Pros: Two of the nicest looking drivers at address in golf. The size of the Tour model was increased to 460cc, giving it a major forgiveness upgrade, and Nike kept their FlexLoft adapters compatible with the original models. The Mitsubishi’s Kuro Kage Silver TiNi in the Covert 2.0 Tour is an impressive stock shaft offering.
Cons: The vibrant red paint could continue to be a turn off to golfers who don’t wish to game clubs that draw attention to themselves. Heavier club heads and counter-balanced shafts could also cause problems for golfers who perform better with lighter clubs. No adjustable weights.
The Takeaway: Several big updates from the original drivers, particularly in the forgiveness category. If these launched a little higher and spun a little less, they would have scored higher in the performance category.
The original Nike VR_S Covert Driver introduced last year elicited plenty of discussion amongst golf enthusiasts about the unique cavity-back design and candy-apple red paint job. Think of the Covert 2.0 line as a progressive enhancement of the previous year’s model, doubling down on the elements that made Nike’s driver a distance hog, while taking a serious stab at refining the technology and aesthetics.
Both the Tour and standard (otherwise known as “Performance”) editions feature the high-speed cavity design introduced from a year ago, but the hallowed out section of the club head was updated with Nike’s new Fly-Brace technology, which adds stability and increased energy transfer to the ball.
The 2.0 Tour now matches the Performance model’s head’s size of 460cc and features a classic, pear-shaped head. Both drivers are equipped with 45.5 inch Mitsubishi Kuro Kage Series shafts — the Performance version comes stock with Mitsubishi’s Kuro Kage HBP (High Balance Point) shaft and the Tour model comes stock with a Kuro Kage Silver Tini shaft — and 55-gram Tour Wrap 2G grips from Golf Pride. The Performance driver has a white grip, while the Tour has a red grip.
Nike’s FlexLoft technology, which allows golfers to select one of three different face angle (left, neutral and right) and five different lofts (8.5 to 12.5 degrees in 1-degree increments) independently, has the same connectors from last year. Both drivers have similar-looking crowns that are refreshingly gimmick-free. The only visible graphics on an otherwise classic-looking golf club are the white Nike swoosh towards the heel and a tiny alignment aid indicating the model number (2.0). The bottom of the club head still features oversized branding elements, but the matte finish and sharper edges gives the Covert line a more seasoned, grown-up look.
The Covert Tour driver was tested with a stock Kuro Kage Silver TiNi 60-gram shaft (S-flex) and retails for $399. The Performance driver came with a Kuro Kage Black 50-gram shaft (S-flex) and retails for $299.
The drivers were tested at Pete’s Golf Shop in Mineola, NY, a Golf Digest Top-100 club fitter and I worked directly with Kirk Oguri, a well-respected equipment specialist and teaching professional. The clubs were evaluated using a Foresight launch monitor.
The first and most obvious thing I noticed when swinging both models is the weight. While some golf club manufacturers like Callaway and Cleveland are focused on designing lighter drivers, Nike and others are bucking that trend. The Covert 2.0 drivers are nothing short of modern-day sledgehammers with club heads that weigh roughly 206 grams (about 210 grams including the FlexLoft adapter).
According to Oguri, adding extra weight to club heads is coined “the hammer effect.” The extra weight can help a golfer deliver a powerful blow to the golf ball relative to a certain swing speed, Oguri said, and a counterbalanced shaft and/or grip is then used to lower the swing weight to a traditional level. Ping did the same thing with its widely acclaimed G25 driver, which has a counter-balanced shaft to even out its 205-gram driver head. But the decision of equipment manufacturers to increase the mass isn’t necessarily better for everyone, because it’s usually easier to fit a golfer to a club head when a fitter has the option to add more discretionary weight.
What the launch monitor data confirmed for me is that a golfer of moderate swing speed (under 100 mph) can potentially struggle transferring enough energy into the ball with a heavy club head. This, in turn, will naturally affect the launch angle, ball speed and carry distance. I felt that I likely could have swung the Covert 2.0 drivers a little faster if the clubs heads were a little lighter, thus creating the potential for more distance. But since there are no adjustable weights in the drivers, I didn’t have the chance to experiment. I did, however, find that the Covert 2.0 drivers exceeded my expectations in terms of accuracy. Whether that had to do with the extra weight, I’m not sure.
The new drivers also have larger faces over last year’s models, which adds to their forgiveness. Nike engineers also improved each driver’s moment of inertia (MOI). The MOI of the Performance model swelled from 4600 to 4800, while the 2.0 Tour model’s MOI jumped from 4100 to 4600, according to Nike. These enhancements help stabilize the Covert 2.0 drivers on off-center hits, leading to more ball speed and less gear effect when a golfer misses the sweet spot.
Another element to consider when evaluating the new Nike Covert drivers is how each club’s center of gravity affects trajectory and distance. While the quote-on-quote hip thing in driver technology is to push the CG low and forward as is the case with TaylorMade’s SLDR, Nike took a more neutral approach. In the Covert 2.0 driver, the CG is more rearward for added forgiveness and increased launch and spin. In the Covert 2.0 Tour driver, the weight is positioned lower and more forward, creating a trajectory that is lower launching and lower spinning than the Performance model. Both club heads also have weight concentrated in the rear corners of the club head, which is how the drivers are able to maintain such a high MOI.
Drivers with high MOI’s also tend to also have slightly higher CG positions, which is why I found that the Covert 2.0 drivers performed better for me when I hit them slightly higher on the face. Conversely, golfers who contact the lower half of the club face will launch the ball lower and with slightly more spin than is optimal, resulting in a loss of distance.
Performance: Standard Driver
The Nike Performance driver features the slightly lighter shaft, which definitely helped me deliver the club to the ball with more speed.
Using the Performance driver I was able to generate around 95 mph of club head speed with a ball speed of about 130 mph. My launch angle was 12.9 degrees and the average spin clocked in at 2400 rpm. These launch conditions produced an average carry of 202 yards (228 yards total). My best drive of the session yielded a 209-yard carry (total distance of 243 yards) based on a 135 mph ball speed and 9.9 launch angle.
Additional testing carried out separately at the driving range produced a nice mid-launch flight with a slight fade bias. When hit reasonably well, the Covert Performance driver is deadly accurate. Even on mishits, I never felt like club was twisting or producing unsalvageable drives.
Performance: Tour Driver
During my testing session, I felt more than a little out-classed swinging the Tour driver, which will compete directly with low-spin driver models such as Titleist’s 913 D3, TaylorMade’s SLDR, Ping’s i25, Callaway’s Big Bertha Alpha and Cleveland’s 588 Custom. The lower-launching, heavier driver (it weighed in at D6) was a chore to square up and accelerate. It’s important to note that the Tour driver is equipped with a heavier, stiffer shaft designed to launch the ball a little lower than its Performance counterpart.
My average carry distance was only 160 yards (197 yards total) and my best swing on the monitor showed a carry distance of 194 yards (224 yards total) with a high launch angle (14.8 degrees) and very little spin (1700 rpm).
Experimenting with swapping out shafts did improve distance, it was not enough to outperform Nike’s standard driver.
Look, Sound and Feel
In terms of looks, the Tour and Performance drivers are nearly identical. The differences, as in the case of head shape and darker face material for the Tour edition, are negligible. As indicated earlier, Nike took what was already considered a clean-looking club and further refined many of the visual elements including hiding the support structure that runs from the edge of the cavity back through the center of the crown. Gone from plain sight is the Tour model metal screw that some golfers liked and some didn’t.
While we’re on the subject of sound, both drivers produce a deep, muted sound when struck. It’s considerably more pleasant than hearing the higher-pitched, metallic noise found in too many other drivers in the marketplace. Be that as it may, the combination of the good acoustics, heavy weight and minimalist crown graphics conspire together to achieve a look that a traditionalist will find difficult not to love.
As is the case with the sound, the clubs feel relatively the same. Both drivers are very solid when struck and provide ample feedback on mishits. The Golf pride Tour Wrap grips are certainly a little heavier than I would prefer, and their non-textured surface is not best for golfers who play in humid areas or places where it often rains.
The Bottom Line
The Nike VR_S Covert 2.0 line of drivers have several updated features and aesthetic polish, but they might not be different enough from the originals to convince the masses that they need an upgrade. For those golfers who took a pass the first time around, however, the new models are certainly worth a look.
Last year’s models were a better fit for golfers who fell under the category of “better players,” and the improved aesthetics and sound will keep them interested in the new drivers. But this year’s huge improvement in forgiveness will help golfers of all levels get more enjoyment out of the Covert 2.0 drivers.