Pros: Deadly accurate with a reduced head size and shape that improves playability. Their CG’s are substantially lower than their predecessors, which can lower spin as much as 700 rpms.
Cons: No adjustability on the Performance model.
The Takeaway: These fairway woods have been re-engineered to be more forgiving than the original prototypes and offer a nice combination of accuracy, distance and versatility. All this and they look great. What’s not to like?
Drivers tend to get the most acclaim, but better players understand that a well-balanced and reliable fairway wood is one of the most important weapons in your bag. The singular purpose of a driver – bombing it off the tee – is but one of many responsibilities bestowed upon our fairway woods. And let’s be honest, not all woods are as versatile as we would like them to be.
With this thought in mind, the engineers at Nike took great care in developing the second generation of their VRS Covert fairway woods. Almost all of the original technology (much of it ground-breaking) has undergone refinement.
The high-speed cavity design that was introduced a year ago is back, but has been bolstered by Nike’s new Fly-brace technology that increases stability, improves energy transfer to the ball and reduces twisting at the moment of impact. The new fairway woods also promise to be more forgiving than their predecessors, featuring a larger and hotter NexCOR face.
Second generation shafts from Mitsubishi Rayon are the standard option for both models. The Covert 2.0 Tour woods are paired with Kuro Kage Silver TiNi shafts, which have titanium-nickel fibers in their tip sections for more stability and less spin. The Performance model woods use the Kuro Kage Black HBP shafts, which have a slightly higher balance point that allowed the new Covert fairway woods heads to be made a bit heavier without a significant change in swing weight.
Nike’s clever take on adjustability called FlexLoft has also been brought back and includes the same connectors from last year. The FlexLoft system uses two sleeves that are off axis to each other and the hosel bore. A simple turn of the torque wrench disconnects the head from the shaft and allows a golfer to make incremental adjustments to the face angle and loft independently. It’s as easy as it sounds.
The candy-apple red paint job is also back. Some golfers will look at these clubs and scoff, while others will realize that the color isn’t nearly as garish in person. Nike has also introduced subtle design improvements focused on reducing the technology footprint of these clubs, which will certainly appeal to players who obsess about aesthetics nearly as much as they do about performance.
It’s easy, perhaps even lazy to describe the new Covert line as a rehash of the old model. Representatives from Nike acknowledged that the original fairway woods served as a foundation for the 2.0 line. They also admitted that some of their staff players have remained loyal to the original prototypes. That the new models haven’t caught on with everyone isn’t an admission of failure; rather, it reaffirms the belief that a trusted fairway wood isn’t easily replaced.
Those who are interested in “playing in the now” as Nike’s marketing machine would whole-heartedly urge you to do, will find that the new woods are significantly more compact in shape than their 2013 prototypes. The Standard model 3 wood now features a 156cc head and weighs 219 grams compared to 181cc volume and 214 grams of weight in last year’s model. The Tour head (164cc) is even smaller compared to last year’s and is heavier by 8 grams. The new compact heads are easier to launch and the lowered crown has reduced spin by as much 700 rpm, according to Nike representatives.
The following fairway woods were tested using factory-set loft and face angle settings:
- Performance 3 Wood and 5 Wood (43-inch / 42-inch Kuro Kage Black S-Flex 66 grams) $199 MSRP
- Tour 3 Wood (15 degrees) and 5 Wood (19 degrees) (43-inch / 42-inch Kuro Kage Silver TiNi S-Flex 76 grams) $249 MSRP
Testing was conducted at Pete’s Golf Shop in Mineola, NY — a Golf Digest Top 100 club fitter — and supervised by Kirk Oguri, a well-respected equipment specialist and teaching professional. The clubs were evaluated using a Foresight launch monitor.
Performance (Standard Model)
What is apparent almost immediately about these fairway woods (especially the Tour models) is that they are designed for more aggressive swingers, players who can generate some substantial club head speed. The weight of the heads, which have been beefed up from a year ago, definitely favor players who are capable of unleashing at least 130 mph of ball speed.
This issue of weight plays a bigger role in Nike’s line of Covert 2.0 drivers. With the fairway woods, the smaller heads and shorter shafts help offset the additional mass and improve playability. For less accomplished players such as myself who do not generate tour-level club head speed, the Standard Covert woods still deliver a good mix of distance and accuracy, however.
Swinging the 3-wood, my average launch angle was 14 degrees and I generated 2500 rpm of total spin. The average carry distance was 176 yards with a total rollout of 205 yards. My best swing of the session yielded a drive that carried 198 yards and ran out an additional 19 yards.
Truth be told, it took me a number of swings to get a feel for the weight and find the correct angle of attack. My current 16-degree Big Bertha Diablo by Callaway, which I purchased a while back, features a 29 percent larger head with more mass towards the back and a lightweight, regular flex shaft. The difference in swing weight between the Covert fairway woods and my gamer couldn’t be any more different than comparing a Louisville Slugger and a wiffle ball bat.
By the time I started testing the 5 wood, my swing had found a pretty nice groove and the launch monitor showed very little separation between both fairway woods. My average swing with the 5 wood launched the ball at 12 degrees and spun 4500 rpm. The average carry was 187 yards (205 yards total).
In both instances, when hit on the center of the face, these fairway woods consistently produced mid-to-high ball flights that flew very, very straight. My typical miss was to the right, which I pinned on the fairway woods’ open face angle. Both the Performance and Tour models have face angles that rest about 1.5 degrees open at address, which better players and purists will appreciate.
Needless to say, if you’re going to play a fairway wood with a compact head, aim for the middle of the face because you’ll run out of surface area quickly.
Performance (Tour Model)
The 2.0 Tour fairway woods are similar to their Standard counterparts. Yes, these woods have slightly larger, deeper club heads and are outfitted with heavier shafts. And in the hands of more accomplished golfers, these clubs will promote a more piercing ball flight.
When hit on the screws, I found that the Tour versions outperformed the Standard models. But therein lies the problem. It’s much harder to consistently find center contact with the Tour models.
My best strike with the 3 wood generated 123.8 mph ball speed, a respectable launch of 12.7 degrees and a shot that rolled to 218 yards (193 yards carry). Similarly, the 5 wood launched the ball 14.6 degrees with a carry distance of 187 yards. However, the bulk of my shots, at least with the 3 wood, launched the ball at only 9 degrees on average. The Tour models also tended to impart less spin on the ball (on average 500 rpm) and knocked almost 2 mph off my swing speed.
With that being said, the Covert Tour fairway woods are no less accurate than the Standard models and there’s plenty of distance to be reaped at higher swing speeds.
Looks and Feel
Nike hasn’t always had the best track record when it comes to delivering attractive golf clubs. The VR Pro drivers and fairway woods looked respectable from overhead, but the compression channel that undercut the bottom of the club was, shall we say, chunky. And then there’s the famous, or rather infamous, square-headed Sasquatch driver that even most of Nike’s staff players wouldn’t go near.
With the Covert line, Nike finally got it right. From the shape of the head to the clean and practically graphic-free crown, the fairway woods look impossibly good at address and allow you to focus your attention on the ball. Both the Tour and Standard models have the right amount of heft when swung and predictably deliver a crisp, heavy blow at the ball off the middle of the face. In terms of sound, the fairway woods hit the right notes: a nice, understated whoosh that matches the sensation of hitting a well-struck ball.
There’s a few subtle differences between the Tour and Standard models, but I wouldn’t label them as deal-breakers. The club face on the Tour models feature a black matte finish that can help to reduce glare, and the Tour heads are little larger. Nike engineers moved the center of gravity lower and more forward on both models to promote a higher launch angle and reduced spin, but there’s little question that the Covert Tour woods launch the ball on a flatter, more-penetrating arc.
As for the FlexLoft adjustable hosel system, it’s only available on the Tour models. Will golfers purchasing the Standard woods really miss that feature? Assuming they’ve been properly fitted, then the answer is probably no. It’s not as if there’s much value to be gained in tweaking the loft and face angle settings from one round of golf to the next with clubs that golfers are looking to hit a specific distance.
The Bottom Line
The Nike Covert 2.0 fairway woods deliver versatility, distance and accuracy all in a package that will raise eyebrows (in a good way).
The compact-shaped heads are designed to help players deliver a clean strike off tight fairway lies. Better players will have the confidence to pull out a wood for a shot from the rough if the lie is reasonable. From the tee box, the 3 wood is an adequate substitute for the Covert driver, especially in situations that demand accuracy.
During testing, I would’ve liked to have seen more of a distance gap between the 15 degree and 19 degree fairway woods. Here the Tour models do offer a distinct advantage in allowing a golfer to use the FlexLoft system to adjust their fairway woods to create uniform gapping. Ultimately, any individual considering stocking up on the Covert fairway woods will have consider what combination (whether they be Standard or Tour models) gives them the right amount of launch, workability and distance.
Overall, higher-caliber players will have a hard time finding fairway woods that deliver better looks and performance than the one’s from Nike.