Arguably, there has never been a more competitive time in the golf equipment market when it comes to drivers. There are a ton of quality ones available these days.
The golf club meant to be hit the longest way also tends to steer the ship when it comes to brand loyalty. It has proven to be the gateway of trust and as such, manufacturers work hard to make their latest creations are highly appealing, in hopes that it drives the golfer to select other clubs from within the brand.
But what happens if a company is best known for those other products? Irons, for example. Will consumers consider them a testament of brand quality and then consider a driver purchase from them?
Well, brand loyalty only goes so deep and if the driver does not bring performance benefits with it, it is unlikely to be considered. Even if golfers line every other clubs a company makes.
Mizuno – A Developing Driver Story
Back in the era when tee up money (money paid to tour professionals to play products) was not as prominent (late 1990’s to early 2000’s), Mizuno golf irons dominated the counts on the pro tours. That position changed as the company chose not to chase players with cheques to make them play their clubs.
In the last couple years, with many players taking the “free agency” route, the brand has continued to rise in the tour use iron category. 2019 saw some weeks with a 15 or more sets in play during an average PGA TOUR week, often by players not paid to do so. They chose them not for the money, but for the performance.
That has helped the Japanese company’s stature with major winners using their latest products, but where has that put them in the wood market?
Frankly, they will tell you that it has not been the focus of their business but slowly, steadily, they have brought out generations of metal woods that are now earning them respect in that segment. It makes sense since they were on the forefront of some now common innovations. That includes the Ti100 (golf’s first mass-production titanium driver), the T-ZOID, MP-001 with composite crown, and the MP-600 with sliding weights.
In the modern era, their steps to acceptance in the wood market started in earnest with the JPX 850 model woods in 2015. Among those who really delve into golf product evaluation (including ourselves), the 850 driver became known as a “spin-killer” – helping golfers add yardage due to that. What it lacked in forgiveness was added in the JPX 900, which began open the eyes of the golf audience to what Mizuno was capable of.
Last year, the ST180 and GT180 drivers finally presented a package with a shape, features, and speed enough to appeal to a wide range of players…but it had one drawback. Like the previous three iterations of Mizuno drivers it was offered in a blue coloured clubhead, a deal-breaker for some players.
2019 = The Winning Combination?
Given what was learned in producing those three drivers since 2015, Mizuno came up with a greatest hits package for 2019, incorporating all the key attributes of the past, plus a little extra. The result is a pair of drivers that may be the best the company has ever produced, the ST190 and ST190G.
The first sighting of the new driver and woods came at the British Masters in October and, from there, curiosity has begun to build, from both their staff professionals, and even other pros seeking to improve their driving.
Most notably, Mizuno staffer Luke Donald, after playing another brand of driver for the last few years, has promptly worked the ST190 into his bag. On top of that it was already used for to win the European Tour’s playoff event in Turkey…by a non-staff player.
That is significant validation of the new process Mizuno is using to create their metal woods.
“The ST190 marks a total change in how Mizuno approaches wood design,” says lead designer Kei Tsjui. “We now start the development process with our tour players. The tour-tested moulds then become our production moulds. In the case of the ST190, this produced a high-speed driver with extreme low spin for the tour, but with the capability of increasing spin for lower swing speed players.”
Here is how the company describes their two new drivers:
“The ST190 is designed for mid to low spin with maximum stability, and features a single, factory-fixed 6g backweight that adds 300gcm2 MOI for added stability on off-centre strikes. The ST190G is engineered for low spin and offers intuitive FAST TRACK adjustability thanks to twin 7g weights on external tracks that can reduce spin by an additional 200rpm, allowing players to achieve heavy fade or draw biases by placing the weights in one track.”
So what is under the hood (or clubhead) with the new drivers?
Featuring a carbon composite crown, it is matched with a Forged SP700 Titanium thin face enhanced with ribs in key areas and capped with an “Amplified Wave Sole” to helps retain force being delivered through the face to the golf ball.
The head, in both the ST190 and ST190G model, is further defined by a very traditional shape, an easy to align leading edge, and dark finish. They are both loft adjustable by two degrees each way.
The standard loft for the ST190G is 9˚ (right hand only), while the ST190 comes in 9.5˚ and 10.5˚ models, in left and right hand.
As has become tradition with Mizuno there are an ample number of shafts offered at no upgrade charge with new options from the company this year including the Atmos Blue 5S, Atmos Red 5R, Atmos Red 5R2, Atmos Red 6R and Atmos Black TS 6S.
Starting retail availability in February, the Canadian MSRP for the GT190 driver is $499 while the ST190G checks in at $100 more.
ST190 Fairway Woods
With the driver seemingly on track for Mizuno, the gives a greater level of hope for the accompanying ST190 (3 and 5 wood) and ST190 Tour S (adjustable from 13˚ to 17˚) fairway wood.
They, too, sport some of the recipe from the driver in a carbon composite crown and the Amplified Wave soleplate, this time matched with a deep, hot, HT1770 maraging steel face.
“The ST190’s deeper face is not just useful from the tee – it also gives the clubface a larger frame that functions more like a driver for higher ball speed,” says Kei Tsjui. “Normally that is compromised by a higher sweet spot and additional backspin, but by using our carbon composite crown and Wave Soleplate, we were able to combine high ball speeds with an efficient ball flight.”
Like the drivers a variety of quality shafts are available at no extra charge, including a number of Atmos models.
The standard ST190 fairway woods will retail around $349 with the adjustable Tour S model costing about $50 more.
–by Scott MacLeod, Associate Publisher, Flagstick.com