Last year Mizuno redefined its JPX category. Every previous consumer perception be damned, JPX wasn’t about forgiveness. The boundaries weren’t defined by handicap. JPX most definitely wasn’t a game-improvement family. The JPX 900 Tour was proof of that.

JPX, says Mizuno,  is the company’s advanced technology line. Its existence creates an opportunity to leverage new materials (Boron), take a more aggressive approach to styling (harder lines), and in a nod to the realities of today’s market, strengthen lofts across an entire family of products.

But if JPX is modern, shouldn’t MP be traditional?

mp-18-3

That’s always been the thinking behind the MP-18 family, but Mizuno’s Chris Voshall admits that the MP line had evolved beyond what Mizuno ever wanted it to be. Boron jumped the fence and worked its way into the MP-25. Head sizes expanded. Some designs displayed large, visible slot cavities, and in some instances, The MP’s normally soft flowing lines revealed a bit of their edges.

The line between JPX and MP was fading.

So in 2016, the company used the JPX 900 series to firmly define, or perhaps redefine the JPX category. It also gave the company the time it needed to reset and refocus on everything an MP iron is supposed to be.

JPX is modern; MP is sophisticated and timeless. JPX has aggressive lines;, MP is clean and flowing. JPX is technology-driven; MP is where art meets science.

If you’re looking for illustrative proof of the undeniable contrast between Mizuno’s two iron families, the MP-18 is exhibit A.

The MP Aesthetic

mp-18light-from-dark

Achieving the desired MP look takes a bit of extra work. Consider that the shapes are profoundly influenced by the natural world. It’s rivers flowing over rocks, light emerging from darkness, or the soft almost blurred edges of clouds; no hard, straight, or abrupt transitions.

To create an iron that lives up to the MP standard requires a departure from the industry’s standard practice.

mastercraft

Most iron designs go directly from 3D software to the factory master mold. Expediency is the procedural benefit, but to create an MP iron, an additional step is required. The raw shape produced by the 3D design is given to a Mizuno craftsman whose job it is to grind away any harshness to create the final flowing shape. Once the hands-on work is done; the head is digitally rescanned to create a new master mold.

The differences between the 3D-generated mold and the final product are most appreciated in the transitions from the topline to the hosel, from the hosel to the unscored heel portion of the face, and in the shaping of heel and toe. The craftsman’s touch minimizes the presentation of offset while creating a more organic shape.

When you need that softness, that flow, that perfect reflection of light, the craftsmen are able to grind that well beyond anything we can design in the 3D world…so that means the final product will not be what I designed, but what the craftsman has touched -Chris Voshall, Golf Club Engineer, Mizuno

The MP FEEL

sc-feel-shot

Mizuno irons are synonymous with feel, and it certainly wouldn’t be an MP story if feel weren't part of the discussion.

Let’s get one thing out of the way right now; don’t expect any Boron in this story. Remember, Mizuno is making MP MP again, and that means the MP-18, MP-18 SC, and MP-18 MMC irons are forged from 1025E Pure Select Mild Steel. Other than pointing out that 1025E is a soft material, I don’t want to get too bogged down in the metallurgy. That said, it’s worth taking a moment to explain that the E stands for Elite. That’s not industry hyperbole; it’s a designation that comes with tighter tolerances for impurities like phosphorous and sulfur. Fewer impurities mean better resistance to metal fatigue.

17 Golf Chuo Industries

The bigger part of the feel story comes from the evolution of Mizuno’s Grain Flow Forging process. In Grain Flow Forging the billet of steel is stretched and bent before it’s drop in a mold and the forging starts. Mizuno claims the bending and stretching create long, continuous grains from heel to toe, which in turn create a softer, more pleasing feel at impact.

In short, the combination of 1025E and Grain Flow Forging is what makes a Mizuno iron feel like nothing else.

With the MP-18 comes an updated and patent pending forging process that Mizuno calls Grain Flow Forged HD. The HD stands for high-density, and that speaks to the concentration of the grains within the striking area of the club.

In the typical forging process, as the hammer presses the metal into the mold, excess material escapes in all directions, creating a relatively evenly distributed flash (spill-over) area. Mizuno’s HD process uses what Mizuno describes as a partially closed mold that prevents material from escaping along the sole of the club. Instead, the the majority of excess material is pressed out through the top of the mold. Mizuno says the HD forging process creates tighter grain structure in the hitting area, providing the player with more feedback than ever before.

gff-hd

GFF HD isn’t about eliminating vibration. “One man’s soft is another man’s no feel,” says Mizuno’s Chris Voshall. “We want you to feel those vibrations.”

What all of that means is that the MP-18s should still feel every bit like what you’d expect from an MP iron, the difference is that with GFF HD, the good feeling will last a little longer.

Voshall believes Mizuno believes Grain Flow Forging HD will redefine the industry standard for soft, solid and consistent feel, but let’s be honest, that’s already a standard Mizuno has owned and maintained for years.

Three (and a half) Models – One Family

Now that I’ve hopefully reset expectations for what an MP iron should be, let’s take a look at the 2018 lineup. We’ll eventually need to discuss why the concept of an iron family is so important to the MP-18 line, but first, let’s take a closer look at the individual models.

MP-18

mp-18-hero

There’s no need to complicate something as pure as the MP-18 by sticking MB on the end of it. One look and you know it’s a blade. You shouldn’t need it literally spelled it out for you.

Given that, you shouldn’t expect radical evolution either, and indeed what we get is a subtle iteration driven by Mizuno’s desire to make the MP-18 more playable and more forgiving, not by making it bigger (they made it smaller), but rather through intelligent engineering.

So, while the MP-18’s sole is slightly wider than the two-generations-old MP-4, the head size has been reduced significantly over the MP-5 and slightly over the MP-4. Topline widths have also been reduced – again, significantly thinner than the MP-5 and similar to the MP-4 and generous cambering makes the topline appear thinner still.

The sum total of the design efforts creates a compact, flowing muscleback that has no doubt already left many of you salivating – and we’re just getting started.

While all this talk of shrinking MP-18’s footprint might suggest a drop-off in forgiveness, that’s not the case. Mizuno says the new design has a sweet area that, despite its significantly shorter blade, is slightly larger than that of the Callaway Apex Pro and just a bit smaller than that of the Titleist 716 CB.

Every element of the MP-18 Design speaks to Mizuno’s commitment to returning to the traditions of the MP line. The one downside of that tradition is that it’s available in RH only.

Mizuno MP-18 Specfications

No.3456789PW
Club Length38.7538.2537.7537.2536.7536.2535.7535.5
Swing WeightD3D3D3D3D3D3D3D4
Loft2124273034384246
Lie59.56060.56161.56262.563
Bounce22233456
Offset0.1020.0980.0940.0910.0870.0830.0790.075

Stock Shaft: Dynamic Gold S300
Stock Grip: Golf Price MCC White/Black 60 Round
Standard Set: 3-PW (RH Only)

MP-18 SC

mp-18-sc

The SC stands for Split Cavity. I’m inclined to describe the design as a traditional players CB, though for better or worse, it doesn’t offer a radical departure from the anything-but-standard MP-18.

The MP-18 SC is slightly longer from heel to toe, and the face is all of .5 millimeters taller. And while the topline is a full millimeter (oh, the horror) thicker, it too has been cambered to appear thinner than it is. Despite the subtly larger profile, the offset is identical to that of the muscleback.

Once again, the performance story is one of boosting the sweet area while keeping the footprint of the iron compact. This time around your frame of reference is the PING S55. The MP-18 SC offers a slightly larger sweet area in a significantly more compact package.

Mizuno MP-18 SC Specifications

No.3456789PW
Club Length38.7538.2537.7537.2536.7536.2535.7535.5
Swing WeightD2D2D2D2D2D2D2D3
Loft2124273034384246
Lie59.56060.56161.56262.563
Bounce22233456
Offset0.1020.0980.0940.0910.0870.0830.0790.075

Stock Shaft: KBS Tour
Stock Grip: Golf Price MCC White/Black 60 Round
Standard Set: 3-PW (RH & LH)

MP-18 MMC

mp-18-mmc

Almost certainly taking inspiration from two of my favorite recent Mizuno offerings - the MP-59 and MP-15 - the MMC portion of the name stands for multi-material construction. Who saw that coming?

The multi-material part speaks to the use of Tungsten and Titanium in addition to the 1025E mild carbon steel. Every MP-18 MMC iron has 8-grams of Titanium pressed into the body. As you by now should know, replacing steel with a lighter weight material (Titanium) allows more mass to be pushed to the perimeter. That gets you more forgiveness.

In the long and middle irons (4-7), Mizuno adds 20-grams of high-density Tungsten to the toe to further increase the MOI.

mp-18-mmc-consctruction

It’s worth noting that both the Tungsten and Titanium bits are locked in place by the forging process itself and the different contraction rates of the materials. There’s no glue, welding, or elastomer to hold everything in place or dampen vibrations. No welds means no disruption to the grain structure, and that helps preserve the signature Mizuno feel.

I’ll discuss what it means from a performance perspective in a bit, but as you can see from the spec chart below, lofts in the MP-18 MMC run a bit stronger than they do in the MP-18 and the SC, and there’s a bit more offset built into the design as well.

If you’re considering a combo set, you might have just seen your long, and potentially your middle irons.

Mizuno MP-18 MMC Specifications

No.456789PW
Club Length38.2537.7537.2536.7536.2535.7535.5
Swing WeightD2D2D2D2D2D2D3
Loft22252832364146
Lie6060.56161.56262.563
Bounce2233456
Offset0.1380.1340.130.1220.1140.1060.098

Stock Shaft: Nippon Modus 120
Stock Grip: Golf Price MCC White/Black 60 Round
Standard Set: 3-PW (RH Only)

Product Comparison

On the chart below, the y-axis shows the size of the sweet area, and the x-axis shows the blade length.

mizuno-sweet-area-chart

MP-18 MMC FLI-HI

mp-18-flihi

Rounding out the MP-18 family is the MMC FLI-HI which Mizuno classifies as a DLR (Direct Long-Iron Replacement).

For those interested in the metallurgy and construction story: the FLI-HI offers a Maraging HT1770 face. As a reminder, the benefit here is the high strength to weight ratio. That allows Mizuno to keep the face thin (more ball speed + weight savings) without bringing durability concerns into play.

20-grams of Tungsten is placed internally to push the center of gravity low for a high launch and a steeper landing angle which will help hold more greens on long approach shots. The face is precision welded to a soft X-30 body material which allows for easy bending should you need to make any adjustments.

fli-hi-construction

From a profile perspective, the MP-18 MMC FLI-HI offers a thinner top line and is significantly thinner overall than the MP-H5.

It’s noteworthy that the FLI-HI is designed to take a .355 taper tip shaft, which gives you the option of using the same shaft in a FLI-HI that you have in the rest of your irons.

mp-18-fli-hi-toe

To give an idea of what to expect from a performance perspective, when Mizuno compared the FLI-HI 4-iron directly to the MP-18 SC 4-iron, the MP-18 MMC FLI-HI produced 2 MPH more ball speed, a nearly identical launch angle, 100 RPM less spin, a higher peak height, and roughly 5 yards of additional carry.

The point in all of this, according to Mizuno, is that with stronger lofts, the multi-material weighting of the FLI-HI produces more distance, while preserving desirable launch conditions.

Mizuno MP-18 MMC FLI-HI Specifications

No.23456
Club Length39.2538.7538.2537.7537.25
Swing WeightD2D2D2D2D2
Loft16.519222528
Lie5959.56060.561
Bounce00012
Offset0.1500.1460.1420.1340.126

Stock Shaft: Nippon Modus 120
Stock Grip: Golf Price MCC White/Black 60 Round
Standard Set: 3-PW (RH Only)

Dude, Where’s My Gap Wedge?

Before we move on, astute readers may have noticed that none of the three full sets in the MP-18 family offer a gap wedge. It’s hard to argue with Mizuno’s reasoning.

“In the MP world, there are so many good gap wedges on the market. The MP Player doesn’t want a set wedge.” – Chris Voshall.

While you may feel differently, I thought about my experiences and realized that across close to a dozen sets of irons, I’ve only had a single set wedge I liked (well done, Cobra).

Save your money for the wedge you want.

mp-18-sc-range

One Set, Not Three and a Half

When one looks at the 2018, Mizuno lineup, I suppose it’s natural to see the MP-18, MP-18 SC, MP-18 MMC and the MP-18 MC FLI-HI and count 3.5 sets of irons. Decide which one is right for you, maybe toss in one of those DLRs and move on.

Throw that thinking out the window.

While you’re certainly welcome to purchase any of the MP-18 sets in its entirety, what fun would that be? MP-18 isn’t designed to be one or the other (or the other), it’s designed to provide the building blocks for the ideal combo set.

With more permutations than I care to calculate, MP-18 gives you the freedom to mix and match from across all of the individual models. Have it your way… 100% your way.

It’s like Burger King - if Burger was Smith and Wollensky.

Now I know what you’re thinking. Haven’t I always been able to mix and match Mizuno irons?

Pretty much, yeah. Nobody in golf has encouraged the combo set or made building one more user-friendly than Mizuno, but this is the first time an entire family of irons has been designed explicitly with combo sets in mind.

And the key to making that happen? In a word, it’s…

Consistency

What exactly does that mean? Here’s the rundown.

mp-18-mmc-sitewide

Consistent Head Weight

Across all of the MP-18 models (even the FLI-HI), head weights are consistent. Typically, head weights are driven by the weight and length of the stock shaft. If a company is using a DG XP in one model and SG S300, and the plan is to make both sets swing weight at D2, the heads have to be different weights.

With the MP-18 family, Mizuno has chosen to ignore the shaft and make heads weights the same across all four models. An example for the sake of clarity: an MP-18 5-iron head weighs the same as the 5-iron head in the SC, MMC, and FLI-HI sets. Pick any iron, find the one in the other sets with a matching number on the sole, and the weights will be the same.

This matters because when you mix and match the various sets, consistent head weighting means your swing weights will be consistent regardless of the shaft you choose or the length of that shaft. No need for tip weights or other means of balancing everything out.

MP18-MB-Group

Consistent Loft and Offset

Full disclosure - loft and offset specifications between models are more accurately described as consistent-ish.

Stamp for stamp, the MP-18 and MP-SC are identical in both loft and offset from the 21° 3-iron to the 46° Pitching Wedge. That’s right, the 46° PW isn’t dead… yet.

With the MP-18 MMC and the MMC FLI-HI, however, the lofts are a bit stronger, and the offset is more generous. Compared to MP-18 and MP-18 SC, lofts in the MMC and FLI-HI models are 2° stronger from the 4-8 iron (the FLI-HI is only available in 2-6), 1° stronger in the 9-iron, before returning to all square with a 46° PW.

If you’re thinking combo set, the discrepancies might sound like a recipe for poor gapping, which is why you should remember that gapping is largely player dependent.

mb-18-3

We’ve already talked about how the FLI-HI compares to the SC. The story is similar for the MMC; you’ll get a bit more distance with similar launch conditions, and that might not be a bad thing as far as gaps are concerned.

A healthy percentage of the players we see during club testing have less than perfect gaps, particularly on the long end of the set. It’s not unusual for us to find alarmingly narrow gaps between, for example, the 5 and 6 irons in our tester’s bags. So, in some - arguably many - cases, reducing loft in the long irons actually produces more even gaps.

Of course, if your gaps are close to perfect and you want the added forgiveness of the MMC or the MMC FLI-HI, Mizuno will be happy to bend either to match the rest of your set.

Along a similar line, for those who are looking for more distance, or if you’re like me and need a little help bringing spin down, Mizuno offers the MP-18 line in a strong loft configuration. Your fitter should be able to determine if that particular option is right for you.

fli-hi-pair

Consistent Price

True to the spirit of  the idea behind one family of irons, Mizuno wanted to remove every barrier that might prevent you building a combo set. To that end, every iron in the MP-18 family is $150/per club. Unlike some of its competitors, Mizuno won’t ask you to pay more for a compact players iron, and it won’t ask you to pay more for a utility (DLR) club either.

The MP-18 is $150, the SC is $150, the MMC is $150, and your case in point about how serious Mizuno is about eliminating obstacles, even the hollow body MP-18 MMC FLI-HI DLR is $150.

And yes, as has been the case in recent years, every shaft and every grip in the Mizuno catalog is available at no additional upcharge.

Can I get a golf clap for Team Mizuno?

Should You Buy A Combo Set?

combo-set

As you digest all that Mizuno has to offer for 2018, you may find yourself wondering if a combo set is right for you. Obviously, I can’t answer that question with absolute precision, but we have made some interesting and relevant observations over the past season of iron testing.

Combo Sets Make Sense

When players hit less forgiving designs alongside game improvement irons, our data suggests that a majority of players achieve better results with the more forgiving long irons. Not only is accuracy (and often distance) better, standard deviations for ball speed and carry yards are tighter, and we see fewer outliers (really bad shots).

As we move to middle irons, things begin to level off a bit. While perhaps not quite a 50/50 split, it’s not the least bit uncommon for single digit and even low to mid double-digit handicap golfers to achieve better results with more compact designs.

As we move into the scoring clubs (in our case often 9-iron and pitching wedges) we’ve seen plenty of evidence to suggest that the majority of golfers we test get better perform performance from more compact scoring irons. Differences in standard deviations are often minimal, and pin proximity is often appreciably better.

Food for thought, I suppose.

If you’re giving any thought to a combo set – and our numbers say you should be – with the MP-18 family, Mizuno has given you every opportunity to create the set that’s right for you.

Availability and Pricing

The Mizuno MP-18 iron family will be available at retail beginning 9/15.

Retail price is $150 per club regardless of which combination of irons you choose.

For more information visit the Mizuno Golf website.