Story of Finishing Process 1 Steal that Technique, and Make it Your Own!
How much does the young generation today know about the wood club head when it was made of the material it was named for—wood? Long before the high school age golfers competing in today’s amateur championships were even born, Honma Golf was making an extremely artistic club using persimmon materials. At that time, every golfer wanted one of these clubs.
From the 1970s through the 1980s, a great many professional golfers, active both in Japan and overseas, visited our golf club factory in Tsurumi, Kanagawa Prefecture. The phrase, “If you’ve got a handicap of better than 30, it’s time for Honma clubs” was popular with both the professionals and businessman-golf enthusiasts at that time.
In the spring of 1981, 20 new employees joined the Tsurumi Plant to study persimmon club manufacturing. However, there was neither a manual nor any instruction. At that time, there was nobody in the persimmon plant who had time to provide training—everybody was much too busy. The facility handled mainly the molding process.
One of the “trainees” looks back on that time: “This was no training. It was more like ‘stealing’ their technique from them. The only ‘curriculum’ consisted of us was observing the senior employees and trying to imitate them.”
The plant was full of persimmon blocks left to mature for five years after oil hardening. The wood was cut into roughly hewn heads, which had to be shaped and refined into club heads. The trainees observed the heads that the senior employees made until their eyes nearly fell out, then tried their hand at grinding the wood in a vice. They were so nervous that their hands shook, and they used too much pressure. Before long, there was a mountain of useless heads. The trainees would proudly present the ones they thought turned out well to the craftsmen, who would respond with a disappointing, “They’re not good enough to sell.”
Back then, there were master craftsman at the plant said to be the ones responsible for Honma’s unique style. At that time there were neither club blueprints nor prototypes available, and all there was to rely on was the intuition of the craftsmen doing the molding process. Management would tell the craftsmen what they wanted, and they would immediately craft the head based on an image they had in their minds. If the finished product was comparable to what management wanted, this became the first issue of the product—and the sample product for all of the other craftsmen.
These sublime craftsmen of the mold were no less than shining stars to the new employees. They were known as the “1-3-8ers.”