10 Rounds with the Mizuno JPX-850 Driver

MizunoJPX850_400x300

Everyone knows Mizuno Golf’s reputation for making top performing models in every iron category from professional level to game improvement. What many golfers don’t realize is back in the 2007 their MP-600 driver was the first to have sliding weights in a channel at the rear of the sole to help compensate for a player’s slice or hook.

Called the “Fast Track” system, this idea is joined in the JPX-850 model driver with two weight ports in the sole plus a hosel adjustable to eight loft settings.

What this all translates into is a lot of control over spin rate, trajectory and fade/draw tendencies and it’s done with a different approach.

First of all the sliding weight channel in the JPX-850 is from front to back rather than heel to toe as done by competing club makers. Therefore the closer the weight or weights (there are two of 8-grams each) are placed to the front, the lower the spin produced but also the weights can be used in one of two ports (near the heel and toe) to adjust for draw/fade bias. Add to this huge range of adjustments these features provide, the hosel lofts from 7.5 to 11.5 degrees so most every player can find a set of settings to help them hit it longer and straighter.

Mizuno_jpx850_Tech_300x200And there’s another difference worth mentioning. The JPX-850 head does not have, like with many other drivers, a sole channel parallel to the face, opting rather to make a crown with added flexibility to give more rebound at impact.

So having familiarized myself with all this I took mine it to a local golf shop for a session on their launch monitor. We settled on 10.5 degrees loft with one weight in the toe position to compensate for my tendency to hook and the second at the front position of the channel to lower the spin rate. It’s worth pointing out you have to do this to find settings for maximizing distance and trajectory for any adjustable driver but it is especially important for one with as many options as the JPX-850.

On the course, the combination of these settings with the Fujikura Motore Speeder shaft produced a medium ball flight—just about what I can expect with my 95 mph swing speed that on a good day might even approach 100. Distance was slightly better than all but two of the other drivers in this year’s crop—a no-wind carry of about 230 yards with run out of course depending on the turf conditions.

Sound at impact was consistent from sweet spot hits to slight misses and when I happen to catch it a lot towards the toe the feel still was solid. Playing the JPX-850 for 10 rounds leaves no doubt this is a low spin driver so those with swing speeds south of 85 mph will have to adjust the loft to the higher end of the range available and probably go with no weights in the Fast Track channel.

Negatives: Though at $400 the JPX-850 is not the most expensive fully adjustable driver on the market the price is high enough some extensive testing prior to purchase is smart. The clubhead is 440cc or some 20cc smaller than many drivers but this did not seem to compromise the forgiveness typical of the larger size. Also and this may make a difference to some, the only color you can buy is a vivid blue that Mizuno seems to like.

Recommendation: The JPX-850 puts Mizuno back the game as far as drivers are concerned and I really liked it—certainly on my short list of best 2015 models.

Images courtesy of Mizuno Golf

Fox Open Coverage

2015-us-open-logo_400x225

Jordan Spieth won. He got a check for $1.8 million and has two majors this year, both before the age of 22. 

After those facts, which of course are the ones that that really count, we are left with side issues some of which occupied the media prior to the U.S. Open at Chambers Bay such as how the rookies at Fox Sports would do. Would the technical marvels used in televising football be seen as adding or detracting from the show and would the broadcast team be able to handle the pressure of a national open? 

The answers to both questions are a firm “yes,” though not without mistakes and problems. Overall they did just fine.

And best of all were Joe Buck and Greg Norman the marquee names heading up the on-air team. Buck is a professional and was able to do his job without falling into the bunker of pontification. Some, such as Jim Nance do sounding as though they are handing down the word to the great unwashed.

Corey Pavin, U.S. Open Champion in 1995, following key groups each day had to be prompted at first to talk about the circumstance of the shot a player was facing though he got better by Sunday’s round. He finally got it into his head he was the one with the best view of what was going on and we wanted to hear what he had to say. 

Greg Norman didn’t surprise me at all with his comments and analysis. He always has had no trouble applying his formidable talent to a situation either as a player or businessman and golf analysis seemed to be a natural for him. Tom Weiskopf didn’t contribute anything, remarkable or otherwise, except perhaps giving the impression he was running to be voted “master-of-the-obvious.” For the next go around Fox might think about cutting Weiskopf from the line up and giving more time to Brad Faxon or even Julie Inkster.

The biggest question for golf fans is not how ESPN/ABC will do covering the British Open, this being their last year, nor how CBS will do at the PGA Championship in August, but whether Spieth can win both and complete the grand slam.

 

Golf is Simple

Golf85_800x600

Golf is simple…really. Not easy certainly but simple and LPGA Teaching &Club Professional Hall of Fame instructor Kay McMahon figured that out one day when she realized her traditional way of teaching wasn’t cutting it.

The message she and a lot of other instructors were passing on seemed to be even at the amateur level, golf was complex, complicated…maybe even beyond most of us struggling to learn.

Kay McMahon LPGA Teaching & Club Professional Hall of Fame

Kay McMahon LPGA Teaching & Club Professional Hall of Fame

McMahon saw this clearly was the case and after her years teaching golfers from rank beginners to accomplished players also saw clearly a different approach was required.

After a lot of thought and applying insights from her competitive experience the result was a new simpler teaching method she named Golf 8.5 and as anyone who has had the experience of working with McMahon will tell you, it’s spot on.

Golf 8.5 deals with the swing simplistically and unquestionably best of all, demystifies the endless list of things most people think they have to do in the less than two seconds a swing takes.

McMahon’s company, eduKaytion Golf in Lennox, Mass. at the Cranwell Spa & Golf Resort, teaches Golf 8.5 in schools, seminars and private lessons. Director of Operations Eloise Trainor, whose golf credentials include starting the FUTURES Tour (now the LPGA Symetra Tour), and McMahon make an effective team getting the word out.

Once the basics are understood there are really only 4 things to do before and 4.5 things during the swing, hence Golf 8.5. For example after holding and aiming the club and feet take the club back thinking of a “Y” formed by the shoulders, arms, hands and shaft. When the club is waist high make an “L” by bending the right elbow and continue turning until the shaft is over the right shoulder.

McMahon & Trainor teaching Golf 8.5

McMahon & Trainor teaching Golf 8.5

Simple to describe and simple to do. Of course there’s a lot more to McMahon’s teaching but her personality encourages students without talking down to them and makes a lesson seem like time well spent on the road to playing this greatest of all games.

We asked McMahon to share her thinking concerning some of the issues surrounding today’s golf instruction and her philosophy of making golf simple. Significantly, McMahon believes making golf instruction less complicated is a key in attracting and keeping players and growing the game.

ERT: What’s the biggest problem learning an effective golf swing?

KM: There are so many fragmented “tips”, videos, isolated TV comments, and “professional or not” opinions on the golf swing that the average person ends up trying to do those 1001 things in 1.2 seconds and thus confusion reigns. Those tips are fragments that never give the complete picture. Then people go out, whack golf balls trying all of the various theories without much understanding of what is going on. And people practice swinging way too fast in an attempt to get more distance. Not effective practice at all because they have nothing to practice.

The focus tends to be on the golf ball with the most common piece of advice: “Keep your head down or your eye on the ball!”

ERT: How does Golf 8.5 address that problem?

KM: Golf 8.5 is simple. It’s about the club, not the ball. We first teach from a point of understanding, meaning the first step is to understand ball flight. Then more importantly how the club is used to affect ball flight. The focus tends to be on the golf ball which is not moving. We focus on the club because the club is the thing that is moving.

Understanding where the club has to be, how to keep the club square, and then how to do it in only 4.5 steps.

To change or to have an effective swing, practicing in parts and in slow motion, increases the learning stage rapidly. A person can change a swing in 7-10 days by taking the speed out and later putting it back in. Looking at the club head is first knowing where the club is and where it is square.

Using Golf 8.5 people know what and how to practice.

ERT: Why is Golf 8.5 different from traditional teaching methods?

KM: Our message…Golf is simple. Golf 8.5 proves it.

Traditional teaching methods make it complicated for the average person. It becomes difficult to understand. Little tidbits of information never get connected and/or are misunderstood.

Golf 8.5 breaks it down into only 4 things to do before the swing and only 4.5 things to do in the swing. When the first three things of the 4 pre-swing are done in the right order, then the fourth thing posture, happens automatically. Traditionally posture is taught first with people feeling uncomfortable and looking like pretzels. In Golf 8.5 posture happens automatically. Therefore, we do not have to teach it–it happens!

The 4.5 things in the swing of Golf 8.5 are 4 and 1/2 positions encompass or result in all those 1001 things that are taught. In Golf 8.5, a person only has to do or think about 4 and 1/2 things.

Golf 8.5 creates a whole picture of the swing from the putter to the driver which is the same, gets rid of all the clutter in the 6-inch attic, and keeps it simple and extremely doable.

ERT: Is the Golf 8.5 method just for girls and women?

KM: Are you kidding? Is golf for men only? Golf 8.5 is for everyone from 3 to 103, from novice to experienced, men, women and children of all ages. Golf 8.5 is simple, easy to learn, and produces high results in a short amount of time. We want to grow the game not limit it.

Golf 8.5 can do that because it is simple and gets results. When people play better, they will want to play and play more. The industry is talking about all kinds of ways to grow the game except teaching. Traditional teaching methods have hinder growing the game.

We are want to revolutionize teaching methods by simplifying how it is taught.

We are talking about changing teaching methods and developing quality simplified education as the biggest way to grow the game.

To Improve Tempo – Listen for the Click

Swingclick2_400x300

Visualize the scene at the beginning of Tin Cup when Renee Russo shows up for a lesson from Roy McAvoy, played by Kevin Costner, a down and out professional at a down and out driving range.

The multiple devices Russo put on looked like something from the Marquis de Sade’s closet and though perhaps a little overdone for dramatic effect, it did get the idea across beautifully.

Golfers will try just about anything to get better. Unfortunately very few devices or swing aids are worth the investment especially over the long term. A bewildering array have come and gone making a sure testament to the ingenuity of golfers.Swingclick1

Now, having said all that, buy a Swingclick. It’s simple. It works.

Swingclick helps correct a problem shared by the great majority of golfers, namely not swinging with the proper tempo. They swing out of sync, never “setting the club on top” which robs clubhead speed, contributes to off center hits, glancing impact and a host of other shot-making disasters including the most common of all…the dreaded slice.

Swingclick shows you how to fix your tempo. It’s simply a weight on a slide that straps to the left forearm. Swing back to the top, wait for the click of the weight hitting the end of the slide then swing down through the ball listening for a second click at impact and on to the follow through for a third click.

When you begin using Swingclick you will probably hear the first click after the start of the downswing revealing you rushed the transition from backswing to downswing plus if the second click comes before the clubhead hits the ball you’ve released too early.

As I said, simple.

Used prior a round it helps smooth out your swing and strike the ball more solidly plus it’s ideal should you want to practice on the course.

Swingclick received industry kudos at the 2015 PGA Merchandise Show and a number of teaching professionals are already having their students “strap it on.” Find more information at swingclickgolf.com where it can be purchased for $29.95 and it is also available on amazon.com.

10 Rounds with Bridgestone J715 Driver

BridgestoneJ715_400x300

Bridgestone Golf, based east of Atlanta in Covington, makes the point they don’t rush to market each year with a new driver just for the sake of being able to say they have a new driver. In fact their last number-one wood was the J40 way back in 2011.

As Josh Kinchen, Bridgestone’s Golf Club Marketing Manager said, “We haven’t put out a new driver in several years because we don’t believe a new color offering or some other less impactful technology is really worth asking consumers to part with their hard-earned dollars for.”

OK…fair enough. Based on my familiarity with the company’s club offerings over the past several years, if Kinchen feels this new J715 for mid to low handicaps and pros is special and offers golfers new technology it’s certainly worth my time for doing a thorough test over 10 rounds.

He also pointed out, “We want consumers to know that when we introduce a new club, it will always offer real tangible performance benefits. The J715 is without question the best driver we’ve ever made…”

The J715 tested was the 10.5 degrees model with the Mitsubishi Fubuki ZT 60 shaft and this proved to be a very nice combination.

From the first time I hit the J715 on the range prior to the round I liked the sound and feel at impact. It was solid but in no way had a “soft” feeling as do some drivers. Plus as my experience with the J715 increased, the higher launch design became apparent.

Bridgestone, unlike some other makers, doesn’t use slots in the sole to help with face flexibility but instead makes the crown relatively thin near the face getting progressively thicker towards the rear. This helps launch conditions, trajectory, spin, etc., by allowing a lot of flexing in the crown and combined with the milled clubface actually reduces spin by 200-300 rpm according to company tests.

The J715 also has adjustments for face and lie angles…up to 1 degree closed and open and 1 and 2 degrees upright. Plus switching the 10- and 4–gram sole weights provides a way to readily effect the trajectory by moving the center of gravity.

My friends who hit it had the same impression I did. Great distance and very straight though a couple of them who tend to hit the ball left to right and have swing speeds in the 85-90 mph range still could produce some bananas if they weren’t paying close attention.

Negatives. Few, as the Bridgestone J715 is a very credible well-made driver but based on my experience, one you should be prepared to give undivided concentration…then again, you should be doing that with every driver. For those who have to have a clubhead in something other than black you’re out of luck as white, orange, blue, etc., aren’t available.

Recommendation. At $400 the Bridgestone J715 isn’t the least expensive on the market but it is a quality driver so if you want to hit the same driver as Matt Kuchar, check it out.