Sat. Jan 28th, 2023

Golf is a sport where many players have long tried to “buy a better game,” through pricey equipment and technology rather than lessons and practice. If you think high-end clubs can improve your performance – or at least your stature on the course – then Honma has some clubs for you.

The venerable Japanese company has been crafting extremely high-quality golf clubs for more than 60 years, and is well known in the industry for its combination of traditional Japanese craftsmanship, excellence and painstaking attention to detail with cutting edge design and constant high-tech improvement. One other unique factor that has helped make Honma a standout niche brand is that the company makes its own very high-quality shafts, the Vizard brand. Very few clubmakers do this, despite the fact that shafts are the most important but least understood part of hardware, the engine behind our ball striking. But shafts can be so inconsistent that third party companies have sprung up to robotically check the quality at an extra cost just to verify that customers are getting what they pay for in the first place, while Honma is known for making its shafts to exacting tolerances. As a result, they make custom shafts for top professional players worldwide. Honma irons are the choice of Master’s Champion Charles Schwartzel, who recently left the PGA Tour for LIV Golf – and immediately won the controversial new tour’s inaugural $4million purse in London to kick things off.

I’ve been researching the clubs because I am getting ready to get a set for myself, something in the more forgiving “game improvement” vein than the tour irons Schwartzel plays, and Honma makes models for both recreational average players and low to mid handicappers.

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But Honma also makes a very special line of clubs for a small third audience, one that include celebrities, music and sports stars and world leaders. Names rumored to play the rarefied BERES clubs range from movie star Jack Nicholson to former pitching great Roger Clemens, and in Japan they are considered an ideal bonus for high-performing corporate employees. Japan’s Prime Minister has given them as diplomatic gifts to foreign heads of state.

The BERES collection has virtually no rivals and sits at the pure luxury end of the equipment spectrum, and is to golf clubs what Hermes, Chanel or Louis Vuitton are to purses, flashy but high-quality showpieces. Depending on the number and model of clubs selected, a typical set runs up to $40,000 but the top tier one reviewed by Golf Digest recently came in at a cool $58,500. By comparison, if you were to buy the most expensive driver, irons, wedges and fairway woods from industry leader Taylor Made, it would run you about three grand – and that’s considerably more than most golfers spend.

Interestingly, while Honma makes woods and irons geared to excellent golfers, its most expensive lineup is not for them, but rather for those needing a bit more help, especially when it comes to swing speed and forgiveness. According to Golf Digest, they deliver on this arena: “while the Honma BERES line of ultra-premium woods and irons draws headlines for its use of 24-karat gold, there are other elements that are actually more valuable to this product line, which is aimed at the more moderate of swing speeds and, obviously, the more elite of wallets. More valuable at least from a golf skill enhancement perspective. In short, these clubs – drivers, fairway woods, hybrids, irons for men and women – aggressively pursue injecting new performance to golfers looking for all the speed they wished they had.”

But while they are packed with helpful technology, most people buying BERES clubs are doing so to make statement, akin to buying a supercar. Or as golf gear website put it, “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. 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.”

BERES actually comes in more affordable levels as the four available tiers run from 2-star to 5-star, with the entry level 2-star running around “just” $850 for a driver, while the 5-star version of the same club is closer to five grand. Still, by comparison, even entry level is over the top, as the most expensive driver TaylorMade sells, a customized version of its top tier Stealth called MyStealthPlus is $700 and most premium brand cutting edge drivers are closer to five hundred. But then again, most clubs from other brands lack 24-karat gold and platinum accents. In BERES, as you move up the star scale you get more bling, with stunning proprietary finishes and jewelry style aesthetics. Expect painted designs on the back of irons and the tops and faces of drivers. The two newest additions are the BERES Aizu and Black collections, which are all about style. The Aizu features signature gold clubheads with ornate red accents, while Black lives up to its name with a custom jet-black physical vapor deposition (PVD) or “thin film” process for a striking finish.

The BERES lineup comes in both men’s and women’s versions, and look like nothing you have ever seen on the golf course. In terms of making a statement, it’s 5-Star all the way, and while these clubs may well improve your game, they are guaranteed to be a conversation starter on the first tee, at your club and in the clubhouse, and for some customers, that’s probably enough. If sixty thousand dollars for golf clubs is too steep but you still crave the attention, you can buy just a $5,000 driver and still attract plenty of interest. Me, I’m going with something from Honma’s no star lineup.

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