The Mizuno ST180 driver turned up at Golfalot HQ a bit like Paddington Bear with a note attached saying 'it's low spin and goes further'.
There wasn't much more information than that, even on the accompanying press release, which is usually covered in three word technologies and in depth technical information.
The release just talked about what you can see, which is the Wave Technology on the sole, so just the two word tech then...
This type of sole has been around on the JPX900 fairway, but this is the first time that Mizuno has put it on a driver and the design concentrates more weight lower down than a flat sole.
The Amplified Wave Sole, as it is also known, is supposed to contract and expand at impact to increase ball speed, even if it looks a bit solid for that.
The 460cc head is made from titanium and apparently there is a 'Waffle Crown' on the inside to save weight there that can be moved to the sole. The face uses Forged SP700 Ti titanium that allows the variable thickness in the face to be more precisely manufactured to make it as fast as possible.
The other visual tech is the large sole weight that shows you that the aim is to get the CG low to launch it higher so that low spin can give you all the distance benefits.
So does it all work? Well, at address the back of the ST180 looks pulled back to make it deeper front to back than the Mizuno JPX900 driver it is replacing.
The blue is the same shade as before and looks good, as not only is it on brand, but Mizuno seem to be one of the few people who can make blue work on golf clubs.
The sound at impact is a little on the hollow side and reasonably loud, but more muted and better than the JPX900, which could be because there are no open weight tracks on the ST180.
Performance wise on GC2 with Pro V1x balls at the standard loft setting of 9.5°, the lower spinning nature of the ST180 was revealed with a 300 rpm drop on the JPX900.
The ST180 comes with Mitsubishi Tensei shaft that seems ubiquitous this year, but which was not ideal for me in this head, so these numbers were gained by swapping in the Fujikura Speeder that came with the JPX900 in both heads, as I know that is a shaft that does work for me and provides a fairer comparison.
The launch angle of 8.5° and peak height seemed lower than normal and whilst I did not need to see more spin, I thought I would use the Quick Switch hosel to go through all the lofts to see how that affected things.
Going down to 8.5° was ruled out pretty quick as the launch was so low even the moles were ducking for cover. Then I went up to 10.5° and this monster emerged where the launch went up, but the spin went down significantly and the ball went 10 yards longer than the JPX900.
The clue could be in the Side Spin numbers where the change from left to right spin, which in turn also lowers the Back Spin could be due to the face closing because I am increasing the loft.
My own personal feeling is that the lie of the club at 10.5° suits my swing better than the other lofts. The lie changes in adjustable hosels as you vary the loft and in the ST180 it goes from 60° to 62°. Mizuno has not said the exact lie at 10.5°, but GC2 had this loft as the lowest lie during the swing, so there must be something in this as the 11.5° loft gave back all the distance gain.
Having such a large difference in results for one setting over another is not something I see very often so I did the tests again just to make sure and even tried the JPX900 at 10.5° too, even though I knew I already had it at is optimum setting from the review I did previously. And lo and behold, having the ST180 driver at 10.5° with the Speeder shaft was clearly the winner and right up there with the longest drivers I have tested.
It is still a relatively low flight so making sure you hit up on it or maybe using a higher spinning ball might give even better results. There is no doubt that the ST180 driver is low spin, so you just need to get the rest of the launch conditions right.
There is also a 12.5° head, so maybe delofting that could be another option, especially if you draw the ball or don't like the closed look of the 9.5° head at 10.5°.
Mizuno has been making a few decent drivers lately and the ST180 is really knocking on the door of the big boys, but is the market ready to open it?
Some may pause for thought at the level of financial investment in a club with a blue head from a manufacturer that is not widely regarded as a leading driver brand, but that is something Mizuno has always faced.
The distance is a pleasant surprise, but that was with a non-stock shaft and only in one setting of the four lofts which seems a bit freaky, but I will take it. Therefore custom fitting is a must before you buy to check you can get a set up that will challenge the leaders in the market like mine did.
The Mizuno ST180 is a lower spinning driver than most so it will probably require the golfer to be a high speed or high spin player in order to cope with it, so it's appeal might be limited.
However get the shaft and loft right and the Mizuno ST180 is definitely worth having thoughts about.