Aug 1st, 2017
The new Mizuno MP-18 iron range
Have you got a split personality?
Words: Daniel Owen
Nothing feels like a Mizuno they say. Mizuno irons feel like butter. What if I told you the new Mizuno’s felt even more Mizunoier. Like spreadable Lurpak butter, even softer than your normal run of the mill Anchor.
And this is because of their new Grain Flow Forged HD technology. We spoke to David Llwellyn, Head of Mizuno R&D about how this would make Mizuno’s irons feel even better than the butter knives they have built in the past.
“We’re famous for our Grain Flow forgings, but how could we make them feel better? We’ve redesigned the forging process to capture even more grains of metal, squeezing the metal even tighter into the mould, concentrating the material in and around the impact area. What does this actually do to the clubhead? It makes the head vibrate for longer at impact, and at a higher amplitude. This gives you more feedback, and it feels like the ball is on the face for longer. It accentuates that sensation of the ball compressing at impact.”
Mizuno have always believed in giving the good golfer plenty of options when it comes to sets of irons. There's always been three or four different models at any one time, from tiny blade to Fli-Hi driving irons. But they've never released a whole new range at one time before, with every iron designed to blend perfectly with the other sets. This time they’ve launched three and a half sets at once. The simple breakdown is the MP-18, the MP-18 SC and the MP-18 MMC, plus the MP FlI-Hi long iron replacements.
Since the MP33 Mizuno’s irons have been designed in a computer on a CAD program. While perfect designs from a technical standpoint, it can be argued they lost the art that went into a set of clubs. Nick Faldo’s Open and Masters winning irons weren’t designed on a computer, they were handcrafted by Mizuno’s legendary craftsman Turbo.
Well with this release the Mizuno design team are kicking it old school. The designs are done on a computer, but then handed back to Turbo and the other master craftsman to work their magic on. Changes are small but noticeable. Softer heels on the irons, making them more forgiving on sidehill lies, a lower heel at the hosel, a look that players tend to prefer. Subtle shaping to toplines to make them appear thinner. It’s the best of both worlds, designs that are technically sound, but then refined to appeal to the heart.
David explained how the craftsman's feedback affects the new models. “There are certain things that CAD can’t do perfectly. We will make a CNC master of the heads, and give it to the Master craftsman to refine. They can take those heads and grind on them to give the irons the perfect curves. We’ve been doing this so long, we know that there are areas CAD doesn’t do a great job with. It doesn’t get the toe to roll perfectly, and flowing through the set. These changes don’t affect the properties of the set but they make the irons look much better at address. You put them down behind the ball and go wow.”
The MP-18 is as classic as a set of irons gets. A traditional muscleback blade, they hark back to simpler times, from the legendary TP-19 to the MP33. There's no claims of added forgiveness. Just that unforgettable feeling of puring a blade from the centre of the clubface. The blade length gets progressively smaller, so the pitching wedge is noticeably smaller heel to toe than the three iron. You need to be a player to use these, or a masochist. Nick Faldo is a fan. “You can sense Turbo’s signature on the MP-18s. They remind me of the blades we worked on together all those years ago.”
The MP-18 SC is as simple a cavity back design as you will find. Mass down low behind the sweet spot. A shallow cavity above. A fraction bigger top line than the MP-18, but just beautiful. These aren't going to help you hit the ball miles, but they will feel good and offer just enough forgiveness for the better player. The head sizes don't get as small as on the MP-18, however they have been designed to blend perfectly.
The MP-18 MMC features a lot more technology. But again it's aim is not to hit the ball further like the JPX 900 forged. It's designed to be forgiving, but retain as much of that legendary Mizuno feel as possible. Mizuno have placed an 8g titanium plug in the back of the head, which saves weight, but retains mass in the middle of the club for a solid feel. A 20g tungsten weight slug in the toe massively increases the MOI, while retaining the solid feel Mizuno fans go crazy for.
Finally, there is the MP-18 MMC Fli-Hi. While the name is a bit of a mouthful the clubs look beautiful. Again designed to look like the perfect fit for the rest of the mp18 line, they don't look like a typical chunky driving iron. In fact, compared to the more recent H5, they look like a muscleback the size and shape difference is so extreme. The top line is only 1mm thicker than the MP-18. Featuring a maraging steel face and a tungsten toe weight, these hollow long iron replacements are game changers for a player looking to play a traditional set but who needs help in his long irons.
Bill Price, Mizuno’s Head of Custom Fitting, explained how the irons have been put together to blend seamlessly. “The lofts on the MP-18 and the SC are exactly the same. The offsets are exactly the same. The head shapes and sizes are millimeters different. They’re virtually identical visually. You can split those irons at any point and have a perfect combo set. The MMC 18 have slightly stronger lofts, but we've designed them so that if you bend the lofts to match the other two models, that the offset then matches up perfectly, without affecting the bounce. We’re going to see players with sets made up of at least three of the models, maybe even four.”
Hitting them briefly on the range, we wish we could use the MP-18 blades consistently. When you button a three iron, there is doubtful a better feeling in the game. However, we’re not stupid, and we know that won’t last out on the course. The SC felt great too, with a lot of metal behind the sweetspot. But for us the stand out clubs were the MMC and MMC Fli-Hi. The Fli-Hi’s just look great at address, and we can’t see any good reason not to play them all they way until the five iron (a six will be available in the US). And the MMC are a great combination of feel and forgiveness. Think of them as a Titleist AP2 competitor and you would be right on the money. These will be a big susscess over the next couple of years for Mizuno, and the biggest problem you'll have, albeit a fun one, is making the right choices when blending your set.