I deal in used golf equipment and do a lot of research into fake golf clubs to ensure I don't buy or sell any. I thought I would start writing some guides where I can bring together everything I have learned in one place.
This particular guide deals with Mizunos and more particuarly with the JPX 800 series as they are the newest therefore the most copied model. If you want to see for yourself what the problem is then go to AliExpress.com which is a chinese import site. Enter JPX in the search and see what you get. Yup, a full set of knock off Mizuno JPX irons for $250. They get round trade right infringements by not showing a Mizuno logo in the pictures or mentioning Mizuno in the text. What does this tell us? One ther are easy to get, two they spend a bit of money on them so the 'quality' will be convincing and even worse, they have feedback ratings which shows that people are buying them. Which means you could be buying them.
So how do we spot them: Firstly most fake clubs are made for the US market as it is the largest golf market on earth. Mizuno golf clubs made in the last four years or so have serial numbers on them. Older Minzunos have gold letter numbers/letters (usually short like 456J) on the ferrule (plastic bit between shaft and head). Newer ones will either have them on the head or the shaft. Mizunos made for the US market have a code like 3456778 marked on the back of the neck of the head and it will be on EVERY club. Mizunos made for the rest of the world have a longer two line serial number (like OCY3X Z21134) which is located about an inch down from the grip on the back of the shaft on EVERY club. This goes for drivers and irons, steel or graphite. Most of the fakes will therefore have either no serial numbers at all or will have US ones or more commonly only one serial number on one iron. Usually the 6,7 or 8 as that's where Callaway put them and the Chinese get lazy and just copy that.
The heads sometimes have some clues. Check the font on the numbering on the soles. Fakes are usually different and also sometimes forget to put a line under the 6 or 9. The decals on the heads are tricky as they are just thin stamped aluminium decals glued into the cavity. This makes them easy to copy. That said the fakes don't look as sharp or crisp and the colours are slightly faded. Also on a genuine club the decals are made to measure for each cavity which varies from club to club. In fakes they just use the same decal size which can make for some interesting gaps here and there. This is a hard one to spot in a pic but can be easy when holding them.
I've read some articles which say the heads can be different: incorrect lofts, slightly different curves to the toes, variations in the cavity, etc. Probably true but very hard to spot from a photo.
Shafts are somewhat easier. A lot of fakes are sold with 'JPX shafts' or 'MF 100s'. There is no such thing as a JPX or MF shafts. You can only get the JPX in Exsar IS4 graphite or True Temper Dynalite steel. Fakers either forget this or use poor fakes which have spelling errors, stickers in the wrong place or similar. The Exsar writing should be in line with the grip thumb lines. The True Temper wrap should also be nicely centrally aligned and consistent from club to club. In fakes they just stick the shaft on anyway they like. They also may be missing the True Temper logo on the shaft (although this does rub off over time).
Grips, well they are a bit trickier. To the best of my knowledge all Mizunos should be sold with the Golf Pride M-21 grip which has MIZUNO rather than Golf Pride written on the side. But of course they are easily copied or you might be buying a regripped one anyway. However I recently saw a listing on ebay for an 'as new' set of JPXs and they had plain GP Tour Velvets on them. Why would an almost new set of clubs have been regripped?
If you are buying new Mizunos they should come in a Mizuno box and have some rather complex wrapping. While this could vary they won't be plain plastic. The 6 normally has a crap load of barcodes, another will have a big gaudy MAX COR sticker on the head and so on. However this could vary year to year.
The fakers have come up with the crafty idea of hitting a few balls with a new set and selling as barely used. Tricky sods.
Now look at the seller, there will be some clues. Never take shipping by EMS, that is a chinese courier service. Look at current and completed listings. If someone has sold several new sets or 'barely used' sets then beware. Why would a private seller have 3 sets of barely used Mizuno JPXs lying around? Also ask for serial numbers and locations. Should they try and sell ones that are 'US models' to explain the different serial numbers ask yourself why they have US clubs. Mizunos are not cheaper in the US so why would anyone import them?
How much are they? A year ago when Mizuno brought out the JPX pro series you could buy a set of steel JPX irons from Direct Golf UK for about £375 on sale. They have NEVER been cheaper. Right now they sell them £399. If someone is selling them cheaper then how could they? How could anyone one person or small company get a bigger discount that the UK's biggest golf seller? They can't. Too good to be true.
Always get lots of real pictures of the clubs and make sure there are close ups of everything. Never trust a seller who uses stock photos. Check their completed lsitings, have they sold other sets with the same photos? If so they they are pulling a fast one. Anyone selling a set of £300-500 clubs should take the time to take some decent pics and pay the extra £1 to upload them to ebay.
If you get a set and are worried compare them to the pics on Mizunos website, they have awesome close ups to look at. Play spot the difference. Alternately take them to your pro shop or to Direct Golf and physically compare them or talk to the staff there.
If you are looking at a set online and want my humble opinion then drop me a line and I'll look at the listing for you.