Despite being known for making great irons and wedges, Mizuno has languished a bit in relative obscurity while irons and wedges from Titleist, TaylorMade, Callaway, and others have sold several times faster than those from Mizuno. Despite offering a pure, forged wedge, Mizuno doesn't get a lot of play in the U.S. because, among other things, they pay very few PGA Tour pros to play their wedges. Go ahead, name a PGA Tour player (besides Luke Donald) who uses Mizuno? I'll wait.
Partly owing to the lack of advertising via PGA Tour caps, visors, and bags, and partly due to the fact that Mizuno has tended towards producing clubs for the highly skilled golfer, Mizuno irons and wedges have a certain mystique about them.
I've spent a few weeks playing Mizuno wedges, and I'm happy to report that what lies beneath the mystique are some good looking, versatile, playable, and great feeling wedges. Let's take a look at the MP-T series of wedges from Mizuno.
Mizuno called 2007 their "most successful year ever" in the wedge category with their MP series of forged wedges, and look to continue their success with the MP-T Series. The MP-T, forged using Mizuno's patented "Grain Flow Forging" technique and using 1025E Pure Select mild carbon steel, is one of the few forged wedges you'll find these days.
The "T" in the "MP-T" name stands for "Teardrop" (while the "R" in "MP-R" stands for "round"), and the club is built in the classic teardrop shape. It features minimal offset and a C-grind sole that's intended to give players maximum playability. The relief it provides in the heel and toe areas allow players to open the clubface without significantly altering the bounce characteristics. The MP-T's rolled leading edge leads to minimal digging, and a cambered mid-sole and beveled trailing edge minimizes turf drag through and towards the end of impact.
The MP-T wedges offer "CNC Max Milled" square grooves for optimum spin. Each wedge is offered in Black Nickel and Chrome. The "Raw Haze" finish previously available is, sadly, no longer being offered.
The MP-T is, again, a teardrop shaped wedge. I've always preferred the look of a teardrop wedge over the rounded wedges, and the MP-T fits the bill with a fairly flat leading edge and a squarer high toe. Without branding, the casual golfer wouldn't be able to tell the difference at address between the MP-T and similarly lofted wedges from Titleist, TaylorMade, Cleveland, or Callaway.
Of course, when they flip the wedge over, they'll see the differences. The sole remains relatively clean, with just the Mizuno character and the loft inscribed and paint-filled in white. The C-grind sole is relatively apparent, with a soft arc from toe to heel displaying the bounce relief towards the edges of the sole.
The back of the club features the "Mizuno" name towards the sole, and the critical wedge information - "MP T Series" and "53-08" towards the high edge of the toe. The heel side of the topline will say either "Black Ni" or "Chrome" depending on the finish you've chosen. I'm not a fan of overdone graphics, and the MP-T series presents a relatively simple appearance with all of the necessary information and branding. Unlike, say, the CG12 wedges which felt the need to mention things like "Zip Grooves," the Mizuno wedges don't talk about their "CNC Max Milled" grooves or their "Grain Flow Forged" (It's stamped into the underside of the hosel, near the ferrule.) process. Even the ferrule - a plain black - is austere. So, kudos for the simplicity.
The Black Ni finish is hard to describe. It's more greyish than the golden color it seems to be in images. It's not polished, and it's not "black" per se, but more of a smoky silver. It frames the ball nicely and minimizes glare. Though I'm sad to see the "Raw Haze" finish go, the Black Ni is sufficiently gorgeous for my purposes.
Short of borrowing a friend's wedge on the practice green to hit some short pitches and chips, I've never really spent much time with a Mizuno wedge. Their reputation precedes them, however, and most of the people who carry wedges from Mizuno are the "let their games do the talking" types.
I'll begin by saying that if you're looking for game-improvement wedges, these aren't the wedges for you. I'll table the debate as to whether wedges can really be "game improvement" clubs for another time. I tested two models, both in the Black Ni finish: the 53-08 model (which I bent to 54-09) and the 60-05. My normal wedges are both Titleist Spin Milled Vokey Wedges in the oil can finish with loft/bounce of 54.10 and 60.04, so the Mizuno wedges filled the same roles. Given that, it took all of about twelve seconds to adjust to the Mizuno wedges and incorporate them into my game. I even printed the same yardages for ¼, ½, ¾, and full swings and put them below the grip on the Mizuno wedges.
Though Mizuno doesn't promote the bejeezus out of their grooves like some other companies, their "CNC Max Milled" grooves are quite sufficient at generating spin from a variety of lies. From a clean lie in the fairway, I'm able to pull the ball back to a front pin with ¾ and full swings. From the rough, the ball will hop and stop. With less than full swings, and with pitches and chips near the green, the ball reacts about as you might expect a worn-in Spin Milled wedge will behave: with control, touch, and about as much spin as you can expect to generate given your lie and the swing you put on the ball.
Spin is a touchy issue with a lot of people. My personal gold standard is a worn-in (but not worn-out) Vokey Spin Milled wedge (The first thing I do with a new Vokey Spin Milled wedge is take it into a bunker and hit about 50 shots. I find a fresh new Spin Milled wedge too "spinny" and like to play shots, particularly greenside chips and pitches, that will release more than a new SM Vokey allows.), and the Mizuno MP-T wedges performed like my gold standard from the get-go. They didn't require a breaking-in period like the Vokeys, but they consistently generated more spin than, say, the Cleveland CG12s for me in situations where I needed it.
Though in prior years I've relied on my 60° club from the bunkers, I've made the change this year - having read Stan Utley's The Art of the Short Game - to using my 54° wedge for nearly all of my greenside shots. I still use the lob wedge when I've short-sided myself in a bunker or the rough, but the 54° club gets 90% of the action around the greens and from the fairway.
As I mentioned before, the modified 53-08 (to 54-09) is quite similar to my SM54.10, and I found myself hitting the same shots most of the time. Where the Mizuno wedge succeeded was when I had to add a little loft (okay, so I haven't adopted Utley's style for everything) by opening the club. With my Vokey, and with the rather traditional sole, I was always conscious of hitting down a bit more through the ball to ensure that the bounce wouldn't kick the leading edge of my club into the ball. The C-grind allowed me to play a bit more of a sweeping, flatter swing through impact, which allows for a bit more versatility and often cleaner contact. If I want, I can really drop my hands low. With the Vokeys, such a move puts the leading edge of my 54° wedge fairly high off the ground; with the Mizuno, about half as much.
Bob Vokey says that even a PGA Tour player can't tell the difference between a forged wedge and a cast wedge, but that doesn't rule out the psychological side of things. Like many who try the Mizuno "Grain Flow Forged" wedges, I came away with the feeling that they were indeed a tad softer, particularly on chip shots around the green. Contact on the sweet spot is rewardingly soft, and a decent amount of feel is transmitted to the hands on slight mis-hits. On full swings, the difference was magnified, but any differences between the Mizunos and my cast wedges diminished, and any residual "softness" I might have felt was likely due to the stepless Rifle Spinner shafts (versus the stepped True Temper Dynamic Golds).
The MP-T wedges are 35.5 to 35 inches long, and are available in lofts of 47°, 51°, 53°, 56°, 58°, and 60° with a variety of bounce configurations ranging from 5 to 14°. The standard shaft is the True Temper Dynamic Gold "Wedge" flex, and the standard grip the Mizuno-branded Golf Pride M-21 58 Round. The lie angle is 63° across the board (though as a forged wedge, they can be bent as necessary quite easily) and the swingweight is unknown. The 51-06, 56-14, and 60-08 models are available for lefties.
As noted above, I reviewed wedges with the Rifle Spinner shaft, and other steel and graphite shafts are available through Mizuno's Custom Club department. The Mizuno MP-T wedges, in either finish, run about $119.
The MP-T wedges are winners. They look good, they feel good, and most importantly, they perform well. I was pleasantly surprised with the versatility offered by the C-grind sole. My wedge game is predicated upon control, and the MP-Ts offered control to me in spades, whether it was over the spin, trajectory, or distance.