Mom’s life lessons were always pretty simple: Eat your greens, save for a rainy day, never judge a book by its cover—or a golf club by its appearance.

Like Honma BERES.

The optics on this ultra-premium product from the Japanese OEM … Well, they’re pretty glitzy. In-your-face, shades-on glitzy. We’re talking 24K-gold, platinum-rich, bling-infused metalwoods and irons with a price tag ceiling close to $60,000 a set. That’s not a typo. Sixty big ones. For well-heeled types, playing BERES is a mark of distinction comparable to driving a Ferrari or wearing a Rolex Submariner. It’s a luxury play steeped in elegance.

But what about performance? If you take away all the gold and precious metal detailing, does BERES actually help golfers have more fun and hit better shots? Cue the bottom line: Is there substance to go with all that style?

Calling On History

Building golf clubs at Honma is an art form. That has been a bedrock principle of the company since the Honma brothers formed the brand in 1959. Guiding that vision back then, like it does today, is the Japanese art of crafting a katana for the samurai. A painstaking, time-sensitive process that involves heating, folding and hammering of a katana blade.

BERES is Honma’s katana.

Designed and produced exclusively by the clubmaker’s most experienced Takumi (expert Japanese craftsman with 20 to 30 years of experience), the line is positioned as the world’s most premium golf club. That makes it a club of choice for sports celebrities, Hollywood stars, royalty and presidents. You may recall that former Japanese President Shinzo Abe presented former U.S. President Donald Trump with a nearly $4,000 Honma BERES S-05 driver when the two met in 2016.

Know Your Role

Important point: BERES is not meant for Tour players or even better players or golfers with above-average or faster swing speeds. The TR series (played by Justin Rose when he signed with the company in 2019) and the game-improvement Tour//World GS fill those roles for Honma. BERES is designed to be a distance and forgiveness product. Call it super game improvement if you like but the target demographic tips decidedly toward:

  • Mid to slow swing speed players and/or grey-haired golfers who have
    lost a few mph and want them back.
  • Mid to slow swing speed players who also slice the ball with an out-
    to-in swing path.
  • Mid to slow swing speed players who aren’t concerned with score as
    much they are with having a good time on the golf course.

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How Those Stars Align

Honma segments BERES into a 2- to 5-Star rating system based on a progressive level of cosmetics and shaft technology. Specifically, 4- and 5-Star models feature more gold and jeweled aesthetics than the 2 Star and 3 Star. Honma’s proprietary ARMRQ shaft materials also become increasingly exotic and performance-infused as the Star designation increases. There’s also a higher credit-card swipe. Price starts in the $6,000 neighborhood for the 2-Star BERES line. Then, as mentioned, it scales up to as much as $60,000 for 5 Star. At this level, Takumi go to the vault and utilize gold paint (made with vaporized gold powder sourced from Germany), 24K grade badges in the irons, 24K gold and platinum ferrule trim and 24k gold grip marks.

Honma uses the same Star-based scale on metalwoods—specifically, the applied finish and shaft create model separation. However, there are zero material or technology differences beyond the aesthetic differences in BERES woods. Driver crown and sole are all Ti-811 titanium which helps with discretionary weight savings. This helps Honma designers achieve a low/rear center-of-gravity placement to promote higher launch with low spin. The radial-designed face is thinned out in strategic spots to improve results (read: more ball speed) on off-center strikes. Running across the front of the sole and wrapped around the sides is an end-to-end speed slot. It activates the BERES face structure, allowing it to flex at lower swing speeds to maximize distance. Straighter ball flight is built in through the face curvature, commonly referred to as bulge and roll.

Fairway woods and utility club heads are built with SUS630 maraging steel.

Same Iron Heads, Too

No surprise. Honma also uses the exact same iron heads for BERES across the board. More of a surprise is how these clubs look in the playing position. Standard super game improvement cast iron design—thick top line, wide-sole, offset for days—this is not. BERES is way more streamlined. Think older model Hogan Radial. Wider sole is still there but the head shape is more compact. The offset is less and top line much thinner than most would likely expect. Guaranteed, you’re not going to wince. The iron body itself is forged. Honma builds it in tandem with a thin 3D wrap L-cup face and three Maximum Active Speed Slots (two internal, one external), creating more face flex and additional ball speed potential for strikes low and out at the heel and toe. Being a very low CG, BERES iron lofts are stronger and designed for shallower angles of attack, typical swing attributes of slower swing speed players.

ARMRQ is the Speed Key

The BERES speed agenda focuses on a number of holistic design concepts. None is more vital than Honma’s proprietary lightweight ARMRQ shaft series. Time for another sword reference. Like they all do, this shaft bends, twists and flexes. The difference is how fast it recovers to its original shape. That’s what a fencing sword does. Engineers use a high-strength, shape-memory, twist-fluent material. The next-level multi-material advantages are courtesy of a blend between Torayca M40X and high-modulus T1100G carbon fibers.

Effectively, ARMRQ is a high smash-factor design. The shaft focuses on adding clubhead speed/ball speed in both high-torque 47-gram (R) and 42-gram (A) options. Lighter shafts are often whippy and soft but ARMRQ isn’t worthy of a wet-noodle designation. This shaft is remarkably stable. Along with a soft mid-section, the key point of difference is hybrid metal armor placed in the top 15 inches of the grip area. This creates a very stable butt section under your hands while providing for some counterbalance weighting. Counterbalancing makes the entire club feel lighter which helps slower speed players swing the club faster. What else? Well, the shafts are cut slightly longer than standard but swingweights are maintained. The driver is D0-D1. BERES women’s driver comes in at C1.

BERES Star Scale for ARMRQ

As you would expect, the ARMRQ shaft family goes up in performance/distance and materials as price increases.
Here is the breakdown:

  • ARMRQ-2 Star – Flexible soft mid-section and metal hybrid seven-axis sheet at the butt section creates dependable swing speed and a more stable backswing.
  • ARMRQ-3 Star – First sign of high-strength M40X. Shaft deforms and recovers faster for better feel through impact from reinforced strength at the butt that pushes shaft stress down into the softer midsection.
  • ARMRQ-4 Star – Same as 3 Star except the 4-Star model features a lower kick point to help increase swing speed.
  • ARMRQ-5 Star – A top-to-bottom bias layer of select T1100G contributes overall to less torque, an improved feeling of control and stiffness while maintaining flexibility to produce a combination of maximum distance with least amount of dispersion.

BERES Range Testing

Pre-conceived notions set aside, my first BERES experience was quite an eye-opener. Knowing my launch monitor numbers pretty well, a few things jumped out right away: How easy it was to get two to three mph more clubhead speed from BERES (with very little warm-up), how stable but “quick” the ARMRQ 2S shaft I tested was in the driver (with not much change in spin rate) and the height with the irons even with the stronger lofts. Seven-iron was literally into my pitching-wedge window, which is to say it launched quite a bit higher.

Other items of note from the session:

  • BERES driver sound wasn’t great but still decent. Simply not what I’m used to.
  •  ARMRQ shaft series is why you buy this product. Ultra-lightweight gear is something I’ve tested from multiple OEMs in the past without anything truly standing out on the performance side. BERES did. And the ARMRQ series shaft is the reason.
  • Compact irons in the playing position better fit the game improvement category than super game improvement. Pretty sleek overall.
  • BERES soft 8620 wedge series comes in lofts from 50 to 60 degrees with ‘I’ and ‘C’ sole grinds and a combination black nickel and nickel chrome finish.

Gazing Into the Crystal Ball

Reputation and market share-wise, BERES continues to prosper across Asia and other parts of the globe. Can’t quite say the same for North America. Yet. Although consumer and brand inroads have been made—Honma established a U.S. headquarters in Carlsbad, Calif., three years ago—BERES initially took a back seat to TR Series and T//World on the Honma depth chart.

Brand strategy has undergone a few changes since then. With a wider demographic in play, BERES marketing and promotion have scaled up considerably as Honma looks to take advantage of the game’s growth spurt with new and returning golfers during the pandemic.

New North American Boss

That’s Janeann Lanning. Honma’s new chief operating officer in Carlsbad joined the company in June 2021 after 20-plus years with Bridgestone Golf. She sees a “great opportunity” ahead for Honma with BERES playing a key role in elevating the brand on this side of the globe. “Honma will grow exponentially over the next three years,” she said, “by strategically and directly targeting golfers who are seeking the highest quality, superior performing, premium designed products.” Lanning will do that in the U.S. and Canada through the green grass channel, direct-to-consumer marketing and an enhanced e-commerce platform. Expect demo day events and BERES hands-on experiences to also increase going forward.

BERES Experience Summarized …

This wasn’t at all what I expected. Ultra-lightweight stuff is something I’ve rarely tested well with, mostly because it felt like I always had to make swing compensations to fit the equipment. No such swing changes were required while testing BERES 2-Star and 3-Star. Stability of the ARMRQ shaft was the difference. It’s everything Honma claims and feels anything but a lightweight product. I’m happy to leave BERES 4- and 5-Star to folks with higher pay scales and premium-level Rolex and Ferrari tastes.

But there’s an awful lot of function to go along with BERES’ form. The 24K gold and jewelry emblazoned finish aside, Honma has a product that deserves its rightful place at or near the top of golf’s premium-level pyramid. The BERES experience also reaffirmed that important life lesson: Never judge a book by its cover.

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