We’re kicking this off with a bit of history.
Mitsubishi’s flagship shaft franchise, Diamana, is cemented in equipment folklore. Launched in 2004, it’s become professional golf’s winningest graphite driver shaft of all time.
Heading into its 20th year, the Diamana brand is still going strong.
When Mitsubishi added TENSEI to its product line eight years ago, it was expected to complement but remain subordinate to Diamana on Mitsubishi’s shaft depth chart.
Its younger sibling had other ideas. For proof, look no further back than this month’s Nedbank Challenge.
TENSEI swept the podium.
Max Homa won the DP World Tour event in Sun City, South Africa, with a TENSEI 1K Black driver shaft. Runner-up Hicoai Hojgaard gamed a TENSEI 1K Pro White and third-place finisher Thorbjorn Olesen used a TENSEI AV Raw White.
Winning takes care of a lot of things, as they say, and winning is a common occurrence for TENSEI shafts on professional tours. Just like its big brother Diamana.
Culturally, the name TENSEI is the shaft brand’s ethos. In Japanese, TENSEI means “reincarnation” or “transformation.”
“We feel that’s our biggest advantage with TENSEI,” says Preston Toulon, Mitsubishi Chemical America’s Sporting Goods Division Manager of Marketing and Communications. “When you consider what’s really special about Mitsubishi and our shafts in particular is that TENSEI lives on the cutting edge of raw materials made in-house. That’s our point of difference.”
Top of Pyramid Validation
TENSEI is Mitsubishi’s most-played shaft on worldwide tours.
Surprised? Me too. I’d have bet Diamana still held that distinction but the scales are more pretty balanced these days.
*Mitsubishi-produced golf shafts have 614 wins on professional tours.
*Of Mitsubishi’s last 110 victories, Diamana has 47 wins, TENSEI 46.
*Wins 501-600 had Diamana at 43 and TENSEI at 40.
*In the company’s most recent 10-win stretch, TENSEI has six wins and Diamana four.
*TENSEI’s worldwide win total now stands at 126 including the brand’s most recent major victory with In-gee Chun claiming the 2022 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship.
Here’s the one that’s tough to wrap your head around:
* During the 2021-22 season, the TENSEI IK was in 49 total drivers on Tour. One year later, that number ballooned to 451, a more than 700-percent increase.
“Both Diamana and TENSEI have had massive adoption by players at the highest skill level but it’s pretty easy to forget TENSEI has been around less than a decade,” Toulon points out.
Mitsubishi Chemical Group is a behemoth.
Employing more than 50,000 people in the operation of a $50-billion business worldwide, the company’s array of innovations include a drug for Alzheimer’s, aviation parts and applications for the aerospace and military industries.
As it relates to golf, Mitsubishi Chemical is one of the world’s foremost producers of carbon fiber (No. 2 if you’re keeping score), which is to shafts what urethane and Surlyn is to golf balls.
TENSEI and Diamana are just two brands at the company’s golf division headquarters and test facility in Carlsbad, Calif. The others are VANQUISH, Kai’li, MMT, C6, Bassara and OT.
Asked about TENSEI quality and performance, Toulon defaults to the brand’s marketing tagline, “If your golf matters to you, materials matter.
“If our research and development team comes up with a cool new concept or material initiative, it’s probably showing up in TENSEI first. You know—transformation.”
Drafting Off Diamana
Similar to Titleist or FootJoy being better recognized as micro-brands than their parent company Acushnet, many golfers believe Diamana, not Mitsubishi Chemical, is the wholly owned company.
That’s the level of brand equity the Diamana franchise has earned with golfers since 2004. Being able to draft off that is a bonus. Eight years ago, when TENSEI hit the ground running, that meant a head start. Garnering industry attention as a younger sibling of Diamana, it gained a measure of immediate trust on tour and in the marketplace.
No question. Diamana established and built that trust for Mitsubishi but TENSEI has lived up to it.
Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy were early adopters.
“It’s hard for any brand to live as long as TENSEI has but, if you look at our website, you look at the number of visits, you look at what people play, you look at what’s in the bag of the best players in the world, there’s no reason for us to turn away from TENSEI,” Toulon says.
“It just keeps performing. It’s got a great story and it’s the perfect category and perfect brand for a company like ours that’s obsessed with materials creation and innovation.”
Back to McIlroy. All four of the Northern Irishman’s major championships were won with a Mitsubishi-branded driver shaft.
Coincidence? He hasn’t used one since and hasn’t won a major since. Just sayin’.
Keeping Diamana and TENSEI at Arm’s Length
Although performance overlap exists, Mitsubishi lines up TENSEI and Diamana in specific lanes to keep each franchise distinct. According to Toulon, if you have two different products with overlap, you’d better have a good explanation why both exist.
“Diamana focuses primarily on,’ How do we create the smoothest, most pleasing-feeling golf shaft of all time?’” he says. “It speaks to that more soulful, ‘Man, this feels good. It’s just so easy to swing, smooth and releases nicely.’
“TENSEI is wholly focused on technological innovation through materials and how far can we go. That’s not to suggest TENSEI has a poor feel. Nothing could be further from the truth. It just means different things are prioritized with each franchise.”
TENSEI has one distinguishing feature not found on any other line of Mitsubishi shafts. It’s the only one that includes the name of the technology used in the product
TENSEI CK (Carbon Kevlar) kicked it off in 2015. That evolved into TENSEI AV (Aluminium Vapor) and now exists as TENSEI 1K (1K Carbon Fiber).
Like Diamana, the line maintains a color-coded chart to differentiate performance guidelines:
- Red: High launch, mid spin
- Blue: Mid launch, mid spin
- White: Low launch, low spin
- Orange: Low launch, low spin/counterbalanced
Shaft aficionados will note the absence of a TENSEI 1K Red in the current lineup. It’s only conjecture at this point but it’s reasonable to think that product gets launched in 2024.
You heard it here first.
When a consumer makes an appointment for a driver fitting these days, chances are they’re not walking in the door blind.
Credit articles about the latest shaft technologies and innovations on MyGolfSpy and opinions from swing instructors or club professionals but by the time a golfer gets to a fitting, it’s not unreasonable for that individual to have educated themselves to an extent.
“If you’re into golf, you’re already into something that’s niche and, if you’re into golf shafts, that’s a niche of the niche,” Toulon says. “That means that if you’re reading about or studying golf shafts, chances are you’re really into it. We want to make sure we provide educational information so when you do go for that fitting you have a level of knowledge about TENSEI.”
Mitsubishi’s golf division is also borderline obsessive about making sure fitters are kept up-to-date with TENSEI shafts.
“That’s on us,” Toulon says. “It’s our responsibility to provide performance and fit function details. A fitting specialist expects reliability and accountability from us because that’s what a consumer expects from them. We hold ourselves to that.”
Educating consumers directly is another important Mitsubishi initiative. That was a major consideration when the company decided to overhaul its website this year.
“Massive project,” Toulon says, “but the vision from our standpoint was to build it into more of a place for golfers to nerd out on our golf shafts. At the same time, we wanted to convey to all golfers how there’s a Mitsubishi product out there for them. Golfers look for very different things from their shafts and it’s up to us to meet them where they are. The website does a great job of that.”
TENSEI Held in High Regard
Reputation is something you protect. TENSEI has earned theirs and continues to nurture it with consumers, fitters and tour players.
“Our company is the most-played driver shaft brand on major tours and TENSEI is trusted at the highest level,” Toulon says. “On consumer surveys, Mitsubishi is associated with two things: winning because we’re borderline annoying with how often we do win and, of course, technological innovation. TENSEI is the proving ground.”