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Review: Mizuno MP-600 strikes happy balance between technology, tradition

Available Lofts: 8.5, 9.5, 10.5
LH? No
Price: $449.99 (Golf Town)
Demo specs: Fujikura E360 stiff shaft, 8.5 degrees loft [photopress:Mizzy_MP_600_1.jpg,full,alignright]
Rating: ***1/2 (out of five)

What they say:
This 460cc Titanium driver will allow players to quickly tweak their ball flight through the use of the revolutionary Fast Track. With two adjustable eight gram weights, the player can easily choose from 15 ball flight settings to fine tune the COG and achieve their ideal ball flight for maximum control. Furthermore, the CNC milled, plasma-welded CORTECH„¢ face insert will deliver the maximum USGA allowable ball speed across the entire area of the face for explosive distance.

What we say:

Look at the bottom of Mizunos new MP-600 driver and youll see all of the clubs marketing muscle smiling back up at you: a semicircle of adjustable-weight technology designed to help a company long known for world-class irons crack the always lucrative but ever-elusive driver market.

To see the MP-600s real sex appeal, however, you need only turn it over.

Sure, the FastTrack system _ two moveable eight-gram weights anchored inside an arc-shaped trough around the back of the sole to allow 15 different possible shot shapes _ is cool, especially if youre into tweaking your gear to suit certain courses or swing patterns.

But the MP-600, the lead salvo in Mizunos concerted effort to broaden its reputation and market share beyond just top-tier players irons, has a lot more going for it than the gimmickry and bottoms-up advertising campaign might suggest.

A caveat, however: This is a lot of golf club _ probably too much for anyone with a handicap in the double digits. For them, Mizuno offers a game-improvement edition, the MX-560, with a less conventional shape and T-Zoid-style alignment aid on the crown. More details on the 560 in a future review.

You may not find a better-looking driver at address than the teardrop-shaped 460cc MP-600. Theres nary an alignment aid or sweet-spot dot anywhere in sight to sully the understated glossy finish, save for the toothy-looking white grooves that jump off a deep, spacious clubface.

The club sets up nice and square, and the visibility of the clubface at address _ provided youre playing more than, like, six degrees of loft _ helps to instill confidence in those final moments before you pull the club back.

A square strike with the MP-600 produces a satisfyingly thick but muted crack instead of the hollow cannon-fire pop so common among modern oversized drivers. Mishits are, well, quite apparent “ this is a players club, after all, and as such will reward only those swings that make solid contact in the centre of the clubface. [photopress:Mizzy_MP_600_2.jpg,full,alignright]

With the square setup, a neutral weight configuration and a beefy Fujikura E360 shaft, the MP-600 produced a high, gentle fade despite just 8.5 degrees of loft, with no discernible loss of distance relative to my current gamer.

As the round progresses, however, the MP-600 becomes a difficult club to control _ especially when fatigue and frustration start to set in. Thats likely because the club feels a tad heavier than many in its class, possibly because of the FastTrack hardware.

Indeed, a quick spin around the Internet reveals a number of players complaining about the weight _ a problem readily solved by swapping out the stock Fujikura shaft for a lighter alternative. If youre buying one of these direct from the manufacturer, get thoroughly fitted and ask to try out as many possible shaft-head combos as possible to make sure you find the right shaft for you.

Despite a clubhead packed with adjustable-weight technology, Mizuno has infused the MP-600 with class and tradition, right down to the sharp blue-and-white leather headcover, which conceals a hidden pocket for the funky key tool used to adjust the weights.

Short of stacking the weights at either end of the trough, the various differences in ball flight are subtle at best. Many players will likely leave the weights alone; for the rest, the adjustability is a bonus.

Mizuno has long toiled to develop a driver offering that would put a dent in the market share of segment dominators like TaylorMade, Ping and Titleist and complement its own dominance in the irons market. With the MP-600, they’ve definitely turned some heads. Time will tell if golfers embrace it.

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James McCarten

When James McCarten isn't at the Ottawa offices of The Canadian Press, where he works as parliamentary news editor, he's either on the golf course or putting off his latest freelance golf-writing gig to spend time with wife Lisa and school-age kids Claire and Lucas. With 20 years of experience in Canadian journalism, James also suffers from a financially crippling addiction to all things Scotty Cameron.

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