Mizuno has long been known for their forged irons for better players. However, that reputation has largely failed to carry over into the world of woods. Their previous driver offering for low handicappers (the MP-001) had a small, but loyal following (at the range one day, a guy with an MP-001 couldn't help but come over to check out the MP-600). In fact, only 16 of the nearly 800 Sand Trap forum members who responded to a driver survey, or just over 2%, use a Mizuno driver.
Mizuno makes quality woods, but breaking the mindset of the golfing public can be difficult. To be fair, until this year, Mizuno had not released a new driver since the MX-500, so they'd been out of the limelight. But the fact remains, many golfers don't even consider Mizuno woods when making a purchase. The MP-600 is here to say maybe they should.
As irons have for years, drivers now come in game improvement and players varieties. Game improvement drivers tend to focus on geometry. They come in squares and triangles and other elongated shapes. Players drivers focus on traditional shapes and on weighting (in particular, movable weigting).
The MP-600 is unabashedly a players driver. Its head design will please the traditionalist, and its movable weights will keep the gearhead in us busy making tweaks to our ball flight. The only question is, does it deliver?
Design and Construction
Basically, what you get with the MP-600 is state-of-the-industry construction coupled with a new take on movable weights. If we ignore the Fast Track Technology for the moment, what we're left with is a pretty solid driver.
The MP-600 features all-titanium construction, with the exception of the weights in the Fast Track Technology system. The CNC milled, plasma-welded "CORTECH" face uses varying thickness to maximize ball speed across the entire face. Like many drivers, it touts an extremely thin crown to move weight low and back in the clubhead. These are all technologies that we more or less expect in any driver these days.
But it's the Fast Track system that gives the MP-600 its cachet. Because of its position around the perimeter and toward the rear of the club, the track itself helps move the center of gravity low and deep to encourage a high launch. Add the two movable, eight-gram weights to this setup and a consistent golfer can tailor the club to work with his or her predominant ball flight.
Unlike systems such as TaylorMade's r7 movable weights, the Fast Track weights do not need to leave the track to adjust the club's characteristics, and the key (a glorified allen wrench) ships with the club and stows away in the headcover. To change the weight, the golfer need only loosen one or both weights, slide them to the desired location, and retighten. You can literally change the setup in a half minute or less. (If your fade-hitting opponent takes his MP-600 into the port-o-let in between holes and comes out with a nice draw, be very suspicious.) The two eight-gram weights can be placed in six positions along the track for a total of 15 weighting configurations.
The driver we tested came with the Fujikura E360, a 66 gram shaft sporting a stiff tip and a high kick point. (Through the magic of the Internet, you can watch Luke Donald test the MP-600 and many of the custom shaft options.)
If you never turned the club over and looked at the sole, you'd probably consider the MP-600 driver to be pretty conventional in design (at least as 460cc drivers go). There are no visible weight ports at address. Its dark finish makes it appear perhaps a bit smaller than its 460cc size. In short, The MP-600 is a good looking club.
There's no alignment aid on the crown, but lining up a driver is not really much of a problem for most accomplished golfers.
The club is about as loud as most 460cc drivers, and nowhere near as loud as its MX-560 cousin or the Sumos. When you hit the sweet spot, you're rewarded with a solid sound, but mishits deliver more of a clank. That auditory feedback can be a good thing. You know when you hit a really good one or a really bad one.
As stated earlier, the MP-600 is a better player's driver. It's not hard to hit, but you'll get much better results if you don't stray too far from the sweetspot. If you struggle to make consistent contact somewhere in the middle of the driver face, you'll find more assistance in other drivers. Aside from sounding bad, off-center hits will lose distance.
On solid contact, the MP-600 is pretty close in length to other tour-caliber drivers. My best swings produced drives that were about the same length of those hit with other drivers - not longer, but not shorter either. Less than stellar contact resulted in less distance, naturally, though it did not cost much in accuracy. In fact, the MP-600 rarely strayed far from the intended line. It's as accurate a driver as I've played.
The MP-600 gets its accuracy from the usual MOI and low COG sources (in less obvious portions than game-improvement drivers), but also from the movable weights and its shorter shaft. Many off-the-rack drivers now feature 45.5" shafts and longer. The Mizuno's 45" shaft is probably a better fit for most players (rumor has it that Tiger has cut down his driver to something under 45" this year). Sure, long shafts let you hit the ball farther when you get the timing right. When you don't, they don't. In other words, chicks dig the long ball, but they can't find you if you're always in the woods looking for your ball.
Just to underscore the point, the MP-600 is not a short driver, it is on par with most on the market. If your sole goal is to win the long drive contest in your next scramble, you might want to look for something a little more explosive. But if you want to keep up with your group and play from the fairway more times than not, the MP-600 might be right for you.
The Fast Track system is the single coolest feature of this driver. I've been hitting a draw off the tee most of the time lately. I found that when the weights were set in a neutral postition, I continued to hit draws (no surprise). I hit a lot of medium height, boring drives with a fair bit of right to left to them. I also tried the weights in a draw position with predictable results. With my regular swing, such a setup produced hard, left-turning missiles that didn't stay in the air long enough to maximize distance. When I purposely tried to hit fades with the club in a draw configuration, I got better results and hit straight shots or smaller draws, at least.
The hot setup for me (and probably for other draw players who occasionally struggle with hooks) is to move the weights out to a fade or even strong-fade position. When I moved the weights out toward the toe, my launch angle improved and I hit rockets with a straight flight or a slight draw. When I held off my finish, I hit a nice gentle fade, as well.
If you have a consistent ball flight, you can set up the Fast Track system to virtually eliminate one side of the course. I never hit anything like a big fade with this club. Part of that is the work I've been putting into my swing lately, but some of it was the club. With an exaggerated set up and swing, I can hit a pretty big banana ball with my regular driver, but the same swing resulted in more of a medium fade with the MP-600. Even with the weights in a strong fade position, I felt like I didn't have to worry about losing shots right (unless I did something really obnoxious with my swing).
Specifications and Options
The MP-600 comes in 8.5°, 9.5°, and 10.5° lofts, but it's currently available only for right handers. The standard shaft is the Exsar DS3 graphite shaft (regular, stiff flexes) but a number of custom options are also available. The driver I tested came with the Fujikura E360, a 66g shaft sporting a stiff tip and a high kick point. The driver has a MSRP of $479.99, which means a street price of $399 from most retailers.
Loft Lie Length Swingweight ---- --- ------ ------------ 8.5° 58° 45" D2-D4 9.5° 58° 45" D2-D4 10.5° 58° 45" D2-D4
I love the idea of being able to set up to take away half the golf course. By setting the weights correctly on the Fast Track system, I can opt to play a fade or a draw on any given day.
Jack Nicklaus (despite playing a fade most of his career) said you should play the swing that you bring the course on any given day. With a weighting system like Fast Track, you can tweak your ball flight back toward straight as necessary or set up for a predominant flight depending on the course. I really appreciated the ease and speed with which these changes can be made.
The MP-600 is a good option for better players seeking the ability to slightly adjust their already consistent ball flights. Those who tend to hit the ball all over the course are not going to find salvation in this club. Players who are only interested in the longest possible drives will find more distance in drivers with longer shafts and other features to maximize the long ball.
For players who value second shots from the short grass, however, what the MP-600 gives up in length (not much), it more than makes up for in shot dispersion. The MP-600 should definitely be on the shortlist of candidates for low-cappers looking to improve accuracy and fine tune ball flight.