Between the parent companys historic status as a sports-manufacturing colossus and the obvious stature of a staff player whose status as No. 1 player in the world doesnt begin to do him justice, its always been easy to assign an asterisk of sorts to the remarkable success of Nike Golf.
After all, there was no way any company savvy enough to hitch its wagon to the Tiger Woods juggernaut wasnt going to somehow capitalize on the unprecedented marketing momentum that was generated with his remarkable arrival on the pro golf scene in 1996.
And to Nikes tremendous credit, they werent content to just draft behind their marquee player, but set about building from scratch a golf division that has, love it or hate it, risen to the industrys highest ranks.
At the end of the day, the products were going to have to stand on their own _ particularly if Woods himself, who began swapping his Titleist clubs for Nike during the 2002 season, was going to continue to live up to the worlds lofty expectations.
And now, nearly eight years since Woods first started to put Nikes early Ignite driver in play (an experiment that went awry in July of that year when he went back to his 975D for a short stretch), its clearer than ever that Nike Golf has come into its own and isnt about to go away anytime soon.
Witness the Victory Red driver, the long-awaited big-dog companion to the VR irons introduced a year ago, and its companion fairway woods and hybrids. Announced earlier this month, the VR driver and woods both feature Nikes proprietary STR8-FIT interchangeable hosel technology, which allows players to adjust the angle of the face. A more traditional VR Tour driver, which features a smaller pear-shaped head with no adjustability, is also available for the purist.
From the release:
The VR STR8-FIT Tour driver expands upon Nike’s award-winning STR8-FIT Face Angle Technology, giving players both the ability to select their shot shape as well as the flexibility to dial in the look of their driver like never before. The VR STR8-FIT Tour Drivers offer 32 face angle positions for the ultimate in workability and confidence at address. For the golfers who prefer a more traditional look, Nike has developed the VR Tour driver that is distinguished by a smaller “pear-shaped” head size and no adjustability trait.
The clubhead of both versions of the VR drivers conveys beauty, refinement and premium sophistication designed to appeal to the avid golfer who is seeking lower spin rates and a more penetrating ball flight. Each driver features the distinctive red Compression Channel that is located on the sole and is lined from the toe to the heel paralleling the face. The Nike Compression Channel increases the overall compression of the body, which produces increased, uniform ball speeds across the entire face.
“The Compression Channel technology takes the rigidity out of the sole and provides more flex in the heel, said Tom Stites, Director of Club Creation for Nike Golf.
By adding this technology, we have made the VR drivers more forgiving for the better players when they miss it in the lower zone of the heel.
The new VR drivers, woods and hybrids arent available until February, which gives you some time to save your pennies: the STR8-FIT driver carries an MSRP of $499.99, while the more traditional VR Tour, interestingly enough, is $50 more.
Of course, the driver represents merely the leading edge of what Nike Golf is putting in front of players in 2010.
Theres a set of corresponding VR fairway woods as well, complete with the STR8-FIT adjustable-face hosel option and the same Compression Channel technology, only in the case of the fairway wood the channel is split in two to ensure a smooth sole for lies in the fairway.
The fairway woods run from a strong 3-wood through to a five wood (strong 3 is right-hand only), with shaft flexes A through X. Cdn MSRP is set at $279.99.
Finally, the VR iteration of Nikes new hybrid promises to be interesting as well. If youve ever struggled to find a hybrid without an abundance of draw bias and a tendency to deliver a low, boring ball flight thats impossible to stop on a firm green, the new VR hybrids might be just what youre looking for.
To make the club more workable and more practical for long approach shots, engineers opened the face angle slightly and lowered the centre of gravity. The result, at least according to Nike, is a club that delivers the combination of playability and versatility that hybrids have long promised, but only occasionally delivered.
Hybrid options include 15, 18, 21 and 24 degrees (15 Is right-hand only), with four different shaft flexes. Canadian MSRP is $199.99.
Finally, if your game is about distance at all costs, Nike Golf has a new line of clubs explicitly for you: the latest stage in the evolution of the square-shaped SQ line, the MACHSPEED.
Latching on to one of the latest trends in clubhead design, the idea behind the MACHSPEED, as the name might imply, is maximizing aerodynamics in order to reach redline levels of clubhead speed, and, consequently, distance.
Nike’s Total Swing Aerodynamic engineering moves air faster across the sole, over the crown and around the skirt for incremental swing speed advances, the company says.
Nike designed the SQ MACHSPEED fairway woods to optimize the aerodynamics throughout the entire swing and to deliver more speed and reduce drag.
The SQ MACHSPEED line of drivers and fairway woods will be available in March 2010. SQ MACHSPEED woods are available in 3-wood through 7 and in four standard shaft flexes at a Canadian MSRP of $229.99.
Watch this space in the coming months for extensive reviews of the entire 2010 Nike Golf product line.