We’ve already talked about 2019 being the best year for drivers ever. In addition to Titleist, Wilson, and Srixon who already have their 2019 products on the shelves, we’re expecting new drivers from Callaway, TaylorMade, PING, PXG, and Cobra (the only one in that group that’s already announced it’s new stuff). But it’s not just the big guys. Tour Edge has a $399 Exotics Driver, Mizuno has the ST190 stuff on the way, Lynx (yeah…we’re digging deep) has a new driver on the list, and as of today, so does Bridgestone.
While nobody expects the Tour B J819 to be the best-selling driver on the market next year, the company does have a small cult following beyond its golf balls, and with a significant overhaul of the company having taken place just a few months ago, the new driver could provide some insight into where the company is headed.
As is often the case with the USGA conforming clubs list, details are sketchy. We know it’s going to be available in at least two lofts (9.5° and 10.5°). The crown has markings that read Boost Power Technology and Honeycomb Rigidity Technology. That first one we can reasonably assume has something to do with ball speed retention, while the Honeycomb stuff is almost certainly a form of variable thickness crown technology.
Sole features could suggest some sort of aerodynamics story, or the fins could be just for show. The hosel isn’t adjustable, which suggests the 819 could be another value-priced offering. Finally, the visible 8-gram weight is positioned in the heel, which almost always means the driver is draw biased.
Naming conventions aside, it’s been a while since we’ve tested a driver from Bridgestone that we would legitimately place in the Tour category. Frankly, it’s been a while since we’ve tested a Bridgestone driver that we wouldn’t categorize as solidly game improvement. The most recent offerings have been heavily toe-up, draw-biased, and high spinning. Whether that’s entirely intentional, or simply the consequence of products designed primarily for the Japanese market is harder to nail down. What’s nearly inarguable is that, already a niche brand in the club space, Bridgestone’s most recent drivers have primarily serviced only a niche portion of the market.
At the risk of being overly speculative, appearance suggests that trend is going to continue with the J819.
Bridgestone’s Next Chapter
We haven’t been presented with a clear vision for the next phase of Bridgestone as a golf brand, but recently appointed CEO, Dan Murphy, appears committed to changing the company’s trajectory. All but abandoned in the Angel Ilagan years, there’s already a renewed emphasis on ball fitting. And why not, with Tiger, Bryson, and Lexi, Kooch, and Sneds all winning in 2018, the Tour B series balls are backed by plenty of tour validation. The strength of the Bridgestone Golf brand has always been the ball, and if anything, the company appears ready to try and flex more muscle in the category where it has, almost inexplicably, fallen behind both Callaway and TaylorMade in market share.
Where that leaves the clubs remains to be seen. There’s an argument to be made that the company strayed too far from the core golfer and took a credibility hit with the release of a box set earlier this year. Bridgestone may have called it a Packed Set, but golfers know box sets when they see them, and without casting any more aspersions than necessary, box sets make their own kind of brand statements, and none of them are good.
So while full details are pending, the fact that the J819 doesn’t come with 13 other club; well, we’ll take that as a small sign that the company is moving in the right direction.
More details as they become available.
UPDATE – KOREAN MARKET ONLY
After this story originally published, Bridgestone confirmed that the J819 will be available in the Korean market only. The likelihood is there will be some new USA releases in the new year.