Seven days into 2019 and we have to ask:
Are you overloaded with new product launch stories yet?
Last week was – to quote Dickie Roberts – nucking futts, with TEN launch stories in only three days. Friday was wall-to-wall Callaway: SIX new products, a social media blitzkrieg, and a live webcast. The only thing missing was a ticker-tape parade through downtown Carlsbad.
You may find it exhilarating or tiring, but it sure as hell isn’t boring.
Today is Mizuno’s turn. The launch of the new ST 190 family may pale in terms of pomp, circumstance and bloviation, but the drivers themselves could prove to be the dark horse in the 2019 driver pack.
We’ve seen the ST 190 and ST 190 G in the blogosphere and on social media plenty over the past three months, so we know, for instance, they’re black instead of Mizuno blue, but today we finally get to take a look under the hood.
And lest we forget, there are fairway woods to look at, too.
Wedding Soup a la Mizuno
The reason Italian Wedding Soup is called Italian Wedding Soup has nothing to do with Italian Weddings. It has to do with the marriage of all the different flavors producing something singular and unique. When it comes to drivers, Mizuno’s Chris Voshall says it’s the same recipe.
“What makes a driver good isn’t one thing,” he tells MyGolfSpy. “It isn’t Jailbreak. It isn’t Twist Face or Speed Injection or whatever. The marketing companies like to point out one thing and say this is why our driver goes farthest, but ultimately, it’s the sum of all the parts.”
The tech story for ST 190/ST 190 G is an Italian Wedding Soup of improvements and adjustments as Mizuno continues its metal woods reset. No Artificial Intelligence or ScrewFace, just continued refinement.
“Admittedly, we’ve been all over the place in the driver world,” says Voshall. “In ’08 we had adjustable and non-adjustable. In ’09 we had one super-forgiving driver. Then we started going back and forth between MP’s and JPX’s. That back-and-forth between players models and game improvement models let to a lot of confusion as to what a Mizuno driver really was.”
Last year Mizuno dropped the MP and JPX prefixes and gave metal woods their own identity: ST for Speed Technology and GT for Gravity technology. Voshall says every gram was dedicated to ball speed in the ST 180, with every gram dedicated to adjustability in the GT 180. One year later, another reset is in order.
“What we learned is speed is the killer,” he says. “If you don’t have speed, you lose everywhere else, and you’re not going to get very far in fitting. Once you have speed, you can let the fitting take you from there.”
Semantics-wise, both drivers are now in the ST family and share the same speed focus and tech. The ST 190 is the son of ST 180 – built for ball speed, pure and simple. The ST 190 G is also built for ball speed, but with much simpler, more intuitive sliding sole weights compared to the GT 180.
Meet the Ingredients
Last year’s ST 180 was a long-carrying, low-spinning demon, finishing tied for 1st for moderate swing speeds and tied for 2nd for high swing speeds in MyGolfSpy’s 2018 Most Wanted. The 2019 editions feature the same tech, with a few tweaks.
The 2019 versions share the same forged SP700 Beta Titanium face, but Mizzy is adding a composite crown and some updates to its sole WAVE and CORTECH technologies, as well as reengineered CT Ribs (and wait ‘till you hear what those do).
“SP700 isn’t new to golf, but it’s relatively new to consumer golf,” says Voshall. “It was used in some TaylorMade Tour models back in the day, in the Titleist C16 and in some of the high-end Exotics from Tour Edge. The reason it never made it to the consumer level is because it’s very expensive.”
Voshall says the biggest benefit of SP700 is an improved CT to COR relationship, valuable because under new USGA regulations a head can be CT conforming even though COR exceeds .830. If it sounds like we’re about to dive into the weeds, well, we are.
“The reason for that improved relationship is because of the added strength (10% stronger than 6-4 titanium), its recovery from deformation is quicker,” says Voshall. “So if you were to flex the face, it’s going to get back to where it was faster than 6-4.”
Before we start yelling USGA, CT and 239, let’s take a breath.
Yes, the CT limit is 239, and with the measuring tolerances, it goes up to 257. Manufacturing tolerance is typically plus or minus roughly 10 CT points, and the USGA’s quoted measuring tolerance on their pendulum test is roughly 7 CT points. Add them together and round up and there’s your 18 CT point tolerance.
Manufacturing tolerances exist in every industry: there’s the spec, and then there’s the acceptable range the factory can consistently deliver – basically a bell curve. You can tighten those tolerances, but it generally involves more expensive equipment and materials. By using the more expensive and forgeable SP700 material and by manufacturing in small batches, Mizuno says it can effectively take those plus or minus 10 CT points out of the picture.
“By putting more cost into this face, we can design closer to the limit because we’re not in the manufacturing bell curve,” Voshall says. “Instead of starting at 239 or 240, we can start above that, in the high 240’s.”
So yeah, Mizuno is designing to non-conforming CT levels. Before you call a cop, this is where the CT Ribs come in to play, serving to stiffen the face back into conformity, maybe not all the way down to 239, but at least to the point where the USGA isn’t throwing a penalty flag. These ribs are located just behind the face at the top and bottom of the head and are designed to dial back the CT to non-eyebrow raising limits.
Doesn’t that sound just a tad familiar?
Voshall breezed past CT Ribs during as though they were just another guest at the party, but they sound like a hell of a lot like TaylorMade’s Speed Injected Twist Face concept in the new M5 and M6 drivers: make the face hotter than legal limits and then throttle it back. TaylorMade uses injected resin, Miunzo used CT Ribs. Whereas TaylorMade is touting this as breakthrough technology, Voshall says Mizuno has been doing this for “years and years.”
Sweet Sole Music
Mizuno loves stalking about CORAREA – an elliptical sweet spot on the face – and making it as large as possible. Its WAVE sole is designed to give the face more flex and extend the CORAREA lower.
“We’re not as worried on the crown side, because the crown is basically at an obtuse angle to the face. The sole side is at an acute angle,” says Voshall. “Because you’re at less than 90 degrees on the sole side, it’s naturally going to be more rigid, so you’re not getting as much contribution from the sole.”
Mizuno defines CORAREA as the part of the face that measures greater than .80 COR. The lower you go on the face, COR drops off, as does ball speed. “That’s because the ball is impacting on the more rigid part of the face,” says Voshall. “What we’re trying to do is make that bottom part act more like the center or the top.”
The WAVE sole softens that acute angle to get a little more trampolining lower on the face. The concept isn’t new or original (Google TaylorMade buys Adams), but any concept can be refined. In this case, the first WAVE goes deeper into the head, and at a different angle, than previous iterations for a little more flex.
Mizuno is also bringing the composite crown back with the ST series. Again, not anything new (Mizuno had a composite crown driver as far back as 2004), but Mizuno figured out how to maximize unsupported crown area versus the amount of the crown that’s bonded to the club head itself. That allows for the ever-popular discretionary weight savings for redistribution. Whether it’s a tech breakthrough or just Mizuno metal wood tech catching up to everyone else, we don’t know, but it’s weight savings that helps define the difference between the ST 190 and the ST 190 G.
To G or Not to G
The basic difference between the ST 190 and the ST 190 G is adjustability. The 190 has hosel adjustability only, while the 190 G has hosel adjustable and two 7-gram sliding tungsten weights on the bottom.
Mizuno shoved discretionary weight low and back in the 190 to boost MOI and lower the CG and sweet spot, making it what Mizuno categorizes as a low spin head. The sliding weights on the 190 G are located heel and toe so you can adjust for left/right bias – in fact, since the weights aren’t locked in, you could place both in one track for 14-grams of weight in either the heel or toe.
With the sliding weight comes extra mass on the bottom, from both the weights and weight tracks, so the CG is a little more forward in the 190 G than in the 190, making it what Mizuno calls an ultra-low spinning head. With the weights all the way back, it should spin similarly to the 190, depending on the shaft.
As mentioned earlier, the new ST 190’s are black, not blue. Golfers either liked the blue or hated it, with very little middle ground. And when you’re trying to bust the 1% market share figure, you really can’t afford to be polarizing.
Besides, the Tour guys weren’t feeling the blue.
“I don’t know if it was an excuse because they had money coming in from elsewhere,” says Voshall. “People who like blue will usually like black as well, but people who hate blue, hate blue. No one hates black drivers.”
And speaking of Tour usage…
Mizzy On Tour
We’ve said it before, but it bears repeating: 90% of the drivers sold come from the Big 5, while everyone else is fighting for what’s left. Srixon, Cleveland, Wilson, Mizuno, and others are scrambling for position and, like it or not, Tour usage validates drivers.
Mizuno has had zippo metal woods presence on Tour, but that’s changing with the new ST family, and with Mizuno’s evolving attitude toward the Tour.
“The group we have servicing the Tour had become very complacent,” says Voshall. “’Hey, you have a 10-club deal, here’s your irons and wedges, now go visit TaylorMade or Callaway.’ It’s funny how few woods we’d even build for people.”
Mizuno’s pretty driver-confident this year, and they’re working with their Tour staff to get ST 190’s in play. Luke Donald, Lucas Glover, and others have gone into it, with others are still testing.
“We want to treat it like we’re serious,” says Voshall. “We’re more than just pretty irons. We’re getting clubs in play on Tour, and non-contract guys are asking for our driver. We used to struggle to get our own contract guys to ask for our driver.”
Mizuno is being efficient with the ST 190 offering. The standard ST 190 comes in two heads: a 9.50 and a 10.50 HL. Both are adjustable up or down 2-degrees, ranging from 7.50 up to 12.50.
The ST 190 G is available in a 90 head only, and is adjustable from 70 to 110. Lefties won’t be happy, but only the ST 190 in 9.50 will be available for southpaws. The Fujikura Atmos Blue (S-flex) and Red (R-flex) are stock in the ST 190, while the Atmos Black Tour Spec (S) and Red (R) are stock in the ST 190 G. Also, both drivers buck another trend, playing at 45 inches.
“We want speed, and you could get more by building it longer,” says Voshall. “But we don’t think longer than 45 inches is right for the masses.”
Mizuno retailers will be armed with an updated shaft pack featuring 18 no-upcharge options, including the Mitsubishi Tensei White, Blue, and Orange, the Kuro Kage Silver TiNi, the Mitsubishi Bassara, and the complete ATMOS lineup. Additional shafts are available through Mizuno’s custom department.
Mizuno’s M31 360 – Mizzy’s version of the Tour Velvet 360 – is stock, but any grip in Mizzy’s catalog is available at no upcharge.
The ST 190 will retail at $399, while the ST 190 G, with its sliding weights, will retail at $499. You’ll find them in stores February 15th.
ST 190 Fairway Woods
As we’ve mentioned before, it’s too bad concurrent fairway wood releases are treated as afterthoughts, but it is what it is. Drivers are sexy, fairways only get dirty once or twice a round.
Last year’s ST 180 was like its companion driver: simple, speedy with only hosel adjustability, while the GT 180 featured an adjustable sole weight. The new ST 190 is a descendant of the 180, and the adjustable sole weight is now gone.
“The GT had this big old sole weight which allowed you to do a lot of adjusting,” says Voshall. “But ultimately, on a fairway wood, where the head is so small, I don’t care if the weight is 10-grams or 60-grams, the fact is you’re only moving it a very small amount. On top of that, the amount of weight track through the middle was very detrimental to low spin design.”
Also gone is hosel adjustability, at least in the 150 3-wood and 180 5-wood. If you want hosel adjustability, there’s the 150 Tour Spoon, which can be adjusted up or down 2 degrees. It will be a little lower spinning than the bonded hosel models, with a bit stronger effective loft and a bit more open face angle at address.
Everything in the ST 190 fairways – a lighter composite crown, a deeper face and a lower sweet spot (all compared to the ST 180), along with enhanced sole WAVE – is designed to kill spin and make the club more playable off the turf as well as off the tee.
“Some fairway woods work great off the tee, and other fairway woods work great on the ground,” says Voshall. “The Holy Grail is to find one that does both.”
Voshall freely admits Mizuno’s fairway woods have not made the same recent improvement as its drivers. “The ST 180 and GT 180, and the JPX 900, I think they were behind the times, really not up to snuff,” he says. “I think these will put us where we need to be.”
Mizuno’s testing against competitors from the 2018 field shows lower spin, higher ball speed and greater carry for the ST 190. But even Voshall says you should take that for what it’s worth.
“I know everybody else will show you the same slide.”
The bonded 3- and 5-woods will retail for $250, while the adjustable Tour Spoon will sell for $300. The Atmos Blue and Red are stock in the bonded models, while the Atmos Black Tour Spec (S-flex) and Atmos Blue (R-flex) are stock in the Tour Spoon, and the Mizuno M31 360 grip is stock.
As with the drivers, Mizuno offers a wide variety of no upcharge shafts and grips for the fairways. They go to retail February 15th.
A Note About Lefties
I told Voshall Lefty Nation might grab torches and pitchforks and storm the castle over the limited offering. He gets it but admits it’s a dollars and cents decision.
It’s not personal; it’s business.
“In the woods world we’re at about a 1% share, and lefties are a fraction of the market. Those decisions come from the guys upstairs,” he says. “They tell us ‘we’ll let you do this, but you’re not going to have a bunch of left-handed fairway woods that we’re going to have unload at cost.’”
“Our goal for 2019 is to increase wood market share, and if we can do that, we can start turning those No’s into Yes’s for lefties.”
Maybe not what you want to hear if you’re a lefty, but you can give points for honesty.