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|With their new VR Pro Combo irons, Nike Golf has raised the bar on within-set innovation. (Courtesy of Nike Golf)|
I've played a lot of irons in my life.
For many years, I labored with cast, skillet-like, game-improvement irons, which I thought I needed to have any sort of consistency. I could only gaze upon sparkling new forged blades with the sort of intense, unrequited longing that guys like me generally reserve for Victoria's Secret models.
But hard work has finally paid off -- though most of the hard work has been by club designers rather than by yours truly. Let me explain.
The past decade or so has seen a revolution in forging technology and design innovation. Even forged irons are now often weighted to elevate ball flight and increase forgiveness. Head offsets are now progressive, going from none up to several millimeters in long irons. And irons within the same sets are designed differently to maximize both forgiveness and feel.
With the introduction of their new VR Pro Combo irons (MSRP $1,079), Nike Golf has raised the bar on within-set innovation.
The irons are forged for magnificent feel, but they are divided into three subsets to increase playability and forgiveness: Pitching wedge to 8-iron are blades, 7-iron to 5-iron have split-cavity backs, and 3-iron to 4-iron have pocket cavities.
This mix-and-match approach has gained the trust of pros like Paul Casey, Suzann Pettersen and Stuart Cink.
And, somewhat amazingly, they're also a great fit for a golf writer with a low double-digit handicap.
For low double-digit handicappers, the looks of forged blades can be intimidating: They look so small, so simple. How could they possibly propel the ball as far as hubcaps-on-a-stick that you normally play with?
When the VR Pro Combos arrived, I resolved to get over my low self-esteem and put the entire set into my bag -- even the 3-iron and 4-iron. I hadn't played real long irons in a couple of years, having been finally seduced by easy-hitting hybrids. But the VR Pro Combos deserved a full and proper test.
On the course, the first thing I noticed was the incredible feel -- I could tell within millimeters precisely where I had struck the ball -- not just with the short-iron blades, but all the way through the set. Now, I'm not one of those golfers who wear a dime-sized circle in the sweet spot -- I'm all over the clubface. But on the one out of six shots where I find the sweet spot, the ultra-soft sensation is akin to the feeling of cutting through a boiled carrot with a razor-sharp knife. It's soft, with just the slightest hint of give.
What of the off-center hits? Well, even with the long irons, there was no stinging pain as in the old days of forged blades. Instead, there is clear, immediate feedback and, as expected, some penalty on distance. There's not nearly as much penalty as I had feared, though. Even shots on the toe get out there and generally don't wander too far off line.
As for the long irons, all I can say is that I suddenly remembered why my 3-iron used to be my favorite club. It turns out that you don't need a hybrid to launch a long iron high into the air. (Those hybrids might not even make it back into my bag.)
Because the VR Pro Combos are still a bit better than I am, despite my best efforts and overinflated self-image, I asked Seth Trolia, a state-champion golfer, to have a swing with them. After plopping a ball down 150 yards out from the pin on the 15th hole of Lake of the Woods Golf Course, Trolia took a picture-perfect swing and delivered a 9-iron to 3 feet directly behind the pin.
"I like them," Trolia said with a smile. "They're really soft." He added that they were not only softer than his Titleist 755 blades, but also somewhat heavier.
Golfers like Trolia probably feel the silky sweet spot of the VR Pro Combos on every swing. Golfer like me, on the other hand, only get to feel it every half-dozen swings or so. But who cares? On those shots, these irons feel soft as butter and as powerful as the pros who play them.
What was truly a revelation was the ease with which these clubs allow me to work the ball. I hit a lot of hooks and fades around trees trying to recover from bad drives, and with these irons, I find myself back in the fairways (and even on greens) out of the woods better than any set I have ever tested.
The VR Pro Combos aren't perfect, though. The stock grips are extremely firm, hard even, and lack an easy way to check to make sure your grip is in the right position and the club head is square. As a result, I do find that when I'm not paying careful attention, I set up with the clubface a bit open or closed.
Aside from this complaint, the Nike Pro Combos have to be ranked at or near the top of the list of forged player's irons that incorporate features to make them playable all the way up the set.
For more information, visit nikegolf.com.
July 12, 2011
Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Illinois. Read his golf blog here.
One writer who travels more than nearly anyone I know said his Sun Mountain's Club Glider Meridian Golf Travel Bag was a "game changer." He said he'd never travel again without it. After this jaunt to Northern Ireland, I have to agree.
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