Miura CB-501 Irons review
The first time you flush one of Miura's new CB-501 irons, expect the word 'butter' to be inadequate.
Crème brule' works better. The CB-501's are that soft and that sweet.
"Actually, what people describe as soft is really more solid," explains Bill Holowaty, who represents the Japanese company in North America. "The grain structure in our forged steel is the tightest in the industry. It translates to better ball speed."
Most recreational golfers have never heard of Katsuhiro Miura, the company's patriarch, who has masterminded its club designs and forging process for almost fifty years. Mr. Miura is to golf club aficionados what Steve Jobs is to computers. Rumors and photos of his clubs circulate long before the company actually releases them. It's almost a cult status.
Much of Miura's work and achievements remain secretive. Until a few years ago, companies like Taylor Made, Hogan, Titleist, Cleveland, and Nike used Miura's factory and forgings for some of the special irons they gave to touring professionals. To this day, Miura Golf has many clubs on the PGA Tour, but they bear labels of other manufacturers. Without naming names, Miura claims two Masters Championships, one United States Open Championship, one Senior PGA Championship, and twenty-five wins on the Japanese tour.
Hence, the mystique. One could argue that Miura manufactures the finest hand-made and hand-ground irons in the world. The company is about quality, not quantity. In a good year, Miura might sell twenty-thousand sets.
Typical of Miura, word of the CB-501 leaked two years ago. Early rumors pegged it as a forged cavity back with a muscle notch behind the sweet spot, similar to a design from 1996. Those reports proved true, but the prototype evolved after further research and testing.
Today's CB-501 looks like a forged blade at address, with a thin top line and minimal offset. The sole is narrow, but easy-to-square and release through impact. The irons do not dig excessively, due to a softened leading edge. When hit well, the CB-501's fly and feel as good at impact as the company's most pure small blades. And, for a player of average abilities, they perform that way more often.
In short, the CB-501's are bliss.
Miura does not sell sets out of a box or off a rack. Instead, it deals with a small number of certified club fitters, like David Butler of Half Moon Bay, about whom I have written extensively in the past. By now, he is responsible for every club in my bag. When a guy helps you hit the ball longer and straighter as you get older, stick with him.
David uses a TrackMan launch monitor, which analyzes every element of a golf swing, from shaft and club angles, to swing and ball speeds, to spins, descents, and a bunch of esoteric stuff that titillate nerdy mathematicians. Fittings take hours, not minutes.
Butler built my set of CB-501's to a swing weight of D-7 with stiff, Tour Concept shafts by True Temper. But, David balanced the clubs so well that they feel fairly light. Aside from being the most beautiful irons that my buddies or I have ever seen, they are also the sweetest swinging and most efficient.
David's TrackMan numbers with the CB-501's were particularly impressive. Their Smash Factor, or Power Transfer Index, approached the mythical 1.5 on several swings, which is close to perfect, and not easy to achieve. The CB-501's delivered straighter, longer shots with more consistent quality than another set he had built for me with the same shafts, but a different brand of heads, and a well-respected one, at that. I have gained three yards.
In Butler's laboratory, and on the course, the CB-501's provide perfect, but workable trajectories. When you can nut a 6-iron and stop it in six feet on a super-fast green at Pebble Beach, that's impressive. And, believe me, it wasn't the guy who hit it. Miura engineered just enough spin into these irons to hold their lines, but not enough to balloon. I have hit shots with them in blustery conditions when it seemed the wind never moved the ball, at all.
The longer irons surprised me, even more. Miura sells the 3 and 4 irons optionally, and they are very easy to hit. Never, before, has a 4-iron been my favorite club in a bag, but this one stands a chance. It's just plain fun, and almost as reliable as a hybrid.
Miura C Series 1957 Wedges
Miura Yoshitaka Grind, Series 1957 Wedges
In 1987, when violinist Jascha Heifetz died, he willed his famous violin, known as "The David" to the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. He stipulated that it remain in the city, and be played by a worthy musician.
The lucky recipient was San Francisco Symphony concertmaster Alexander Barantschik. "It has an amazing complexity of sound," he said of "The David". "If you were to compare it with a painting, it has hundreds of colors, not fifty. Colors within colors within colors."
Essentially, Barantschik was saying that the violin would allow him to be as good as he could be. That analogy also works for Miura's new C and Y-Grind wedges.
The 51 degree Yoshitaka series, designed by and named for Katsuhiro Miura's son, looks fairly conventional, but with a narrow sole. It serves as a smooth transition club into the more radical, and extremely effective C-Grind wedges, which took some getting-used-to... about 10 minutes.
The C-55 has 12 degrees of measured bounce, and the C-59 has 14 degrees. Like the Y-series, they have very narrow soles, but because Miura ground them with considerable heel relief, a player can manipulate their effective bounce angles. Use the clubs as low bounce wedges from tight lies, or high bounce wedges from fluffy sand or rough. They can be what you want them to be, and will do what you want them to do.
With other brands in the past, I had always used a lob wedge as a specialty club, but not anymore. This C-59/14 has become my most versatile wedge. I use it more, even, than its 55 degree sibling. With this one club, a decent player can flop fifty yard shots from sand, and can hit high or low low-spin knockdowns from around greens.
Miura produces these new wedges with either non-conforming, or the new conforming grooves. I chose the former, and am able to achieve eye-popping spin rates as the result. On David Butler's TrackMan, the 59/14 reached 11-thousand rpm's without much effort. It sucks back readily on greens, if you want it to, and sometimes when you don't, until you spend time with it. On one such occasion, I put a little extra into a high approach, landed it next to a back pin, and then watched the ball spin twenty-five yards to the front. Such a display almost made the resulting bogey worthwhile.
If this review sounds more like a endorsement or even an advertisement, I apologize. These irons and wedges are, quite simply, the best I have ever played... a perfect blend of designing, manufacturing, fitting, and building.
If you catch me even looking at or considering the purchase of another set of irons anytime, ever, commit me to an insane asylum and throw away the key.
The Miura CB-501 irons and these new wedges are it. I'm done. For life.
golf, wayne freedman
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