It’s getting to be that time of year again. Late fall is when most of the mainstream of the equipment industry start gearing up for spring releases, and so here we go.

Mizuno isn’t exactly giving us the full monty, but this week, it became the first to drop metaphorical trou and give us a glimpse of the goods for 2020.

Three ST200 series drivers have landed on the USGA conforming list, and while we’re still short on the kind of details that only come with the expiration of embargos, there’s plenty to be gleaned from the three, well-focused, black and white images from the USGA.

ST200

The ST200 is the logical replacement for the ST190. It should again prove to be the most mainstream of Mizuno’s driver offerings. The notable design tweak is that the round weight Mizuno used for swing weighting purposes has been replaced by a larger, trapezoidal version. Most manufacturers have moved away from round weights as trapezoids and triangles generally allow for more mass to be pushed closer to the perimeter. As with most everything else, it’s about optimization through seemingly minor details.

It’s purely speculative, but the updated weight could also be heavier, which would result in a higher MOI driver. That’s an area where Mizuno has been okay, but certainly not among the leaders in by-the-numbers forgiveness.

ST200G

ST200G will backfill for Mizuno’s high adjustability, low spin ST190G. Two things stand out with the 200G. The first is a bit of new structure in Mizuno’s Wave Channel. The likely story is that it adds support and helps more precisely control the flexing of the face. This type of thing is almost always about retaining the right amount of ball speed in the right places, without going over the limit.

The channels that support the movable weights have also been reshaped and refined. As with the weight in the standard ST200, the goal appears to be to push weight further to the extremes.  By allowing golfers to move weight even farther back, Mizuno would be able to retain the low spin characteristics of the front weight positions, while leveraging a more rearward back position to increase launch angles (by way of dynamic loft) and the potential MOI/forgiveness of head.

The reality is that despite all of the shiny bits on the soles of Mizuno’s last few drivers, the capability to affect meaningful change in launch conditions was limited compared to many of its competitors’ moveable mass offerings. What I see with the 200G suggests an improvement that could make ST200G viable for a higher percentage of golfers.

ST200X

Finally, there’s the ST200X. The 10.5° spec on the model tested by the USGA suggests it will replace the lightly discussed ST190HL. Whether the ‘X’ is for Xtreme forgiveness, Xtreme CG, something entirely different, or nothing in particular except to designate that it’s not one of the other two, remains to be seen. I suppose it’s not of any specific consequence, regardless.

As with the standard ST200, the trapezoidal rear weight suggests higher MOI, while the new heel-side screw structure suggests the potential for more draw bias. Again, that’s purely speculative. Given Mizuno’s reputation as a brand for better players, it would be a bit out of character to chase the anti-slice flavor of shot shape correction. That said, Mizuno has done a fine job of extending its iron offerings beyond the traditional Mizuno player. There’s no reason that it couldn’t be successful doing the same with the metalwoods.

Success is Relative

While fans of Mizuno will no doubt find the new offerings compelling, I’m not expecting Mizuno to disrupt the state of the market in 2020. 2019 was, in relative terms, an exceptional year for Mizuno metalwoods, highlighted by Keith Mitchell’s win at the Honda Classic – Mizuno’s first PGA Tour driver victory in 19 years.

That gave the company some much-needed awareness and credibility in the driver space, and with it, a hint of momentum as well. Mizuno has no ambition to be the next TaylorMade or Callaway, but if the ST200 allows Mizuno to keep things rolling and build off what it accomplished with ST190, it should be plenty good enough.

More details as soon as they become available.