Looks can be (purposely) deceiving. That’s the premise behind the Mizuno ES21 wedge.
Attire that you can actually wear from the office to the golf course. A work conference in a tropical location. The mullet. Anything that looks how we want it to but functions as we need it to is a rare gem, indeed.
It’s the beauty of multi-functionality.
Mizuno is adamant that the ES21 is not a game-improvement wedge. I repeat, this is not a game improvement wedge.
It’s a necessary declaration, given the, ahem, “non-traditional” look from behind. My hunch is most consumers are going to take one look and put the ES21 in the same category as the Cleveland Smart Sole or Callaway Sure Out wedges. That’s not the sandbox in which the ES21 belongs.
Put it this way: Mizuno won’t be calling Aaron Oberholser any time soon pushing an endorsement deal. This ain’t no C3I infomercial special.
Conversely, Mizuno believes the ES21 is far more versatile and suited to the better player than it might appear after a cursory glance.
The tech story centers around CG (center of gravity) location, spin and shoving wedge design in a new and bold direction.
A BIT MORE
Sand iron. The Sarazen wedge. Sand wedge. Whatever you want to call it, one can make a pretty solid argument that from the Wilson R-90 forward, wedge design has evolved the least of any golf equipment category.
If you want to get really audacious, you might contend that modern wedge design limits performance rather than enhances it.
Historically, Mizuno alternated wedge releases. One year it would be a “T” series, which featured a teardrop design and targeted the better player. The next year, a larger, more forgiving “R” or “S” model provided features likely to attract mid- and high-handicap players.
But, golfers started gravitating toward the “T” design so Mizuno moved away from the “R” and “S.” This left somewhat of a void in the lineup – or as the optimist would suggest – an opportunity.
The result is the ES 21 wedge. Mizuno bills it as an industry-first, extreme-CG forged wedge. The ES stands for “Enhanced Spin” and the 21 is either paying homage to Dion Sanders or suggesting that we’re all pretty much over anything to do with 2020.
Mizuno ES21 Wedge – Materials
The Mizuno ES21 wedge builds off the MP-20 HMB iron framework. Using Mizuno’s parlance, it’s a hollow-body, Grain Flow Forged construction. Specifically, a boron-infused 1025 grain-flow forged face/neck is welded to a 431 stainless steel body.
This frees up a good bit of weight that is repositioned high and toward the toe. As expected, more weight leads to more mass and compared to the current T20 wedge, the ES 21 does have a noticeably higher toe. It’s not in the visually awkward territory of Callaway PM grind or TaylorMade Bigfoot but you won’t mistake it for a traditional design.
Chiefly, this geometry allows Mizuno to place the CG exactly in the geometric center of the club. Not close to center or more toward the middle of the clubface. This is dead nuts in the middle. Ironically, this is where most golfers likely assume the sweet spot is supposed to be.
Hosels are heavy and traditional wedges don’t exhibit much perimeter weighting. As a result, the CG location tends to sit marginally toward the heel. When the sweet spot lives on the outskirts of Shanksville, USA, better players may err toward the center of the face and sacrifice performance as a result. Crazy, huh?
Mizuno ES21 Wedge – Looks
A bit of visual trickery allows the Mizuno ES21 to produce a thinner topline than the T20 at address. That said, most discerning golfers wouldn’t classify the topline of the T20 as off-putting.
In the wedge world, chunky toplines should be reserved for slices of bacon.
The heel-toe length of the ES21 is the same as the T20 and the ES21’s narrow sole functions like the low-bounce grind on the T20 model. Sitting on a display rack, no one will confuse the T20 and the ES21. But looks aside, the ES21 appears to be more or less a high-CG version of the T20.
The ES21 features a black-ion finish, black KBS Hi-Rev 110-gram shaft and a black Lamkin ST Hybrid grip. It’s black on black on black.
Mizuno ES21 Wedge – Performance
Disclaimer: We haven’t tested the ES21 but Mizuno generally does not make outrageous performance claims. So, for now, we’ll go with it.
CG location really is the defining characteristic of the ES21. Inherent in any discussion of location is movement. If the current location is noteworthy, it’s relative to whatever the previous location was.
In this case, the CG is both higher and deeper. Specifically, Mizuno puts the number at 3.5 to four millimeters deeper and two mm higher.
Fun fact: In a conventional wedge, the CG technically sits outside (in front) of the clubhead. For the math geeks, this leads to a negative CG measurement.
With the Mizuno ES21, the CG is also 11 mm further away from the shaft (toward the toe). This amount of lateral CG movement is easy to design, so long as the clubhead is proportionally larger, too. However, Mizuno kept the heel-toe length the same as the T20 and still shifted the CG 11 mm toward the toe. From an engineering standpoint, that’s wicked good.
Mizuno ES21 Wedge – Center of Gravity
CG location has everything to do with the launch and spin of a shot. In general, a higher CG results in more spin and a lower launch angle. The theory is that this provides better players more control over shots where precision is paramount.
Taking it a step further, the CG location also impacts head rotation and the amount of spin added or canceled due to the vertical gear effect. Let’s simplify this, shall we?
All things being equal, a club with more weight toward the heel wants to close quickly as it moves through impact. This is great for helping golfers mitigate a slice or enhance a draw. But a more centralized sweet spot results in less head deflection on off-center strikes which allows the ball to stay on the face longer, resulting in a better chance at maximizing spin. It *should* also help golfers keep the face open when hitting chips and pitches from deep rough.
It makes sense that an optimal strike generates optimal launch and spin. If only we were that good. We’re not.
According to Mizuno, a higher vertical CG produces better spin characteristics on off-center strikes. This translates as more spin when you hit one below the center of gravity (thin) and less spin loss when you catch it a little high on the face.
It doesn’t mean golfers can hit it all over the face and get fantastic results. It’s more that poor shots shouldn’t be quite as bad. And sometimes getting better is really about getting less worse. Right?!
As expected, Mizuno is sticking with its variable-depth quad-cut grooves and hydroflow laser milling on the ES21. It’s pretty much an industry standard at this point but deeper, narrower grooves on stronger lofts and wider, shallower grooves on weaker lofts help create more ideal spin/launch conditions.
In 2019, the Mizuno T20 separated itself from many competitors due to its performance in the “wet versus dry” portion of Most Wanted testing. The reason? Hydroflow Microgrooves. Wedge performance in wet conditions is all about spin retention and the additional laser milling between grooves helps channel water and debris off the face to promote more consistent contact.
Who knew wedges and tires could have so much in common?
Mizuno ES21 – Bounce Options
Mizuno offers two sole options in the ES21 – normal and wide. The normal sole is comparable to the T20 low-bounce version and is designed to offer better players more versatility. The wide sole is 10- to 15-percent wider than the T20 but with a similar leading-edge height. All things being equal, this produces more effective bounce, even though the measured bounce is two degrees less.
Think of it like this: The normal sole is more or less what you’d expect from a “one-grind-fits-most” wedge for better players whereas the wide sole is more of a chunk-proof design that includes all the standard benefits of higher-bounce wedges.
Looks can be deceiving. But, again, it depends on your perspective. With the ES 21, Mizuno set out to create an entirely new wedge category.
Mission accomplished? Or is there work left to be done?
Mizuno ES21 Wedge – Pricing and Availability
The Mizuno ES21 is available in right hand only at a retail price of $200.
Pre-sale starts on Aug. 31 with retail availability set for Sept. 17.
For more information, visit mizunogolf.com.