At the 2019 Hero World Challenge, Patrick Reed unveiled a mysterious set of self-named irons, but he remained oddly tight-lipped about who designed them. He told PGATOUR.com that he worked with “a company” for 12-14 months on the custom-made irons, but that he “can’t say yet” what company it was.
Kiyonari Niimi, the CEO of Grindworks Co. in Japan, has confirmed to PGATOUR.com that his company designed and made Patrick Reed’s irons. While Niimi says the Grindworks company is “small and unknown,” he says, “we are the strongest team for club making.”
The Grindworks team is comprised of Niimi, Kenji Kobayashi and Tario Cham. Niimi himself is a 40-year golf industry veteran who was admitted into the International Club Makers Guild (ICG) Hall of Fame as a designer and fitter in 2014, according to the company. He is also acting as the Head of Product Development and Global Sales for Grindworks.
One of his partners, Kobayashi, was previously the President of Endo Manufacturing Company – a legendary Japanese golf club forging house -- and he has been designing and manufacturing forged golf clubs for over 40 years, according to Grindworks. Kobayashi was also the founder of Epon Golf, a Japanese golf club company that has a cult-like following across the world. Grindworks says Kobayashi is known in Japan’s golf industry as the “father of Forged Titanium drivers,” and he now works for Grindworks as the Lead Technical Advisor.
Cham, another partner in the company, is an 11-year industry veteran, according to Grindworks, who has worked with “top industry Japanese golf brands and industry experts,” and he is now tasked with developing technologies and manufacturing processes as the Lead Designer for Grindworks products.
As discussed in PGATOUR.COM’s initial article on Reed’s mystery irons, the USGA Conforming List noted that Reed’s irons were manufactured by Emery Japan Co. Niimi clarified that confusion by saying that Emery Japan Co. was a previous company name for the new Grindworks Co., and that the USGA and R&A websites use the Emery name for approval of its products because the USGA and R&A “still have not changed the name of our account.”
While the Grindworks company has a number of different products available on its website, Niimi says Reed’s irons were a completely original design because of Reed’s needs.
“About one year ago, Patrick contacted me asking to try one of our products, but I preferred to offer him an original designed iron set. His iron lie angle is very flat, which would change the total design concept of the iron if we bent an existing head 4 degrees more flat!” Niimi told PGATOUR.COM. “He also wanted a head with CG (center of gravity) at the exact center of the head for every iron. It was a hard job, hence we have to spend a lot of time and make a lot of prototypes.”
Reed previously told PGATOUR.COM that due to the CG placement on the new irons, “the ball does what it’s supposed to do.”
Niimi said that he doesn’t know how Reed actually found out about the Grindworks company.
Patrick contacted me through email,” Niimi explained. “I don't know how he could find me. Kobayashi and I were working with many USA brands and OEMs once ago -- before China took our place -- such as Ben Hogan, Titleist, Callaway, Cleveland etc.”
While Grindworks may be relatively small and unknown, Niimi and Kobayshi have had their hands in designing and forging popular golf clubs for top U.S. brands for years. Now, with the help of Reed’s custom set, it’s likely that golf equipment fans will start to recognize the Grindworks name, too.
As Reed told PGATOUR.COM at the Hero World Challenge, he will reveal more about the irons on Jan 1. We will be sure to keep you updated on any new information once it’s made available.