost 100 pounds, and they were knockoffs. So I played, for my country, with a set of knockoffs. Before I used those knockoff clubs, I used a mixed bag of clubs. As in, I picked up whatever club they had. The 6-iron might go farther than the 5-iron. The 5-iron might go with a fade and the 7-iron might go with a hook, but I knew what my clubs did. Each club had a purpose.”
6) Using square grooves and V-grooves simultaneously
Square grooves – or “box grooves” – were outlawed by the USGA in 2010 because they were said to help golfers spin the ball too much. V grooves are said to provide less of an advantage because they restrict the sharp edges of the grooves, thus reducing the amount of friction imparted on the golf ball. Prior to the rule change, however, Harrington actually used both V grooves and box grooves, and he’d adjust his setup depending on the golf course.
“What’s interesting is, when the box grooves were around – very few people know this – I carried two sets of clubs at all times. I carried a V groove and a box groove.
“Yeah, see, the box grooves were unbelievable out of the rough, spin wise, but if the rough got to a certain level, the ball would come out so low and with spin that it wouldn’t go very far. Your 7-iron coming out of this rough would only go like 140 yards and it wouldn’t get over any trees because it would come out so low. What I was doing was, if I got to a golf course with this sort of a rough, I’d put in a box groove 7-iron and a V-groove 8-iron. If I got in the rough and I had 170 yards, I’d hit an 8 iron and get a flyer, because the 7 iron wouldn’t get there depending on the lie. And I couldn’t get it over things. So if there were trees, you needed the V groove to get over the trees. A box groove wouldn’t get up in the air.
“No one else was doing it. I played with the box groove for a couple years before I realized that in certain rough, you need the V groove to get there. Hale Irwin played a U.S. Open seemingly with no grooves. Off the fairway it’s meant to make no difference. I would disagree, but that’s what the officials would say. But out of the rough you needed the flyers to get to the green. The V grooves were doing that for me. You get your flyer to get of the rough to get the ball there, but then if it was the first cut of rough, or light rough, or Bermuda rough, or chip shots, it would come out so low and spinny that you’d have no problem.
“I can’t believe that people didn’t realize that I was doing this two-groove thing all the time. I swear to you, you could stand here, you would not launch a 7-iron over that fence there if it was box grooves out of light rough, and V groove would launch over it. The launch characteristics were massively different.”
7) Blame the person, not the putter
Interestingly, Harrington, for all his tinkering, has only used a handful of putters. It turns out, there’s a good reason for that — although he’d like his current model to be a few millimeters taller.
“I used a 2-ball when it came out. Then I used a 2-ball blade, which I won my majors with. I always had a hook in my putts, so not long after I won my majors, I went to face-balanced putter because it helps reduce the left-to-right spin. I started putting really badly in 2013 and 2014 – I had some issues. And then come 2016-2017, I just said, look, I putted well with this putter. If I use this putter, I can’t go back and say it’s the putter’s problem. It’s gotta be me. So I went back to the face-balanced 2-ball blade because I’ve had good times with it. I may have only used 5 or 6 putters in my career.
“I’m really happy that I’ve got a putter that I know I’ve putted well with, and I don’t blame the putter. I can’t say that anymore. I don’t blame my tools, I blame myself if I miss a putt. So it comes down to…I know the putter works, then it’s me. Me, me, me.
“You know, I’ve toyed with using other shafts in the putter, and I will look at other putters, but things are askew to me when I look down. So I can’t have a putter with a line on it. It doesn’t look square to the face. I’ve never putted with a putter that has a line on it for that reason. I line up by feel. I know that putter works, I know it suits me, so that’s why I go with that…
“I prefer a deeper putter (a taller face). The one issue I have is I hit the ball too high on the face, but they won’t remodel the whole system to make me a deeper putter. I’ve tried some optical illusions to try and get it where I hit the ball more in the center, but I hit it high. It seems to be going in the hole so I’m not going to worry about it too much. But in an ideal world, if someone came along and said they could make the putter 3-4 millimeters higher, I’d be happy with that.”
See more photos of Padraig Harrington’s 2023 WITB here
TaylorMade survey on ball rollback finds everyday golfers massively against introduction of Model Local Rule
In response to the USGA and R&A’s recent announcement that they plan on rolling back the golf ball for the professional game, TaylorMade Golf issued a survey asking everyday golfers to voice their opinion regarding the topic of golf ball bifurcation. Today, they are sharing the results.
Almost 45,000 golfers across more than 100 countries spanning a variety of ages, abilities and participation levels took the time to complete the survey and have their voice heard, with some of the major findings shown below:
- To the best of your knowledge, do you agree with the proposed golf ball rule?
- 81% No
- 19% Yes
- Do you think average hitting distances in professional golf need to be reduced?
- 77% No
- 23% Yes
- Are you for or against bifurcation in the game of golf (i.e., different rule(s) for professional golfers versus amateurs)?
- 81% Against
- 19% For
- How important is it for you to play with the same equipment professional golfers use?
- 48% Extremely important
- 35% Moderately important
- 17% Not important
- If the proposed golf ball rule were to go into effect, would it have an impact on your interest in professional golf?
- 45% Less interested
- 49% No impact
- 6% More Interested
The results also show that 57 percent of golfers aged 18-34 years old would be less interested in the pro game should the rule come into effect, while five percent said they would be more interested.
“The goal of our survey was to give golfers the opportunity to voice their opinion on this proposed ruling as we absorb the MLR and its potential effects on the everyday golfer. We are grateful that nearly 45,000 golfers across the world felt the need for their voice to be heard. The overwhelming amount of responses show the passion, knowledge and care for the game our audience possesses. Each response and data point is being reviewed as we will utilize this feedback in our preparation to provide a response to the USGA and R&A.” – David Abeles, TaylorMade Golf President & CEO
You can check out the survey results in full here.
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