It began a couple of years ago, when revered club designer Katsuhiro Miura flew from Japan to David Butler's fitting studio in Half Moon Bay for the equivalent of a state visit. Later, they invited me to join them for dinner.
Through an interpreter, Mr. Miura and I discussed his recently released 390cc Precious Edition driver. "Why not follow the industry standard with a more forgiving 460cc version?"
"390cc's is the perfect size to square the clubface," Mr. Miura said. "Keep hitting it."
I did. In time, that relatively small-headed big stick became the longest, most satisfying driver I have ever owned. As noted in the original review it has a relatively square face, low spin, and is particularly effective into the wind. The 390 Precious Edition is not the world's most forgiving driver, but for decent players, it is well worth an occasional miss-hit.
Frankly, I thought I was done.
Not so fast.
In early 2012, the company released its SIT-460 driver. 'SIT' stands for Strong Ideal Trajectory. The new club looks smaller than its 460cc's, due partly to a deeper face and a low-glare, matte black top that recesses behind the leading edge. While the SIT-460 is 70cc's larger than the 390, its two-piece head is four grams lighter. The SIT-460 has the same piercing ball flight and low spin of the Precious Edition. It is longer and more forgiving.
I visited David Butler's studio in Half Moon Bay to test the drivers side-by-side, along with a third club, a Cleveland 460-Titanium Launcher that has served as my benchmark for several years. All three have stiff flex, Diamana Blue Board, 63 gram shafts. Butler built all of the clubs. They are identical in length, weight, and balance, at D-4. All have 10.5 degree lofts.
They were not identical in performance. It wasn't even close. David Butler uses a Trackman fitting system. Those numbers do not lie. The SIT-460 won going away.
I swung the Cleveland 460 and Miura 390 at average speeds of 104 miles per hour. I swung the SIT-460 at 101, and still managed to hit it farther. Trackman measured my average carry at 233 yards, beating the Precious Edition and Cleveland Launcher by 12 yards. Ball speeds for all three clubs averaged around 148 miles per hour, but due to a lower launch angle (13.7 degrees or the SIT-460 versus 15.2 and 15.8 ), the ball carried and rolled better. The SIT-460 wasn't quite as straight due to the extra distance, but easily remained in the fairway.
Those are conservative numbers. Butler calibrates his trackman to only 90 percent, and his lab is at sea level. Add at least 10 percent to those distances in the real world, where the 233 yard carry would be more like 256 yards, plus the roll.
Look at the photograph of the launch monitor from our session. White tracks belong to the SIT-460. Yellow belong to the Precious Edition. Pink goes with the Cleveland Launcher.
I did not swing particularly well that day. The Trackman showed I was hitting down on balls rather than catching them on an upswing, which added unwanted backspin and reduced distance. The Miura averaged 3707 rpm's, a high number. Still, it was much better the 4600 rpm's we recorded for the older clubs, even though I did hit those at slightly steeper angles. The data suggests that the SIT-460 helped to mitigate effects of a bad swing.
Later, I tested those numbers in the physical world at my home course. After shots uphill, downhill, upwind, and downwind, the SIT-460 averaged 12 yards longer. Other, better players who have tried the club report even results.
In a tournament the following weekend, I found the SIT-460 to be mostly straight as a string off the tee, exceptionally forgiving, and even longer than before. One drive rolled out at 297 yards on sticky kikuyu grass -- and then stopped prematurely only because the fairway began sloping uphill. It was pretty darned impressive.
Before adjusting to the driver, I did miss a few fairways, which leads to one caveat about this club, or maybe about your swing. The SIT-460 has a square face, which is good news for any player who draws the ball and worries about an occasional hook. You can lean on the SIT-460 and release the club. If, however, you suffer from a chronic slice, this club may frustrate you by leaving balls to the right. It might also eventually retrain you, but that could be a painful process.
In short, while the SIT-460 is a large headed driver, it will work best for better players.
MIURA Series 57, KM-006 Putter
As dinner continued, our conversation turned to putters. I told Mr. Miura about having my best success with putters containing inserts. He was not impressed. "Try a forged putter," he said through the interpreter. "They roll out better."
He was suggesting that I should try one of his putters. Eventually, I asked David Butler to make one for me. The Miura Series 1957 KM-006 putter looks much like the venerable, offset Ping Anser. It has a thicker top line and more mass behind the face, along with a satin, oil chromed finish. At 370 grams, the KM-006 is slightly heavier than its otherwise identical brother model, the KM-005.
Both putters inspire confidence. Because they are forged from a single piece of high quality steel, your club maker can bend the lie angle as he would with an iron. For mine, Butler installed a 33 inch shaft, short enough that it puts my left eye directly over the ball. He finished it by placing 40 grams of counterweights in the grip. The result is a heavy and extremely balanced putter that perfectly suits my inside-square-inside shoulder rotational stroke.
The feel of this putter exceeds all expectations. Like Miura's fabled forged irons, it delivers exceptional feedback. The KM-006 drops putts it's supposed to make, plus quite a few more. A good roll practically melts into the putter's milled face and up through my hands. When a forged flat stick feels softer than other models with ceramic inserts, you know you have found a special instrument.
Hence the long and short of my golf bag. If anyone looks inside, he will see that except for a 3-metal that I have carried for more than twenty years, every club is now a Miura. It's no fluke. They earned their way.