Honma’s signing of Justin Rose has put the Japanese brand firmly on golfers’ radars this year, but was it a smart move? Joel Tadman has his say...
Was Justin Rose Right To Move To Honma?
It was, certainly among industry insiders, golf’s worst-kept secret that Justin Rose was leaving TaylorMade after 20 years to sign a multi-year contract with Honma.
It is a deal for ten clubs, which suggests Rose will play a custom set of TWorld irons, wedges and driver, while likely continuing to use TaylorMade woods and ball.
The timing of the deal is curious, but in some ways not surprising.
TaylorMade has been looking to consolidate recently, with its ever-expanding roster of global stars seemingly unsustainable.
Sergio Garcia left to join Callaway at the start of 2018, while the company decided not to fork out on the sizeable stand it usually occupies at the annual PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando.
But even with Rose gone, the dreamy quintet of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Jon Rahm should secure enough airtime and on-course success to produce a decent level of return on investment for the company.
That said, last year Rose had one of his best ever – getting to World No.1, winning once on each tour and securing the coveted FedExCup.
In such imperious form, you could argue it’s a questionable time to make such a significant switch of equipment in the parts of his bag that have been the backbone of his success.
One can only speculate on the motivations behind the move.
Rose asserted on his Instagram account that it was a new year’s resolution to “play a club that looks, feels and performs exactly how I want”.
I don’t believe for one second that TaylorMade wouldn’t or couldn’t build Rose an iron that achieved just that.
His P730 irons were a prototype ‘Rose proto’ set built just for him – surely a product of much back and forth with club designers until they got it right.
But sometimes we like to change. It brings a fresh energy and enthusiasm to what we do.
We all like the feeling when we use a new driver or iron for the first time – maybe Rose wanted to experience that all over again.
Naturally, the second thought is about money.
At 38 years of age, his best years may still be ahead of him, but in terms of winning more Majors, something that is surely high up on his list of career goals, time is running out.
Rose doesn’t need the money; his career earnings in prize money globally surpass £50m, let alone all the endorsement money on top from his various other sponsors.
He could start his own equipment company, plating his irons with Rose gold – see what I did there?
But Honma is clearly a brand with money in the bank looking to grow its presence in Europe and the US, and is likely to have been willing to put up hefty cash for Rose’s signature.
More and more people searching for Honma online will discover it’s a brand built around craftsmanship and use of the best materials and processes.
Many of its ranges in the past have been super premium, but its latest TWorld747 family is more towards the affordable side, although the driver price still starts at an eye-watering £559.
Will Rose help put Honma on the map?
On the face of it, he’s a likeable, proven player at the highest level with wins and fans all around the world.
That said, he is one of many Europeans to base their schedule mostly in the US.
In fact, Rose only played twice on continental Europe last year and regularly misses some of the bigger tournaments like the BMW PGA Championship at Wentworth, as well as many other Rolex Series events.
So while he will be remembered for many European triumphs in his early years and his wonderful displays during Ryder Cups, how much Europeans will see of him on home soil with his new Honma clubs remains to be seen.
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