Pros: The crew at Nike took a fresh approach in designing the new VRS Covert 2.0 hybrids, making the lower-lofted clubs more forgiving and easier to launch than previously offered models. These new hybrids are long, accurate and versatile. If that isn’t appealing enough, they’re also easy on the eyes.
Cons: The FlexLoft system, which allows golfers to adjust loft and face angle independently, is only available on the Covert 2.0 Tour hybrids. Some golfers might find that the vibrant red paint job is too much of a head-turner and would prefer to play a more understated set of clubs.
The Takeaway: Golfers of varying skill level are abandoning their long irons in favor of hybrids. If you’re searching for a more forgiving utility club that can help you land the ball softly on long approach shots, the new Covert hybrids are up for the challenge.
When it comes to hybrids, Nike hasn’t come close to upending traditional market leaders Adams, Callaway, Ping and TaylorMade. But that hasn’t stopped the engineers behind the swoosh from introducing one of the most forgiving clubs in the utility category.
Tapping into what the folks at The Oven call “Linear Transition Design,” Nike released the VRS Covert 2.0 hybrids with progressively smaller head sizes as loft increases, while increasing the face height on each model. It’s a pattern commonly seen in fairway wood design that focuses on improving both the performance and playability of lower-lofted clubs. As you would expect, the 2 and 3 hybrids (17 and 20 degrees, respectively) play more like fairway woods, while the high-lofted hybrids are more iron-like and designed for approach shots to the green.
Compared to last year’s models, the new Covert hybrids have many subtle, but notable improvements. The new heads on both the tour and standard models are slighter heavier and deeper-faced. Nike’s patented NexCOR face technology has been reengineered to deliver faster ball speed and increased distance, even on off-center hits. The high-speed cavity design that was the signature feature introduced a year ago has been reinforced with Nike’s new Fly-brace technology, which increases stability, improves energy transfer to the ball and reduces twisting at the moment of impact.
The Tour model allows the golfer to adjust the loft (up to five degrees) and face angle independently using Nike’s FlexLoft system. The standard edition hybrids are not adjustable, but are available in five models ranging from 17 to 26 degrees. Both the tour and standard hybrids are paired with premium shaft offerings from Mitsubishi Rayon. The tour hybrid uses a Kuro Kage Silver 80-gram graphite shaft for more stability and lower spin. The standard edition comes with the Kuro Kage Black HBP Graphite 70-gram shaft, which has a higher balance point to allow for the slightly heavier club heads.
As in the case of Nike’s Covert drivers and fairway woods, the candy-apple red paint job on the crown can take a little getting used to at first, especially if you’re not accustomed to receiving unsolicited attention. I haven’t been paired with a single golfer on the course who hasn’t stolen a wayward glance at my bag.
Owners of the original Covert hybrids will notice that the design of the new models remain virtually unchanged. Nike wisely resisted the urge to overhaul what is already regarded as a winning design. This time around, Nike took to refining the underside of their golf clubs, smoothing out some of the chunkier elements, reducing the footprint and giving the VRS Covert typeface some much-needed oomph.
The following hybrids were tested using factory-set loft and face angle settings:
- Covert 2.0 hybrid (20 degrees) with a 40-inch Kuro Kage Black 70S ($179 MSRP)
- Covert 2.0 Tour hybrid (20 degrees) with a 41-inch Kuro Kage Silver TiNi 80S ($229 MSRP)
Testing was conducted at Pete’s Golf Shop in Mineola, N.Y., a Golf Digest Top-100 club fitter, and was supervised by Kirk Oguri, an equipment specialist and teaching professional. The clubs were evaluated using a Foresight launch monitor.
Performance (Covert 2.0)
The Nike Covert 2.0 hybrids, much like the drivers and fairway woods, have slightly heavier heads than last year’s models and ship with Golf Pride’s 55-gram 2G Tour Wrap grips. I found, at times, that the driver and fairway woods were challenging to swing optimally, especially for golfers like myself who have spent years playing lighter equipment. The hybrids, on the other hand, were remarkably easy to hit.
The standard edition hybrid played very much like a high-lofted fairway wood. The center of gravity is much farther back in the traditionally-rounded club head, and is more forgiving than its tour sibling. Needless to say, it’s designed to launch higher and spin more. My swing speed is about 95 mph with a driver, and my average shot produced a launch angle of 14 degrees and 4500 rpm of total spin. My ball speed was 121.1 mph, leading to a carry distance of 174 yards (192 yards total).
The numbers were nearly identical to my gamer — a 2011 TaylorMade Rescue (19 degrees) — that came stock with a regular-flex, 65-gram Aldila shaft. My lower-spinning TaylorMade actually produced a little more rollout than the Covert, and was generally easier to work in both directions. I found the Covert, on the other hand, a little more difficult to turn over, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Given a choice, I’d rather play a club that consistently produces a certain shot shape than have to worry about the occasional double-cross surfacing at the most inopportune moment on the course.
Performance (Covert 2.0 Tour)
This was the rare case where the tour model clearly outperformed the standard-edition counterpart for a golfer like myself who doesn’t generate tour-level club-head speed.
The Covert 2.0 Tour, with its smaller, less-rounded head, produced a penetrating ball flight, even on off-center hits. My numbers on the launch monitor were considerably more desirable than the results I generated swinging the standard model. My ball speed went up 123.1 mph while my total spin decreased by about 800 rpm. My average carry was 186 yards with a total distance of 203 yards, an increase of 12 yards of carry.
Even though the tour model (set at 20 degrees) is supposed to behave like a fairway wood, it launched more like a driving iron for me. If I had to choose between the two, the lower-launching tour model would be the outright winner. The compact profile of the head is more versatile from a variety of lies, particularly out of the rough where a well-engineered hybrid can truly save a stroke. The fact that it hits the ball a little farther than the standard edition is an added bonus.
Look and Feel
Nike straddled a thin line bringing the Covert designs to market. The team wanted their clubs to look brash, muscular and athletic, reinforcing the ethos of their brand. But they also wanted the Covert drivers, woods and hybrids to pay homage to the classic club designs of yesteryear: clean, understated and sophisticated. In my estimation, they’ve succeeded in striking a balance.
The Covert hybrids are confidence-inspiring at address. There are no unnecessary graphical elements applied to the crown that make a play for your attention. Some golfers have expressed annoyance about having to stare at the white Nike swoosh near the heal, but I’ve never thought twice about it.
The hybrids, much like the other clubs in the Covert line, feel well-balanced in the hands. As mentioned previously, they are not lightest sticks in the marketplace and a golfer has to avoid the urge to over-swing and let the weight of the club do the work. When you do hit a well-struck shot, the hybrids will let you know it with an unmistakable whoosh that will please golfers who are sticklers for sound.
There are a few minor differences that should be noted between the different hybrid models. The head on the tour version is slightly heavier than the standard model and features a black, matte finish that can help to reduce glare. The FlexLoft adjustable hosel system is also only available on tour model. Whether that feature is a deal breaker or not is up to the individual golfer to consider when analyzing both their playing style and gapping needs.
The Bottom Line
The debut of the original Covert drivers, woods and hybrids were a surprise hit in the golf equipment arena. The message from Beaverton, Ore., was plain and simple. Can you hear us knocking? Considering all the changes, the second-generation Covert line has succeeded in improving the look and performance of each club, and it appears that Nike is ready to kick that door down.
The new hybrids are packed with innovation, forgiveness and versatility. Whether you require a club that can stick the green on a long par 3, or prefer a hybrid that can compete with and probably out-drive most high-lofted fairway woods, there’s a Covert designed around your needs.