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|The cavity-soled Nike Golf VR_S Covert Driver is revolutionary in its design. (Courtesy of Nike Golf)|
The Nike Golf booth on the floor of the 2013 PGA Merchandise Show was so low-key, it was almost easy to miss. Fully enclosed, the inner chamber was dimly lit and furnished with soft, comfy seating, like the eye of a steel and titanium hurricane.
The idea, I take it, was a conceptual play on both the name and central design innovation of the new VR_S Covert Driver ($299). The booth's exterior was almost unmarked, except for the trademark swooshes -- hence "covert" -- and represented a peaceful yet sturdy "cavity."
Ironically, though, Nike Golf's newest driver is anything but "covert": Its cherry-red paint job and radical, cavity-bodied head immediately grab your attention, and its prodigious length will turn the heads of the rest of your foursome.
The VR_S Covert driver has a two-way adjustable head that allows you to dissociate face angle from loft. This unique adjustment method results in 15 different combinations.
I fight a hook, so I opened the face the maximum possible amount, one degree, and set the loft to my preferred 10.5 degrees. Then I took it out to Long Bay Club in Longs, S.C., a difficult Jack Nicklaus design featuring multiple fairways lined with waste bunkers, woods, OB or all three.
The VR_S Covert driver performed admirably when it came to length off the tee. Because there was practically no roll that day, it was easy to determine that my ball was carrying a minimum of 260 on every drive despite the soggy conditions, cool temperatures and sea-level altitude. (At home in Illinois, I even popped a 320-yarder on the uphill ninth hole of my home course -- there was more roll that day.)
Yet what was more important to me was the way the VR_S Covert driver performed in terms of accuracy. My hook tends to ebb and flow, and when it flows, it flows hard and fast, carrying the rest of my game over the falls. The open face seemed to help counteract the right-to-left tendency at least some of the time -- but when I get to flipping the face closed, there's nothing that will save it.
On that day at Long Bay Club, I was stunned at the end of the round when I realized that the only ball I'd lost was in a pond on a par 3. In other words, the Covert had kept my tee balls in play all day, which is nothing short of miraculous for me.
The feel of the Covert is firm at impact, sort of hard even, but you can still feel the difference between contact on the sweet spot (such as that 320-yard beauty) and the toe/heel or low/high on the face (such as most of my other drives). Happily, the much-vaunted, cavity-back design doesn't result in any hollow clang, either.
And the red paint job? It certainly catches people's attention, but I didn't find it distracting. A more pronounced logo or marking on the grip would have been nice, though, to help ensure that one's grip is lined up correctly.
The commercials for the VR_S Covert are some of the best recent equipment spots on TV, with players teeing off and yelling, "Sorry!" to the groups ahead that they've just purportedly hit into.
Based on my testing, I'd say the portrayal of the Covert as prodigiously long is perhaps only a slight exaggeration. This driver is definitely in the top echelon of recent "long" drivers.
However, pretty much all drivers these days are plenty long for most golfers. What is lacking in the typical amateur's game (like mine) is accuracy. It's hard to score well when you're punching out of trees or dropping next to a water hazard after each tee shot. My experience with the Covert gave me some hope that, with continued work on my swing, I could rely on it to deliver my ball somewhere into the short grass most of the time, even, maybe, with the occasional slight fade.
For most golfers who struggle with a slice, setting the face to a couple degrees closed should, I would think, have an equal if opposite beneficial effect. It's certainly worth demoing one at your local pro shop to find out.
Just be sure to try one soon, though, as the secret is out about Nike Golf's newest engineering marvel.
For more information, visit www.nikegolf.com.
May 9, 2013
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, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.
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