Justin Rose And Honma: What Went Wrong?

Golf Monthly technical editor has his say on the recent split between Justin Rose and equipment manufacturer Honma

Justin Rose And Honma
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Golf Monthly's technical editor has his say on the recent split between Justin Rose and equipment manufacturer Honma

Justin Rose And Honma: What Went Wrong?

Justin Rose signed a multi-year equipment deal with Japanese manufacturer Honma at the start of 2019 but the two parties recently announced that they will be going their separate ways.

The Englishman was on top of the world in January 2019 and won in just his second week using Honma clubs.

Since then, Rose has struggled and he now finds himself at 14th in the world and with a bag containing a TaylorMade driver and 3 wood, a Cobra 5 wood, his old TaylorMade irons plus TaylorMade and Titleist wedges.

So what went wrong?

Our technical editor Joel Tadman reacts to the news -

Were you surprised?

No I think that's been on the cards for a while now, obviously early on in this season he switched to using TaylorMade clubs at the Arnold Palmer Invitational where he didn't have a Honma club in the bag.

So the signs were there and take a look at his form in 2020, three missed cuts out of four events so clearly for a player who is so consistent normally and a bit of a money-making machine when it comes to making cuts and churning out top-10s, for him to have that string of results clearly something was wrong and something needed to change.

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Will he now remain a free agent?

Obviously he is very familiar with TaylorMade clubs so I'm pretty sure he'll just revert back to using the TaylorMade clubs he used before or similar versions.

Justin Rose Splits With Honma

Rose was back using TaylorMade clubs in his last start

We've seen more and more players now going down that free route of equipment where they're not tied down to contracts.

You look at the success of Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood and numerous other players who have had really good success choosing whatever clubs they want and letting them earn enough money through good results rather than signing equipment deals that tie them down to areas of the bag where maybe they don't want to be tied down to.

Was signing Rose a success for Honma's exposure?

I don't know the exact sales figures for Honma but I'd imagine it has helped a little bit.

Obviously they've only had a year's exposure from him but he was involved in the product design side of things as well so I'm sure he has been influential in them creating better performing equipment.

But whether he has boosted the brand's image enough to recoup what they've probably spent on him, which is quite a lot of money I'd imagine and I don't know the figures - they would have invested quite a lot of money in him over a long period of time, so to get that shorter hit of exposure from a player who didn't play overly well during the time he was there, yes admittedly he did win in his second start using Honma equipment and that was a big step for them in terms of exposure, he was using their driver when he won so it got off to such a promising start and people were talking about Honma as a genuine contender in the equipment game but it kind of just fizzled out so I guess we'll just have to wait and see.

Justin Rose wins Farmers Insurance Open

He won the Farmers Insurance Open in his second start using Honma clubs

It's a clever driver and it does perform, we've tested it and it's as good as anything else out there if you get fitted properly.

It is a bit complicated, obviously Justin Rose has access to the best fitters in the world so he wouldn't have had a problem getting dialed in.

The hosel system is quite fiddly and complicated but we saw him testing the new TR20 driver at the start of this year, maybe he didn't like what he saw in that model, maybe he thought they were going in a direction that he didn't want to go in.

We haven't tested that driver yet so we don't know what it's like.

The product performs, I don't think there's any question about that, it's just maybe they couldn't get it to suit him quite the way he wanted it to, which is interesting because when he signed he said he wanted to play Honma because it gave him a chance to play a club that looked exactly the way he wanted it to look and also he was heavily involved in design so it's a bit of a strange one.

I don't think you can use this decision to slam Honma clubs and their performance because they are good clubs it just clearly wasn't working for Rose, certainly this year.

Will Honma sign any more players?

I would say yes, we probably will see another signing but I wouldn't have thought it would be as high profile as someone like Rose.

TaylorMade were almost certainly looking to offload, they had a lot of big names on big contracts and it was a big coup for Honma to get him.

I'm sure they paid big money for him but maybe they're looking for a softer approach, maybe an up-and-coming player, maybe a few, where they spend less money and then those players grow and steadily perform better and Honma get better exposure that way.

We also saw Sergio Garcia using the new TR20 driver as well so that wouldn't be a huge surprise to see him sign. It remains to be seen.

See more

Why do you think Rose joined Honma?

It was a very curious decision at the time because he was World No.2 and he got to number one almost straight away, he'd had one of the best years of his career, he's not someone that needs the money he has so many different sponsors, he's not going to be short of a few quid.

Rose was World No.1 in early 2019 but now finds himself 14th in the rankings. (Photo by Ross Kinnaird/Getty Images)

But even saying that, I don't think this was a golf decision in my opinion.

To me, it felt more of a business decision than it was a golf decision.

We talked about how TaylorMade were looking to streamline their roster of players and I don't think there was any problem with the equipment he was using.

TaylorMade did create Rose specific clubs to use so I don't think there was any problem with the equipment he was using, this was a business decision that went wrong unfortunately.

We see it a lot of times in golf where players, even players who don't need to chase the money, they do it anyway just because they like a change.

Maybe Rose felt like he needed a change in his equipment, had been with TaylorMade for 20 years, fancied a shift in direction, but sometimes these things go wrong.

We saw it with Bubba Watson switching to Volvik, it was a bad decision.

Ultimately the performance on the course is the thing that matters the most and if these clubs aren't performing for you or you don't feel comfortable with them, you're really going to suffer.

We'd imagine we'll see Rose going back to something that he is familiar with, ie playing TaylorMade clubs he had before just because he feels comfortable with them.

We've seen he has gone back to an almost-full bag of them already so I'd imagine that's the way he's going.

Related: Justin Rose What's in the bag?

But unfortunately it's a business decision that didn't quite go as well as both Rose and Honma had hoped.

Listen to Joel speaking about the Rose/Honma split on last week's Golf Monthly Clubhouse Podcast (Joel starts at 45mins) -

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Elliott Heath
News Editor

Elliott Heath is our News Editor and has been with Golf Monthly since early 2016 after graduating with a degree in Sports Journalism. He manages the Golf Monthly news, features, courses and travel sections as well as our large Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages. He covered the 2022 Masters from Augusta National as well as four Open Championships on-site including the 150th at St Andrews. His first Open was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he walked inside the ropes with Jordan Spieth during the Texan's memorable Claret Jug triumph. He has played 35 of our Top 100 golf courses, with his favourites being both Sunningdales, Woodhall Spa, Western Gailes, Old Head and Turnberry. He has been obsessed with the sport since the age of 8 and currently plays at West Byfleet Golf Club in Surrey, where his handicap index floats anywhere between 2-5. His golfing highlights are making albatross on the 9th hole on the Hotchkin Course at Woodhall Spa, shooting an under-par round, playing in the Aramco Team Series on the Ladies European Tour and making his one and only hole-in-one at the age of 15 - a long time ago now!

Elliott is currently playing:

Driver: Titleist TSR4

3 wood: Titleist TSi2 HL

Irons: Mizuno MP-H4 3-iron, Mizuno MP5 4-PW

Wedges: Cleveland RTX ZipCore 50, 54, 58

Putter: Odyssey White Hot OG #5