|When Retief Goosen won the 2001 U.S. Open, he was swinging ions forged by
Katsuhiro Miura, a craftsman from Himeji, Japan, the home of the ancient art of
samurai sword making. Miura, 64, had also made the irons that Ian Woosnam played
to win the 1991 Masters, and the ones used by JoseMaria Olazabal three years
later in his first victory at Augusta National. None of their tour bags bore the
Miura name, but the manufacturers paying the players to use their clubs had
commissioned Miura to give them that extra edge.
Miura has been making dubs for 47 years, and his
company, Miura Giken, manufactures its own clubs in Japan, which are sold in
North America Miura. (A set of custom fitted irons starts at $1,900). With his sons Shinei and
Yoshitaka, both master craftsmen themselves, Miura remains intimately involved
in every detail - he still sits in the number 1 chair on the grinding line.
If few golfers are aware of his company it's
only because Miura doesn't sponsor any tour professionals. As Bill Holowaty,
Miura's Vancouver-based vice-president, puts it, "Mr. Miura believes that the
good players will find him." When Tiger Woods was playing Titleist clubs, the
company called on Miura to make limited-edition irons. Titleist brought its own
dies and design; Miura's contribution was his 14-step manufacturing process.
A Miura club head begins as a cylindrical stick
of steel, heated to 1200 C. It's then struck with a forging hammer to create the
rough, round shape. Miura next trims the edges and strikes the head second,
further refining the shape and removing excess metal. At this point, most
manufacturers begin to generate the final product, but Miura initiates a third
forging to create a tighter molecular structure, or -grain flow," in the metal.
Miura is known for his elegant muscle back
irons. The majority of amateurs play cavity backs-so-called because of the
hollow behind the clubface-which are purportedly mare forgiving to off-center
hits. But most tour pros believe there's nothing like the buttery feel of a ball
hit with a muscle back (where most of the mass, or muscle, sits behind the club
Woods plays Nike blades (as they're often called
because they look like knives or, for that mater, swords), and says there's
little or no sensation of impact when the clubface collides with the ball. Some
tour pros also find it easier to "work" the ball with muscle backs - to hit a
greater variety of shots and exert more control over the flight of the ball.
Davis Love III, who plays with Titleist muscle backs, says, "You get a better
feel, and you can keep the ball down.
Miura makes both types of clubs, but his heart is in the
muscle. He is convinced that amateurs won't suffer if they set their cavity
backs aside. "The image I have of the club head is not only of it hitting the
ball," he says, "but the feel of it hitting the ball. This is what I think about
all the time. How can I improve the club head so that it will be as efficient as