At any point during 2017, the status on Miura's Facebook page could have listed its status as "In transition."
Miura's calling card had always been forged blades and players' cavity-backs along with high-performance wedges. This helped it to establish a cult-like following with better players, but at times, Miura seemed reticent to deviate from this script, due in part to the exceptionally loyal fan base.
But change was inevitable and frankly, necessary for Miura to retain relevance as other OEM's (Epon, PXG, amongst others) pushed performance boundaries while blurring once rigid category definitions.
The small family business started by Katsuhiro Miura in 1957, acquired a new investor in Howard Milstein and named Hoyt McGarity, CEO of True Spec Golf, as president of its North American operations.
Now as 2018 begins to unfold, consumers are starting to see some tangible evidence of where Miura might be headed and how its reorganization will impact the final product.
This year Miura is primed for three equipment releases, the first being the MC-501 irons ($260/each MAP), which are available 3-PW for right-handed players only. This is Miura's first entirely new iron design (since the 1957 CB series) and aims to prove itself worthy of the self-proclaimed title "The Modern Blade."
Say's McGarity, “Although blade models typically target a specific skill set, Shinei wanted this new model to appeal beyond just the low-handicap player.”
Traditional blade irons offer golfers maximum shot-shaping control by centering mass behind impact coupled with a relatively high CG. With that, the typical opportunity cost of workability is forgiveness. The MC-501 will never be mistaken for a game-improvement club, but engineers have taken several steps to maintain the traditional elements of a muscleback iron while boosting performance on off-center strikes.
With the MC-501, engineers sculpted channels into the muscle of the club, carving out 20 grams of weight, which is repositioned in the sole. The result the longest total blade length of any Miura blade model (which is still quite compact by industry standards) and a lower CG which generally leads to higher launch with lower spin.
The company line seems to suggest this is a cavityback iron in muscleback clothing. I'd say it is more a muscleback and a half. The MC-501 lacks the forgiveness one would expect from a perimeter-weighted cavityback iron on heel/toe misses as well as shots struck high on the face (noticed this particularly in the rough). However, if your miss is generally limited to thin shots, the additional repositioned weight makes an appreciable difference.
In my individual testing, it didn't take long to figure out the MC-501's personality. It's effectively a marginally more forgiving muscleback iron and isn't for the player who struggles to find the center of the face. The Y-grind (Y denotes the grinds creator, Yoshitaka Miura) softens and blunts the leading edge to promote cleaner turf interaction, especially for those with a steeper angle of attack. Because perimeter weighting is virtually nonexistent, manipulating ball flight and trajectory is quite enjoyable, but caveat emptor, the guts of the MC-501 are still that of a muscleback. Slight alternations in face angle and swing plane will produce pronounced changes in ball flight.
Simply, the MC-501 is an iron which will respond best to players who like to work the ball but could benefit from a bit more launch and/or whose primary miss is thin.
I think there's a tendency for the golfing public to get too far out over their skis with irons like the MC-501. Because forgiveness is emphasized and touted as a selling point, some will take this to mean it's a viable option for the majority of golfers. It's not. It's still a niche product, best suited for accomplished players or competitive amateurs.
This is an iron with divisive curb appeal. Some Miura traditionalists won't like it because it doesn't look like the MB-001 or Baby Blade - or any number of classic blade style irons. Others will note the deli-sliced thin topline and still quite compact footprint and see, for lack of a better descriptor, the "X" styled cavity as dynamic and different enough to stand out in a good way. The copper-nickel satin finish is pure, and each head is still forged at Miura's factory in Himeji, Japan from soft S25C carbon steel.
Regardless, it doesn't look entirely like MB's from Miura's past, but it's not supposed to.
The MC-501 reminds me of an iron which is well over a decade old – Mizuno's MP-32. The purpose of both is relatively similar (muscleback aesthetics and cavityback performance achieved largely by repositioning weight from the cavity to the sole) even if the exact engineering is not. What the MP-32 did for Mizuno was to attract a set of golfers who didn't have the game for the MP-33s or MP-67s but wanted to bag clubs which looked (mostly) like them. Similarly, the MC-501 could pull in a contingent with the game to comfortably play a club like Miura's CB-57 or PP-9003, but want something which, at face value, looks like a muscleback.
Change is as uncomfortable as it is unavoidable. Katsuhiro Miura's two sons (Shinei and Yoshitaka) will continue to play a more significant role in product design and because Miura wants to attract a wider swath of golfers, future releases (this year included) will almost certainly look different than previous ones. Some will laud a more modern and inclusive approach, while others will criticize and decry the moves as evidence Miura is moving an uncomfortable distance from its roots.
It's a challenging position for Miura. There's a tenuous balance to be struck which honors its heritage and history while taking measured steps forward to address existing gaps – namely equipment to draw in higher handicap golfers.
This is the beginning of Miura's redefinition. Do you like what you see?