By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Images courtesy of Nike Golf
BEAVERTON, OR – “It is a very ‘clean’ looking driver in the playing position,” remarked Nike Golf’s Tom Stites, the company’s Director of Product Creation for Clubs, explaining the appeal of the VR Pro Limited Edition driver and fairway metal woods.
The “clean” look is exactly what better players want, and that’s what they’ve found in the Ltd. Edition. Compared with all the funky shapes and different colors (pink, anyone?) these days, the Nike top-of-the-line metal woods do look very traditional.
And quite “clean,” too.
Of course Nike Golf has gained the lion’s share of its attention by being Tiger Woods’ club-maker of choice, and Tom Stites has had a lot to do with that. Stites’ name doesn’t physically appear on the clubs, but you certainly know he’s there – and the company has become very popular with recreational golfers for making clubs that are affordable and perform well at all levels.
As for the VR Pro Limited Edition metal woods, they are intended to appeal to good players looking for the highest performance. “Our objective for the VR Pro Metal wood is to have the highest possible player performance face for speed and the most forgiving mass locations. It also has a playing position foot print that is preferred by better players.”
“We used the learning’s of previous years and improved the Nexcor face technology to achieve better and faster ball speeds off the face,” Stites explained.
According to Nike’s website, “Nexcor face technology maximizes distance for the widest range of players through a new speed-expanding multi-face thickness design. The Nexcor infinity design creates a bridge for an ultra-thin, ultra-hot face and unmatched ball speed.”
It has to do with the size of the sweet spot, which appears as an infinity symbol on the clubface of the VR Pro Ltd. Edition – in case you forget it’s there.
One thing the Limited Edition is not, however, is adjustable. We found that a little odd in today’s adjustable metal wood world, but Stites doesn’t think so. “We know that the type of player that is attracted to the Ltd Edition model likes a plain and clean playing position profile. We also know that some better players like to bend the hosel to achieve similar results for adjustability.”
He continues, “We do not suggest this for most players, so we offer and feature our Nike STR8-FIT adjustment system to achieve numerous ball flight possibilities for most golfers. The LTD players are more skilled and are attracted to the look and feel of a clean looking Tour-level driver.”
Fair enough. For these players, they have an extensive fitting process (more on this later) to dial-in their specs. It’s also nice to know there is an adjustable option in the VR Pro line for those who like to tinker.
In addition to the Ltd. Edition’s clean looks, it also has a very high MOI (moment of inertia) for forgiveness on off-center hits. Stites says it’s the perfect balance of technology and traditional appeal.
The top of the club does have a clean, traditional look, true to Stites’ word. The bottom of the club is a little more complex -- it has a “compression channel” just behind the face. Again, Stites elaborates: “The Compression Channel works like a spring on the sole of the club. On normal clubs without the compression channel -- the sole is very stiff. Our compression channel will actually ‘compress’ slightly and act like a spring.
“When golfers hit the ball low on the face, the energy is absorbed by the face and transferred to the sole. With the channel, it compresses and springs energy back into the ball. This all happens in 4 microseconds, but is real and adds extra ball speed to a shot that is penalized if hit in the same location on other drivers.”
Ah, the magic of high technology. I can’t see it, but it seems to work. We’ve enjoyed trying the VR Pro Limited Edition metal woods, which are easy to hit and do indeed give good distance.
But does Stites think all this technology is changing the game for the worse?
No. “I believe that as humans we always strive to be better. That goes for the game as well as our tools to play the game. There have not been any advancements in golf that danger the game. To think anything more than that is simply not supported by the facts. The game is still very difficult.
“No amount of ‘illegal’ equipment could ever make it possible for everyone to play like a pro.
“As long as the human body swings the club, the game will be hard. What we have done over the last 25 years is use space age materials and manufacturing techniques to make clubs a bit easier to hit, perform and have fun with.”
No problem there. And we even learned a little bit about history there, too. Stites said most of the club material and technology came from aerospace and military research conducted during the Cold War.
But instead of blasting Soviet tanks, it’s now used to compress golf balls.
“It is great now to use technology that was intended for war and aircraft in our golf clubs. This is the best time ever for golfers. It is still a hard game, but we can offer some new hope for those that are more skills challenged,” Stites lectured.
Maybe he had us in mind there – the skills challenged part. The latest golf equipment is vastly better than what we grew up with. It’s hard to fathom that many of us cut our golfing teeth on butter-knife blades and drivers that still had a “1” on them.
We bought them off the shelf, and the only launch monitors were contained in the skulls of golf pros.
But today, fitting is the only way to maximize what all that space-age technology can do for you.
Naturally, Stites agrees. “Fitting is critical if one wants to get the maximum performance from their driver. Getting the right loft, size, response, shaft and specifications is more than luck. It should be taken seriously. The best way possible is to hit the driver on the golf course with the help of a professional (and a launch monitor).
“With this method, everything can be optimized. Other good ways is to hit several considered drivers into a net while getting data off a launch monitor,” Stites added.
If those options are not possible, Stites thinks it’s very valuable to buy a driver with an adjustability system like the Nike STR8-FIT, so you can be sure there are some options for specification settings.
“Without this type of system, you will be buying a driver without the ability to adjust face angle, loft or lie. There is a big value in buying a driver that has many settings possible in case you pick the wrong specs. Inside every Nike adjustable driver, there are many drivers -- at least one of those can make you a better player.”
It’s all true. Nike has become a major player in golf manufacturing – not bad for a company that hasn’t been around nearly as long (started in 1999) as most of the big names in golf equipment.
The VR Pro Limited Edition metal woods are more than just promised performance. We were very pleased with them (both the driver and 3 and 5 woods), and the general consensus was they belong in the top category with the best in the business.
If you’re in the market for the best technology can offer, give them a try – hopefully under the watchful eye of your golf pro.
You can’t lose. And you’ll see once again that “clean” and “traditional” are still good things in golf.
Nike Golf’s VR Pro Limited Edition Metal Woods
Available at your higher-end golf retailers and club pro shops.
Check out more information about Nike Golf products at: www.nikegolf.com. Like you’d expect from Nike, the website puts on a good show, too.
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