Any time a new club is introduced, the phrase “for the first time ever…” is usually not far behind. In some groundbreaking cases, the statement is completely true and applies to the entirety of the modern golf industry, while in other cases it’s only a “first” for that particular manufacturer—so watch for the asterisk.
This ultimately begs the question: What were the true firsts of modern golf technology, and how did they change the direction of design?
After some in-depth research here is my list of true firsts.
The first metal driver: TaylorMade Original (1979)
As the story goes, Gary Adams took out a $24,000 loan against his house to found TaylorMade Golf. The focus of this new endeavor was to create a driver made from metal and to make persimmon a thing of the past. The first product to market was a 12-degree metal driver; the very first of it’s kind. It still took more than a decade to make persimmon obsolete, but as they say, the rest is history.
Moveable weight: TaylorMade R7 (2004)
TaylorMade engulfed the driver space when it launched the 300 Series metal woods and went on an ever further tear when it introduced the 500 series (they skipped the 400 names). Interesting fact—the number four is mostly avoided in global marketing because “four” is pronounced almost exactly the same as the word “death” in Chinese. It’s the same reason Callaway went from FT3 to FT5.
When the R7 Quad debuted, it was a game-changer because it was the very first driver to offer the consumer easily adjustable weights to help golfers fine-tune ball flight. I say “consumer” because club builders and tour vans had been using hotmelt to adjust CG for some time, but on a consumer level, the ability to tweak your driver on the range was unheard of. It was a lot of weight too: 24g total—more than 10 percent of the clubhead’s mass. After the R7 Quad, drivers would never be the same!
Sliding weight: Mizuno MP-600 (2007)
When it comes to drivers, Mizuno’s reputation for irons overshadows its history of producing innovation in the metal woods space. The MP-600 was the very first driver to offer a sliding weight track to fine-tune CG. Although the weights were only 8g a piece is was extremely innovative at the time and created new options for OEMs to help reposition mass around larger heads.
They have utilized the technology on and off over the years, but the newest ST200G is by far the most adjustable Mizuno driver yet.
Graphite (composite) shaft: Golfcraft (1954)
In 1954, Golfcraft (the same Golfcraft discussed here: Greatest Titleist Irons of all Time) announced a breakthrough in golf shaft technology: a shaft made from fiberglass that could one-day make steel obsolete, the same way steel made wood obsolete.
Beyond just the promise of more consistent shots, Golfcraft also declared the shaft vibration-proof, rust-proof, and almost unbreakable, something that modern club throwers would know is quite untrue. Although they never took off like the steel they promised to replace, it was the very first non-steel shaft to enter the market.
Soon after, a few other companies started to enter the market to offer these new fiberglass shafts for golfers, but it wasn’t until the late 1960s when Frank Thomas (yes, the same Frank Thomas that went on to be the technical director of the USGA ) used graphite to produce shafts for Shakespeare—the fishing rod company.
This is when the market completely evolved, and not long after its introduction, graphite shaft manufactures started to pop up to get into the game. Thanks to a better understanding of materials, and the physics of the golf swing with the help of highspeed camera and tracking tools, graphite shafts have never been more advanced than they are today.
Carbon composite crown: Mizuno MP-001 (2003)
The Mizuno MP-001 was released the year after the much talked about, but often ridiculed, Callaway C4—the very first (and only) carbon composite driver. It came in three different models released in succession; 360cc, 400cc, and then eventually 460cc, which if you are on the lookout for a value, the 460cc driver is still high on the list.
Beyond what Callaway was up to with Fusion Technology, the MP-001 was the very first driver to utilize a multi-material crown to save weight, and the results speak for themselves. It sounds extremely solid, offered low spin, boosted MOI—and looked really cool too.
Multilayer solid core urethane ball
This is the one breakthrough that has a hard-to-find solid start date—no pun intended. The first multilayer performance balls were the Precept (Bridgestone brand) EV Extra Spin and Extra Distance. At the time of its introduction around 1995, the Precept EV was competing against the Titleist Professional, which was still a wound ball. The EV offered more distance and great control while still not quite competing from a short game control perspective.
The biggest mainstream change came when Mark O’Meara won the 1998 Masters with a multi-layer Strata ball and then went on to win the Open Championship the same year. Many attribute his win in part to the fact that he was using a new Strata multi-layer urethane ball that offered less spin off the driver and more spin around the greens.
A year later, in 1999, a year before Titleist introduced the Pro V1 (October 2000), Nike launched the Tour Accuracy ball (manufactured by Bridgestone), and with it came this…
Soon after, the Pro V1 arrived, and as the market leader, the impact was a seismic shift. The wound ball was officially dead, but we can’t forget the change that Precept/Bridgestone pioneered half a decade before.
What other “firsts” of the golf industry do you think are notable, GolfWRXers?
You can (finally!) buy Rickie Fowler’s Rev33 irons: Cobra releasing limited RF Proto irons
After much anticipation, Cobra Golf is set to release the limited edition RF Proto irons—an exact replica of the Rev33 irons developed and used by Rickie Fowler on the PGA Tour.
Rickie worked closely with long-time Director of Tour Operations, Ben Schomin from start to finish to create an iron that offered him everything he ever wanted from looks, to feel, and, ultimately, performance.
The Rev33 stamp is a nod to 33 iterations the iron went through before the final design was selected.
“We worked closely with Rickie to determine his favorite features of several of his previous sets that we were able to combine into one very sleek package. These are a must-own for better players who appreciate the finest of iron craftmanship or Rickie fans who would jump at the opportunity to own the same sticks their favourite player uses.”
– Ben Schomin
If you are looking for a full in-depth discussion with Ben on the irons be sure to check out our piece from when Rickie originally put them into play: GolfWRX Insider: Inside the development of Rickie Fowler’s Cobra irons
RF Proto technology and design
The set was designed around Rickie’s preferred 7-iron look with a square/straight topline from the longest iron to the pitching wedge, which is unique since most irons progress to a more rounded shape in the shorter irons.
The RF Protos feature a distinct sharp toe profile reminiscent of many classic blades and a zero offset look thanks to a “no-taper” hosel design.
The irons are produced through a two-stage forging process and then 100 percent CNC milled to the final shaping. The milling process alone takes over two and a half hours per iron head to produce the most precise geometry possible.
The final piece of the design is the tungsten weight positioned on the toe of the iron—just like Rickie’s gamers—to locate the center of gravity and deliver a superior feel.
Price, specs, and availability
The RF Proto irons are available in right hand only 4-pitching wedge and will retail for $2,499.
Sets can be pre-0rdered starting today January 25th, at Cobragolf.com with sets shipping out starting January 29th.
The limited-edition irons are shipped in a custom box, which celebrates the partnership between Fowler and Cobra, complete with a card of authenticity autographed by Rickie Fowler.
The standard set components are KBS C-Taper shafts with Golf Pride Align grips fitted with Cobra Connect powered by Arccos, but a full selection of custom shafts and grips and also available.
New Bridgestone E12 Contact golf ball features tire technology, major performance gains
It’s not very often that a golf company touts huge technology gains with its mid-level priced products. Large scale changes are generally reserved for the premium price point and performance category, and then those technologies funnel down to the mid-price point in the next generation.
Bridgestone is flipping that model on its head, however, with the release of the all-new e12 Contact, which looks to offer one of the biggest performance jumps in the mid-price golf ball category ever developed.
Bridgestone e12: The science
The focus for Bridgestone with the e12, just like it was for the re-engineered Tour B series and its ReActive cover in 2020, is contact science—it’s where the e12 Contact derived its name from.
“Bridgestone has long been a pioneer in bringing to market unique dimple shapes, sizes and constructions in the golf industry, but up until this point that has primarily been a means of achieving optimal aerodynamic performance,”
-Elliot Mellow, Golf Ball Marketing Manager for Bridgestone Golf.
“In the new e12 CONTACT, dimples actually serve as a source of increased power and distance as well. They also contribute to minimizing hooks and slices, making the newest e12 a golf ball that provides performance you can actually see in terms of straight distance.”
The breakthrough comes in the form of a new dimple design to increase the ball contacting the face for both soft feel and additional distance. The new dimple design places a raised area in the middle of the traditional dimple, which when hit with a direct force, creates a whopping 38 percent for more face contact at impact.
- This face contact and compression promotes a longer amount of time for the ball to stay on the face resulting in more efficient energy transfer to engage the core layer of the ball which from Bridgestone’s testing has resulted in a gain of over 1.5 mph ball speed.
- On the other end of the spectrum, in the short game, the additional contact helps increase spin in the scoring clubs and compared to the previous generation results in over 600 rpm more spin.
- Although less scientific, Bridgestone also says that many players will experience a benefit when putting thanks to improved putter face contact.
Why not put this into a premium ball?
This is the million-dollar (or millions and millions of dollars) question, and it actually has a fairly simple answer—the new dimple design increases the peak trajectory of the e12 Contact and also makes it fly straighter. This makes it the perfect fit for a golf ball designed to enhance distance and reduce total golf ball curvature but less ideal for a tour-level ball designed for maximum trajectory control.
I realize that makes it sound like a negative, but in reality, it’s the exact opposite—the engineers at Bridgestone have closely analyzed the target golfers and designed a ball to fit their needs. The new e12 Contact is so efficient at creating the desired results from both distance and scoring clubs, they have eliminated the previous “Speed” and “Soft” balls and made one better with the e12 Contact.
Price and availability
The new Bridgestone e12 Contact will be available at retail and online starting February 26 at the price of $29.99 a dozen.
Beyond the traditional white version, the e12 Contact will also be available in Matte Green, Matte Red and Matte Yellow color options.
2021 Mizuno ST-X and ST-Z drivers, fairway woods: Moving Mizuno woods forward
Since 2019 and the launch of the ST190 series, Mizuno has quickly changed the perception around its metal woods. With the new ST-X and ST-Z drivers, along with the new ST-Z fairway woods for 2021, it is once again proving Mizuno isn’t just an iron company anymore.
The ST-X and ST-Z drivers represent the next evolution for Mizuno and are a culmination of a focused team effort to prove that, when side by side with the industry leaders, Mizuno drivers can both compete and win the battle of ball speed, spin, and dispersion.
A global effort to produce better (The “how’d we get here?”)
As a global brand, Mizuno used to have a small issue with market segmentation when it came to its club releases, meaning that depending on where you were in the world, there were different metal wood sub-brands to cater to various consumers.
This worked OK for the individual markets, but overall, it wasn’t working worldwide for one simple reason—more designs meant Mizuno engineers had to stretch their biggest resource, time, thinner. It also didn’t create a lot of continuity in the products, which from a consumer-level, always made it feel like Mizuno’s approach was just “let’s give this a try!”, and it really wasn’t working.
This brings us to the “New Mizuno.” Since the original ST190 series was released in 2019 (don’t forget development started long before the release date), Mizuno has had a fully dedicated team in place working on metal wood development and technology. This has allowed engineers to work tirelessly on creating drivers that win on both a technology front as well and where it matters most: in fittings and on the course where golfers care about performance.
The technology inside the 2021 Mizuno ST-Z and ST-X drivers
- SAT2041 beta-titanium faces: This titanium material is not new to the world of aerospace engineering, but as golf clubs are concerned, it had mostly been found previously in high-end JDM (Japanese domestic Market) drivers because of cost but was first used last year in the ST200 series drivers. SAT2041 has higher strength and rebound properties allowing Mizuno engineers to improve the multi-thickness areas behind the face for higher ball speed, and save mass to reposition around the head.
- New CorTech face design: Now, speaking to the faces, thanks in part to the material and Mizuno engineers’ ability to tweak and adjust based on continuous R&D, the faces of the ST-Z and ST-X drivers have been made thinner in certain areas to further optimize CT and COR, which contributes to more consistent ball speeds and additional discretionary mass.
- Using discretionary mass differently: A few grams here or there mean a lot in the golf club design world, especially when it comes to drivers. Mizuno shaved mass around the head to boost MOI in both of the new drivers and create performance separation in how they will work best for the intended players. Both of the new drivers have a carbon crown and also feature carbon panels around the sole skirt to help precisely locate the center of gravity.
Meet the 2021 Mizuno drivers
Mizuno ST-Z driver
The ST-Z replaces the ST200 and has been designed to offer the highest MOI possible without sacrificing lower spin—this driver is all about stability. Mass saved around the head, thanks to the carbon panels, along with the better-optimized face has allowed the designers to position the CG as close as possible to the neutral axis, to raise MOI, and create a neutrally biased driver.
Compared to the ST-X, the Z is longer heel to toe and slightly shallower to once again use any and all available options to maximize performance and playability.
Mizuno ST-X driver
Although the new STX driver shares a similar name to the previous ST200X designed to be an exclusively lighter weight draw-biased driver, the new STx is for any golfer seeking slightly more spin compared to the STz and also greater workability, thanks to a center of gravity positioned slightly more forward and closer to the shaft.
From the bottom, the easy way to separate the ST-X from the Z is the reduced amount of carbon on the sole and slightly more heel-biased back weight to aid the engineers in repositioning the CG.
The ST-X’s slightly deeper face and shorter heel-to-toe length help to make the driver ever so slightly more draw-biased than the ST-Z but also happens to make the driver more workable.
For those still in need of a premium lightweight option, the new ST-X has the ability to be built to a lighter and longer spec similar to the ST200X thanks to the adjustable weight in the sole, which goes from a stock 11-gram weight to just four grams when built to J-Spec. This brings the head weight to 194 grams vs. 201 grams in the standard ST-X configuration and 204 in the ST-Z. When matched with the M-Fusion shaft, you get a driver that competes against any other in the ultra-lightweight category.
2021 Mizuno STX and STZ drivers prices, specs, and availability
The ST-X and ST-Z stock shaft options are directly driven from popular profiles on tour and feature a familiar story of high, mid, and low launch. The drivers will also carry a fourth shaft option, which is a carryover from the previous ST200X.
High Launch – Project X Riptide CB 50g and 60g
Mid Launch – Fujikura MotoreX F3 60g
Low Launch – ProjectX HZRDUS RDX Smoke Black 60g
High Launch and ultra-lightweight – M-Fusion
Mizuno will also continue to offer upcharge shafts options including:
- Tensei CK Pro Orange and White 60 and 70g
- Fujikura Ventus Blue and Black 60 and 70g
- Graphite Design Tour AD Di6 & 7 along with XC6 & 7
STX and STZ drivers will be priced at – $399.99
The Mizuno STX and Z driver’s pre-sale starts today January 25th, with products on retail shelves starting February 18.
Mizuno ST-Z fairway woods
Technology and design
- 3rd gen MAS1C high strength steel face: Last year, with the ST200, Mizuno completely overhauled the internal structure of its fairway woods, and the ST-Z is the next evolution. Similar to the driver, engineers have improved the CorTech multi-thickness pads behind the hitting area to raise ball speeds while also improving sound and feel
- Carbon crown: When it works, it works, and the carbon steel crown of the ST-Z fairway woods reduces mass from higher in the head and gives the engineers the ability to better position it to deliver the performance variables they are searching for.
- New shaping: After all the material and sciencey stuff were figured out, the last part of the new fairway woods to consider was the shape. It seems simple, but the shape not only has a huge impact on the club’s physical performance, but it plays a major factor in how golfers perceive it in the address position. The leading edge and the hosel transition have been adjusted to appeal to the target players and make it more efficient from the turf, which is where most players will use their fairway woods the most.
Specs, prices, and availability
The ST-Z fairway woods will be available in the lofts of 15 and 18 degrees, and with Mizuno’s Quick Switch adjustability, the fairway woods can go up and down two additional degrees.
The stock shaft configurations for the ST-Z will be the Fujikura MotoreX 7 in stiff flex and the ProjectX RipTide CB in regular.
The ST-Z fairway woods are priced at $299.99 with pre-sale and fitting tools available starting today January 25th with the product on retail shelves on February 18.
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