As some of you know, Sonartec has been rebranded as Royal Collection USA, and the Japanese company recently released the JP104 series of woods. The driver ($440) features a driving cavity, strong CG and variable face thickness for a thicker, circular sweet spot; the fairway woods ($250) have a shallow, wide profile for added forgiveness; the stainless-steel JP104 hybrid’s ($220) wider sweet spot makes it easy to escape the toughest lies; and JP104FH hybrids ($250) launch the ball like a fairway wood but with the control of a hybrid. We’re glad to see these clubs back on the market. They’re for better players, and solid ball stickers will see a big payoff when they make pure contact.
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The Hackers Paradise has an article about the Royal Collection Golf Clubs.
Royal Collection JP104FW Fairway Wood Review
While covering the 2011 PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, FL this past January I was introduced to Royal Collection. Other THP staff members had a level of familiarity with RC but to me it was a whole new experience. By the time we had run across the RC booth we had literally covered every corner of that enormous showroom floor. I had seen just about everything there was to see, yet immediately seeing the clubs on display at their booth really impressed me. They’re gorgeous, simple as that. Beautiful golf equipment is one thing; but combining those looks with performance will put a company into a whole different category. I was very excited to be able to put the Royal Collection JP104FW to the test to see if this club was more than just another pretty face.
For the THP readers who might be unfamiliar with Royal Collection here is a little company introduction from their website:
“Since its debut in 1992, Royal Collection has been a proven brand for advanced players and Tour Professionals.
Royal Collection is especially known for the “Driving Cavity”, which refers to the horseshoe shaped cavity seen on the soles of Royal Collection fairway woods and hybrids.
Royal Collection has helped Tour Players capture several PGA and European Tour victories in the late 90s as well as the Open Championships in 2000 and 2004. In Japan, Royal Collection has been ranked #1 fairway wood and hybrids category for the past 7 consecutive years according to the Darrell Survey.
With the introduction of the RC FD series, Royal Collection continues to produce tour caliber golf equipment along with high quality equipment for the everyday player.
Our motivation and dedication remains relentless. Royal Collection strives to make the game more playable, more enjoyable and more rewarding for all golfers.”
Looks, Feel, Sound
As I said earlier, the golf clubs Royal Collection puts out are gorgeous and this 3 wood is no different. The spotless chrome sole is so neat to look at that you already get a sense of confidence before you ever even even hit it. At address the first thing you’ll notice is a lack of alignment aids, but just a simple clean looking all black finish. The clubface is not as deep as some fairway wood offerings out there and that to me is a really good thing. The shape is nothing radical or distracting so all in all the looks really do a great job of making you want to like this club immediately. All of this just helps add to the overall clean look of the JP104 Fairway Wood.
In the past I have used shallower faced fairway woods that seemed to lack that pop, or solid feel, that I really look for in my metal woods. The JP104FW does not lack that pop nor and has a very solid feel to it. The ball seems to come off the face very well regardless of whether it’s off the fairway or teed up at the tee box. Solid and consistent feel was something that continued to stick with me throughout the testing period.
The sound that the JP104FW puts off is unique from most any others I’ve tested recently. It’s not an obnoxious loud bang, but it is a little louder and slightly higher pitched. You’re greeted with that solid louder sound on shots struck right in the sweet spot. Off-center hits don’t sound as good and for understandable reasons, but still a pretty good sounding club regardless of where the ball comes in contact with the clubface. The last thing I’ll touch on in this area is the head cover. It’s a nice looking leather head cover with the usual “sock” that goes on to protect the shaft. The colors are mainly white and black with a red trim.
Before I talk about performance, here are a few things Royal Collection themselves have to say about the club.
“The JP104 FW ensures very strong trajectory with just the right amount of spin for those who are able to hit their fairway woods well.”
“Moreover, slightly shallower and wider profile provides playability and forgiveness.”
More about the Driving Cavity Design
TOE & HEEL BALANCE
- Head forgiving to miss-hits
- Wider sweet spot
- Better transfer of energy to ball, stronger ball flight
- Better sound and impact feel
- Widens sole surface, easier to achieve lower CG
- Gives more freedom/latitude in design
- Ease of setting CG for various target
- Head sits better on turf and comfortable setting up
- Less sole contact surface, superior turf interaction
- Unique to Royal Collection
The day this club arrived I was not able to get to the driving range with it immediately like I usually like to do. Instead I did something I almost never do under any circumstances and that was immediately put it in the bag for an individual stroke play tournament that I was playing in. Typically I like at least a couple of driving range sessions in with a club before it goes in the bag for weekly Men’s Club play or in this case a tournament. Something about the looks and feel I got while swinging this around in my living room just made me think that I’d be able to throw it right into the fire. Besides, there wasn’t time for a driving range session and I really wanted to hit this thing! I ended up using the club twice that round, once off the fairway from 255 yards out on a par 5 and another off the tee. I didn’t quite get home in two with that first shot, but I was right online just short of the green. Off the tee that day I was able to successfully get myself in the fairway on a hole that has been known to cause me trouble in the past. I would definitely say that the first day with the JP104FW in the bag was a success.
After that first day I have been able to put this 3 wood through the regular realm of testing that I’ll typically go though. Several trips to the driving range and multiple rounds of golf have helped me get quite familiar with it’s performance. I feel it is a very easy to hit fairway wood, largely due to the size of the club head. If there’s anything that I find rather distracting about some fairway woods today is that it feels like you’re swinging a smaller driver with how deep the faces are getting, and I am pleased to say this was not the case in the slightest here. I was able to hit a nice high trajectory shot, especially off the tee, as well as off the fairway or in the light rough. I had no issues with manipulating that trajectory either. That’s usually the extent of my working the golf ball so I can’t say fades or draws were easy or not, but a good straight ball always works for me.
Last I’d like to talk about the shaft and the grip. RC didn’t just throw some mass produced made for shaft into the JP104, oh no. They did what I wish more OEMs would get a hint and do; put a quality shaft in a club as a stock offering. They went with a 65g Fubuki shaft and it really seems to bring it all together perfectly from the looks of the shaft to the performance. Good going Royal Collection! The grip is a RC branded Tour Velvet type grip that I had absolutely no issues with at all. Seems like a pretty good fit from both the shaft and the grip to me.
I have to say that the Royal Collection JP104FW continued to deliver for me each and every time it was called upon. Distance wise I think it is a little shorter than some of the fairway woods I’ve seen, but then again some of those fairway woods, to me, are almost like another driver in the bag. I’ll gladly trade a little less distance for a fairway wood that I can hit well from both the tee box and the fairways. Accuracy is definitely a strong point for this 3 wood so if you’re looking for a club that can help you find the fairways on those tight holes or one that can be counted on when going for the green on a par 5, then this an absolute must fairway wood to consider. If you’re seeking another club that you can bomb out there 300 yards then this might not be something that you’ll lean towards. I love that RC paired such a good shaft in this FW and I think that other golfers will also appreciate this as well. The JP104 Fairway Wood is available in 3 (14 & 15 degrees), 5 wood and 7 wood and have an MSRP of $250. To find a dealer near in your town you can visit their website here.
-Jason K./Hackers Paradise
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I’ve always been intrigued by the so-called “cult favorites” such as “The Rocky Horror Picture Show” and the Pontiac GTO. For golfers, one of those cult favorites was Sonartec, an equipment company that pioneered hybrid clubs and was known for the “driving cavity” incorporated into the soles of its hybrids, fairway woods and drivers. The popularity of Sonartec peaked after the 2004 British Open, when Todd Hamilton maneuvered his way around Royal Troon Golf Club largely with a Sonartec hybrid. Despite the surge in name recognition after that high-profile win, Sonartec disappeared soon after, and there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth among golfers who swore by the power of the driving cavity.
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Well, at least in the U.S. Sonartec never really was a proper equipment company. It was the U.S. brand name used by Japan’s Royal Collection (RC), which has been producing golf clubs without interruption since 1992. At the 2011 PGA Merchandise Show, Royal Collection introduced its clubs — and reintroduced the driving cavity — to the U.S. market. The flagship of RC’s 2011 line is the JP104 Series, including the company’s hallmark hybrids.
We got hold of one to test.
We tested the H19 (19 degrees) RC hybrid with a Mitsubishi Rayon Fubuki shaft (70 gr, stiff; $220). The JP104 is a classic hybrid that sets up very much like some of the original “wood-irons” — squared heel and toe, relatively deep face and only a slight offset. This last feature tips you off that this is a shot-maker’s hybrid. But it’s not just built to get the ball into the air easier for higher handicap players; it’s also very workable.
I’m not quite sure what the physics are behind the driving cavity, or what makes it such a big deal, but I can attest that the JP104 is massively long. This is good and bad. At 19 degrees, it’s just 2 degrees more lofted than my normal 5-wood and 2 degrees less lofted than my usual 3-hybrid. In theory, this would allow me to replace both clubs with the RC hybrid. At the same time, some of the holes at my home course set up sort of perfectly for the yardages I hit those other clubs. Using the RC would require figuring out how to get more or less yardage out of my swing, which is notoriously balky without trying to make adjustments.
In short, the JP104 is explosively long but can be controlled and shaped almost as well as an iron. The downside is that, unless you’re planning to acquire several of them, it might be tricky to replace just one iron or upgrade one existing hybrid. Even if you’re swapping out a club with the same loft, the JP104 will be longer. Then again, too much length is always a nice problem to have.
Another potential downside is availability. While it’s back in the U.S. market, Royal Collection isn’t exactly a household name. Royal Collection is destined to be another cult favorite. And like another RC with a big cult following — Royal Crown Cola — it’s well worth searching for.
Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland. Read his golf blog here.
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