Whilst players dream of winning Majors, club designers dream of producing the clubs they use. So for senior club engineer Chris Voshall, nothing was sweeter than watching the JPX900 irons he’d carefully put together just 2 years previously in the hands of the 2017 US Open winner.
In an interview with Rick Young from Score Golf, Voshall revealed an even more interesting side to the story.
“When Nike exited clubs and balls it had quite a ripple effect. It changed the game for who plays what out on tour. That’s been big for us,” Voshall explained. “Everything is so visible with the hat, shirt, sleeves, bag, its allowed players to make enough from those deals to really explore what works best for them with clubs. After Player X became a free agent he reached out to us. And boy did we have story to tell him.”
“We had Luke Donald and he speaks everything MP — super soft-spoken, classy, classic, beautiful golf swing so we decided to look at who was going to become available at the end of 2015. Player X was one of the big names. He literally became the face in our head. His deal with Titleist was done so we set him as our target. We said, ‘Let’s design a golf club that speaks to that younger, aggressive, more athletic player.’ That was the start of the JPX 900 Tour iron.”
Voshall and the design team got to work. It set out to build a low-spinning, performance iron with a compact head profile, thin top line and narrow sole but one that, using its powerframe technology, pushed weight to the perimeter, lending a big assist with off-centre strikes. It had prototypes ready in near record time. Just one problem: Player X signed with Nike.
“We missed out,” Voshall said. “We didn’t close the deal with him but we still knew we had built a great golf club. Still what can you do? It was time to move on.”
And Mizuno did. That is until Nike’s startling news on August 4, 2016. With Player X one of several Nike athletes now on the open market, the company circled right back to its original face of the JPX 900 Tour. Only this time Player X and his management team were the ones that came calling first.
“While we had him in mind, Player X didn’t know anything about the JPX 900 Tour,” said Voshall. “Then his manager reaches out. When he did we told him the story of the iron, how we built it essentially for him and he relayed the story to Player X. He messaged back Player X specs. We didn’t have any idea what other companies they had contacted. All we knew is we were one of them. We figured it was the start of a lengthy process to hopefully get him into the irons.”
It wasn’t. A standard lie, half-inch longer set of JPX 900 Tour’s with slightly weakened lofts, True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shafts and standard grips was sent to Player X. Further back-and-forth on getting the irons dialed in was not required.
“Next thing we know he shows up in Phoenix with the irons in the bag,” said Voshall. “It was an awesome surprise because there really is no better validation of a golf club than when tour pros play it because they believe it will perform best for them. Every year, in fact, if you look at October, November, December and guys are testing new stuff or looking at new deals — our iron counts spike. That just shows we’re building the right product.”
With JPX 900 Tour gaining traction, I asked Voshall if he and the company believe Player X’s U.S. Open win could prove to be a catalyst for even more players to test that same ‘technology’ iron on tour and also for more consumers to check it out. “I think so,” he said. “What it’s done is really show us a unique, different segmentation of golfers. We’re so inclined to have the high handicappers and low handicappers. With the JPX line we’re really segmenting not by handicap but more on personality type, more on aesthetics, and looks. With this club and by keeping all the player characteristics but getting more aggressive, more futuristic, with tons of technology on the back of the golf club, we’re able to do something with the JPX 900 Tour that the traditional blade can’t do. We see this is as the next step in JPX evolving.”
Great story with a happy ending, not only for Player X at Erin Hills but also for Mizuno.
Source: Rick Young / Score Golf