First of all, a very happy new year to you, our cherished readers. Here’s wishing you everything of the best for 2019, with plenty of laughs, joy and holed putts.
Indeed, the world of golf equipment has kicked off the year with a rather large bang.
For Justin Rose at least, it’s a case of ‘new year, new gear’. Fair to say you didn’t need a genie and a crystal ball to see it coming (and we reported our suspicions about it back in October), but the Englishman revealed on social media that he has now officially ended his 20-year association with TaylorMade and signed with luxury Japanese brand Honma Golf.
The announcement indicated that the deal involves a multi-year contract, whereby Rose will lead Honma’s global Tour presence, with him being expected to use 10 of Honma’s clubs.
Here is the list of clubs that will be in the bag of the reigning FedEx Cup champion (to be confirmed):
- T/World TW747 driver
- T/World TW747 V 4, 5 and 6-irons (prototype version of the forged cavity back)
- T/World 747 ‘Justin Rose’ forged muscle back 7, 8 and 9-irons (prototype versions)
- T/World TW forged wedges – 47, 56 and 60 degrees (custom prototype versions)
The T/World TW747 driver actually debuted at the back end of last year in Asia, and is said to sport “the world’s lightest” carbon crown. It also features tungsten in the sole to lower CG, coupled with a unique hosel system with adjustable loft, lie and face angle.
Hello 2019…. I’ve been waiting for you! Excited to move into the new year with Honma equipment! New Years resolutions…. 1) play a club that looks exactly how I want! ✅ 2) play a club that feels and performs exactly how I want! ✅ #Team🌹 pic.twitter.com/GLgK7N46Eb
— Justin Rose (@JustinRose99) January 1, 2019
Rose will also be carrying a Honma bag, and feature the Honma logo on either side of his hat. In addition, he is expected to provide key insights and consultancy when it comes to product development – not too dissimilar to Rickie Fowler’s hands-on approach at Cobra.
“I am extremely excited to be joining Honma,” Rose was quoted as saying in their official press release. “Coming off one of my best years professionally, I wanted to make it a point to get better. I believe Honma equipment and the legendary Honma craftsmanship can help make me better.”
Honma’s incredible journey
Since filing for bankruptcy back in 2005, Honma has undergone quite the renaissance under the guidance of a Chinese fund run by businessman Liu Jian Guo.
The brand has established a reputation for premium products, including gold-plated drivers and irons at a retail price that typically runs into the tens of thousands.
Guo, who is also the chairman of Honma Golf, said the choice to pursue Rose’s services came down to his alignment with the “company’s values,” and “through Justin’s local and international influence in the sport and his media coverage and social media following, the partnership will create an immediate and positive uplift of Honma’s brand image and product awareness in mature markets such as North America and Europe which will in turn accelerate the implementation of Honma’s growth strategies in these markets.”
Although Rose is likely to continue using the TaylorMade TP5 golf ball, and may even feature other Taylor Made products in the bag during the first part of the year, it nevertheless represents a heck of a coup for Honma, whose highest ranked men’s player until now was Hideto Tanihara.
Despite winning 14 times on the Japanese Tour, Tanihara holds a nondescript world ranking of 174. Two former world number ones in the women’s game in So Yeon Ryu and Shan-Shan Feng are also on the books, but it is a measure of how significant the signature of Rose is that Honma’s stock value has soared by more than 30 per cent on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange since rumours of the acquisition of the 38-year old first surfaced a couple of months ago.
More to come?
Honma’s charge – led by former TaylorMade CEO Mark King – appears to be gathering pace, with rumours abound that another high-end PGA Tour player is set to come on board off the back of the Rose announcement.
And just hours later, Golf.com pictured Paul Casey using Honma irons during a practice round at the Sentry Tournament of Champions in Hawaii. It must be cautioned that there is no confirmation that Casey is this ‘other player’ – or indeed if there is another player at all.
But where there’s smoke, there’s usually fire.
Either way, if you’re as intrigued as we are to see the world number two flaunting his new Honma toys, then get yourself in front of the TV when he tees it up at the Desert Classic in Palm Springs in a couple of weeks’ time.
For Rose, it will undoubtedly be the launch of a new era. And, as a result, it may just be the start of a new era for equipment within professional golf too.