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The Big Review – Nike VR Woods and Hybrid
Nike have finally unified their top end offerings under their VR line with the release of their VR Drivers, woods and hybrids. The Victory Red line has produced the outrageously successful VR Forged TW Blades and VR wedges. These VR branded replacements for the Dymo line bring in an even more adjustable hosel and new technology to the woods and hybrids.
The VR STR8-FIT Tour took home a gold medal in the GolfDigest 2010 annual review and this is the version that we got to spend the last couple of months testing along with the VR STR8-FIT Fairway Wood and the VR Hybrid.
Continuing the adjustability of the SQ Dymo STR8-FIT, the VR versions of the woods have 32 possible settings rather than the previous 8 and add in a "compression channel" which is designed to increase ball speed across the entire face while the hybrid has been specifically designed to meet the demands of the better player.
With their black, chrome and red looks the woods are Nike's best looking ones yet. The original Dymo's were always love or hate as regards to looks and the most recent SQ Dymo STR8-FIT was Nike's first foray into properly decent looking clubs. The VR's have all but lost the powerbow which is now much smaller and the same metallic black colour as the rest of the head. Sharing so many cosmetic features the 3 wood is in effect a miniature driver in appearance and as the Driver has lost the powerbow, the fairway wood has lost the quad keel sole of the Dymo.
The hybrid has a different colour scheme; the head has a small black powerbow but the rest of the crown is a light grey. On one hand it looks like a rare prototype that marks you out as a special player and on the other, well it looks like an unfinished prototype.
VR Driver, 3 Wood and Hybrid
The clubs look good at address; the heads look small and compact sitting next to the ball and the standard face angle is neutral. The silver STR8-FIT hosel looks obviously different from standard hosels but it is not too unobtrusive even in the smaller fairway wood although it can take a little getting used to.
The STR8-FIT in the driver and fairway wood is the same as the one in the previous generation with the difference that the old version 'only' allowed 8 setting rather than the 32 offered by the new setup. The shaft ends with an offset adaptor. Rotating the shaft means that the clubhead is set at an angle in a similar manner to bend the hosel. The adaptor is tighten with the STR8-FIT wrench that comes included. The wrench beeps to prevent you over-tightening it which saves you from damaging your investment.
Left – SQ Dymo STR8-FIT, Right – VR STR8-FIT Tour
The deeper face of the VR Driver versus the SQ Dymo is a hint of the difference between the 2 clubs and when you hit them side by side, the difference in performance is very obvious.
The launch flight of the VR Tour is significantly lower and the way that the ball flies through the air indicates that it is much lower spin, as befits a club aimed at the better player. It would not be a surprise to see a change in shafts from players who move to this club (edit: between writing this and posting, pics have surfaced of Tiger Woods hitting a VR Tour with a higher launching shaft than his normal Whiteboard). Looking at how the compression channel is supposed to work this makes sense, as there would be effective lowering of loft at impact as the sole of the club is compressed resulting in a lowering of backspin and launch.
There are 32 different positions for the adapter: 15 draw setups, 2 neutral (they differ by loft) and 15 fade setups. Open the face up and the ball will fade, close the face and watch the ball draw. Changing the face angle is much more effective than changing the weights and the number of different settings make this infinitely adjustable within 2 degrees open and 2 degrees closed – okay it's not quite infinitely adjustable but since the difference between settings is 0.25 degrees it might as well be.
Cranking the face closed sees the ball take a heavy draw towards the left side of the fairway. Get out the wrench and lock the face all the way open and the ball will do everything it can to go off to the right. Changing the face angle is far more effective at changing the flight of the ball than moving weights or adding lead tape.
VR 3 Wood
The fairway wood does a great job of throwing the ball up into the sky with enough spin for control but like the driver, this club is on the lower spinning side with a centre of gravity that has been optimised for the better player. The addition of the STR8-FIT hosel allows for the same sort of face angle customization. While this might not quite as necessary as the driver, it's very useful to have especially for players who play non-standard face angles.
The classic smooth sole means that the club plays equally well from the fairway as light rough.
With the hybrid being so compact, it is aimed towards those who do not need that much extra forgiveness although it goes without saying that it is more forgiving than a 3 iron and higher hitting. With its hot face and cambered sole it plays beautifully out of any condition which makes it far more versatile too.
VR Tour Headcovers: the magnetic clasps make them very easy to put on and take off
Over the last few years, Nike have worked hard to round out their bag. Apart from the putter, where the introduction of the Method seemed to fill in the void there, the driver, fairway wood and hybrids have not received the plaudits of their other clubs, especially from the better players. With the new SQ Machspeed taking care of the rest of the handicap range, it leaves the VR range to cater for these better players.
The low-launch low-spin combo from the driver will win a lot of friends amongst this segment of players. The addition of the compression channel and the greater number of face angle options means that these clubs have it all over the previous generation. Given how good the Dymo STR8-FIT was, this is a real achievement. The backwards compatibility means that those who bought a Dymo STR8-FIT can use the shaft from that club in the VR version if they wish. For those that want to look down on a more classic looking version, there is also the Victory Red 420 which brings a classic pear shaped head with a non-adjustable hosel. The fairway wood is also very good but the jury is out on the hybrid, not because it isn't very good but more that there are so many good hybrids available that to stand out from the crowd requires something special.
Another great effort from Nike as they bring out another range of technically ground-breaking clubs that are seriously good.