Miura Golf - A Different Type Of Golf Company
Not unlike most golfers, I've heard the legend of Miura irons and wedges for a while now. I've seen pictures in magazines. I'd heard about Mr. Miura and his "Hands of God". I'd read more than a couple reviews from golfers actually fortunate enough to try a set for themselves. I visited their website countless times, and found myself drooling over some of the prettiest forged heads I've ever seen. Despite all of that, like most of you, I'd never actually seen a set in the wild. Hell, I talked to countless golfers, a handful or pros, and random guys at the office, and even those who were familiar with Miura name had never actually tried a set for themselves.
I was basically resolved to admiring Miura beauty from a far, well, that is until I got an email from the boss asking if I'd be willing to work with someone from Miura to custom fit me for a set of their new CB-501 irons. Needless to say, it didn't take long for me to respond with something the lines of "yeah, I suppose". Actually, I think the response was more of an OH HELL YEAH!
As you may have already figured out, this isn't one of our "ULTIMATE Reviews". While we love providing you with objective, data-driven reviews, the entire premise of that system is based on testing "off-the-rack" equipment. The thing is, apart from a few sets sold at Golftown in Canada, there's really no such thing as off the rack Miuras. The overwhelming majority of Miura orders are for 100% custom fit clubs. The clubs I'm reviewing today were 100% custom fit for me, and realistically aren't a good fit for a substantial portion of the golfing population, let alone our normal pool of MyGolfSpy testers.
The Fitting Process
A normal Miura fitting will often take several hours. The Miura custom club fitter will have you try a variety of head and shaft combinations until you find the combination that suits both your eye and your swing. Unfortunately, I don't have a custom Miura fitter in close proximity, so we had to come up with other ways to find that ideal combination for me. I had been custom fit for length for lie and loft before, but to be doubly sure I had the right specs, I worked with Kent Tarkleson from Tark's Indoor Golf to verify that the information from my previous fitting was still good. Sadly, it was. I'm still 100% standard for both. How boring is that?
Next, I paid a visit to the outstanding pro shop at Northway 8 golf. Fortunately, when I explained exactly what it was doing (getting fit for Miuras, and not buying Mizunos), the knowledgeable staff was willing to let me take a few swings with the Mizuno Shaft Optimizer so I could zero in on the best shaft for my swing (quick tempo, less than smooth transition). With a little luck we'll have a full review of the Mizuno system in the not-so-distant future, but for now, the important thing to know is that the Shaft Optimizer spat out a top recommendation of KBS Tour shafts, X-stiff, soft stepped. For those of you curious about such things, the shaft optimizer also recommended both Project X 6.0 and Dynamic Gold X-100 soft stepped as the 2nd and 3rd options respectively. Being almost as curious about KBS shafts as I was Miura irons, I went with the 1st recommendation. Who am I to argue with a computer?
Finally, I spent about a half hour on the phone with Bill Holowaty, Vice President of Operations for Miura Golf North America. While the plan all along was to review the new CB-501 irons, Bill made it clear that he'd be happy to build me a set of whatever Miura iron I'd like, but first he wanted to make sure that whatever setup I chose was a good fit for me.
Generally there are two schools of thought when it comes to choosing the proper iron. There are guys like Eidolon's Terry Kohler (who not only believe that anyone can play musclebacks and blades; he has actually been known to recommend it). And then, well, there's almost everybody else; those guys who think musclebacks and blades should be the exclusive domain of guys with low single digit handicaps. Me, I'm with Terry (mostly because I'm not a low handicap player, but I sure do love me a blade). What I couldn't have guessed is what side of the debate Mr. Holowaty would come down on.
Conventional wisdom being what it is, I was mentally preparing to talk my way into the CB-501's (despite my occasional battle with a snowman), but thankfully; despite my actual ability, it never came to that. Bill never asked me about my handicap. He didn't ask what my driver swing speed is, or how far I hit my 7-iron. Instead, his question was painfully simple, "What suites your eye?". Seriously. With the other specs out of the way, that was his only question. Revolutionary stuff, right?
I explained to Bill how I'd moved from a set of Callaway X-20s Tours to Mizuno MP-52s because I discovered I could hit them every bit as well, they offered better feel, and quite frankly, I just prefer the looks of a smaller head to a bulbous cavity back. That was plenty good enough for him to feel comfortable putting me in the CB-501 (I'd be lying if I said I didn't contemplate asking him to put me in a True Blade, but I figured it was best not to push it). It seems the Miura philosophy is simple; whether it's a cavity back, a muscle back, or a blade, a properly fit Miura will benefit golfers of all skill levels. What matters is that the club suite your eye. I couldn't agree more. (Look for Miura Club Fitters Near You)
About the Miura CB-501
Here are the full specs of what I received:
- Miura CB-501 irons (3-pw)
- KBS Tour X-Stiff shafts (soft stepped)
- Lamkin Crossline Grips (still my favorite)
I won't rehash everything there is to say about the CB-501 iron. It's been covered in numerous forums and blog posts. What I will share is this one snippet from the original press release which best sums up the design of the CB-501.
Mr. Miura’s goal was to create an iron that featured the ideal ball flight, enough offset to promote playability, the perfect head size and a sole grind that would accommodate a broad range of players.
He started with a full cavity back that possessed a bit more offset than the company’s CB-202, which has almost no offset. Mr. Miura worked on the sole grind until he had something that would not only appeal to a Tour player, but also was forgiving enough for a mid-handicap golfer. At that stage, the ball flight was still not what Mr. Miura envisioned, so he borrowed a design feature from the company’s past—the sweet-spot muscle-back, which was used in a very different Miura iron, the CB-1003, back in 1996.
In all, Mr. Miura spent two years integrating these design variables in different ways until he found the blend that worked best for the widest range of golfers. The result is the CB-501—a cavity-back iron featuring a small muscle-back located behind the sweet spot that delivers the trajectory of a blade iron when the ball is struck on the center of the face. This style of iron also offers cavity-back forgiveness and ball flight, as the contact point moves away from the center of the face.
For loft and lie, the Miura CB-501s we received were spot on. To say they were within our tolerances would be an understatement. Everything was 100% as it should be. Perfect. Just perfect.
For Swingweight, MyGolfSpy's internal tolerances are 1/2 of 1 swingweight. Once again, each iron in our set of Miura CB-501s tested within tolerances.
Normally we'd include a frequency chart here, but because of how Miura irons are normally purchased and assembled we've decided it's not applicable to our set. Unlike larger OEMs where clubs are assembled at the factory, the vast majority of Miura irons are assembled by the Miura custom fitter. In short, if you work with a knowledgeable and skilled fitter, you can expect that your Miuras, regardless of which shafts you choose, will plot out damn near perfect on a frequency chart .
I'm basically a blade guy, at the very least a muscleback guy. Cavity backs haven't' suited my eyes in years, and while I suppose you can make the case that the CB-501s are cavity backs, they're definitely not what I normally think of when I think cavity back. To my eyes, the CB-501s are pure muscleback with a smidgen of blade tossed in for good measure.
The topline is relatively thin (thinner than my MP-52s), the sole is narrower, and the head is smaller. In every respect but one, the CB-501 looks like a so-called players iron. The only aspect of the CB-501 design that doesn't scream "You're not good enough to hit me" is the comparatively higher amount of offset. It's not tremendous, but it's more than one might expect from a club that looks and plays like the 501.
Esthetically, the design is exactly what you'd expect from Miura. Whether you call it traditional, understated, or simply classic, you won't find anything flashy - no splashes of color, no racing inspired graphics. Instead, the Miuras quietly whisper refinement and sophistication - and that's beautiful.
My Looks Grade: A
Ahh feel. The most subjective of subjective qualities. Fortunately I've got an assortment of irons to test for comparative feel. I hit a number of irons head to head with the Miura CB-501's . They included samplings from Maltby, KZG, Titleist, Callaway, Ping, and of course my Mizuno MP-52s. After pairing it down, it probably won't come as any surprise that the MP-52s and the CB-501s were the last irons standing. When struck on the sweet spot both feel equally as good. Miss by a little bit, and I give the edge to my MP-52s. In the interest of full disclosure, this wasn't a true apples to apples comparison. My Mizuno's are outfitted with Project X 5.5 shafts. The stiffer KBS Tour (probably closer to a project X 6.0) could account for the slightly less buttery feel. Of course, myself and just about anyone else who has ever played a forged Mizuno will tell you the feel of Mizzy irons is among the very best. While I'd certainly listen to arguments to the contrary, I give a slight edge to Miura.
My Feel Grade: A
I've said it before and I'll say it again. Distance (to me anyway) is largely inconsequential when evaluating irons. I figure there's probably a pretty good reason why we carry 6 to 8 different ones. Chances are if you do find a set of irons that actually does allow you to hit the ball 15 yards farther, you're going to open up some awkward distance gaps on one end of your set or the other. With that in mind, I refuse to place a grade on iron distance.
Anecdotally, I do hit the Miura CB-501s about a half club longer (verified on the launch monitor), but my suspicion is that any gains have more to do with the KBS shafts than the Miura heads . Score one for the benefits of custom fitting and move on. Of course I'm also carrying a 4-iron (and occasionally a 3 iron) more often than I have previously.
The CB-501s are the most accurate iron I've ever gamed. On the simulators my dispersion pattern is tighter than it is with my MP-52s. Once again, the shaft has to be factored into the equation, but I also can't ignore the fact that the 3 best rounds of golf I've played this year have come with the CB-501s in the bag (although I also won't discount the impact that not hitting houses with my driver has on my score either). In addition to the shaft, I suspect that the increased offset is also a factor.
I have always been a high ball hitter. Sure, it has its benefits. A high ball lands soft, really soft. But a high ball also gets caught up in the wind, and in some cases damn near blows back in your face. For the first time in my life, I'm hitting irons with a lower, more boring trajectory. Again, my suspicion is that this is phenomenon is at best equal parts the Miura CB-501 heads and a properly-fitted shaft, but regardless I'm mostly enjoying the benefits of the lower ball flight. It's absolutely awesome to be able to finally chase a ball up on a green with something other than a fairway wood. Of course, on those occasions where the ball has rolled off the back, I've been less enthused, but overall, I'm happy with the results.
As subjective as feel is, nothing can touch "forgiveness" as far as ambiguity is concerned. Quite frankly I'm not always sure what the OEMs are talking about when they discuss the forgiveness of their clubs. I'm not much for MOI numbers myself, instead, I simply define forgiveness as how much the club lets me get away with (how badly can I hit the ball and still achieve a good result).
As a consumer, demo day adventurer, and golf club reviewer I have tested hundreds of clubs over the last several years. In that time I have seen iron forgiveness improve dramatically, but most often at the expense of feel and feedback. Occasionally a club really impresses me, but never more than I have been by the Miura CB-501s. As a guy who doesn't always hit the sweet spot, I provide myself ample, albeit accidental, opportunities to test forgiveness. Nothing (cavity backs included) I've ever hit can touch the Miura CB-501s ability to maintain distance on less than perfectly struck balls. More impressive still, they do it without compromising feel or feedback. They are, in a word, astonishing.
Here's what I'm talking about. The 15th on my home course is a long, narrow par 5. Known as "Long John" red stakes run down the right side, and white stakes flank the left. In most cases I'm able to keep the ball in play off the tee, but I habitually hit my 2nd into the right-side hazard (it's a mental thing). That's exactly how I played the hole during the 2nd round of a recent tournament where I had the CB-501s in my bag. Like a good boy, I measured my two club lengths took my drop, and then took a measurement with my rangefinder. I had 193 to the pin, which for me is a dangerous tweener distance between my 4 and 5 irons. On #15, short is better than long, so I grabbed the 5-iron, took an ok swing, but caught more of the turf than I would have liked, and hit the ball a wee bit heavy and a bit towards the toe. It wasn't until my partner interrupted my cursing fit to ask me what was wrong with my shot that I noticed that the result wasn't going to be half bad. As I watched my ball land just a few yards short of the green and then roll to within four feet, I responded, "umm, nothing, I guess". Yeah...I missed the putt, but there's not a doubt in my mind that if I hit that same shot with any other iron I've ever carried, I'm 10-15 yards short of the green. Again...astonishing.
My Performance Grade: A+ (but only because nothing comes before A)
What Others Had To Say
Since the CB-501s were custom built for me, and not the standard off-the-rack models we normally test, collecting data from a bunch of ill-fit golfers didn't seem like the prudent way to handle the Miura CB-501s . Instead, I put the Miura's in the hands of golfers who were in to test other clubs, and asked them for some really brief feedback. In what has become a recurring theme during our tests, price was an issue with a couple of golfers who think $1500 is too much to spend on a set of irons. I actually had one guy hand the club back to me without taking a swing. I got the impression that he was afraid I was setting him up for some sort of "you break it, you bought it scenario".
To my surprise, however; I did have one tester comment that based on feel (and to a lesser degree distance), the Miura CB-501s are "worth every penny". To a man, everyone who swung the clubs loved the look (I think one guy actually drooled on them), but as you might expect, an X-stiff shaft (even a soft stepped one) isn't for everyone. Not everyone was keen on the feel, although the feedback I heard was focused more on weight of the shafts (too heavy) rather than the feel of the head itself. While generally speaking, I don't notice the weight of the shafts for the duration of a round of golf, after hitting a couple of hundred balls on the range...yeah...I start to notice it. If you are concerned about shaft weight, Miura offers a wealth of shaft options, so you'll have no problem finding the right shaft for your swing.
Let's get the ugly part out of the way right now; yeah, at $1500, a set of Miura irons is likely the most expensive set of clubs you'll encounter this side of Honma. If price is the single biggest factor in your decision making process, I'll willingly accept that Miuras simply aren't for you. No hard feelings. If however, you place a premium on performance, quality and craftsmanship, a set of forged Miura irons might be just what you're looking for. If nothing else, one should certainly appreciate the Miura tradition. In a marketplace dominated by corporate golf juggernauts, its refreshing that a family run business like Miura; where Mr. Miura still has a seat at the grinding wheel, his two sons run the forging and finishing operations, and where even Mrs. Miura sometimes helps prepare the heads for sandblasting, can survive and even thrive on playing field dominated by million dollar marketing budgets. I think most golfers appreciate it when the product comes first.
As I was writing this review, I was somewhat leery of the overall tone. At MyGolfSpy we try and remain as objective as we possibly can (take the good and the bad, and let the scores fall where they may), but I will admit to feeling a bit like a Miura fanboy as I wrote this up. I will make no apologies for that. We look at a lot of product. Some bad, mostly good, and every now and again, something really special. The Miura CB-501 irons most definitely fall into the special category. Whether or not they're worth $500+ more than other premium forged irons on the market today is a personal decision, but on performance, quality, and even elegance (a word not tossed around much in golf circles), the CB-501s are tough to beat. My launch numbers say as much, and more importantly, so does the tournament win I collected this weekend with a bag full of Miura's.
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