Connect with us

Equipment

GolfWRX goes inside ‘The Oven:’ Nike Golf R&D

Published

on

There’s barbed wire on the fences that surround “The Oven,” the research and development center for Nike Golf – one of hardest-to-visit places in the golf industry. But that’s just to keep the cows off the driving range, because they’re everywhere in Fort Worth, Texas.

As exclusive as The Oven is – other than Nike Staff, only a select amount of professional golfers, top amateurs and teaching professionals are allowed to visit – it couldn’t be located in a more average location.

The Oven was built beside a public driving range where average golfers who dream of hitting just one shot as well as Rory and Tiger dig their swings out of the dirt. If those golfers didn’t look carefully, they’d likely miss the nondescript signage and the perfectly maintained grass. They’d have no idea that both Tiger and Rory could actually be hitting balls less than a lob wedge away from them.

During the week of the PGA Tour’s 2013 Crowne Plaza Invitational, which is held just a few miles away from The Oven at Colonial Country Club, five lucky GolfWRX Members visited The Oven for a once-in-a-lifetime golf trip. They were told to bring their full set of golf clubs, but not so they could play a round of golf. Those clubs were to be analyzed in The Oven’s lab and on the range. At the end of the trip, all five members would be sent a full set of Nike Golf clubs that were hopefully better than their gamers.

4f18fceace65da3278ff504d061f4561

Click here to read more about the trip in the forums. 

It’s important to note that these were five GolfWRX members. If golf IQ was calculated by rounds logged, time spent reading about golf equipment and dollars spent tinkering with new clubs, these guys were full-fledged golf Einsteins. But unlike a lot of serious golfers, they weren’t closed off to the idea that clubs from Nike, a relative newcomer to the golf equipment industry, could beat the more established names in their bags.

Game on

After all five members (and three GolfWRX Staff members, including myself) landed in Fort Worth and checked into the Sheraton, we went to a more traditional Nike sports event – a Texas Rangers baseball game at the Ballpark at Arlington.

If Nike Golf’s PR Specialist Gretchen Wilhelm wanted us to watch the game, she made a mistake by inviting Nike Golf’s entire staff to come with us. The fittings and tour were supposed to take place on Tuesday morning, but started a day early – at least in spirit. We made our way around Nike’s two-room suite in left field and began asking the Nike team every question we could think of about Nike Golf clubs and the company.

“Where is Tiger on the Covert driver?”

“What was it like to sign Rory?”

“What do you guys think of (insert club) in (insert shaft) if I (insert trajectory problem)?”

Several drinks and barbeque-stained paper plates later, the game was over, and the anticipation of the next day’s fittings larger. In only a few short hours, the members would be testing their clubs against the Swoosh, and they couldn’t wait.

Oven Time

OvenTrip10

The worst part about the trip to The Oven was the weeks spent waiting for it. That eagerness had to be at its worst when we first arrived on site and were told that our first stop would be a presentation. We were teased by a trophy cased filled with memorabilia from Tiger Woods’ most memorable wins on the way to an auditorium without a golf club in site.

Was it interesting to hear firsthand about Nike’s process for attracting the best athletes, creating products to enhance their greatness and delivering them to consumers in a delicious marketing sandwich? Absolutely. But the range was so close, and the R&D labs were right around the corner!

The Fittings

I’d always snickered at Nike’s habit of calling its golfers “athletes.” Was there something I didn’t know, like that Seung Yul Noh could reverse dunk or that Suzann Petterson was a former Olympic gymnast? Aren’t we talking about a game where it’s not too far-fetched to birdie a six-pack and six holes at the same time?

Click here to read more about the trip in the forums.

5b82804bad120f20203851805ff853c4

If you take a look through the roster of Nike Golf athletes, it’s obvious that Nike takes the term “athlete” to heart with its signings. With the exception of a few, the Nike Golf Staff could alternate photo shoots at Golf Digest and Men’s Fitness. But according to Nike Golf Global Director of Communications, Beth Gast, the reason for the term goes deeper than that.

Gast says that Nike calls its golfers athletes because of the support the company gives them. Like Nike’s athletes in most other sports, Nike’s golfers are part of a team. That team — the engineers in R&D, the fitters and club builders at The Oven and the Nike staff that travels the on the PGA Tour — creates clubs, balls, shoes and clothes with the sole purpose of making its team of athletes better.

What the GolfWRX members probably didn’t expect was that for a day, they would become part of that team. They were about to go through an extensive fitting that went above and beyond what they’d ever done anywhere else: four stations (woods, irons, wedges and putters) that would tune each club to their habits and preferences.

I won’t bore you with the details of each members fitting, but here are the highlights:

3bd1a7c219db8523f4a5546aac718e4b

Tai (member name Pure745), a plus-handicap from California who is legendary for his custom-club habit, spent thousands of dollars on top driver heads and shafts for a launch monitor shootout, but he didn’t include Nike drivers in his testing. Nike’s VR_S Covert Tour driver beat his gamer in ball speed. Click here to read more about the fitting results from each player in the forums.

2Y9G4827

George (member name MNNikeGuy) loved his Nike VR Pro Limited Edition driver, but found way more distance and consistency with a Nike VR_S Covert Performance driver with a UST Mamiya Pro Force VTS Red shaft.

post-1164-0-75913700-1369149254_thumb

Ryan (member name swanry30) decided to part ways with his TaylorMade RocketBladez Tour irons for a set of Nike Pro Combo irons. The new irons and True Temper Project X iron shafts gave him more distances due to less spin, and a more penetrating ball flight that resulted in a tighter dispersion.

Click here to read more about the trip in the forums.

Scott (member name scotvw13) worked with Nike Golf’s College/Amateur Golf Manager Marlin “Cricket” Musch and has left his old wedges behind for a set of Nike new VR Forged wedges, which he was able to open up for high, soft shots around the green without fear of blading his shots.

post-1-0-45741400-1369280195_thumb

Shane (member name shakey) found that his Nike Method Midnight 006 putter was good, but he could do better. David Franklin, Nike’s putter guru who invented the Method putter, fit Shane into a Method Core MC11W putter that was an inch shorter and 1 degree more upright than his gamer. The results were a shorter skid and more consistent direction.

The Tour

f3d7813b1e9c1303752fb70671d5ff79

Rory McIlroy’s prototype Nike wedges, which received finishing touches on the grinding wheel before being sent off for testing. 

I thought the excitement level would drop off after the fittings, but I didn’t anticipate what was in store for us during the tour of The Oven’s R&D faculties.

Inside The Oven, we saw equipment that only a small percentage of golfers see (or care to see, really). We saw golf balls hurling toward club heads at speeds that are impossible for the average golfer to create (Nike calls it durability testing). We also saw how the acronyms that have come to define advances in the golf industry – COR, MOI, CG – are actually measured.

post-1164-0-50558300-1369164786_thumb

In the “Grind Shop,” we saw a set of Tiger’s game-used Nike blade irons and sand wedge. If the members weren’t sold on the performance of the Nike clubs in their fittings, they were likely swayed by the awesomeness of being able to leave fingerprints on Woods’ clubs.

Click here to read more about the trip in the forums.

tiger woods nike equipment

Above: A photo of a Tiger Woods unfinished 60-degree wedge. Nike Master Model Maker Mike Taylor and his staff grind these raw wedge into the exact form of Tiger’s previous wedges using templets and models for comparison.

2Y9G49282Y9G4936
2Y9G49142Y9G4901

Above: Photos of a Tiger Woods 56-degree wedge that he gamed and returned to the Oven. It has a moderate amount of bounce (10 to 14 degrees) and a blunted leading edge. The added bounce and blunted leading edge allow Tiger to get agressive with his wedge shots without fear of chunking it. 

tiger woods ironstiger woods serial numbers
2Y9G49262Y9G4927

Above: Photos of Woods’ 7 iron (you can click to enlarge). The team at Nike Golf asked Tiger to send back one of his favorite set of gamer irons for research. When I asked Mike Taylor what he was looking for, he said: “Everything.”

Click here to read more about the trip in the forums.

Party

Like many great days, the night ended with a party. Kyle Stanley and Jhonattan Vegas joined us for a Q&A session, as well as some friendly competition where we tried to hit it inside Stanley’s wedge shots, and out putt Mr. Vegas.

post-1164-0-44027400-1369182152_thumb

Above: Jhonny Vegas takes on a GolfWRXer in a putting contest.

There was food and drink as well – Chef Tim Love of the Lonesome Dove Western Bistro in Fort Worth created dishes that were much better than they sounded – Rattlesnake and Rabbit Sausage, Elk Burgers and Jalapeno Cucumber Margaritas.

Exotic food is good jumping off point to say this: things are not always as they seem. To paraphrase the five members I spoke to about the trip:

“It was even better than I expected it would be.”

The funny thing is, I feel the same way.

In the days since the trip, I’ve thought about how a trip to The Oven could be better than a group of golf junkies thought it could be. Just like the five members, I had a chance to test my golf clubs against Nike gear the next day, and think a few of them could beat the ones in my bag. But that’s not what made it great.

I’ll never forget the chills that ran through my body when I set up to a pretend golf ball in The Grind Shop with Tiger Woods’ 3 iron. It also was an honor to hit wedges and putts with Stanley and Vegas. But it wasn’t any of those things that made the trip better than I expected.

The trip was awesome because I got the feeling that there was a team of people working with me to learn new things and go new places with my game. The gear I’ll receive will simply be a reminder of my trip, and will hopefully give me a little extra confidence over my shots. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned from the golf industry, it’s that new models will be released next year. And we’ll be told that we need to have those clubs to play our best.

What won’t be replaced in the retail cycle is the feeling the trip gave me. For one day, I wasn’t just a golfer. I was an athlete with a whole team behind me. In a lonely game that is so dependent on confidence, that means a lot.

Click here to read more about the trip in the forums. 

Your Reaction?
  • 12
  • LEGIT3
  • WOW3
  • LOL0
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP0
  • OB0
  • SHANK2

7 Comments

7 Comments

  1. Thom

    Aug 19, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    they are getting better but I think a bit more history and accumulated knowledge will make them a bit more “everyman” friendly. But I have to say they have come quite a way since ’99.

  2. Scott

    Jun 3, 2013 at 7:10 pm

    Other than Tiger has anyone won anything major playing with Nike clubs? You could put a set of Walmart clubs in Tigers hands and it wouldnt make a difference. Their not serious clubs. Clothes yes, clubs no. Rory hasnt won anything since switching to Nike and I believe he tried going back to his Cameron putter not too long ago.

    • peter

      Jun 4, 2013 at 7:18 pm

      @Scott: your first question disqualifies you from commenting – Duval, Immelman, Casey, Choi, Cink, Leonard, Ames, Schwartzel… just to start the list

  3. Swooshmeup

    Jun 2, 2013 at 1:55 am

    Solid… Nike rocks!

  4. Rj

    May 29, 2013 at 7:55 pm

    Hope it was great! Looked like a group of nike fan boys with their clothes.

  5. Ken

    May 29, 2013 at 7:19 pm

    You can have all the fittings in the world but until you take the junk out and try it seriously it ain’t nothing but metal. I spent over $2K doing all this great stuff and ebayed it after 1 month. I know it wasn’t me because I am a low single digit and have been playing golf for 42 years including some national amateur events. This is not knocking NIKE but fairways, greens and the environment we play in are never the same. I use different wedges depending on the course because bounce is everything and courses play differently. These guys were fit for that day at that NIKE driving range and practice area and that is it. I would be curious to know of the 5, who is still gaming what NIKE fit them with? Would you use the same driver in Texas in the summer you use in Florida in the summer, I would hope not, at least not the same loft because the ball gets zero roll in Florida in the summer. I guarantee that wedge you play on muni’s is not the same wedge to play at some exclusive private enclave. Do you use the same putter for a 7 stimper and a 12 stimp green or for bermuda versus bent. Don’t think for a second the pros use the same clubs every tournament and that is why shotmaking is not what it used to be 40 years ago either.

  6. Ryan Tracy

    May 27, 2013 at 11:21 pm

    Wow, that must have been an awesome experience! I enjoyed reading all of the blog entries and I wish I had been able to go!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Whats in the Bag

Adam Scott’s winning WITB: 2020 Genesis Invitational

Published

on

Driver: Titleist TS4 (10.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting, 2-gram weight)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 80 X

  • Scott put the Kuro Kage in play this week. Per Titleist’s J.J. VanWezenbeeck, “Adam Scott switched to the TS4 driver at the ZoZo Championship due to head size, shape, and improved launch to spin ratios. This week, after discussions with Adam, he went to a shaft he had previously played for increased stability. He felt the shaft went a little far and he lost head feel. We went on course with lead tape to get the feels to match up then weighted the head to preferred swing weight after testing.”

3-wood: Titleist TS2 (16.5 degrees, A1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Rombax P95 X

Irons: Titleist 716 T-MB (3-iron), Titleist 680 (4-9 irons)
Shafts: KBS Tour 130 X

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (48.08F, 52.08F, 56.10S), Vokey Design SM8 WedgeWorks (60.06K)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold AMT Tour Issue X100

Putter: Scotty Cameron Xperimental Prototype Rev X11 (long)

Ball: Titleist Pro V1

Scott marks his ball with dots in the pattern of the Southern Cross, which is featured on the Australian flag.

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

Your Reaction?
  • 83
  • LEGIT4
  • WOW4
  • LOL2
  • IDHT2
  • FLOP2
  • OB2
  • SHANK3

Continue Reading

Equipment

That one time Tiger switched driver shafts and NOBODY noticed

Published

on

It seems like pretty much everyone on the planet has an idea of what clubs Tiger has in play at any given moment. Especially now in the age of social media. However, his bag was still analyzed and tracked immensely from the beginning of his arrival on the golf scene. Point is, when the guy switches anything out, the world will know.

But did you know that, during the 2002 and into the 2003 season, he switched driver shafts? It was a pretty substantial switch too, but it fell completely under the radar. As a Tiger junkie myself, I noticed it, but in those days 1) The internet wasn’t what it is today and 2) I was bartending in Newport Beach and didn’t have access to info like I do today. So, it went in my Tiger vault…until now.

Always known to have a True Temper Dynamic Gold X100 shaft in his driver, Tiger and the Nike team wanted something a bit lighter, all while maintaining the stiffness profile of his X100.

We now introduce you to the 118-gram DGSLX100 Tiger Proto (a stock Dynamic Gold X100 shaft is 130 grams).

UNITED STATES – OCTOBER 28: Tiger Woods (Photo by Stan Badz/PGA)

A complete one-off made specifically for Tiger Woods. If you look at the pictures you will see an unfamiliar step pattern that starts off a bit wide towards the handle but gets progressively closer down towards the tip section. Basically, the step pattern (diameters) dropped lower to keep stiffness across the board.

“That’s the shaft we used to get him out of Titleist 975D and into Nike Blue 275cc driver in 2002.” – Anonymous Nike source

In theory, this was Tiger accepting the fact that he was going to have to get used to the feeling of a lighter shaft to begin the inevitable transition into graphite, which ultimately happened for good in 2004.

With the mystery of his bag completely gone these days with minute-to-minute reporting, I thought it kind of nice to still have a couple of nuggets to discover.

Your Reaction?
  • 95
  • LEGIT18
  • WOW16
  • LOL9
  • IDHT2
  • FLOP3
  • OB3
  • SHANK36

Continue Reading

Equipment

GolfWRX Spotlight: Precision Pro NX7 Pro Slope rangefinder

Published

on

If you are looking for a premium full-feature laser range finder at a price normally reserved for more entry-level units, the PrecissionPro NX7 Pro Slope is exactly what you are looking for. Clear optics, easy-to-use, pulse vibration targeting, and last but not least: Free batteries for life. You heard that right, for as long as you own the rangefinder, Precision Pro will make sure you never run out of juice on the course.

NX7 Pro Slope features

Generally, a product that fits into the affordable category has to compromise along the way to meet a certain price point. With the NX7 Pro Slope from Precision Pro, you don’t have to compromise to get everything you would want from a top-of-the-line rangefinder at a less-than-top-of-the-line price.

The NX7 has pulse vibration, which notifies the user the laser has locked onto the target. Having used a lot of other rangefinders in the past, I always thought of a “pulse” as being a bit of a redundant feature to someone with experience using a rangefinder. I was completely indifferent but was quickly proven wrong! To me, the pulse is just the extra reassurance to know that I am locked onto the flag instead of something behind. The NX7 Pro Slope does this with a priority target acquisition process to make sure you are getting the flag and not a tree behind the intended target.

As the name would lead you to believe, the NX7 Pro Slope comes with a slope feature that can be turned on and off for casual mapping of a course or competition—just be sure to check with any tournament committee for conformity during an event. It’s easy to see both the measured and calculated distances in the viewfinder without ever being cluttered.

The extras

Each rangefinder comes with a well-made protective case that allows you to store the unit either on the outside of your bag or tucked away for safekeeping during travel to and from the course. Although it seems like a small feature, details matter, and having the case latch with a mini elastic cord makes getting the rangefinder out just that much easier—no need to zip and unzip 40 times per round.

The rangefinder also comes with a cleaning cloth, pre-installed battery—and don’t forget those batteries for life. All you need to do is register your rangefinder and go through the form on the Precision Pro website.

For $289, it’s one of the best buys in the rangefinder market.

 

 

Your Reaction?
  • 40
  • LEGIT0
  • WOW0
  • LOL2
  • IDHT0
  • FLOP2
  • OB0
  • SHANK4

Continue Reading

WITB

Facebook

Trending