With Mizuno’s 2020 release of the ST200 driver line, context is important. Its tagline – “Tour Ready, World Ready” – requires a bit of unpacking to grasp the gravity of this release, which is arguably Mizuno’s most important in recent memory.
As much as Mizuno is a single entity, with branches in Japan, Europe, and North America, it often functions like three different companies. It’s not an organizational issue with a historical significance of the Great Schism, but the challenges it created for communication and implementation of a unified growth plan were just as troublesome.
Meaningful advancement is only possible when there’s a willingness to confront brutal facts, and one such truth is that Mizuno has been comfortable (some might argue too comfortable) as an iron-first OEM. Once upon a time, not so long ago, even some inside Mizuno suggested that metalwoods were little more than a necessary afterthought.
Mizuno is working to change that perception, but to do so, it has to meet two objectives. First, the product needs to perform as well, if not better, than class-leading drivers from category leaders. Secondly, Mizuno needs its tour staff to put flagship drivers in play.
These two certainly go hand-in-hand though it should be noted that in winning the 2019 Honda Classic, Keith Mitchell did bag an ST190 driver without any contractual obligation to do so. That said, moving forward, Mizuno will require all tour staff under contract to play a Mizuno driver, a practice that is commonplace with most OEMs.
So that’s the “Tour Ready” part of the equation.
“World Ready” acknowledges the need to formalize equipment offerings with unified and consistent naming conventions. In 2019, Mitchell’s win brought some much-needed attention and validation to the ST190. At the same time, the following Mizuno drivers were also in play on professional tours: MP 435 Type-1, MP 460 Type-2, MX-330, GX, and Mizuno Pro MODEL-S – to say nothing of irons, wedges, fairway woods, or hybrids. Not only is it confusing to consumers, but from a brand management standpoint, it’s a nightmare. It’s virtually impossible to establish credibility in the marketplace via tour usage when golfers can’t reasonably determine whether the model is current, the previous generation, JDM-only, or available to hit at the next local demo day. It also means there have likely been more Mizuno metalwoods in play (and in bags of tournament winners) on various professional tours than the brand could reasonably account for. Therefore, moving forward, Mizuno is going to stick with a single name/model number across the globe.
It’s fair to suggest last year’s ST190 was the first real, cohesive effort by Mizuno to allocate the necessary resources (time, materials, R&D, etc.) to meet the stated objectives. A more classic black color scheme replaced a color I refer to affectionately as questionable blue. Also, in Most Wanted testing, the ST190 placed in the top-third for ball speed, forgiveness, and overall strokes gained. It was the second year in a row Mizuno’s drivers displayed solid all-around performance during testing. Closing the gap between Mizuno and the driver category stalwarts doesn’t happen overnight, but with the ST200 series, Mizuno made several important adjustments, which allowed it to bring to market three models, each with a distinct performance profile.
As we’ve covered previously, weight is a valuable currency in product design. With the ST200 line, Mizuno harvested a fair bit of weight through the use of a lighter (2 grams) carbon crown and more compact WAVE geometry. This weight is then redistributed based on the specific characteristics and desired performance outcomes of each particular model. With the ST200, most of the weight is used to achieve a lower/more rear CG location, whereas the ST200G is constructed for maximum adjustability. As for the ST200X, it’s all about losing the weight…and keeping it off. If only it were that easy (Editor’s note: maybe layoff the ice cream, hot tub boy). Additionally, all three of the ST200 models hold over Mizuno’s adjustable hosel, which allows golfers to increase/decrease loft by 2°.
When soled at address, the ST190 would tend to sit closed, which some, particularly tour players, find unpleasant to the eye. To remedy this, Mizuno placed a VFA (Visual Face Angle) bridge near the heel on the sole of the club that allows the driver to sit square, to slightly open.
If there’s a sexy part to this tech story, it’s that Mizuno is changing face materials, replacing the SP700 Ti with a Forged SAT2041. It might sound like a cast list from “The Rise of Skywalker,” but because this is what actually makes contact with the ball, the grade of titanium and face composition has everything to do with outcomes like CT, COR, and ball speed.
The new SAT2014 face material is a beta-rich titanium alloy. Alpha and Beta are phases of titanium, evidenced by different atom arrangements. The beta phase has greater ductility, which is an advantage so long as it can maintain the needed strength. The result is a material that recovers from deformation more quickly than other metals, SP700 and 6-4 Ti included.
In short, it’s a more efficient material that can produce greater COR for a given CT. To be clear, if you had two drivers with exactly the same CT measurement, they wouldn’t necessarily have the same COR value. The one with the higher COR/CT ratio will typically have marginally higher ball speeds, all things being equal.
Of the three models, the ST200 is the most balanced, middle of the bell curve offering with high MOI and mid/low spin. As such, Mizuno expects it to best fit a majority of golfers. Apart from the adjustable loft/lie settings, the ST200 has fewer bells and whistles (moveable weights and such), which means there’s a bit less ground to cover.
The primary benefit of this design is an increased MOI (which typically means more forgiveness) without the typical cost of excessive spin. Compared to the ST190, combining the heel-toe and top-bottom MOI measurements, the ST200 has an MOI nearly 15% greater than the ST190. This was accomplished mostly by reallocating the discretionary weight low/rear in the club via a fixed 11.6-gram weight plate.
As a result, the sweet spot fractionally lower as compared to the ST190. Expectations are that the CG is roughly 1mm above the neutral axis, which would be quite low for a driver with a relatively high MOI.
Considering the range of potential CG locations and launch/spin profiles, this is the most-adjustable, lowest-spinning driver Mizuno has ever produced. Including competitors’ drivers, it’s also the lowest spinning driver Mizuno has ever tested. Have I mentioned yet, this driver is crazy low spin? With the ST200G, Mizuno took the discretionary weight and kept it, well discretionary.
With two weight tracks and two individual weights, golfers can opt for a variety of settings. With both weights in the extreme rear position, (most forgiving configuration), the ST200G has nearly the same MOI as the ST190, but with lower spin. Placing both weights forward drops spin substantially, yet maintains a heel-toe MOI slightly above 4000. Previously, low-spin also meant low-forgiveness, but this is a tradeoff engineers have worked to mitigate, and for the target golfer, it’s a pretty notable accomplishment.
Should one get a wild hair, both weights could be placed in a single track to create a rather extreme heel or toe bias, and frankly, I can’t wait to see someone give this set up a go. Because of the uber-tunable design, Mizuno placed an external sound rib in between the weight track and WAVE channel. Sound engineers found that without the sound rib, when the weights are in the forward position, the acoustics are unfavorable (i.e., too loud and clanky). In previous iterations of metalwoods, this is precisely the type of detail that might be glossed over or ignored entirely. It serves as evidence that Mizuno is looking to construct a complete driver that meets both performance objective and subjective criteria.
This is the Japanese Spec (J-Spec) driver designed to satisfy the demands typical of the Asian market. Previously the 10.5° ST190 served as the de facto J-Spec model, though it was more of a band-aid solution than an authentic offering.
With the ST200X now in play, one could argue it’s the lynchpin of the “World Ready” platform given Mizuno’s popularity in Japan and South Korea (the 2nd and 3rd largest golf markets in the world).
J-Spec drivers generally have the following characteristics: Lighter weight components, more upright lie angles, draw-biased weighting, and longer stock lengths. As such, the ST200X is designed to be sold as a complete unit.
The ST200X features a proprietary Mizuno M Fusion shaft and is built to a stock length of 45 ¾”. Compared to the Callaway Epic Star (286 gm.) and XXIO Eleven (280 grams), which target a similar demographic, the ST200X is lighter (272 gm) and significantly less expensive. Custom fitting can’t be ruled out entirely, but it’s not an explicit part of the ST200X playbook.
Mizuno selected Mitsubishi’s Diamana family of shafts as the stock offering in the ST200 drivers (ST200X is the exception). Because you might be wondering, there is no “*” required. These are not made-for, co-engineered, or exclusive designs. Simply, they’re the same as the aftermarket versions bearing the same name.
- D+ (Whiteboard) is low-launch/low-spin.
- S+ (Blueboard) is mid-launch/mid-spin a
- M+ (Redboard) is high-launch/mid-high spin.
Additionally, Mizuno is beefing up its exotic menu (upcharge amounts vary). The list includes the Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Orange/White, Fujikura Ventus Blue/Black, Graphite DesignTour AD-DI/X, and Project X HZDRUS SMOKE Yellow/Green (NOT Small Batch).
Retail availability for all Mizuno ST200 series metalwoods begins on February 7th, 2020. For more information, visit mizunousa.com.