You’re probably in one of three camps when it comes to JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) equipment.
- Camp 1 – You don’t know JDM from BMW or DMZ.
- Camp 2 – You’ve done the research and think you know enough to know where you sit. Emphasis on think.
- Camp 3 – You like it, you love it. You want some more of it. You have a dog named Endo and routinely tell neighbors you have the Hands of God.
If you’re a #3, this is on your bedroom wall.
You’ve probably heard somewhere at sometime that JDM clubs are better or superior to other golf equipment, namely USDM or equipment marketed primarily to the United States domestic market. That’s just patently untrue and is more the product of hype and hyperbole than of substance and merit.
But this isn’t a bifurcated conversation. Buying golf equipment isn’t a yes or no proposition where there are universal truths which dictate what clubs must go in your bag. With that in mind, let’s explore some of the most common, and contentious talking points, and why they’re basically crap.
MOST OF THE TALK AROUND JDM IS BASICALLY CRAP
Claim: JDM equipment is built to the tightest tolerances in the industry. Moreover, if you buy a set of JDM irons, the loft, lie and head weight of each club is going to be spot on and this attention to detail unequivocally leads to better performance. (Miura for example produces irons with a spec tolerance of +/- .5 gr. for each head). This is no doubt impressive and (mostly) accurate.
Truth: Yes, JDM clubs are built to more exact specifications. That said, loft and lie are simple (and cheap) to adjust and because forged clubs are softer, loft/lie should be checked every year anyway. Non-JDM companies produce clubs with head weights with a typical tolerance of +/- 3 gm. Companies or players will make up any difference by adding tip weights inside the tip of the shaft or affix lead tape to club head. Neither solution is sexy, but it’s a bunch of malarky if you think there’s any difference between 3-4 grams of lead tape and 3-4 grams of headweight. It’s even more malarky if you think 3-4 grams has any quantifiable performance impact for most golfers.
Take a look at the pictures below. I call it “Poser v. Player”
Claim: JDM really isn’t any more expensive than other clubs.
Truth: Um, yes it is. But make sure you’re comparing apples to apples. You can certainly buy a set of used JDM clubs and save some coin, but that not the point. Fact: You can purchase a new set of Mizuno MP-5 (3-PW) irons for $900. A comparable set from Epon or Miura will run you close to, if not slightly more than $2000. So what do you get for twice the price? Good question.
Desperate reach: But wait, if I spend more, but they hold their value better, don’t they actually cost less over time?
Curt reply: Theoretically, it’s possible. But is this really just you trying to justify dropping 2k on a set of irons? It’s fools logic to try and quantify the potential resale value of an item, with a niche following, produced by a company which may or may not be around in 5-10 years (See: Scratch Golf, S-Yard). The person who factors in resale value on a quickly depreciating asset where the difference in 5-10 years may be a just couple hundred dollars probably washes and reuses plastic bags.
Superior Artistry is an esoteric descriptor that basically means nothing
Claim: Japanese made clubs are the result of superior craftsmanship and artistry.
Truth: What does that even mean? Have we reduced the conversation to esoteric terminology as a means to justify spending a bunch of money? As we’ve already established, JDM clubs are produced with a greater attention to detail, none of which impact performance and “artistry” is far too subjective a term to for anyone to do anything other than argue about whether their irons look like cast pieces of junk or refined samurai swords. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, or whoever spends the most.
Let’s not pretend the Edo period has anything to do with forged irons.
Some people actually believe JDM clubs are made with superior metals and magic pixie dust. Well, the metal part is true, but the pixie dust seems a little odd.
SUPERIOR IS A TERM RESERVED FOR DAVID BOWIE, NOT GOLF CLUBS
Claim: JDM is flat out superior.
Truth: Any club which isn’t fit to your swing, tempo, athleticism and release isn’t going to be superior to anything. Most green grass accounts and many retailers don’t carry JDM product, so buyers are left to order clubs without being properly fit. The only thing worse than dropping two grand on a set of irons is dropping two grand and then realized you hit them worse than the clubs you just sold for $350 on Craigslist. Bottom line – We reached a point in the industry where superior and inferior are no longer viable adjectives.
Claim: US companies care more about profits and balance sheets than releasing quality product.
Truth: Yes, the industry does have some cannibalistic tendencies and shorter product cycles are no doubt part of this conversation. That said, NEWSFLASH…if you run a business you care about profit and balance sheets. Ping, Titleist, Mizuno, Epon, Miura, XXIO…They all care about turning a profit and staying in business. Now to what degree they care and how this impacts product cycles is a more relevant conversation. You also have to consider what percentage of a particular company is dedicated to equipment sales. See this recent piece on Bridgestone for a more thorough explanation.
Some final thoughts to chew on:
Even JDM stalwart Epon is selling out. If JDM clubs are really superior, why would they need PGA Tour validation? Hint: It really, really helps to sell more clubs.
It’s one thing to have a set of clubheads which are nuts-on in terms of weight. But if you don’t replicate that level of precision with the shaft, grip, and MOI, are you really any further ahead? There’s nothing more bizarre than the guy who will fight to the death defending the honor of his JDM irons because the specs are so tight, yet he has no problem slapping in a set of stock DG S300s and Golf Pride grips.
In the final analysis, it’s a free market – and that means people are free to spend their cash however they want. But if you don’t take the time to become a critical consumer of information, you’re Just Dumb Man.