Not many bags on tour carry the mystique and secrecy that Hideki Matsuyama’s does. Yes, we have seen pictures and general WITB info, but the why and the how have been under lock and key. The only other player I can think of that shuns information snoopers as much as Hideki is Brooks Koepka. It’s not necessarily a negative thing, a player’s bag is his own and whether he chooses to share the exact ingredients is their own.
However, today is a new day, and I was finally given an inside look into the why and how of Hideki’s bag. At a glance, it might look like any bag on tour, but it’s the nuance and the process that pique my interest. I’ve been inside the Cleveland/Srixon headquarters in Huntington Beach, California, and the guy has his own wall. That’s right, some players have a drawer or cupboard—this guy has a wall. It consists of old sets, prototypes, extra sets, and things that could work at some point. Besides Tiger’s cage at Artisan, it’s the most fascinating space I’ve seen dedicated to one player. Bryson’s old stock at Cobra is a close third, but I don’t understand half of the clubs that are in there—it’s golf nerd sightseeing on steroids, Jolt cola, and Pop Rocks.
For the purpose of this deep dive, I was able to ask some very targeted questions to one of the members of Hideki’s team who is tasked with keeping the bag humming at all times.
Thank you to Yoshihiro Iwamoto for the awesome photos!
Hideki Matsuyama WITB: The Set Makeup
JW: Historically, Hideki has preferred heavier shafts and swing weights. Is that to complement his unique tempo, or is it to satisfy launch conditions more?
Srixon: Hideki is constantly testing driver shafts, including lightweight options. He has found that heavier shafts allow him to generate more clubhead speed with his swing. Hideki also believes that heavier shafts help create and support his unique tempo.
JW: What launch data numbers are his sweet spot, what does the driver have to do numbers-wise?
Srixon: Hideki is very protective of his launch monitor numbers, and he is constantly tracking them and analyzing them. Based on PGA Tour launch monitor data, he averages mid to high 170s ball speed, low to mid-2000s RPMs backspin, and 100 feet peak height.
JW: Any internal weighting to the driver head?
Srixon: Through the fitting process, we did quite a bit of testing and definitely explored different internal weighting options with hot melt. Hideki enjoys the test process and exhausting all options before making a final decision. With the ZX5 driver we ended up finding a very unique place to put the hot melt, but that is a secret we prefer to keep.
JW: Is there a certain acoustic he prefers?
Srixon: Hideki has a very sensitive sense of hearing. This drives his extremely particular passion for finding the perfect sound and feel. For drivers, he prefers a higher pitch sound over a muted tone, which may also be a reason he prefers the larger game improvement shapes on woods. In addition, Hideki’s sense of sound even trickles down to his ball preference. It is incredible what Hideki can sense when ball testing, specifically in his short game and putting.
JW: What about the ZX5 has he responded the most to?
Srixon: The key factor for him was the ball speed. The ZX5 was a touch hotter for him compared to the ZX7 and it beat his previous gamer. In addition to the ball speed, he really likes the new shape of the ZX5 from the address view. This is a critical step in the introduction process. If Hideki has any issues with the address shape, he will not test the product. We included a lot of his feedback into the ZX driver shaping and masking. He prefers a very straight topline with a nice contrast between the crown and face.
JW: In testing, how did the 7 perform for him, and what were the deciding factors getting into the 5?
JW: In regards to the sole grinds, how has the sole been modified to give him the preferred turf interaction? In addition, Hideki is a player that prefers offset vs no offset?
Srixon: We are constantly adjusting to Hideki’s swing and changes to his thought process. Recently, we have added a small C-grind to the leading edge of his irons along with a flat “full” sole design. In addition, Hideki is one of the leaders in developing the toe & heel notches. He strongly believes the toe and heel notch creates a more consistent, smooth turf interaction. Hideki has always had these notches in his irons, and he was a huge part of bringing the notches back in the ZX line.
With regards to offset, Hideki prefers some offset over zero offset in his irons. He has the most specific eye, and he loves to tinker and test all products. The key areas for Hideki when it comes to irons are the general hosel shape and taper consistency, the blend between the face flat and hosel, and most importantly the smooth transitions from the hosel into the leading edge–there needs to be offset as he wants the transition to be smooth and almost straight.
JW: Beyond the sole grinds what other accommodations are made to get his irons dialed in?
Srixon: Hideki’s general iron shape has stayed consistent throughout the years. We have done some testing with different offsets, CG location, muscle and flange shaping, and topline thickness, but we generally come back to his baseline gamer. He enjoys the testing process and making sure he has the best product for his game in his bag at all times. Currently, we have been tinkering with his long irons, and he will change what is in the bag depending on the tournament. He has tested all of the new ZX products (ZX Utility, ZX5s, and ZX7s) long irons and has put the ZX Utility and ZX7 4i in his bag. The ZX5 and ZX7 irons had his sole ground to his spec.
Similar to the head design he likes to test shafts all the time. Hideki is constantly looking for the best combination of the length, loft, and lie to hit the gaps he needs for that week. In terms of builds, Hideki has a very heightened sense of feel and one area that constantly comes up is how he can feel the weight. For his builds, we weight sort and document everything for each club build. We also travel with pre-cut lead tape in ½ and 1 gram increment, and Hideki will apply the tape to different areas of the club (muscle, flange, hosel, shaft), depending on how the club feels while testing. When iron testing, Hideki likes to have a full set built rather than just a few lofts. We do this because if he likes the iron while testing, then we have the full set ready to go for him to test right away.
JW: From 52 to 60 it appears that Hideki has multiple angles ground into his clubs. Can you explain each nuance and what purpose it serves?
Srixon: All three sole grinds have a similar characteristic. Hideki doesn’t change his 52* sole often, but he is constantly tinkering with his 56*and 60*. All three soles have a subtle C-grind shape. The 56* and 60* have an aggressive heel relief. Hideki also utilizes a similar subtle leading-edge-grind that is in his irons. Hideki will vary the width and bounce angles of the three surfaces depending on the conditions and shots that he is looking to hit. These three tiers as well as the sole radius (the sole curvature from heel to toe) allow us to manipulate the sole design to achieve the turf interaction and versatility that he may be asking for without changing the address shape. In the 56* and 60*, Hideki plays a very straight leading edge with little to no offset. He plays his 60* and 56* weaker to help remove the offset and maintain a very straight, smooth transition from the hosel to leading-edge
JW: Is there a miss you tend to build out of his clubs (left or right)?
Srixon: Hideki does not like to see the ball go right. He likes to hit it straight and see the ball fall left. If a driver has a right miss, it has no chance to make it in his bag.
JW: He prefers higher MOI heads. Why is that? And what is he trying to achieve more than anything?
Srixon: Spin, forgiveness, launch, speed, etc. This is driven by the address shapes. Hideki always gravitates toward larger heads at address because they look easier to hit. As stated with the irons, Hideki has an extremely critical eye, and if a product look does not meet his expectations, he won’t even try to hit/test it. This also means Hideki is always looking at all driver shapes and giving us feedback on his preference.
JW: Can you explain the detailed testing process Hideki goes through to put any club in his bag?
Srixon: Once he finds a shape he likes, we will start to dial in the performance of the driver. We typically need to manipulate the masking line between the crown paint and face to achieve the topline shape, face angle and lie angle that he wants to see at address. Ball speed is always critical for him. The new ZX driver with Rebound Frame has really helped us improve our competitiveness this year and it has been unmatched for him, in particular with the ZX5 driver. When ball speed is sufficient, we work through the fitting process (adjusting loft, CG location, and shaft) to dial in the ball flight and spin numbers that he wants to see. If it feels good on the range, Hideki will take it to the course to confirm he can hit all the shots he needs.
JW: With his unique tempo, what types of shafts does he respond the best to?
Srixon: Hideki tests many different shafts, but the tendency is to fit him in higher kick point shafts.
Hideki Matsuyama WITB
*Hideki’s detailed specs are under lock and key. We will update WITB with any changes when he makes his first PGA Tour start of the year.
Driver: Srixon ZX5 (9.5 degrees/flat)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI 8 TX
3-wood: Taylormade SIM Max (15 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD TP 9 TX
Utility: Srixon ZX (4, 23 @ 22 degrees)
Shaft: Graphite Design Tour AD DI HY 115 TX
Irons: (4) Srixon Z7 (5-P) Srixon Z Forged
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue S400
Wedges: Cleveland RTX 4 Forged Prototype (52-10, 56-8 @57.5, 60-08 @ 62)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100
*Hideki found in testing that a stiffer profile in his wedges suited his launch preferences.
Putter: Scotty Cameron Circle T GSS
Grip: Scotty Cameron Standard Pistol
Ball: Srixon ZStar XV
Many thanks to Noelle Zavaleta at Srixon for facilitating!
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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