Before 2015 the last time I gave a lot of serious thought to a Mizuno driver, we were just getting past Y2K.
Throughout the 1990’s Mizuno was a SERIOUS irons company, just as they are today. At the time they were on an unprecedented run on the PGA TOUR at a time when many players chose their irons based on personal preference and not the size of their equipment tee up cheques. They held the #1 spot for irons played on the PGA TOUR for most of the decade.
It cemented their reputation as an iron company.
It wasn’t if they were paying any less attention to the metal wood market, they just could not seem to gain ground against the behemoths of the day.
That became even more difficult in the 2000’s as other manufacturers aggressively pursued a share of the wood business.
Even so, Mizuno was not shy to introduce new technologies. Their MP-600 driver (see video below) came with “FastTrack” moveable weights – something now common with other manufacturers.
And then the JPX-850 arrived last year.
It was a serious driver delivering impressive numbers. Low spin, moveable weights, and an adjustable hosel for loads of loft and lie changes.
It piqued the curiosity of serious golf equipment aficionados, and proved that Mizuno had the capability to compete, technology-wise, with the best available.
But…it still had room for improvement.
At 440cc it was an exacting driver that did not provide a lot of reward away from the most effective hitting area and some questioned the market appeal to a glossy, electric blue driver.
But the potential was there.
And now, the JPX-900 is here, addressing many of the small but key points that might have held the JPX-850 back in any way.
“We want to not only be taken seriously, but to be respected in the wood category,” said Ryan Ellis, Associate Brand Manager – Golf. “We realized to do this that we had to change people’s perceptions of our performance, and it started with changing our approach to the design process. Our biggest problem was we were operating within our known possibilities. When we began designing the JPX900 woods we went to the table without any restraints in mind, especially cost, and looked at what mattered the most — performance. This pushed us beyond our known possibilities, creating an explosion of ideas, knowledge and technologies that have birthed a new beginning in the wood category for us. This not only changes the game for us now, but for the future as well. With the JPX900 woods, we are just getting started.”
To compare the products I recently spent some time with Chris Caldwell of Mizuno Canada. With both drivers in hand we slugged it out on the range at the Dundas Valley Golf & Curling Club, then took the JPX-900 products (driver, fairways, hybrid, and irons, plus T-7 wedges) to the golf course for a real experience.
At first look the bottom of the JPX-900 driver looks busy…very busy. As a golf professional and former retailer with fitting experience it was actually a welcome sight. While more availability of adjustments might sometimes be confusing for the consumer, for the fitter it allows them to more precisely dial in what the golfer needs to get the most out of their normal swing and ball strike patterns. If they get a better ball flight, that is what counts.
The new model allows for much more freedom in weight placement. The Unlimited Fast Track allows you to dial in front/back weight placement to control spin rates and launch angles while heel/toe weight also lends itself to strike pattern tuning to minimize or accentuate gear effect. That ultimately means controlling the curvature.
Add all this to the Quick Switch hosel with lofts of 7.5 though 11.5 degrees (Ladies 10.5-14.5) available in one degree implements as well as some lie adjustability. All at the turn of wrench.
Enhancing the Quick Switch hosel, a carryover from the 850, is the new Visual Face Angle Adjustment (VFA) plate. In the 850, when you got beyond lofts of 9.5 the clubhead began to appear closed. That seemed to make sense when you consider than many players fighting shots that fall to the right need a closed face angle. But…there are a lot of players who may need a higher loft who don’t want, or need, that face angle. The new VFA adjustment allows you to dial in an open, neutral, or closed face for those players who sole their clubhead. Problem somewhat solved and it works; I saw it with my own eyes.
Adjustability aside, no golfers, even a tour professional, is a robot. That means that a driver can be an absolute hammer off the centre of gravity on the face but if the ball speed is minimized too greatly away from the area, we all suffer.
“I asked the guys to come back with a driver that worked like the JPX850 when hit it out of the middle – but without the drop off in distance I experienced when I missed it a touch. Even as tour players we want clubs that let us off occasionally. The guys did a phenomenal job,” says two-time European Tour winner Chris Wood.
The result is change in size and shape for the 900 vs the 850. The new model has a longer profile, is slightly shallower, and is wider from front to back. It inspires confidence but also proves to feel “hotter” across a larger part of the face. This is also due to a new “CORTECH” face that helps spread the hot zone. We’ll do launch monitor testing in the future to verify this but on the course heel and toe strikes were clearly not as punished as they were with the 850.
To cap the clubhead story the “Mizuno Blue” colour is still there on the clubhead but now in a matte finish that is less distracting.
The stock shaft is a “real” Japanese-made Fujikura Speeder Evolution II with various weight options. There are also a wide number of shafts to suit slower swinging players.
The downsides? Well, Caldwell kindly asked me not to hold back but the only complaint I had was particular to me – the look of the slight setback of the face near the hosel. But I got over it quickly. A few long, straight drives will do that for you.
The usual challenge will be for consumers as they try to find a dealer where they can try the driver for themselves but it seems the network of Mizuno golf dealers is growing each year. That is thanks in part to a progressive fitting cart program and a growing interest in the products.
The Mizuno JPX-900 driver arrives at retail on September 16th. If you are in the market for a new driver, don’t be shy to test it out. Mizuno is definitely “in the game” as a driver company.