In my former life, as a golf retailer, buying decisions could make or break the business. As sales reps worked hard to sell you on their brand, in the back of my mind it was best to already know exactly what my customers really needed.
Many times the “hot product” wasn’t always the best one, just the one that golfers were seeking. Elaborate marketing campaigns often sway golfers beyond rationality but it was up to us to balance their desires with a properly fitted product that could actually help their golf game.
While the popular clubs often dictated shelf space in the store, there was always room for other products, the ones we may not have sold as much of that were reliable, top-quality, and would appeal to at least a niche audience of aficionados.
Among those brands was Mizuno Golf. At the time, before the endorsement fury that we see on the PGA Tour today, Mizuno was the dominate iron played on the PGA Tour. Their MP-14 and MP-29 models were legendary and although they may have cost a few more dollars than other sets of irons, those that invested in them always seemed to be satisfied.
In fact, at the start of December I ran into one of my customers from those days (nearly 20 years ago) getting ready for a late season round. His MP-14 irons had made way for a new set of MP-H4’s and I learned that his loyalty to the iron brand had never wavered. It’s not all that surprising.
In a world of marketing hype and a battle to add more useful features, Mizuno Golf clubs have remained true to their origins. Top quality forgings are the core of their existence and while it might not be flashy, it’s has been good enough for some of the best players in the world. Sadly, many up and coming amateurs seem to be attracted to what the masses are playing rather than delving deep into their golf club options.
I’ll admit, as many clubs as I have tested over the years, I have likely not spent enough time with Mizuno products but a recent chance to test the new MP-T4 wedge and a chat with Mizuno Canada Sales Representative Chris Caldwell renewed by respect for the brand and their offerings.
After a season in 2012 where Mizuno Golf introductions were basically limited to two blade designs, 2013 promises to be a big one for the 107 year-old manufacturer.
Caldwell says he is excited at the prospects of their 2013 line-up, one laced with several new irons, a complete range of woods, and the product that caught my eye immediately, the aforementioned MP-T4 wedge.
In some senses the MP-T4 exemplifies what Mizuno Golf products are all about. There is no shortage of research and development work put into them but the inclusion of the resulting technological developments is subtle, purposeful. Garish is not a word in the company’s vocabulary and if you appreciate the clean look of classic clubs from past eras, you and Mizuno will get along famously.
“From a bare-bones aesthetics point of view, when you look at it that wedge it really does pop,” says Chris Caldwell. He relates that the distinctive groove in the back of the head not only helps redistribute weight but allows the club to stand out on the rack, on televisions, and in the golf bag. “When you see it you know what it is.”
Late last Fall Mizuno Canada was kind enough to ship out an MP-T4 wedge to me so I could delve deeper into its secrets.
There are a lot of differing camps when it comes to wedge design and preference. Many players just want a club that hits the ball the yardage they expect while others demand more of their short game. They want wedges that have the versatility to be used for a wide variety of touch shots.
For those of the more demanding type, the Mizuno Golf MP-T4 wedges are right up their alley. Unlike many modern clubs they are more of a no-nonsense precision instrument. The only added frill is the addition of up to 6 letters stamped in the back in any of 12 colours that the company provides for free. It’s a nice custom touch and one that Caldwell says is allowing the wedge to stand out even more. The stamp customization is also offer on the company’s MP-R12 wedges.
Simple; elegant. Easy to describe the look of the Mizuno MP-T4 wedge.
Caldwell says the MP-T4, and in particular the sole, was created with a lot of input from tour professionals like Luke Donald, resulting in a wedge that is all about performance. Those players guided it to have generous heel and toe relief to improve its versatility from a variety of lies.
High-volume “Quad Cut Grooves” are used in the lofts of 56 degrees or higher for maximum spin. This is aided by a CNC Milled face and the choice of a True Temper Spinner shaft as the stock offering. Deep V grooves are used in the stronger lofted wedges.
Available loft and bounce options include: 50-06, 52-07, 54-09, 56-10, 56-13, 58-10, 60-05, and 60-08. All lofts are available in MRH in both White Satin and Black Nickel finishes. Left hand golfers will have to settle for White Satin in lofts of 52, 56, and 60 degrees.
The clubheads are forged from 1025E Carbon Steel.
As for my own experience…
I took the White Satin 56-10 model I was provided with to three different testing sessions. One involved chips and pitches around a green, another involved bunker shots and longer pitches up to 30 yards, while a final test saw it in my bag for eighteen holes for use as often as the round dictated.
A few things stood out to me in this department. One, even though it has no bearing on performance, the MP-T4 wedge looks attractive from the back, especially when sitting in the bag. Its presence drew some interest from fellow golfers with plenty of commentary. “Simple; Sexy,” – I heard nothing but positive comments on its appearance.
At address is where this club really sings for me; pleasing my eye is a big step to boosting my confidence for the shots about to be hit.
I like a teardrop shape over a more rounded clubhead so in that sense, the MP-T4 had the right look for me. With no paintfill in the grooves the wedge is stark at address; a good look for me and one that puts all the focus on the ball. There is minimal progression on the face and the leading edge, even with 10 degrees of bounce, which makes the leading edge appear very flush with the turf. It gives you the feel that you can make a precise strike –a great thing to have, especially in awkward lies.
The satin finish also minimized glare in bright sunlight.
It’s tough to beat a forged club in this department. Even on low speed chips and pitches there is a solidness to impact that evokes the feel of a classic forging. Due to that softness the sound of ball impact is a little duller on full shots, which may be unexpected for those used to hitting balls with harder cast clubs, but it is easily something a golfer could get used to. Impact at the centre of the clubface is addictive.
In most situations the 56-10 MP-T4 stood its ground. Chips and pitches off hardpan, firm turf, and fluffy grass were all rewarded with decent contact on good swings. Half shots checked up nicely around the greens as did those played off longer pitches. Spin off full shots was fairly aggressive so I had to factor that in when playing those shots. Undoubtedly that would lessen as wear on the face progressed.
The Mizuno MP-T4 sports a clean look at address.
In the bunker department, the 56-10 excelled in use from firmer fairway and greenside traps. In very soft sand there was a slight digging tendency but for those that play that kind of sand regularly you could always choose the 56-13 with more bounce.
Overall there was not a lot of imitations on this wedge, even when the face was opened to play more extreme shots.
The most notable detail on this wedge was the stock grip offering, a custom Golf Pride M-31 58 round. The greater width of this grip filled my larger hands nicely, helping to eliminate extra hand action. It was a well thought out addition.
The Final Word
For golfers after a no-nonsense wedge the MP-T4 really fits the bill. Much like a Swiss Army knife, it can handle a lot of tasks very well. In keeping with the Swiss theme it also carries with it a simple precision and beauty that any golf enthusiast would be happy to have in their arsenal.
As Chris Caldwell said of the MP-T4, “In my opinion I think it is the nicest wedge that Mizuno has ever done.”
As biased a statement as that may be coming from a Mizuno employee, after playing it for myself, it would take a lot for me to argue with his analysis.