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|Nike Golf's VR driver features Compression Channel, which flexes at impact. (Courtesy of Nike Golf)|
For some players, how a club looks is almost as important as it performs. In fact, they often go hand-in-hand. The VR Tour driver from Nike Golf exceeds on both counts.
VR stands for Victory Red, and the newest series of drivers from Nike Golf is definitely the best yet. In my case, Nike Golf provided me with its VR Tour driver ($549), which is not adjustable and smaller than its larger SRT8 FIT VR driver at 460cc.
The SRT8 FIT technology allows you to adjust the club's clubface position, but not everyone wants or needs that ability.
This VR Tour looks as good as any driver on the market, but it's got some more tricks up its sleeve that contribute to performance. Mine also came with a custom white 73-gram Mitsubishi Fubuki shaft, which none other than Tiger Woods has used in his driver.
My first impression of this driver is that the ball jumps off the face. Nike Golf officials attribute much of that to something called the Compression Channel. It also contributes to the club's solid feel, said Rob Burbick, field rep and tour engineer for Nike Golf. The Compression Channel is the red shaded area of the sole just behind the face.
"It flexes at impact, sort of like the strings on a tennis racket," Burbick said. "What this does is help more of the clubface perform like the center of the face especially on off-center hits."
Burbick said the size and shape was heavily influenced by Nike's tour players, who were shown early CAD (computer-aided design) mockups to help refine the look. A 460cc clubhead may be unwieldy for some players, and the square shape of the Nike SQ Machspeed drivers might be a little too out there for others. The smaller VR Tour head gives better players confidence that they can work the ball.
"Paul Casey, Stephen Ames and Stewart Cink helped us with this at Chevron in December of 2008, not to mention that week's tournament host (Tiger Woods)," said Burbick. "We wanted a shape that immediately inspired confidence that a player could hit the shot they envisioned for whatever circumstance they might be in -- a low draw, high fade, whatever. The slightly smaller size is the part that helps with workability."
After the tour players' input, the shape of the VR Tour was made a little shorter from heel to toe, and a slight change to the angles of the sole were made to help it sit properly at address.
This particular model is in play with Casey, Cink, Ames, David Duval, Anthony Kim and Woods.
As for the Fubuki shaft, it's been a pretty popular option to the Project X shaft that normally comes with the VR Tour.
"It has a slightly different material technology Mitsubishi calls MST," said Burbick, who is based at The Oven, Nike Golf's R&D center in Fort Worth, Texas. "It creates stability without feeling too harsh. Sometimes very stiff tipped stable shafts lack feel, and this is one way they addressed that.
"We have seen very good performance when fitting pros at all levels and college players who sometimes visit The Oven," he said. "While this shaft wasn't specifically made for this head, it definitely is one of the better performing shafts we use."
Nike Golf has been in the club business for less than a decade, and its repertoire under industry veteran Tom Stites has grown quickly. This VR series of drivers is the best yet as Nike Golf gives the more established companies like Callaway and TaylorMade some serious competition.
This shouldn't be surprising, considering the level of Nike Golf's Tour players, who are obviously going to demand good products. Nor should it be surprising considering the commitment of club development and research at The Oven, an impressive facility to be sure.
More specifically, I found that this club, especially with the Fubuki shaft, performs as good as or better than any other driver I've ever hit. The club looks good at address, and if you put a good swing on it, it goes.
Of course, the key phrase is "if you put a good swing on it." If you you put a bad swing on it, it's pretty much like any other club, although I can certainly attest to the fact that off-center hits were pretty forgiving.
For more information, visit www.nike.com.
July 1, 2010
Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.
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