Golfingbrock’s HONMA TR20 440 Review
My name is Brock, and I am a 37 year old golf nut from Texas. I tested the Honma TR20 440 Driver with a Vizard FP7-X Shaft.
I have been playing since I was a kid, and I walked onto my college team and got to play for 3 years with some great players. Though I now don’t play as much as I used to, between family and work, I still get out a few times a month, currently a +2 handicap, and obsess about golf daily.
By the way, HUUUGE thanks to MGS and Honma the testing opportunity, and a very understanding wife, as I have gotten out twice as much these last 6 weeks (for research purposes, of course).
I bought my current gamer, a Tour Edge XCG7 Beta with an X-Stiff Ozik Matrix Black Tie 44.5” shaft on the Used rack at PGA Tour Superstore in 2015. Before the Tour Edge, I had a Taylormade R7 425 Quad that I found on Ebay. As you may have guessed, I wasn’t ‘fit’ for my gamer, but I did test it against the TM SLDR, Ping G30, Nike Covert, and a few others, and the Tour Edge gave me comparable results at a fraction of the cost, so I took a chance on it. As you can see, I found the center a lot.
I let my brother use my Tour Edge while in Utah, because he wasn't touching my Honma. Here's his first swing!
My strength has always been my irons, and my driver has become more solid the last few years. I prefer a low/mid flight with low spin since I play in a lot of wind. My normal carry distance is around 260-270 with roll out to 280-300. My go to shot is a draw, but I can miss it both ways if I need to avoid trouble.
I knew very little about Honma before the review process, other than that they made some really expensive gold-plated clubs (the Beres line), and that Justin Rose played Honma for a year before going back to TM. When the TR20 came out he had some pretty great results immediately, including a 2nd at the Singapore Open (where he averaged 323 yds on 7 measured drives) and a T5 at the Hero World Challenge.
As I delved into the company, I learned about their history of over 60 years producing high quality craftsman clubs in Sakata, Japan, and that they build all the components from heads to Vizard (a combination of Victory and Wizard) shafts in house with the utmost quality control. Honma sought to provide the perfect blend of beauty and performance.
I hit a TR20 440 with a stock Stiff shaft a few times at PGA Tour Superstore before mine arrived, and it had a great sound and feel, but as it wasn’t tuned to me, it wasn’t any better than my current gamer. For the TR20 to earn a spot in my bag, it would have to give me better distance while maintaining my accuracy, and be a club I can trust under pressure.
This driver has tons of tech inside, but the outside is all class. With several manufacturers going with a matte black finish, the Honma really stands out! From the shiny black top and polished titanium face, to the tasteful gold accents on the carbon fiber woven sole, it almost looks too pretty to hit. The shape is a classic pear shape, and the top of the club has no markings, which I love! The club sits very nice and square at set up, and gives me confidence to swing away.
Honma starts the process by hand carving the shape of the head out of a block of Mississippi persimmon by the craftsmen in Japan. Once that was perfect, they built a very light titanium frame so that they could position the adjustable weights in the perfect spots, and added the ET40 carbon crown and the woven carbon sole.
The Headcover is also high quality, and not only protects the club, but makes the bag look really sharp!
The sound is a nice THWACK when you hit it in the center. It’s not too muted or too tinny. Mis-hits have a bit more reverb and a slightly deeper tone. One of my playing partners says it even sounds fast!
It feels smooth like a persimmon when you hit the center of the face, but it feels a heavy when you miss it high or on the toe. But you can feel exactly where on the face you missed it, so the feedback response is great. It feels slightly worse than my gamer on mis-hits(-1), but the added feedback is nice.
Basic Characteristics: 19/20
Trajectory: The TR20 has a good mid-ball flight when I have it set at 8.5. I can flight it high or low as as needed, but normal launch is 14°
Workability: This driver is much more stable than what I had before, and while I can work it a bit, it is harder to curve with precision than my old gamer (-1)
Accuracy: I can tell a definite improvement in dispersion, and the results are repeatable with good swings. I had several in a row on the simulator and range that were almost identical. This is much harder to do on the course!
Distance: On the course it seems to be at least 10-15 yards longer. The simulator showed significant gains in clubhead and ball speed, carry distance, and total distance!
Forgiveness: While you can definitely feel mis-hits, they aren’t overly penal and are still within 10-15 yards of good strikes.
Adjustability: With the 3 sole weight adjustments that provide high MOI, low spin, or draw bias, and 4 hosel adjustment options to change the loft up or down 1 degree or lie up to 2 degrees upright, there are multiple options to fine tune to the best possible option. There are two 3g weights, and 1 9g weight. I tried them all!
Under Pressure –If I know I need to carry a distance (up to around 270), I feel confident that will be no problem with a solid swing. On a tight hole I trust my fairway finder swing to keep me in play. I now know I can hit driver off the deck if needed.
On Course Performance: (28/30)
Overall, how did it Perform?
Overall, the Honma has performed exceptionally on the course. My first round, while playing with bruised ribs, but aided by elevation, ibuprofen and beer, I hit several over 300 (and a couple near 350) on a mountain course.
When I got back to my home course, the gains were still there, and even had a few wedges and short irons into par 5’s. I had 1 bad driving round, but dialed in the adjustments, and now this thing is money. This driver, like any driver can still miss big right or left with just the wrong swing!
In my last round, after laying up short of a creek with a 285 yard carry to clear, I pegged a 2nd ball to see if I the Honma could clear, and when I arrived, it was sitting in the fairway 50 yards past the creek!
How, if at all, did this product change your impression of the Honma? I went from knowing next to nothing about Honma to a true believer in a few short weeks. Pure class from customer service to clubs.
What feature would you change or eliminate from the next generation of this model?
The weight adjustments are nice and intuitive. I love that the shaft stays in the same alignment with all the loft and lie adjustments. But I wish extra weights came with the clubs, including 6g and 12g to provide more adjustability options. Then again, too many options might drive a tinkerer mad!
Here's my videos with several swings and sounds. My favorites are the reactions from partners when it's hit!
Although we weren’t able to get fit in person, @PrestonAtHonma took the time with each of us to get us into a great driver. We talked specs and our game for 40 minutes @PMookie and perhaps others can speak to the premium fitting experience. Though I had wondered if any other shaft or loft option would have been chosen with a fitting, once I hit it I knew I had the right club.
As I was travelling the week the driver was set to ship, Preston was able to get the driver sent to our Airbnb in Utah so that the package wasn’t left on the porch. Throughout the process, Preston was available for feedback and adjustment help.
Also, it was comforting knowing that our clubs were assembled by Master club builder “Wedge Wizard” Jason Sanborn. The packaging, tooling and adjustment instructions were all included, and making adjustments is easy, though the Japanese to English translation in the instructions was a bit confusing at times.
Play it or Trade it? 19/20
I gifted my Tour Edge driver to my brother-in-law today, who just recently started playing. As much as I loved that club, it’s been replaced in the bag by Honma!
The Honma TR20 is made for the low to mid handicapper with refined taste. The ‘TR’ in the model number stands for ‘Tour Release’. This club performs better than my current gamer by quite a good margin, so the Honma will definitely stay in my bag. If I had the option to keep the 440 or go with the 460, I'm fairly certain I would keep the 440.
As a budget conscious golfer who’s never been fit for clubs or purchased a brand-new driver, I’m not necessarily the target audience for $750 premium driver. However, as a low handicapper trying to get the most out my game, I feel confident that this will help me play my best golf.
This is a serious club with great tech that should be strongly considered with the bigger name brands if you are in the market for a custom fit driver. I have gained yards, have shorter clubs into greens on average, and am consistently in play. The fine-tuning loft and weight adjustments can also help really dial in the swing.
Although this club might not be for everyone, it is in my opinion the sexiest driver on the market. It’s a great conversation starter with playing partners, and it’s fun to see the awe on their face when it pops off the club face!
With their quality craftsmanship and now with the Honma House in Carlsbad, Ca and the Tour experience fitting vans available, I expect big things for Honma in the US and in a lot more bags over the next few years.
At the start of the process, before I talked with Preston, and before I swung the club, I expected my review to be much more critical, but here we are with an A+!
Disclaimer: When @PrestonAtHonmaasked why I chose the 440 over the 460, I told him that it improved my odds of being picked, because a majority of the applicants picked the 460
FINAL SCORE: 95/100