Mizuno’s announcement of its MP-20 iron lineup has all the elements you’d expect from a major equipment release. You’ve got new technologies and some design tweaks driven by what was learned from the response to the MP-18 lineup, but the most attention-grabbing feature of the MP-20 family will likely prove to be a thin layer of copper. The company says the added layer makes the new irons feel especially soft. It’s the reason for the Layers of Feel tagline, which makes it as good a place as any to start our discussion.
For those keeping track at home, the specifics of those feel layers are chrome (the exterior finish) over nickel over copper over nickel over steel (the raw forged material). It’s enough layering to make Taco Bell jealous and shame on me for mentioning Taco Bell and Mizuno in the same sentence. I digress…
The exterior finish, a mix of satin and high polish chrome, isn’t out of character for Mizuno, there’s more going on under the hood than we’ve seen in quite some time. Some Mizuno fans may recall the company last used a copper underlay in its Japanese market Mizuno Pro TN-87. Sufficed to say, it’s been a while, but the company has been perpetually intrigued by the idea of doing it again.
The thing about copper, however, is it increases manufacturing costs, and some inside the company walls believed that while copper makes for a great story, it probably doesn’t actually do much. So, when the company decided to kick the proverbial tires on some copper-layered prototypes, it did so fully expecting nobody would be able to tell the difference.
In extensive blind testing of two otherwise identical irons conducted with PGA Tour Professionals (both Mizuno staff and non-staff players), the overwhelming majority said the iron with the copper underlay felt softer.
The ripple for Mizuno is that there’s nothing it can point to explain why copper makes an iron feel softer. There are slight but noticeable sound differences at impact, but those differences appear to wash out when analyzing harmonic signatures. The analysis tools Mizuno has at its disposal say one thing. The best golfers in the world say otherwise.
“It’s frustrating,” says Mizuno’s Chris Voshall. “We don’t have anything to point to. We’re not happy with the answer.” While the evidence is, for now, circumstantial (Voshall says Mizuno is going to keep digging), the company is intent on owning feel in the iron space, and so, based on Tour Pro feedback, it decided to move forward with a copper underlay in its MP-20 lineup.
Lessons Learned from MP-18
One of the talking points around the MP-18 was that Mizuno designed the irons to be part of a unified family. That meant that each model was explicitly designed to sit comfortably in the bag next to any other in the lineup and not look even a little out of place. Fli-Hi, MMC, SC, and MB; each flowed perfectly to the next. Mizuno designed MP-18 with a purposeful awareness that golfers would likely mix and match in a variety of combinations.
By and large, that’s exactly what golfers did.
While some golfers opted for full sets, the MP-18 (blade) was most popular in the 8-PW. The SC and the MMC were popular choices in the middle irons, while the long iron (primarily 3 and 4-irons) space was dominated by what Mizuno calls DLRs (Direct Long Iron Replacements); the category that includes hybrids and FLI-HI utility clubs.
None of that should be particularly surprising, but the prevailing theme for Mizuno is when consumers are given an opportunity to choose between models and tailor an iron set to their specific needs, a healthy percentage of golfers will make the most of it. With the previous MP line, roughly 80% of sets sold included two or more of the MP models.
For MP-20, Mizuno wanted to take what it learned from the MP-18 experience and use it as the foundation to further optimize the performance of each model with a focus on the differentiation of the key clubs. While each of the irons in the MP-20 family works just fine as a full set, Mizuno focused on constructing each model to do what golfers were buying it to do.
In this case, optimization means blending the right amount of forgiveness and control, giving golfers trajectory options, and creating cleaner lines of differentiation between each. To that end, Mizuno streamlined MP-20 a bit. The MP-18 family consisted of 4 models, MP-20 is a 3-model offering – though there is some nuance to that we’ll cover in a bit.
It’s with differentiation in mind that the company decided to scrap the SC. While cosmetically SC was appreciably different than the MP-18 (MB), performance differences were nearly non-existent. The forgiveness of the SC was only marginally better than the MP-18, and there wasn’t much in the way of ball flight difference either. The differences were mostly cosmetic, and that’s not enough reason for Mizuno to update the iron.
Removing the SC from the lineup allows Mizuno to create more separation – in terms of both forgiveness and trajectory – between the new models, which in-turn provides golfers even greater opportunity to build a combo set in which every iron in the set does what the golfer needs it to.
As we move through the 3* models, pay close attention to not only the cosmetic differences but the specific MOI and trajectory differences as well. While some may choose to combo irons on aesthetics alone, keep in mind that each of the models is purposefully unique.
Mizuno’s stated goal for the MP-20 was to create The Ultimate Tour Blade. Visually, it’s unquestionably a throwback to the MP-29 and to a lesser degree the MP-14. Once upon a time, that combination was in Tiger’s bag. By some measure, it still is.
As you’d reasonably expect, if you’re going to make the Ultimate Tour anything, you’re going to need the Tour players to weigh-in. In working its way to the final design, Mizuno started with two different head shapes with two different back types. Filed under nothing is easy, tour players preferred the look of the more traditional blade (what Mizuno called Type A), but the same players preferred the feel of the Type B Channel Back design.
The solution was to blend elements of both and create what Mizuno calls a tapered back design. Functionally, the design is similar to the topline chamfering techniques employed by PING, PXG, and others. It’s a bit of clever design that allows engineers to make a visually smaller topline, even if the calipers say otherwise.
Mizuno believes the additional width is why Tour Players preferred the feel (thicker tends to feel softer, while irons with thinner toplines are a bit clickier), while the tapering provides the visual voodoo that gives them the look they want.
The topline taper rate increases with loft, which helps the 9-iron and PW flow seamlessly with Mizuno’s new T20 wedges. That’s all well and good, but the more relatable bit of that is that like some wedge designs, the MP-20 blade will provide a more penetrating ball flight as loft increases.
It should go without saying that the blade option is the least forgiving model in the MP-20 line, but it will also provide the lowest most penetrating trajectory while offering the most workability.
Fully Grain Flow Forged HD from 1025E mild carbon steel, the MP-20 Blade features a Satin+Mirror finish designed to look sophisticated while reducing glare at address.
MP-20 Blade Specs
Note that the MP-20 lofts are a degree weaker than JPX line, though the lengths are now the same. This will be the Mizuno standard going forward.
The MP-20 Blade is available in 3-PW. The stock shaft is the Dynamic Gold S300. As a nod to the slight modernization of the MP line, the stock grip is Golf Pride’s Z-Grip Full Cord
As always, a significant number of additional shafts and grips are available at no upcharge.
Retail price is $162.50 per iron.
Available in Right-Hand Only
With the SC out of the lineup, the MMC gets a promotion of sorts. It now sits alone in the middle of the MP-20 lineup.
One of the fundamental design principles of the MMC is to blend a better player preferred aesthetic with modern technology. As with the blade, Mizuno isn’t trying to reinvent the wheel here. The MMC is what it has always been, albeit with a few subtle changes to geometry and weighting – and of course, the copper underlay – all designed improve feel and dial-in the desired performance spec.
As a refresher, the MMC is a multi-material iron that leverages a titanium insert along with Grain Flow Forged HD 1025E mild carbon steel. The titanium insert allows Mizuno to maintains the thickness behind the hitting area, while still freeing mass that can be pushed to the perimeter to boost forgiveness.
Taking advantage of the different contraction rates of steel and titanium during cooling, Mizuno can lock the titanium in place with no welds or glue, which theoretically means it has no impact on feel. That said, some golfers the MMC doesn’t feel quite as good as other Mizuno forged offerings. For what it’s worth, Chris Voshall tells us that, with the addition of the copper underlay, the new model feels significantly better – more like a blade. This feels like the right place to add our your actual mileage may vary disclaimer.
Beyond all the sweet buttery copper, what’s different about the MP-20 MMC is that, for the first time, Mizuno isn’t using exactly the same Titanium insert for every iron. By shaping the titanium used in the 4-7 irons differently from that used in the 8-PW, Mizuno doesn’t have to design every iron to fit around the same piece of titanium anymore. Instead, the latest iteration of the MMC has what Mizuno describes as a more normal sole progression (wider in the long irons and narrower in the scoring clubs).
That bit of reshaping brings with it thinner toplines, along with lower/deeper CG in the long irons (high launch), and more workable short irons. It’s everything that most better players want.
As you’d expect, the MMC is more forgiving than the MP-20 MB and as an additional point of reference, its sweet area size (Mizuno’s preferred forgiveness metric) places it between the JPX919 Tour and the JPX919 Forged. Though it certainly trends to the players side of the spectrum, the critical detail here is that it’s not brutally unforgiving.
A comparison of trajectories also places the MMC in the middle of the MP-20 lineup.
MP-20 MMC SPECS
The MP-20 MMC is available in 4-PW. The stock shaft is the KBS Tour $-Taper. The stock grip is the Golf Pride MMC Classic in White/Black.
Retail price is $175.00 per iron (due to higher manufacturing costs).
Available in Right-Hand only.
Replacing the FLI-HI in the new MP lineup is an entirely different approach to hollow-body iron construction for Mizuno. Like the MMC, the HMB (Hot Metal Blade) is a multi-material offering, but that’s where most of the similarities end.
In recent years, there has been a flood of only partially forged heads stamped FORGED to hit the market. Some of that is almost certainly done with the intent to deceive, so Mizuno wants to be fully transparent about that fact that not every piece of HMB head is forged. The MP-20 HMB features a Grain Flow Forged face and neck laser welded to a stainless-steel back piece. The company’s thinking is that if you’re going to affix forged parts to cast parts, it just makes sense that a softer forged piece is the one that makes contact with the ball.
As you progress through the set, the construction of the iron evolves. The HMB’s 2-7 irons are Grain Flow Forged from Chromoly 4135. It’s nearly the same material used to cast the Hot Metal and Hot Metal Pro. The primary difference is a bit more carbon steel, which in addition to making the iron feel a bit softer, is a necessity for forging Chromoly.
The 2-7 also feature two 12-gram pieces of tungsten fixed within the cavity. As you should know by now, its purpose is to drive mass low and back for higher launch. The Tungsten isn’t anchored directly to the sole. Instead, Mizuno raised it just a bit to give the sole a bit of room to flex and help maintain ball speed on low face strikes.
Unlike the FLI-HI which featured a single Tungsten weight, HMB’s Tungsten is evenly distributed between the toe and heel. Mizuno found that for some players, the toe weight caused excessive droop (toe down) leading into impact. The new design should work better for those players without hurting those of you who didn’t have any issues.
The HMB 8-iron offers the same Chromoly 4135 construction without the Tungsten weights. The 9-PW are partial hollow designs. Unlike the rest of the set, they’re Grain Flow Forged HD from 1025E. As with the rest of the MP-20 family, the HMBs feature a copper underlay for enhanced feel.
Mizuno is billing HMB as offering a variant of the CORTECH face technology it uses in its Hot Metal offerings, but the implementation here is entirely different. While Hot Metal and Hot Metal Pro faces are designed to maximize ball speed, Mizuno effectively inverted its face technology to dial back speed at the center of the face. Instead of maximizing center speed, the goal is to provide more consistent speed. It’s a not so subtle difference which should appeal to better golfers – and that’s a detail that shouldn’t get lost here. While HMB’s construction is similar to what you’ll find in an increasing number of Game Improvement and Players Distance Offerings, the HMB isn’t that. It is, in every respect, an iron for better players.
“It’s not designed to be the biggest, most forgiving, whatever…,” says Chris Voshall. “It looks like a muscleback at address.”
Thin topline, compact body; check and check. The construction creates a wider sole, but that makes perfect sense given that the primary point of differentiation between the HMB and the MMC is ball flight. I should also mention that Mizuno aggressively bevels the sole to allow it to move through the turf like a thinner-soled iron.
As further proof that HMB isn’t a Game-Improvement or Distance offering cleverly slid into the MP lineup, it needs to be pointed out that the MOI of the MMC and HMB are effectively the same. Because of the deeper center of gravity placement, the HMB can be expected to fly appreciably higher than the MMC – and that’s precisely the point.
For those planning on building an MP-20 combo set; in the long and middle irons, the choice isn’t between compact and clunky. If you want higher trajectory, you want HMB, if you’re looking for a more penetrating ball flight, MMC is the better option. Either way, you get an iron that looks like an MP iron is supposed to look.
MP-20 HMB SPECS
The MP-20 HMB is available in 3-PW. Because of its higher launch, it’s expected to generate some interested among slower swingers as well. For that reason, Mizuno is offering a pair of stock shafts; the Nippon Modus 120 in Stiff and the Nippon Modus 105 in regular. The stock grip is Golf Pride’s MCC Classic (White/Black)
Retail price is $175.00 per iron.
Available in Right-Hand Only.
I know I said 3 models, and so this 4th section likely suggests I’m not good at counting. Why can’t it be both? Two things can be true at once, ya’ know.
I suspect that our left-handed friends have been reading carefully, and by now are likely seething. Canada is pissed. If you weren’t paying attention, here’s the recap:
- MP-20 Blade: Available in Right-Handed Only
- MP-20 MMC: Available in Right-Handed Only
- MP-20 HMB: Available in Right-Handed Only
I also bolded that same line in the rundown of each model.
Hol’ up (you don’t need to hol’ up).
Did Mizuno just give lefties the middle finger three times? It wouldn’t be the first time, amiright?
Mizuno’s Chris Voshall acknowledges that Mizuno hasn’t always given lefties everything they want. For example, there hasn’t been a left-handed blade from Mizuno since the MP-68. And while the SEL likely won’t be everything lefties want, this time around, Mizuno wanted to something different, perhaps even a little special for left-handed customers longing for something other than the middle of the lineup forged iron.
Fundamentally, the MP-20 SEL (Special Edition Lefty) is a pre-packaged combo set that blends HMB 3 and 4-irons with 5-PW MBs. Mizuno took the added step of lasering ‘SEL’ onto the clubhead. It’s a small detail, but it’s one that no right-handed player gets.
From a technical standpoint, the clubs are the same (there’s no lefty-specific engineering), but it’s worth taking note of the specifications. For the SEL, Mizuno has maintained ½” and 4° progressions throughout the set. It’s the way Chris Voshall believes every iron should be made. “Engineering-wise,” he says, “it’s the best set we offer.” As an unfortunate consequence of the loft-jacked fitting cart, launch monitor battle nonsense world in which we live, not every set is made with logical progressions. Everybody needs to compete on even ground, even if that ground isn’t always fundamentally sound, and so demo (7-iron) lofts tend to be stronger than maybe they should be, and the rest of the set gets tweaked to work around them.
Left-Handed or Right-Handed, Chris Voshall recommends that if you’re placing a custom order, you order with the same consistent 4° loft progression.
No doubt some lefties will lament the lack of choice in how they build a combo set, but Mizuno is hoping there’s enough pent-up demand for something different (primarily the blade) that left-handed golfers will be satisfied by the new offering.
You don’t get the MMC, but you get high trajectory long irons and a really sexy blade in the middle and short irons. A perfect offering, it’s not, but I think most will agree it’s a step in the right direction.
MP-20 SEL SPECS
The MP-20 SEL is available in 3-PW. The stock shaft s the Dynamic Gold S300. The stock grip is Golf Pride’s Z-Grip. Full Cord.
Retail Price is $1325 per 8-piece set or $175 per HMB and 162.50 per MP-20 Blade.
Available in Left-Hand Only
New Shaft Options
With the release of MP-20 lineup and the T20 wedges, Mizuno is extending its shaft offerings. New no-upcharge offerings include:
- KBS $-Taper (Silver and Black in stiff and x-stiff)
- UST Recoil ESX 460 (F0, F1, F2, F3)
- Nippon NS Pro Modus 125 Wedge (stiff)
- KBS Hi-Rev 2.0 Wedge (stiff)
- Dynamic Gold Tour Issue Wedge (S400)
Additionally, Mizuno is adding some new exotic/upcharge offerings to the mix.
The upcharge additions include:
- Dynamic Gold Tour Issue (S400/X100)
- KBS Tour V (Stiff, s-stiff)
- Nippon NS Pro Modus Tour 125 (stiff, x-stiff)
- Steelfiber i95 (regular, stiff)
- Steelfiber i110 (stiff)
Except for the Steelfiber offerings, the new shafts will not be in Mizuno fitting carts.
How to Build the Right Combo Set
While each of the models in the MP-20 lineup is available as a standalone set, Mizuno’s intention was again to design a family of models that can be arranged in virtually any combination in your bag. So how do you know which combination is right for you?
To reiterate, the differences between models are found primarily in the trajectory and to an extent, the forgiveness. For penetrating ball flight and enhanced control, choose the MB. They’re especially beneficial in the short irons.
An interesting footnote from our conversation with Chris Voshall; while the unforgiving nature of the blade tends to scare sensible golfers away from the category, at plus or minus the 8-iron, loft more or less takes over as the most significant factor in the distance equation. Forgiveness is less of a concern, and while that’s a long way from suggesting everyone should play blades (that would be a dumb thing to say), low to even some middle handicap golfers might benefit from the more penetrating trajectory and enhanced control offered in the scoring clubs.
The choice between MMC and HMB should be almost entirely trajectory driven. The forgiveness is nearly identical, and while both will launch higher than the MB, the MMC should produce a more penetrating trajectory. If you’re looking for a flatter mid-iron trajectory or even a flatter long iron trajectory, MMC is probably the answer, though elite ball-strikers shouldn’t rule out the MB either. But again, we’re definitely not suggesting that everyone should play blades.
Because it offers the highest trajectory of the MP-20 models, for many, the HMB will prove to be the ideal long iron replacement (it’s effectively the replacement for Mizuno’s signature long iron replacement). Golfers looking for higher launch across the board should consider the HMB as a middle iron, and even a short iron option. A bit like PING’s G500, it’s absolutely viable as a complete set, even for lower handicap golfers.
Featuring a copper underlay in every model, The Mizuno MP-20 lineup is available for presale beginning September 5th, with full retail availability beginning September 20th.
For more information, visit the Mizuno Golf website in your region.