What we say...
Mizuno has made many great irons during its 113 years, but there’s one particular model that’s known among forged iron connoisseurs as the “father of the modern muscleback”.
That’s the Mizuno TN-87, which was produced in the mid-late 1980s for Japanese legend Tommy Nakajima.
Forged iron stickler Nick Faldo loved the shape of Nakajima’s irons, so his favourite blades were based on the TN-87, and over time, the iron became the Mizuno MP-29, which Tiger Woods played early in his career. And if rumours are to be believed his MP-29s have formed the blueprint for his Titleist, Nike and TaylorMade musclebacks since.
Mizuno is well aware of the nostalgia that surrounds the TN-87, and they’ve taken inspiration from the classic iron for the new MP-20s.
WATCH: Which Mizuno MP-20 iron suits me?
Musclebacks are notoriously difficult to amend and improve, but there’s one stand-out change with the new model, and that’s a very thin copper layer which was on Mizuno’s historic irons, but not on recent MP models.
“We kept asking ourselves why players still talked about the feel of older Mizuno blades,” said Mizuno’s Chris Voshall.
“Despite our Grain Flow Forging process tightening each heads structure (which improves feel), and tuning each new design’s vibration pattern through computer aided design, the very best felt something was missing when comparing our latest musclebacks head-to-head with the classics,” Voshall added.
According to Mizuno, the only missing element from the classic models to the latest MP irons was a thin copper coat encapsulating the head. And just to see if players could spot the difference, six Mizuno PGA Tour pros blind tested these new copper models against none-coated models and all six felt the copper irons delivered better feel. Unsurprisingly, this tech comes on all three new MP-20 irons – the MB, MMC and the hollow-body HMB.
Mizuno MP-20 MB iron
RRP: £150 per iron / Availability: 3-PW (LH 5 – PW with #3+4 HMB) / 7-iron loft: 34°
A pure muscleback with a new tapering blade thickness tech. The idea gradually positions extra mass higher and lower in the blade (without thickening the topline) as the irons get shorter. Mizuno says it enhances vertical stability and forgiveness on high and low face impacts, and improves distance control consistency in the scoring clubs.
In response to tour player feedback the top line is thinner than any recent MP iron model. As you’d expect the MB has a classic tour-ready profile, just like the original TN-87, and there’s a new satin and mirror chrome finish, which eliminates high glare in the address position, often an issue with shiny blades.
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How do all three Mizuno MP-20 irons compare?
From Tour star to club amateur, Mizuno's line-up has something for everybody
Mizuno's golf business has been built on the success of its MP irons (MP stands for Mizuno Pro), so whenever a new model is introduced it's a big deal, not just for the brand but for Mizuno fans, too.
Aficionados will pour over every detail. Sole widths, top line thickness, blade lengths and offset dimensions will all be scrutinised and debated in online forums before everyone airs an opinion on how Mizuno irons should look and feel.
Mizuno revealed their new MP-20 iron line-up recently, so we wanted to find out how all three new MP-20 models compared, and establish where each one fits into.
MP-20 MB: Forgiveness rating 1
JPX 919 Tour: Forgiveness rating 2
MP-20 MMC: Forgiveness rating 2.5
MP-20 HMB: Forgiveness rating 2.5
JPX919 Forged: Forgiveness rating 3
JPX919 Hot Metal Pro: Forgiveness rating 3
JPX919 Hot Metal: Forgiveness rating 4
• RRP: £150 per iron
• Availability: 3-PW
• 7-iron loft: 34°
• 7-iron offset: 2.21mm
Mizuno are best known for their muscleback irons and the MB follows a long line of traditional blades which can be traced all the way back to the iron that's recognised as the grandfather of modern blades, the TN-87 (Tommy Nakajima's chosen iron in the late '80s).
That model inspired Nick Faldo's Major winning irons and countless other pros' clubs, too. But because it was also the model that inspired the MP-29, which Tiger won his first Masters title with (and rumour has it all his subsequent Titleist and Nike irons were based on), it's no surprise Mizuno have taken inspiration from such an iconic MP iron to create the new MP-20.
Like the TN-87 the MP-20 MB has a thin copper layer beneath the chrome finish, which improves feel and feedback. There's also a new tapered blade design to improve vertical stability and the thinnest top line of any recent Mizuno MP iron.
Anybody who doesn't think MB is a great-looking iron doesn't know what a great iron looks like. If you're lucky enough to have the game to use a set, you really won't be disappointed.
MP-20 should definitely be on the radar of any golfer considering new blades, and because lots of brands are ramping up equipment prices right now, £1,050 for a seven-piece set sounds like reasonable value.
Just remember, blades are difficult to live with – even our test pro was intimidated by the unforgiving look of the MBs and unless you're a very accomplished ball striker you'll need to live with some serious mishit drop-offs in ball speed and carry distance, which for most club golfers makes scoring difficult.
How they compare in numbers
Mizuno MP-20 MMC - (Multi-Material Construction)
• RRP: £164 per iron
• Availability: 4-PW
• 7-iron loft: 32°
• 7-iron offset: 3.1mm
The previous MP-18 family had both MMC (multi-material construction) and SC (split cavity) models, but for MP-20 the SC has been ditched to simplify the choice between musclebacks or forgiveness in the MP family.
Mizuno sum up MMC beautifully as the "elite players' cavity back", but thanks to 12g of tungsten weighting in the toe of the 4-7 irons and 12g of titanium behind the impact zone (which removes weight and improves perimeter weighting) this really is a compact cavity iron which boasts the performance of a much bigger iron.
Mizuno say the long irons have slightly wider soles and a lower, deeper centre of gravity to aid playability over the previous model, plus more workable short irons.
Unless you're hell-bent on playing blades, club golfers are much more likely to see success with the MMC compared to the MP-20 MB... if you can think with your head instead of your heart. If, though, you need further confirmation, our test pro said this would be the set he'd choose from the three new models.
We love how the top edge is just 1mm thicker than the MB iron, which guarantees you give up virtually nothing in terms of looks but still gain in playability performance. That should be enough to convince smart golfers of the benefits MMC brings to the part. A truly beautiful iron.
Mizuno MP-20 HMB - (Hollow Muscleback)
• RRP: £180 per iron
• Availability: 2-PW
• 7-iron loft: 32°
• 7-iron offset: 3.2mm
The popularity of hollow body irons is on a steep upwards trajectory, as they fuse fast face technology with the looks of a blade and the forgiveness of a cavity back.
HMB has a forged face and neck, but it's not the same soft carbon steel (1025 E HD) as the other two MP-20 irons. It's actually made from the same chromoly steel (chromoly is more springy for faster faces) found in Mizuno's cast Hot Metal irons. Two 12g tungsten weights (in the toe and heel, 2-7 iron) lower the centre of gravity and improve stability.
We're big fans of hollow irons at TG as they've brought something different to the iron party. They fill a gap between player and game improver irons that was really difficult to bridge a few years ago.
Every top brand now has at least one hollow-headed, fast-faced iron in their line up, so if you're looking at TaylorMade's P790, Ping's i500 or Titleist's T200, you really should be trying the MP-20 HMB, too.
How do you choose between the MMC and HMB? See it like this. Some golfers struggle to live with hollow body irons; they feel shot consistency (spin and distance control) is compromised, which makes it difficult to score.
We reckon the tech's moved on, but if you're that type of player MMC should be your choice. If, though, you're considering fast-faced irons to add some speed and distance to your game, we're fans of the HMB's profile, sound and feel.
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What Mizuno say about the MP-20 MB iron
This pure muscleback’s ‘tour-ready’ profile has been honed by studying elements of Mizuno’s most played/retained tour iron models by both contracted and non-contracted tour players, with usage among the tour’s new breed of ‘free agents’ adding a new perspective.
A discreetly tapered topline and cambered sole allow a fuller spread of weight to enhance vertical stability and forgiveness on strikes from high or low in the face, while retaining a traditional muscleback appearance.
The topline has been refined in response to tour player preferences and is Mizuno’s thinnest among recent generations of MP irons, while the blend of satin and mirror chrome finishing has been engineered to eliminate areas of high glare in the playing position.
“We kept asking ourselves why players still talked about the feel of older Mizuno blades – TN87, MP14, MP29, TP9,” says Voshall. “Despite our Grain Flow Forging process tightening up and an evolving CAD process that predicts vibration patterns, we were still missing something. The one element left from the old classics was a layer of copper. After blind testing our players at the Valspar it was more than nostalgia - our test pool universally preferred the prototype with copper plating.”
Mizuno MP-20 MB iron specs
Review written by: Simon Daddow
Job title: Today's Golfer - Equipment Editor