FIRST LOOK: Honma debuts game-improvement XP-1 club line
Professional golfers are able to discern the differences between game-improvement and better-player products in a matter of seconds. But even the best in the world can get fooled on occasion. Such was the case with major winner Justin Rose during a recent introduction to Honma’s new XP-1 driver.
“When we took this driver out and showed it to Justin, he wanted to know if it was the new tour driver,” said Chris McGinley, Honma’s VP of global product. “We told it was actually our game-improvement driver, and I remember him saying, ‘My goodness, it’s beautiful. A lot of my friends are going to want to play this driver.'”
Forgiveness is the name of the game when it comes to game-improvement products. That being said, the overall look of the club can go a long way toward determining if a product will make its way into the rotation during testing. McGinley believes XP-1 is the best of both worlds — a clean, classic-looking product that offers the technology and forgiveness mid-handicappers require in a game-improvement offering.
“XP-1 is where all that Honma experience and craftsmanship crosses over into game-improvement,” McGinley noted. “There’s plenty of good golfers who want some game-improvement features. We’re not just about super lightweight and slow swing speeds. This line has tremendous versatility.”
The XP-1 driver head shaping was refined from a solid block of Mississippi persimmon before it was ever designed in CAD — a process every Honma product has gone through going back to when the company was first established in 1959. The head features an ultralight ET40 carbon crown that allowed engineers to create a 15-gram internal draw-bias weight pad.
To generate faster ball speeds, a double slot design was added to the front portion of the sole and extends from heel to toe. The slot was purposely made wider in the heel and toe to reduce side spin; the center section is narrower and acts as a hinge, improving slot rebound and ball speed retention across the Ti-6-4+ face structure. The entire face is also reinforced with five internal tabs — three in the crown and two in the sole — to strengthen the perimeter and increase overall face flex.
Similar to the T//World line, XP-1 has a proprietary adjustable hosel system, whereby the driver’s loft, lie and face angle can be adjusted without rotating the spine of the shaft — something the company boasts improves ball flight and distance.
Each driver comes with a lightweight Honma Vizard shaft ranging in weight from 43 to 63 grams. The shaft has a soft midsection and stiff handle/tip to “allow the golfer to feel the head for better timing.”
The XP-1 fairway woods were designed with a low center of gravity — a heavy internal weight was added to the sole — that increases launch and forgiveness. Honma’s double-slot technology can also be found in the sole of the 3-, 5- and 7-wood for ball speed purposes.
The 3-wood is made from AM355+ steel (body and face) and carbon composite (crown), while the 5- and 7-wood are fashioned from 630 stainless steel (body) and high-strength 455 carpenter steel (face). Because the 3-wood is used regularly off the tee, Honma saw a need to make it easier to get the ball in the air by lowering the club’s center of gravity (CG) location. The XP-1 hybrids have a larger overall profile and boast technology currently found in the fairway woods — a low CG, double-slot sole design, and thin, fast face.
Made from 17-4+ stainless steel, Honma’s XP-1 blends hollow long and mid irons with deep cavity scoring clubs to dial in forgiveness and consistency. The 4- through 7-iron are supported by a 300 maraging steel face and tungsten sole weight that, when combined, boost launch and ball speed across the face. The overall profile was also refined to make the sole and topline more playable.
“This is a game-improvement iron, so it’s bigger in size,” McGinley said. “It’s certainly not a blade profile, but it’s very blade-like. For those who like traditional profiles, this is going to appeal to them.”
A deep undercut in the cavity of the 8-iron through gap wedge assists in getting the ball airborne, but without the speed found in the long and mid irons. As expected with a game-improvement set, lofts are strong across the board, with the 7-iron coming in at 30 degrees.
“It’s more of a requirement, a cost of entry for the game-improvement market,” McGinley said of the lofts. “But if you’re going to make the lofts strong, you better be ready to get the ball in the air. The technology we pack into these irons makes that possible.”
Honma’s XP-1 will be available in October. The driver retails for $600, fairway wood for $300, hybrid for $250, and irons for $200 (graphite) and $175 (steel) per club. The standard iron set configuration is 5-GW for men and 6-SW for women.
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