Here’s a truism for you to ponder on this fine Monday: in the game of Metal Wood Musical Chairs, there are only so many seats. And when the music stops, you better have a chair.
If you’re TaylorMade, Callaway, PING, Titleist or Cobra, your seats are already saved. You have Tour validation and you can advertise the bejeezus out of anything you sell. Challenger metal wood brands have to catch and claw for their seats. The Wilsons, Mizunos and Srixons of the world have to fight every day to try to grab that last chair and to get your attention.
With today’s release of its new Z 85 line of drivers, fairways and hybrids, Srixon is making a compelling case not only for a chair, but a seat at the head table. And they guaranty it.
Risk, Reward & Z 85
“You have to take some risks, otherwise you’re not giving the consumer any compelling reason to switch from Callaway or TaylorMade,” said Zack Oakley, Srixon’s brand manager, at an equipment summit with MyGolfSpy staffers earlier this month. “Those guys have been at the top for so long, and they make a great product.”
Srixon’s Z 565 driver was, of course, MyGolfSpy’s Most Wanted for 2017, and its better-player focused sidekick, the Z 765, finished fifth overall. Both sold decently at retail, but Srixon is aiming higher this year, and is taking some bold steps to get your attention with its two new models, the Z 585 and Z 785.
“With these products, we have something that can stand up to, and even surpass, Callaway and TaylorMade in terms of performance,” says Oakley.
While Srixon’s new Z 85 iron lineup is evolutionary, Srixon firmly believes its new drivers are more of a revolutionary upgrade from its predecessors, featuring three key innovations: a new titanium cup face, a carbon fiber crown and the most upscale stock and no-upcharge shaft offerings the industry has seen to date.
Srixon is literally guaranteeing you’re going to like these new drivers.
Yes, that’s foreshadowing, but let’s start by taking a peak under the hood.
Titanium + Carbon Fiber
The new Z 585 and 785 drivers both have titanium cup faces. That alone isn’t revolutionary – the Z 65 series drivers had titanium cup faces, and so do other drivers. For this go round, Srixon is using a stronger and lighter titanium, called Ti51AF.
“It has a very high strength to weight ratio, and hasn’t been used in golf before,” says Brian Schielke, Srixon’s marketing manager. “It’s 8% stronger and 1% lighter than Ti 6-4, which we used before.”
What that means is the Z 85 cup faces are 10% thinner than the Z 65’s, and as we’ve all learned in Golf Physics 101 – lighter and thinner means hotter and longer. Srixon says the Z 85’s have thinner faces than TaylorMade’s M4, and a thinner perimeter than both M4 and the PING G400. Their own internal testing shows 2 to 3 MPH more ball speed than M3, M4, Rogue and G400. While you’re right to be skeptical of any OEM’s internal testing, we’ll share some data from two MyGolfSpy staffers in a bit that will make you go hmmm….
Ball speed, of course, wins on launch monitors and it makes Tour players pay attention. None of Srixon’s Tour staff gamed either of the Z 65 drivers, but the 85’s have most definitely made an impression.
“We have five already in play now, where we didn’t have any of the old ones in play,” says Schielke. “Keegan picked up ball speed over his M2, GMac picked up ball speed, so did Will McGirt. Ryan Fox, who just lost the Irish Open in a playoff, has one in play.”
Both drivers also feature a new carbon fiber crown. Again, not new to drivers, but it is new to Srixon.
“The crown is kind of dead weight,” says Oakley. “If you can make the crown lighter is lowers the Center of Gravity and pulls it back a bit farther, so you can have more perimeter weighting and more forgiveness.”
Srixon sources its carbon fiber from Mitsubishi chemical and, thanks to its Miyazaki shaft factory in Japan, is one of Mitsubishi’s largest customers. The carbon formula used in the Z 85’s helps not only heel-toe MOI, but also sound and feel. The Z 65 models, while solid performers, could sound a little clinky, which impacts feel. The Z 85’s, however, feature more of a muted sound and feel, as though the ball is staying on the face just a hair longer.
Adjustable vs Non-Adjustable
Both the Z 785 and Z 585 are 460cc and have similar head shapes. The 785 sets up neutral and delivers a more penetrating ball flight, while the 585 has a slight draw bias and a higher launch. One other key difference: the 785 has an adjustable hosel, while the 585 is non-adjustable.
“We expect the 785 to sell more and fit more golfers,” says Schielke. “If you’re a better player who likes to fine tune face angle, loft and lie, we have the 785. If you just want to hit it straight, high and far, there’s the 585.”
The 585 does have a slightly higher MOI, largely due to the fact it doesn’t have as much weight in the hosel.
Most every OEM has two driver offerings, and a growing trend has been for one to have maximum adjustability and the other to have little to none. TaylorMade’s M3/M4 and Mizuno’s GT/ST are prime examples. Srixon’s offering is sorta, kinda similar, although the Z 785 is nowhere near as adjustable as the others, and that’s intentional.
“We definitely considered moveable weights – there are pros and cons,” says Shielke. “Moveable weights are costly, and they do take the center of gravity away from the maximum performance area.”
“Moveable weights certainly help you fine tune,” adds Oakley. “For Tour guys who can notice a degree or two in ball flight or a little bit less or a little bit more spin, it probably means more. For the overall market and most golfers, though, you’re literally fine tuning with little bits and pieces.”
“M3 may have more options, but that means more worse options,” Schielke says. “Weight tracking systems are more of a marketing bullet point.”
Shafts, however, are not.
Standard Goes Upscale
Remember the MyGolfSpy article on the shady world of stock driver shafts? Well, Srixon is giving made-for and watered-down a good swift kick in the you-know whats. The stock shaft for the Z 785 driver is a real deal, honest to goodness Handcrafted HZRDUS Black.
“We want to make sure we’re giving the most Tour authentic components out there,” says Oakley. “These are made at the Project X Lab in San Diego, where they make all the Tour parts.”
The Z 585 comes standard with the standard HZRDUS Red, but you can get the handcrafted version with the 585 if you want. In fact, Handcrafted Black, Yellow or Red are all available at no upcharge. Srixon is the only OEM offering the HZRDUS Handcrafted as stock.
And remember that foreshadowing alert from a few paragraphs ago? Well, Srixon is so sure you’re going to really dig its new drivers that it’s taking the unprecedented step (for an OEM) of offering you a 60-day money back performance guaranty.
“We understand that for woods, Srixon hasn’t been a big brand,” says Schielke. “There might be some apprehension to try it, so this lets you try it risk free.”
Now that’s testicular fortitude.
“We weren’t going to do it, and we wouldn’t have done it if the test results weren’t so good,” adds Schielke. “It shows we believe in it, and it’ll be a decent part of our marketing effort. We’re going to talk performance first – it goes farther than your current driver – and we’re so confident that we’ll back it up with this guaranty.”
So does it perform? MyGolfSpy’s two young guns – Sam Robinson and Harry Nodwell – put the Z 785 up against their gamers earlier this month to see. Both game PING G400’s – Sam the MAX and Harry the LST – both played college golf and both are bombers, with swing speeds in excess of 110 MPH.
When Sam tested his gamer, he was averaged 162 MPH ball speed and 290 yards. His first numbers with the Srixon were similar, but a slight loft adjustment got his ball speed up to 167 MPH. Sam’s spin and launch angle didn’t vary much, but he did gain nearly 10 yards of carry, with drives averaging around 303 yards.
Harry was a tougher fit. His PING was giving him 173 MPH ball speed and an average of 300 yards. Again, his first swings with the Srixon didn’t show much improvement until he put the same shaft in his Srixon as he had in the PING. His ball speed immediately jumped to 177 MPH with distance ranging from 312 to 318.
Fairways & Hybrids
As with any metal woods launch, hybrids and fairways tend to get lost in the driver shuffle. If you’re in the market, however, you will want to put the new Srixons on your demo list.
The Z F85 fairways share much of the same DNA as the drivers, with a hot HT 1770 steel cup face and a carbon fiber crown in both the 3 and 3+ for more ball speed. There’s also an interesting twist to the cup face. Literally.
“TaylorMade has people talking about bulge and roll again,” says Schielke. “But we actually have three different bulge regions and two different roll values on the face. We’ve been doing this in clubs for a long time.”
That sure does sound like Twist Face, does it not?
The hybrids may wind up being the secret weapon in the Srixon arsenal. They H85 models are noticeably larger than the H65 models, as Srixon hopes to fit a wider group of golfer with a an easier to hit, easier to launch hybrid that’s not a hook-machine.
“These are a little bit bigger, but also significantly hotter,” says Schielke. “About 20 COR points hotter than our previous models, and actually hotter than Rogue.”
Hotter than Rogue? Without Jailbreak? What kind of voodoo is this?
“No voodoo,” says Schielke. “It’s pretty simple: a thinner, slightly bigger face means you can get a hotter face. It’s that big trampoline vs. small trampoline thing – you get more bounce.”
Pricing and Availability
The Srixon Z 785 will retail for $499 and will be available in 9.5 and 10.5 degree models. The 785 features a fully adjustable hosel and, as stated earlier, the Project X HZRDUS Black 65 Handcrafted shaft is stock.
The Z 585 driver retails for $399 in 9.5 and 10.5 degree lofts. It’s nonadjustable and comes with the HZRDUS Red 65 shaft as stock.
The full complement of HZRDUS Handcrafted shafts are available as no upcharge options. The Even Flow Handcrafted Blue 65, Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Blue and Orange, Fujikura Atmos Tour Spec Black and the UST Mamiya Helium 4 are among the shafts available for a $100 upcharge.
The F 85 fairways will retail for $249 and come with the HZRDUS Red 65 stock. They’ll be available in 3+, 3 and 5.
The H 85 Hybrids will come stock with the HZRDUS Hybrid Black 85 and will be available in three lofts: 16-, 19- and 22-degrees.
Presale starts today on Srixon’s website and at selected retailers. The products will be in stores September 14th.