:: A More Playable Blade
While we (im)patiently await the arrival of the latest round of irons from Mizuno; a lineup that includes the JPX-825 Series, the MP-64, and a brand new design, the MP-H4, we wanted to remind you about the latest “iconic Mizuno Muscle Back iron“. The MP-69 was released about this time last year, and will remain the current model at the top of Mizuno’s lineup for at least another season.
The MP-69 is the first Mizuno iron to feature 4D Muscle Design. 4D is a “strategic weighting system” that allows Mizuno engineers to maintain the perfect center of gravity in each clubhead. As is almost always the case with the latest and greatest, 4D helps deliver “unmatched ball and trajectory control”.
What this all boils down to is a serious effort by Mizuno to produce, what I suppose you call, a more playable blade. While the pursuit, and possibly the achievement, of perfection is admirable, as you’ll see, 4D Technology has some visual implications that may not appeal to the really serious golfer looking for a really serious muscle back.
Stock Shaft: TrueTemper Dynamic Gold S300
Stock Grip: Mizuno/Golf Pride MP-21 Round
As you can see from the table above, the MP-69s are not available in a left-handed model. These type of things almost always boil down to supply and demand, and in this case, nature hasn’t supplied enough left-handed golfers to demand Mizuno produce the MP-69s for them. Sorry guys. It it is, as we say, what it is.
:: Key Differences (from the MP-68)
One of the things our readers always ask is “how exactly is the new(er) model different from the old one. We took the question to Mizuno, and here’s what they told us:
- More mass behind the impact area throughout the set, which provides a more solid feel.
- Tour inspired sole grind for more versatility without negatively impacting bounce
- 4D Muscle which optimizes the size, shape, and thickness distribution of the Muscle pad throughout the set for easier launching long irons and penetrating workable short irons. (more on this in a bit)
:: Target Golfer Handicap
+6 to 7
*Truth be told a +6 handicap is probably going to break 80 with a bag full of croquet mallets and those inverted candy cane things they play field hockey with. So take the listed range as Mizuno’s way of telling you that to get the best results out of the MP-69 you’d better be a damn good ball striker.
From a purely aesthetic perspective, there is very little, if anything not to love about the Mizuno MP-69 muscle back. Unlike some other blade styles on the market today, the lines on the MP-69 are soft, and flow perfectly. There’s not a single harsh edge anywhere in the set. The slight depression where Mizuno is stamped, a signature of Mizuno’s blades, adds a little definition to an already stunning muscle back design.
If there’s a knock visually it’s the super-high glare chrome finish Mizuno elected to use. In the right (or wrong) light, it can be almost blinding. I would much prefer they finished them in the same black nickel they use on some of their wedges, and frankly, I don’t think I’m alone.
Finish aside, the long irons in particular are Kate Upton in lingerie ; drop dead sexy.
Somewhere along the way (to my eye it’s the transition between the 6 iron and the 7 iron), the set, literally, begins to take on an entire new shape. As part of the 4D design – as the irons grow in length and loft – the head gets larger, and the shape takes on a more rounded appearance.
Now Mizuno engineers are pretty smart guys, but they’re likely not men of whimsy, so you can bet the progressive design of the MP-69 wasn’t done just for the hell of it. The primary feature of the design is that allows for a thinner muscle towards the top of the long irons (lower COG, aids in higher launch, etc.), and thicker muscle on the top of the short irons (higher COG, increased feel, and control).
From a technical standpoint the design accomplishes exactly what it’s supposed to do, however, it comes at a price. As I mentioned, the shape change is fairly dramatic as the set progresses from long irons to short. The result is, to my eye anyway, long irons that look like classic blades, paired with larger, more rounded short iron heads that closely resemble Mizuno’s wedge lineup.
Don’t get me wrong, the transition is subtle from iron to iron, but when you’re holding the 3-iron next to the PW in isolation, the difference is fairly dramatic.
As one of our testers said to me, “If you can hit this [4-iron], why would you want something like this [PW]“?
Ultimately, I do believe the guys at Mizuno know what they’re doing, but 4D as a key design element might leave some purists shaking their heads.
:: Sound and Feel
There are probably a few of you out there who don’t by into Mizuno’s whole Sound of Feel, Harmonic Impact Tuning thing. You’ll tell me it’s all marketing, steel is steel, and that all irons basically feel (and sound) the same.
Now absolutely golfers will believe whatever they want to believe. We see it every day. It’s this unwavering belief in what we want to be true (rather than what is true) that explains why the average golfer thinks he averages 250 yards with his driver, when in reality the actual average golfer’s average drive is probably closer to 220.
Of course, we’re talking about Mizuno MP-69 irons here, and well, the feel they produce is not average…it’s exceptional (see what I did there?). Now certainly what constitutes best is open for discussion, but if you’re looking for buttery soft, welcome to the Land O’ Lakes; the search begins and ends with Mizuno.
The MP-69s I tested were no different in that respect, and that’s exceptional considering my sample set was outfitted with Project X 6.0 shafts (not exactly the I Can’t Believe it’s Not Butter of golf shafts). The good news is that in addition to tried and true DynamicGold shafts, Mizuno now offers both KBS Tour and KBS C-Tapes, so assuming they’re a good fit for you, you can probably squeeze even more feel (nebulous a concept as it may be) out of them.
As with any true blade, mis-hits, particularly those low on the face, or out on the toe, can be downright punishing (distance, yes…but I’m talking about physically punishing). The toe…a groove low…it hurts. Better golfers call that feedback. Some of us call it pain.
Balls struck high on the face are noticeably softer, though not as sweet as perfectly centered contact, and given the choice, I’d rather miss it high than anywhere else on the face.
I spent an exceptional amount of time with the MP-69 trying to convince myself that anybody can hit blades. It’s a good story, and while I consistently hit them (the iron always makes contact with the ball), not surprisingly I didn’t always hit them well.
Look, blades…even most well-designed, optimized every which way blades are less forgiving that cavity backs, and super game improvement irons. There’s a reason why guys like Luke Donald play variations of what we call Player’s Cavity Backs like the MP-59, and now the MP-64. The margin for error here is tight, and missing on any part of the club face is going to cost you pronounced distance.
If on a Sunday afternoon the cost of coming up short on an iron shot is a golf ball and a stroke, it ain’t no thing. If, however, the cost is a couple hundred grand and noticeably fewer FedEx points, well…then perhaps playing something that lets you get away with a bit more might make sense. The best players in the world aren’t perfect. Even Luke Donald misses from time to time.
Despite what we’ve been lead to believe, shaping shots is a matter of physics, and gear affect not withstanding, absolutely it is as possible to do it with game-improvement irons as it is with blades. GI designs aren’t what they are necessarily to limit shot shaping, they’re designed to limit accidental shot shaping, which is an entirely different animal (like a duck hook).
That said, if you’re looking for a club that allows you to move the ball right to left, or left to right to varying degrees, the MP-69 can absolutely get the job done. I had absolutely no trouble moving the ball in either direction, and varying the trajectory with the MP-69s.
Again, I didn’t always get the exact results I wanted, but the limiting factor here is ball striking ability, not the irons. Did I mention the MP-69 is a ball-striker’s iron? Almost goes without saying, doesn’t it?
:: The Takeaway
While I don’t believe handicap always makes for a great fitting tool, when considering the MP-69s you really have to be honest with yourself about your ball striking ability. The MP-69 isn’t an iron for the average ball striker. It’s probably not even an iron for a very good ball striker. Exceptional ball strikers looking for an exceptional beautiful iron that offers exceptional feel, well…the MP-69 is for you.
More than anyone else perhaps, the MP-69 is for the guy who wants to play blades because he simply loves a compact head, clean lines, and the feel that can only come from a muscleback.
As a 12 handicap, I won’t tell you the MP-69s are in my bag, and truthfully, most of my lower single digit handicap friends keep more forgiving irons in their bags too. Now if you’re considering a combo set (something Mizuno makes incredibly easy to put together) then it’s not out of the realm of reason to think that most mid-high single digit handicap golfers (and even some low two digit handicap golfers) could successfully replace their short irons with MP-69s. Paired with the new MP-64 or the JPX-825 Pros, ummm…so damn tempting.
What I love most about the MP-69 irons is that they provide a subtle reminder that golf is a beautiful game and it’s supposed to be fun.
- One of a dwindling number of true musclebacks still being produced by a major golf club manufacturer
- Offers the buttery soft feel we’ve come to expect from Mizuno
- Beautifully classic blade design, particularly in the longer irons
- Generally sexy (like Kate Upton…I think we covered this already)
- Progressive muscle design lacks continuity of shape, and results in short irons that don’t quite look like blades at address
- High-glare chrome finish
- Like most blades, the margin for error is small, and misses result in noticeable distance loss, and potentially, stiff penalties