By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Images courtesy of Nike Golf
BEAVERTON, OR – ‘Not so fast.’ When it comes to golf, ‘slow down’ is not always something we like to hear, but maybe it’s time that someone said it.
Just peruse golf ads these days and you’ll discover that they’re mostly about going fast – more speed, longer distance, higher spin, etc… If you want it quicker, chances are you’ll now find it somewhere in the golf shop.
But what about those who swing a little slower?
The good folks at Nike Golf decided to give these players a break by introducing the Women’s Verdana Club Line, which features an 11-club set – complete with its own carry bag. Verdana targets golfers who don’t always hit it high and long, largely due to slower club head speed.
“The set was designed specifically for female athletes looking to maximize distance and control,” said Tom Stites, Nike’s Director of Club Product Creation. “With this ultra-light set, slower swing speeds can now gain more distance without sacrificing control the course demands.”
In all fairness, the set can also be used by junior boys – because Verdana is all about slower swing speeds and is not necessarily gender-specific. But make no mistake, Verdana is primarily intended for the ladies and their particular needs.
In this regard, it’s about more than just the length of the golf clubs, too.
Tony Dabbs, Nike Golf’s Global Product Director, Golf Clubs, says there’s much more to designing women-specific clubs than shaft length and weight. “Shaft length and weight are certainly huge factors, but loft, lie and many other static measurements go into this product.”
Dabbs continues, “For example, the trend in men’s drivers today is to move the Center of Gravity forward in order to reduce spin. This is a detriment for women at this swing speed, as it is important to produce trajectory AND additional spin to keep the ball in the air longer to max out performance. This also carries into the irons, as this set is built to achieve higher launching characteristics.”
Another important facet in designing Nike’s women’s clubs is how the technicians approached the sole of the club. The company found that many of their women testers had a more “sweeping” swing motion as opposed to a steeper, divot-taking swing.
Nike accounted for this factor in how the sole of the Verdana irons are ground and made sure they accommodate the type of swing they’re trying to assist. As a result, the soles are wider than would be expected for more “standard” club offerings.
As mentioned above, the Verdana set is made up of 11 clubs (driver, 3 fairway wood, 4-6 hybrids, 7-PW, SW, putter). We wondered why 11 was the magic number – and Dabbs was happy to supply the answer.
“11 is the magic number based on the average swing speed we used and a proper gapping scheme. We used an average driver swing speed of 68 to 75 mph to record a max distance with the driver. We then recorded a similar distance with a wedge and built the set in 10-12 yard increments from there.”
“Traditionally designed clubs swung at this swing speed have a tendency to be too strong in loft and to not have enough separation from club to club. The age old story we heard from much of our consumer research is ‘I hit 3-4 clubs in my bag the same distance.’ We wanted to solve for this problem and are very satisfied that we have done just that,” Dabbs added.
In addition to the wider sole design, Verdana irons and wedges include larger face profiles and variable face thickness for added distance. And the Nike Verdana set features a classic-shaped heel-toe weighted blade putter.
In other words, putting Verdana together took quite a lot of consideration. But don’t go thinking that the set is just for beginners.
“Verdana is built for a particular swing speed and type, which certainly enhances a beginner’s ability to progress their game,” Dabbs said. “But our research shows that a large segment of women golfers stay within the swing speed range this set is built for, hence the set is great for all abilities.”
“When skills are enhanced, many times swing speeds increase and at that time, stepping into another set will make more sense as the gapping of this set for an 85mph swing would be wider than optimum,” Dabbs lectured.
Looking at the set specs, the Nike Verdana driver is ultra-lightweight with a 460cc head designed with additional loft for higher trajectory. The 18-degree 3 fairway wood features a low center of gravity in a large breadth profile for more forgiveness and easier ball striking.
Verdana hybrids feature wide soles and deeper iron-like faces with a slight offset, which allows for more forgiveness from a variety of angles and lies.
The aforementioned Verdana carry bag utilizes a lightweight ergonomic design for ease of use, even weight distribution and improved comfort. The bag is highly versatile as it was designed to be used on a cart, but includes a stand with a dual strap for carrying.
The bag is quite light – and yes, it works very well for walking.
For our purposes, three women players tried out the set – including two who are relatively new to the game. The more experienced player was able to utilize all of the clubs in the bag and definitely found the gaps in distance to be useful.
“I was tired of using the same two or three clubs in my bag for a majority of my shots,” she said. “Verdana allowed me to play more of a traditional game of golf where I had to really think about which clubs to use from different lies and distances.”
Likewise, the beginners took to the hybrids right from the start. “The size of the head gave me a lot of confidence that I could hit the ball and make good contact.” Both also enjoyed hitting the driver – getting the ball in the air was fairly easy to achieve, even for players just taking up the game.
Our testers certainly couldn’t replicate Nike’s truly scientific results, but it’s very easy to see how the Verdana concept should catch on with many women players. The fact that it’s a complete set – including the bag, head covers, etc… -- right out of the box is a major bonus.
Husbands wanting to introduce their wives to golf should definitely consider Verdana, as should parents with teenage daughters looking to do the same.
Nike should be commended for designing equipment for the slower swing speed group, which is often neglected in the push for building clubs that launch it the highest and farthest.
Overall, Verdana is great news for growing the game – and making it more fun, too.
Nike Golf’s Women’s Verdana Club Line
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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