The Story of Repair 3 The Heyday of the Persimmon
The name “persimmon” here is the same as that of the fruit. Success with this type of club came quickly to Honma.
When Wakasugi joined the company, the number of employees had finally reached three digits, and before he knew it there were several hundred of them. In 1982, the production and repairs divisions began to shift to Sakata City in Yamagata Prefecture. At this time, many engineers were hired locally, like the current director of the plant, Naoki Abe, and Yutaka Doi, who is in charge of the grinding and polishing processes.
Back when the persimmon was a mainstream, each and every club was an individual due to miniscule differences in the texture of the material, or that came up in the grinding process, etc. Wakasugi says, “Production and repairs at that time were low-tech, but it was a time when we could manage to make all the adjustments that needed to be done working with just our hands.” We fixed all aspects of the clubs, including making fine adjustments to orientation, loft angle, and shape, by grinding the face, mounting the lead on the face, and so on.
There were times when the owner commented on how “the face had changed,” even if we’d ground down less than even one millimeter. The repairs process really helped us to master the art of grinding and polishing.
There is a certain episode that really conveys just how popular Honma Golf’s persimmons were at that time. One famous professional golfer used to send his favorite persimmon in after every tournament to have the shaft replaced. It was an easy task to replace the shaft when they were made of steel, but with the carbon shaft, we needed to pull really hard to remove the part of the shaft that got stuck in the hole. This caused the persimmon material to gradually become decrepit, and in the end the neck cracked.
Even so, this particular professional kept on filling the cracks with bond glue and using the club at tournaments. Then one year he won a grand slam in Japan.
However, along with the improvement of technology, the repair process also changed at a dizzying pace.
During the latter half of the 1970s, when the pulp fibers on the surface of the face were replaced with carbon fibers, we now required a soldering gun to replace the face, whereas prior to that it had been an easy task. We could really get a sense of just how hard the material was when we placed the saw teeth on the score line and saw how quickly the teeth wore out. However, it was also quite obvious that we would have to replace the face far less frequently. In the 1990s, when metal took the place of persimmon in wood clubs, the time when we could do anything and everything by hand suddenly became “the good old days.”
However, this was the time when we were able to hone a number of tuning techniques unique to Honma, made possible by the fact that we had an in-house plant, such as fine-tuning the length and weight of the weights placed in the head for perfect balance, and more.
All the same, Wakasugi and the other members of the repairs team couldn’t help feeling that they were now at a huge turning point.