Honma Golf does things a little differently. Since it's a long-established Japanese brand with relatively modest name-recognition until recently here in the United States, its overseers are proud of the way the company likes to zig when its competitors have zagged.
At a time when many equipment companies have added graphics and made tech features more visible in order to help sell clubs, the 60-year-old Honma has continued to make some of the most traditional-looking clubs on the market. Even XP-1, its new game-improvement line introduced last October, has resisted things like turbulators, two-tone looks and threads of color. There isn't even an alignment aid on the crown of the driver - just smooth, glossy black. The main technology, a new type of sole plate slot that is meant to flex and provide good ball speed on mishits and some fairway-finding extra gear effect, is hidden from view at address. They took a similar approach to their new TR20 driver, which launched at this week's PGA Merchandise Show.
How do Honma's takumi (in-house designer-artisans) get their drivers to look so darn good, even after significant modern changes in driver size and materials? By continuing to make concept heads out of persimmon wood in order to kick off the design process, just as they did when the finished product would also be persimmon. They even source their wood from Mississippi, of all places. It's the finest wood of its kind, evidently, and sparing no expense up front seems to have kept Honma just a little bit different from its peers. We will see whether that story and approach win them a slice of the American club market. If so, they will look great doing it.