It’s like Freud said, “Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.” Well, maybe he said exactly that and perhaps not, but it doesn’t actually matter.

The point is, too often we look for meaning where there isn’t much to be found.  At times, we pass along false information, generally without intention. For example, the Great Wall of China isn’t visible from space and toilets flush the same direction in both hemispheres. Go ahead, fact-check me.

Conversely, it’s easy to ignore the context surrounding an event because it doesn’t appear as interesting. With the Miura TC-201 irons, most will skim over the features and benefits and head into the weeds on one of three tangents.

  • Dive headlong into a heated debate around spin-welded hosels.
  • Quickly declare Miura as the unquestioned, preeminent designer of single-piece forged CB/MB designs.
  • Wonder why anyone would pay $300 for a club when Mizuno sells the MP-20 for roughly half that.

Though every position has some merit, ultimately these conversations devolve into circular arguments with no real benefit. Hopefully, that’s not the case here.

DETAILS

We’ll start with the straightforward stuff. Miura brand loyalists expect a certain look and tenor with the release of new equipment. The quintessential Miura Players CB (or muscle-back for that matter) is compact from heel to toe with a thin topline and minimal offset. It’s forged from S25C carbon steel at the company’s facility in Himeji, Japan, where Miura controls every step of the process. Included in that process is the aforementioned pressing step where the head and hosel are spin-forged into a single piece. The friction created melds the two pieces and is a key step that allows Miura to maintain a weight tolerance of +/- .5 grams.

In a single-piece forged design, there are only so many options when a good bit of the geometry is already locked in. This is precisely why many OEMs have looked to hollow cavities and multi-material designs to generate better performance.

The Miura TC-201 is a “Tour Cavity” model sitting somewhere between a true muscle-back and full-fledged cavity-back iron. As such, Miura describes it as the “perfect complement” to the recently released MB-101. That said, aesthetically the TC-201 has more in common with the pseudo-muscle back, MC-501.

With the TC-201, a notched cavity distributes weight toward the toe and heel which helps provide stability and forgiveness (MOI). A progressive weight pad (thicker in the short irons, thinner in the long irons) moderates the CG location.  The result is a higher CG in short irons for a lower, more controllable flight and lower CG in the long irons to help promote higher launch with less spin.

Ultimately, it’s a boilerplate Miura forged iron with a dash of new geometry.

For Miura traditionalists, a conservative approach is probably comforting. However, one could argue that to capture a new audience, Miura might need to deviate from its script a bit.

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THE REST

Company patriarch Katsuhiro Miura started manufacturing irons in 1957. For 60 years, the company maintained an identity as a small, family-run business. Miura’s apocryphal mystique and virtual monopoly on the high-end boutique club space gave it special status among equipment aficionados. It was special to own a set of Miura irons and while not quite seeing Bigfoot scarce, its clubs were anything but commonplace.

That changed in January of 2017 when Howard Milstein, chairman, president and CEO of New York Private Bank & Trust, obtained distribution rights for Miura in the U.S. and other pivotal markets. Critics feared Milstein’s involvement meant Miura would become another mass-produced product in an already crowded marketplace. Proponents felt Milstein’s financial backing would give Miura’s brain trust time to evaluate and plan for the next phase without the added pressure to produce gaudy sales figures.

It was the very definition of a Catch 22. Miura’s reputation relied on scarcity which is difficult to maintain when global expansion is the objective.

Complicating matters further, upstart brand PXG  blasted into the upscale, bespoke market, stealing a good bit of Miura’s real estate. As a result, some saw this new approach as a knee-jerk counter-punch from Miura to regain lost sales.

Miura was in a state of organizational transition so although it promised it wouldn’t stray from the roots which established its ethos, without any evidence to the contrary, people filled in the blanks according to whatever information (or misinformation) was available.

CLUES

Starting with the release of the MC-501, Miura’s first entirely new iron model since the CB-57, and the first with Milstein as part of the equation, each release has given some indication as to what Miura might ultimately look like as a brand with one eye on its history and heritage and the other on global expansion.

So far, what we know is Miura is going to lead with forged irons and wedges (quick, try to name the most recent Miura driver design…).  Also, Katsuhiro’s sons (Shinei and Yoshitaka) will continue to play a larger role in product design while overseeing day-to-day operations.

CONFUSION

Beyond that, it seems like Miura is struggling to commit to consistent design theory. The sharp angles present in the cavity of the MC-501 carry on in the TC-201. Both are essentially described as clubs with MB look/workability and CB levels of forgiveness. Between the two, it feels like there’s too much overlap. It’s also important to remember Miura often waits six to eight years before updating a specific model. Essentially, the MC-501 and TC-201 give golfers either a player’s CB with a dash of MB (TC-201) or a muscle-back with marginally more forgiveness than the MB-101. The latter describes the MC-501.

Having tested both individually, the differences are subtle and primarily aesthetic. Ball speeds and launch conditions weren’t identical but they weren’t markedly different. The Miura TC-201 might have been a hair more compact at address but the MC-501 is supposed to be a little longer heel to toe. Looking at the Miura’s selection of irons, there isn’t much room between the MC-501 and CB-301 but this is where the Miura TC-201 squeezes in.

Given that the MC-501 came out in 2018, I didn’t think we’d see another Miura iron for several years. The CB-301 launched in early 2019 and the IC-601 in mid-2018, which seemed to give Miura two solid options for mid-handicap golfers. If anything, I was anticipating the next iron to be either a larger version of the CB-301 or an update to the IC-601 designed with features to compete directly against clubs like Mizuno’s MP-HMB, PXG’s GEN3 line or the TaylorMade P790Ti.

AND…

Moving forward, it’s a delicate balance. The history of Miura suggests it won’t release a new model until it’s convinced the new option is clearly better. But to grow a brand globally, Miura needs to get more clubs in the hands of more golfers.

For those concerned that expansion will have an adverse effect on Miura’s tight tolerances and quality-control processes, not to worry, says Hoyt McGarity, president of Miura Golf. “We’re not close to capacity yet. We have a lot of room to grow.”

It’s fair to think PXG’s arrival altered the game plan for a number of OEMs. However, moving forward, it’s a fellow Japanese brand, Honma, which appears to be Miura’s most direct rival. Several years ago, a variety of JDM (Japanese Domestic Market) brands stated a hope to “figure out North America.” As it stands today, Honma and Miura seem to be in the best position to capitalize on the opportunity.

Both Japanese companies tout a similar mantra around craftsmanship, attention to detail and meticulous design. Likewise, both have established some level of PGA TOUR presence. Honma has Justin Rose and Miura has Abraham Ancer. However, a fundamental difference exists in the retail strategy. Honma seems keen to leverage big-box (e.g., PGA Superstore) retail outlets to reach golfers whereas Miura seems to be sticking with higher-end custom fitters.

But if there can only be one winner, which one has the edge?