First Look: Mizuno GT 180 Driver and Fairway Woods
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First Look: Mizuno GT 180 Driver and Fairway Woods

First Look: Mizuno GT 180 Driver and Fairway Woods

It’s a plot straight out of any late-90’s high school angst comedy that probably starred Lindsey Lohan: two popular/mean-girl rivals are vying to be Prom Queen, while nobody pays any attention to the quiet science nerd getting an under-the-radar makeover. Come prom time the two popular girls knock each other out while the made-over nerd becomes Belle of the Ball.

I admit it’s a stretch, but the analogy can work for today’s discussion if you think of Callaway’s Rogue and TaylorMade’s M3/M4 duo as the rival Mean Girls, and think of Mizuno’s new driver lineup as the science nerd.

Sorry – I raised teenaged daughters. Sometimes I have flashbacks.

Mizuno often gets overlooked when it comes to metal woods in general and the driver in particular. The JPX-900 was a middle-of-the-pack performer in MyGolfspy’s 2017 Most Wanted Driver testing, but it was only 1.7 yards shorter than the champ, Srixon’s Z 565. Mizuno is resetting its metal woods lineup for 2018, a process that started last November with the introduction of the ST 180. Today Mizzy is finishing the reboot with the release of the GT 180 driver and fairway metals.

Mizuno GT 180 Metal woods - 7

Driver Reset

OEMs like tying metal woods and irons lineup into one big, happy – and branded – family, often with two drivers: a Player’s model and a Game-Improvement model. TaylorMade sorta-kinda broke that mold when it introduced M1/M2 (you could make a case it started with R1/RBZ). Instead of GI vs. Player’s, the drivers were separated by maximum adjustability with moveable weights versus minimal adjustability with more ball speed technology.

Mizuno’s 2018 lineup follows that model. The ST 180 is for the non-tinkerer and is designed to maximize ball speed (ST stands for Speed Tech), while the new GT 180, which replaces the hyper-adjustable JPX 900, is for the mad scientist (GT stands for Gravity Tech). Gone is the super-forgiving, high launch, high spin JPX EZ.

“We’re trying to speak less to handicap and more to player type,” says Mizuno Golf Club Engineer Chris Voshall. “The GT is for the tinkerer, the guy who likes to mess around with it. The design focus of the GT is to put as much weight as possible in adjustability.”

We’ll take a look at how ST/GT fit into the overall Mizuno strategy and assess where Mizuno is in the North American marketplace later on. First, however, let’s dive into the GT 180’s form and function.

Mizuno GT 180 Driver - 7

The Most Adjustable Driver in Golf?

That’s how we described Mizuno’s JPX 900 driver when it was released nearly a year and a half ago. The new GT 180 has the same level of adjustability, but with a slight twist (and no, it’s not in the face).

The GT 180 features two moveable 8-gram weights that can slide along a center track (you can set both weights up front, leave one up front and one in back, or both in back, or anywhere in between), as well as slots on both the heel and toe if you wanted a draw or fade bias.

This is the same setup as the JPX 900 except for one thing: while the 900’s weights were physically larger due to a plastic coating, the GT 180 weights are all metal, smaller and denser.

“It used to be you could only put one weight in the heel, and the other would have to be on the toe or in the center,” says Voshall. “Now you can fit both weights on the heel or all the way on the toe. So instead of 8 grams pushed to that extreme you can now push 16 grams to the extreme. It takes that level of adjustability that much farther.”

Mizuno GT 180 Driver - 6

The GT 180 also has a face angle adjustment to let the face show as open, neutral or closed when soled on the ground at address, again the same as with the JPX 900, but with a smaller, lighter adjustment piece.

“Performance-wise, it doesn’t really do anything,” says Voshall. “It’s just frustrating to have a driver that performs for someone but doesn’t look right at address. Even someone like Stacy Lewis – she’s a hoverer, yet as she addresses the ball, she sets the club on the ground. It shouldn’t matter, but it does. Face angle adjustability allows us to overcome that obstacle whether you’re a hoverer or not. When you set the club down, does it pass the eye test?”

Mizuno GT 180 Driver - 4

Twist-Facey?

Even though TaylorMade continues blowing its Twist Face trumpet, face-twisting isn’t anything new for Mizuno.

“We’ve been compensating for golfer’s miss-hit patterns for years by giving the toe and heel sides of the face a bit more bulge than the center,” says David Llewellyn, Mizuno’s R&D Director. “This counteracts the greater amount of gear effect that occurs further from the face center and gives the ball the appropriate amount of side spin to curve back to center. (It’s) not a design element we’ve advertised, just one of those increments that happen over time.”

Does that sound like Twist Face? It kinda sounds like Twist Face.

Take away the adjustability and the GT 180 head is very similar to that of the ST 180. The internal waffle pattern crown allows Mizuno to thin the crown without losing strength, which saves about 5-grams. To make the face as hot as possible, Mizuno uses Forged SP700, a high-end titanium alloy that’s about 10% stronger than the more commonly used 6-4 titanium.

“It’s been on our radar for a long time,” says Voshall. “The biggest hindrance to putting it into a production club has been the cost.”

Expensive, of course, doesn’t equal good. The SP stands for Super Plasticity, and Voshall says when the material compresses at impact, it shows a stronger rebound force than 6-4 or Ti811 titanium, which results in more ball speed. He adds the SP700 face is so hot it exceeds the .830 COR (Coefficient of Restitution) limit, while still conforming to the USGA’s CT (Characteristic Time) limit of 257 microseconds.

“This titanium actually helps to somewhat skirt the .83 COR rule while still conforming and staying within the 257 CT rule,” says Voshall. “Essentially the material has a higher COR to CT relationship than other types of titanium.”

Mizuno GT 180 Driver - 9

SP700 isn’t new to golf – you’ve seen it in Titleist’s C16 concept driver, and in Tour Edge’s XJ1 driver. Other companies have used the material in Tour issue clubs. “There was always the run of Tour woods for TaylorMade that would use SP700, where the retail models would use 6-4 or something like that,” says Voshall. “It was used in applications where cost didn’t matter, but ball speed did.”

Mizuno is also getting creative with its shaft offerings for GT (as well as the ST). The stock shaft is the Mitsubishi Kuro Kage TiNi Dual Core, but Mizuno is offering its retailers Shaft Packs – a package of shafts that can be swapped into the GT or ST (both play at 45″) at no upcharge. Included are Kuro Kages in different flexes and weights, as well as the Tensei White, Orange, and Blue in different flexes and weights. The Mitsubishi Basara is also included as a lightweight (43 gram) option.

Mizuno GT 180 Driver -1

The GT 180 fairway metals also retain the adjustability of their JPX 900 predecessors, featuring a single front-to-back sliding weight in the sole. Mizuno is using the same 1770 Maraging steel face, but with a slightly thinner geometry for faster ball speeds.

The GT 180 driver will be available in a 9.5 degree loft that’s adjustable two degrees up or down. The fairways are available in a 15 degree 3-wood as well as a strong 3-wood called the 3TS (for Tour Spoon). Both will be for right-handers only. The limited offerings appear to encourage a bit of natural selection: the ST series has a broader offering, with an HL driver model as well as 3 and 5 woods in both left and right-handed. Mizuno feels both offerings are suitable for better players, but that higher handicappers may tend to be drawn more to the ST line.

Mizuno GT 180 3 woods -1

The GT 180 driver will retail for $499.99, and the fairway metals for $299.99.  They start shipping today and should be in retail next week.

Mizuno’s Big Reset

Mizuno has spent the last year taking stock of what the brand is, and what it isn’t. And what it isn’t is EZ.

“EZ was a miss for us, and it showed us we can’t be everything to everybody,” says Voshall. “Whenever we sat in a meeting and talked about making a club, we didn’t want to turn this guy off, we didn’t want to turn that guy off, so it became a blah club that appealed to nobody. It’s better to make a focused club that someone will look at and say ‘that’s for me,’ as opposed to making the average club for the average guy that nobody wants to be.”

Mizuno GT 180 Driver - 10

“We asked ourselves what does that Mizuno player look for,” he adds. “And it’s not that Super Game Improvement type thing. We’ve sharpened our focus. We can’t be everything to everybody.”

That’s why Mizuno doesn’t want its woods tied in with its irons anymore, as it doesn’t consider the ST to be a GI driver and the GT to be a better player’s driver.

“We wanted to make two drivers that could speak to a wide level of players, and really take the better player approach first. We want to have a decent MOI, that’s why the footprint’s large, but we’re focusing more mass forward to make sure you get lower spin for the better player. It’s easy to manipulating spin and launch up if you need to – add loft, use a softer tipped shaft. But if you start too high it gets really difficult to jack it down.” Chris Voshall, Mizuno Golf

So Mizuno’s big reset leaves it with two metal wood families in the GT and ST 180’s, the CLK hybrids, the S18 and T7 wedges and two iron families (JPX 900 and MP 18).

As we told you last November, Mizuno had a rough FY 2017 in the Americas (Mizuno lumps North, Central, and South America into one business unit), and president Akito Mizuno pledged to fix that. Mizuno’s most recent quarterly reports indicate that while overall sales are down in the Americas (blame it on Brazil and footwear), equipment sales are slightly up, and Mizuno cites “signs of recovery for the golf market and a satisfactory golf custom fitting business” as key reasons.

“Since going to a more focused launch, the JPX 900 stuff crushed it for us,” says Voshall. “We want to make sure we can maintain the 900 in year two and then let MP be what it is.” Voshall says the JPX 900 iron line represents about 80% of Mizuno’s business and its best selling iron is, ironically, the JPX 900 Hot Metal – a cast game improvement iron, two areas where Mizuno has been notoriously weak.

Mizuno GT 180 Metalwoods - 1

Voshall adds Mizzy’s metal woods – the forgotten science nerd – are also showing gains, steadily improving since the JPX 850 launched in 2015. Voshall says market share is closing in on 1%, which may not sound like much (it isn’t), but it does represent a huge increase from the .25% share of just a few years ago. He adds that since the launch of the 850 Mizuno has invested more time, energy and money into metal wood R&D

Still, irons drive Mizuno’s business, and Voshall believes the focused approach has fueled a turnaround.

“We’ve seen success going from eight sets of irons down to six,” he says. “And I think we’re more likely to go down to five than we are to go back to eight. We’ve heard from retailers that it’s ridiculous what some of these companies have in line. They appreciate a cleaner approach.”

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John Barba

John Barba

John Barba

John is an aging, yet avid golfer, writer, 6-point-something handicapper living back home in New England after a 22-year exile in Minnesota. He loves telling stories, writing about golf and golf travel, and enjoys classic golf equipment. “The only thing a golfer needs is more daylight.” - BenHogan

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      Paul

      6 years ago

      Previously had the jpx 900 driver (with fujikura speeder 569 evo 2) for just over a year and wanted to try the GT 180 or ST 180 to see if it was worth changing. Opted for the GT 180 (kurokage silver dual core tini 60) as I wanted to still have adjustability. Played with it first time this week and I was impressed, greater carry, straighter ball flight and better sound. Glad I changed.

      Reply

      Clubfitter

      6 years ago

      The GT 180 is a great club for me…. after testing several different drivers (on trackman) the last 3 weeks; like TM 3 + 4, TITLEIST D2 with sure fit, SRIXON 565… and the Mizuno ST180 + GT 180 the last one stood out. At the time I’m playing a Srixon 355 With Myazaki stiff shaft in 44 inch and midsize grip. My standard miss is left because of negative clubface at impact. I’m working and I’m improving on that…. Swingspeed 95Mph…
      With my Srixon 355 (with 2degree open face) I never reached a smashfactor higher than 1.46… With the D2, M4 and the GT average 1.49 … with slightly lower swingspeed. The Mizuno GT 180 gave me the most accuracy combined with distance….We started the Mizuno fitting with the Tensei Red and KuroKage 50 gram shaft….. The 60 gram in Stiff in 1 inch shorter gave the best results for me in combination with the lateral weights near the face in the most MOI forgiving setting. The face weight setting in open with 9.5 degree of loft…. WOW

      Reply

      john

      6 years ago

      I brought the JPX-900 driver in late 2016. I saw improvements in my drives vs my titlist 913. I made several trips to the golf shop to test the 917 Titelist which i was a little biased, but the Mizuno won out. I did not believe that Mizuno would come out with a new driver before the late summer early fall of 2018 ( more like a 2 year shelf life).

      Reply

      SV

      6 years ago

      As with many companies it seems Mizuno assumes all left-handers are high-handicappers. Only the ST model is available for left-handers since high-handicappers will be drawn to the ST. Apparently leftys can’t handle a “player’s” club, even though Mizuno says both the GT and ST are for players suitable for better players, i.e. only right-handers are better players.

      Reply

      Robyn

      6 years ago

      Actually, what Mizuno assumes, and rightfully so, is that the number of left handed golfers who would be interested in a player’s club is so small that it’s not economically feasible to produce one. Mizuno controls a very small percentage of the Woods market to begin with; the low handicap lefty segment is infinitesimal, but production costs aren’t.

      Reply

      Tony

      6 years ago

      That comment about TM using SP700 in tour issue clubs is really interesting. You guys should do a story on how different tour issue clubs are.

      Reply

      Shankster

      6 years ago

      Not super game improvent… Absolutely beautiful words to hear. Thanks Mizuno, you may have just won your biggest fan.

      Reply

      Bill

      6 years ago

      Great article John….very informative. I am playing the JPX 900 driver…..love it!! The real secret was the Fujikura Evolution II shaft. The acoustics for the ST seemed “Tinny” to me. The CLK hybrids are HOT!!
      Mizuno’s decision to walk away from the 15+ handicap player really narrows the opportunity for more market share.

      Reply

      Scott King

      6 years ago

      I have an MX 500 mizzy driver and I can’t honestly beat the numbers on it. My average is 240. Spin between 2500 and 3000 depending on strike. It is forward launching and it plays. Other/ newer clubs I’ve hit do about the same for me. It has a carbon top and mixed metal. 10 years ahead of its time.
      Mizuno have always made good clubs.

      Reply

      Scott King

      6 years ago

      I like the simpler version in the ST from a visual POV.

      Reply

      Marty Knowles

      6 years ago

      I REALLY hope Mizuno sends us shafts with these new drivers. The past 2 drivers came with a stock shaft but you could order it with a different shaft. Those drivers were dead before I opened the blue box. The members of our club aren’t going to shell out $400+ unless they can try it first. The pro shops need those shafts to sell drivers. The main reason we sell so many Callaway drivers is because they send us every no upcharge shaft they have for each club, Driver, Fairway, or Hybrid. It’s stupidly easy to sell clubs that way.

      Reply

      Mark Reckling

      6 years ago

      Fairway weights look great. Driver has 1 too many

      Reply

      Dave

      6 years ago

      Great article John, I really like my mizuno jpx900 irons. The cost is way cheaper than Ping or Taylor Made, and Titleist, so this is not the issue it’s all them screws and slides on the bottom and on the hosel for adjustments.

      Reply

      Oscar Johansson

      6 years ago

      Ive hit the ST 180 Driver and it performs great, too me its just as good as anything out there. Mizuno drivers are officially really good.

      Reply

      ole gray

      6 years ago

      Blue paint job with tech under the hood is very appealing! I like everything about it however that big price tag would be a road bump for me hopping on the Mizuno train. Excellent write up John!

      Reply

      Dan

      6 years ago

      I bought the JPX 900 Driver upon release and then got swept up with Epic promises. For me personally I hit the Mizuno more consistently in the center and longer than the Epic. Possibly the shaft who know but I didn’t own the Epic very long and still play the 900 so I’m looking forward to seeing the GT. Especially the strong 3 wood.

      Reply

      Thomas Murphy

      6 years ago

      good to seem them focus.

      Reply

      Jacqueline Santopietro

      6 years ago

      One question John, will the pretty blue GT180 out perform my pretty blue Cobra F6+? That’s all that matters…. ;)

      Reply

      MJ

      6 years ago

      I can see the OCD in me spending some time cleaning all the dirt getting inside those 3w once they hit the ground

      Reply

      Jerry

      6 years ago

      I visited my favorite golf shop last week and swung the older Mizzy driver wishing they had more competitive woods to go along with their irons that I and many others consider the best. Now your article has really piqued my interest. I identify with their point about setting your driver down and having it “look right”. Wow, back in the day when “woods” were actually made from wood I had several custom drivers made for me with 2 degree open faces due to my right eye dominance making drivers look even more “closed” than they already were. I will test hit TM and the new Cally’s Along with this new Mizuno to see what I hit better. But I like what I read about Mizuno’s approach. I’m sure I’m not alone on this as many will think “if Mizuno can make woods as performing as their irons, watch out”.

      Reply

      Doug

      6 years ago

      I absolutely love my Mizuno clubs and they’ll always be my first consideration, but I’m disappointed with Mizuno here on what barely feels like a redact of the JPX-900, and only a few months after the ST-180’s came out. Whether or not it’s the best of both worlds remains to be seen. As a JPX-900 driver owner, I saw no real benefit to changing to the ST-180, and I’m less likely to go to the GT-180. I am curious to see the GT fairway woods, as I wasn’t quite sold on either model’s offerings.

      I just hope the company doesn’t over do it with pile-on releases. I love the product and would hate to see them slip because of negative marketing feedback. I’d much rather see them play it straight and put it all out on the table at one time like they did with the JPX-900 iron lines.

      Reply

      Ryan Tracy

      6 years ago

      Finally some shaft fitting options from Mizuno! Took long enough!

      Reply

      Steve Smith

      6 years ago

      Put them to a test with Callaway, T.M., Ping and Cobra’s new line of drivers and fway clubs. With all the testing I’ve seen and listened to, of the four mentioned, there really isn’t much difference in performance.
      What should be addressed for recreational golfers is the term ‘non-conforming’ in clubs..

      Reply

      Ken

      6 years ago

      They already introduced MP version of drivers last year. They are called type-1 and type-2. I guess their price point does not meet/appeal US market, starts around $800.

      Reply

      Rob

      6 years ago

      “There was always the run of Tour woods for TaylorMade that would use SP700, where the retail models would use 6-4 or something like that,” says Voshall. “It was used in applications where cost didn’t matter, but ball speed did.”

      To my knowledge, TM hasn’t used SP700 titanium since the days of the 300 series drivers and it wasn’t just the tour heads, it was also used in the retail heads.

      Since then I’m almost certain TM hasn’t used a different metal in the tour heads than in the retail heads. If that is the case then I would love to know which tour heads had SP700 faces vs their retail counterparts.

      Reply

      DDRYAN

      6 years ago

      Great job yet again, John- I am not in the market for a driver and you now have me thinking Mizuno…Maybe there will be an MGS test down the road!!!

      BTW, love the Mean girls intro- what a great analogy!

      Reply

      Max

      6 years ago

      Recently went to the Mizuno store in Tokyo. The MP drivers look awesome, but I can see why they wouldn’t bring them over here. On the other hand, they had some MP CLK fairway woods with a forged titanium cup-face…..I think over here in the USA, we love the idea of a hot fairway wood and I think that MP CLK fairway with hotter face is more compelling than these GT’swhich are marketing the adjustability as a selling point.

      Reply

      Spitfisher

      6 years ago

      First I like the look of it and Im sure its a very good driver. It shares much of technology from TM with moveable weights for draw, fade, straight and spin bias. The face itself is again compelling for the same discussion of twistface. The shafts pictured are common ones for other brands of high end drivers. The big question is I don’t know how many will be produced and I don’t know how many will be sold especially at the same price point of the competitors. How will it resonate with the consumer in an already crowded category? led by multiple drivers of Callaway, Taylormade, Titleist, Ping, Cobra and you can throw the new cleveland launcher, XXIo and wilson into the mix. I mean that’s a lot of testing for it to stand out and to be purchased @ $500.

      Good luck to them and the retailers that elect to stock them.

      Reply

      DaveyD

      6 years ago

      Love the look of the GT – trade the blue for Ping’s copper and the base has a type of Steampunk vibe. Looks great, anyways. Should be interesting to see the tests.

      Reply

      McaseyM

      6 years ago

      I like that they are going down the 2 segments of tinkerer and not so much. Also glad to see them focus down to their core segment and I love the Mizuno blue.

      Reply

      Johnny Cowboy

      6 years ago

      They shouldn’t charge more than $299 for this to try and gain market share.

      Reply

      KM

      6 years ago

      Really Johnny? You think the shafts are free? Lol

      Reply

      Johnny Cowboy

      6 years ago

      Mizuno isn’t paying full price for the shafts, KM.

      Robyn

      6 years ago

      That’s what Cleveland has tried to do and it’s been a disaster. There’s no gain in market share; all you do is peg yourself as a bargain brand.

      Reply

      Terry McDowell

      6 years ago

      I’m not gonna lie, I won’t buy Cleveland clubs because I hate Cleveland, OH. Also, Roger works for Callaway now.

      Matthew Faith

      6 years ago

      I’d love to put the ST and GT up against my EZ (see, it all rhymes!), which I love, and see what happens.

      Looks like a trip to the test site is in order.

      Reply

      Matt

      6 years ago

      Oh man… I’m sure the blue is hit or miss for folks, but to me, they just look great.

      Reply

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