Hideki Matsuyama’s 3 tips for improving your equipment setup

Getty Images

Welcome to Fit Factor, a GOLF.com series in which we’re shining a light on the importance of club fitting, powered by insights, data and other learnings from the experts at our 8AM Golf sister company, True Spec Golf.

Hideki Matsuyama’s equipment changes are well-documented. When you’re the reigning Masters champion and a megastar in golf-mad Japan, everyone wants to know what you have in the bag.

While we know what Matsuyama has in the bag, very little is known about the purpose behind each change — or even the testing process, for that matter. Don’t assume silence means he isn’t doing a lot of work behind the scenes.

In a rare interview with GOLF.com, Srixon’s R&D department sat down to discuss Hideki’s gear and what makes him tick. (We’ll have the full interview later this week.)

“Hideki is very private with his numbers, but also very detailed in his test process and feedback,” Srixon’s R&D department revealed. “We keep a database of every aspect of his build specs, and we label each shaft build with specs and each head with a serial number to keep track of the combinations.”

Some of the ways the reigning Masters champion approaches his equipment can even benefit the recreational golfer. Seriously. Here are three things Matsuyama does to his setup that you might want to consider.

1. Spin is your friend

You’ve likely heard for years that low spin driver can help you gain distance. While that might be the case for golfers with speed in the tank who generate excess spin, too little spin can knock the ball out of the sky and keep you from achieving an optimal launch angle.

The right amount of launch and spin will keep your ball in the air, which should lead to a longer carry. That’s the number you need to worry about.

According to Srixon, Matsuyama doesn’t mind coming in on the higher end of the spin spectrum. Not only does it help him optimize carry, but control as well. It’s a driver combo any golfer could benefit from on the course.

hideki putter
Wall-to-Wall Equipment: Hideki Matsuyama’s Tiger-esque gear change pays off at the Masters
By: Jonathan Wall

“One of the biggest changes that Hideki made recently was putting in the Srixon ZX5 driver. We have worked tirelessly over the past couple years trying to meet his needs and this new driver has been a breakthrough for us. Hideki was searching for a driver that can be operated like an iron, with a certain amount of spin, not the low spin type which has been a trend of the driver these days. We were able to produce a great balance of spin/control while still meeting the distance performance to compete on the PGA Tour.”

2. Go outside your gear comfort zone

You might scoff at the idea of testing a larger head profile if you’re a better player. But did you know Hideki Matsuyama tests all of Cleveland/Srixon’s game-improvement woods? All of them. That includes clubs typically geared for higher handicap golfers.

“The most surprising thing that you will see him test is the game improvement woods,” Srixon’s R&D team said. “He prefers the larger GI shapes in his woods, which is why he has gravitated toward the ZX5 driver, but he will also test all of the Cleveland Golf and XXIO woods when they come out because the shapes interest him. When we go through that test process, we always do custom masking for the face angle to make sure it meets his eyes.”

If Matsuyama is spending time testing clubs with a bit more beef to see if they work, it’s probably a good idea to go outside your “player type” comfort zone to see if something else works. Maybe that’s testing a more forgiving driver with a slightly higher launch, or robust head shape that isn’t nearly as compact as your current gamer.

Don’t immediately discount a club simply because it’s designed for the handicap level above you.

3. Start ball testing around the green

We’ve touched on this topic before, but it bears repeating: Do not fixate on your speed numbers during ball testing. Sure, it’s nice to add a few more yards of carry. However, it’s far more important — especially if you’re a better player — to have a ball that generates ample greenside spin and feels good coming off the putter face.

If it works for Hideki and Tiger Woods, it’s worth following their lead and starting your testing process around the green. Similar to Woods, the reigning Masters champion has otherwordly feel, particularly when it comes to the flatstick.

“His feel really stands out in ball testing, specifically with the putter,” they said. “It is incredible what he can discern. He rarely changes his golf ball model because it is so closely tied to his putter feel. It is a very intense process starting with the putter and then moving through the bag. Driver distance is also a major factor for him, and the new [Srixon] Z-Star XV produces great ball speeds off of the tee.”

Once Matsuyama has found something that matches his putter, he then continue the process up through the driver. It’s the opposite for most amateur golfers, who typically start near the top of the set and eventually chip a few balls and roll some putts before making a decision.

This is a friendly reminder to do your best Hideki’s impression and change your approach to ball testing.

Want to overhaul your bag for 2021? Find a fitting location near you at GOLF’s affiliate company True Spec Golf.


Jonathan Wall

Golf.com Editor

Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com’s Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour.