Japanese craftsmen apply the same level of dedication and skill to making bespoke golf clubs as their ancestors used when crafting katanas. The ancient tradition of the Japanese blacksmith, with knowledge of how to work steel passed down from generation to generation, has been poured into some of the world’s most desirable golf clubs.
Here’s the RSNG buyers’ guide to some of the brands and manufacturing techniques used to craft these modern works of art…
1. The Japanese Take Craftsmanship Seriously Japan has a long-standing reputation for creating a superior standard of golf club, largely down to its long tradition of Blacksmiths, whose knowledge and experience in working with steel has been passed down from generation to generation.
This tradition is represented by ‘Takumi’ which is also the own brand name of one of Japan’s most famous golf club forges, Kyoei Golf, which has produced prototypes and exclusive series for many big golf club manufacturers. In Japan, ‘Takumi’ refers to the artisans who work to master their craft with 60,000 hours of dedication and continuous improvement, or ‘kaizen’.
The production of a Takumi Japan club, mostly made by hand, up to 80 individual process steps are necessary, most of which can only be carried out by the Takumi.
2. Don’t Expect Radical New Launches Japanese golf club manufacture is all about continual refinement, so you will rarely see entirely new ranges being released from independent manufacturers. Their products have evolved and shaped through generations of craftsmanship – the same set of irons won’t change because they don’t need to.
For example, one of Takumi Japan’s classic muscle backs was originally designed in 1969. This 50-year-old model is still the same today because it doesn’t need to be updated. That said, we can expect different variations and shafts to come through this year and the likes of Makino are launching a new cavity backed iron.
Ichii-Ittobori is a grinding technique that was previously used on samurai swords
3. Ichii-Ittobori Is An Ancient Sword Making Technique The unique grinding technique, previously used to make katanas in the ancient world, is now being applied to golf clubs. Ichii-Ittobori is a grinding technique that was previously used on swords. The coarse grinding technique removes a lot of material within a very short time, which means that the base material is heated up less and thus the hardness is not changed much. As a result, the club feels softer at the moment of impact. In addition, the patented Itobori technique gives an incomparable appearance and improves the interaction with the ground (turf interaction) in the swing.
4. The Genrei Technique Is A Mayuki Takai Golf Special The Ginrei technique is a specialty of Mayuki Takai, and also comes from traditional sword and knife forging. The material is cold forged and compressed again by a forging hammer prior to coating, for a distinctive aesthetic. The standard lofts and lies can be changed individually immediately after forging and before the clubs are finished, for a truly individual fit. Mayuki Takai started out as a pro golfer before founding MTG.
Golf is a sport of the mind and your club is nothing more than a tool – if a club is blinding one's senses, that is no longer golf
5. The Ice Blast Finish Brings Matt To Chrome Makino has invented a unique ice blast coating to cut reflection and distracting glare from club heads. Once the clubs are chrome plated, a further process involving extreme cold creates a matt silver chrome layer. As Makino’s founder said: “Don’t let the clubs take over your golf… Golf is a sport of the mind and your club is nothing more than a tool. If a club is blinding one's senses, that is no longer golf."
6. Five Of The Best Japanese Golf Club Manufacturers
Yamada – One of Japan’s most legendary putter craftsmen is Tohru Yamada. He has spent forty years creating more than 250 types of putter, and the current line up has 10-15 putters, all varying in balance and weight, so every golfer can find their perfect match.
Takumi Japan – From the sketch to the finished club head every stage of manufacture is under one roof at the Kyoei Golf forge in Ichikawa, the spiritual home of forged golf clubs in Japan. Its classic designs can all be changed for loft and lie.
Makino Golf – as well as its Ice Blast finish, this maker has released a limited edition copper-plated putter hand-crafted by the renowned Iuichi Yukio with traditional tsuchime details hammered into the metal.
Team Yoshimura – focuses on long fairway woods and drivers, but game improvement irons and traditional golf club designs are also developed and produced for a wide audience. Team Yoshimura also works with non-Japanese manufacturers in Korea.
CGS Orion - Founded in 2015 by Koji Uesugi, who previously worked for a well-known golf club manufacturer for many years. CGS Orion combines the artisan skills of two prefectures and offers a high degree of bespoke customisations, especially for the wedges. This includes stamping and embossing, different coatings, and surface treatments.
WHAT NEXT? Watch renowned putter Iuichi Yukio discussing the birth of golf club forging in Japan...
For more on where to buy Japanese golf clubs visit Dragon Golf.
Photos Dragon Golf UK