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Nike Covert Drivers: Editor Review
Summary: Low spinning, straight and awesomely adjustable. Its cavity-back design will make it the most talked about driver in 2013.
Low spin and forgiveness
Pros: Thanks to their radical cavity back design (a.k.a. the large chunk missing from the rear portion of the sole), the Nike Covert and Covert Tour drivers less spin and are more forgiving than previous models. Surprisingly, they also have a very pleasing sound. Their adjustable hosel system, Flex Loft, is also one of the widest ranging and most intuitive in the industry.
Cons: Not everyone will love the shiny red paint and the white Nike Swoosh on their crown. Flex Loft is easy to use, but it’s not as fine-tuned as other systems, allowing only 1.5-degree changes in face angle (from neutral) and 1-degree adjustments through its 5-degree loft range. The drivers also lack a non-invasive way to adjust swing weight, which would have been nice to have.
The Takeaway: The Covert and Covert Tour drivers will be hard to beat for golfers who are looking to reduce spin without parting ways with forgiveness. That’s why for the first time, Nike will have non-Nike Golf fans interested in its driver. It’s cool, it’s adjustable and it’s long and straight.
Before Covert, we never had a reason to play a Nike driver.
Sure, Tiger and the rest of the Nike Golf staff played one. But at GolfWRX, we tend to measure the success of equipment by the usage habits of golfers who are not getting paid to play certain equipment. For Nike drivers, that number was low.
We didn’t know what to say when we first saw the Nike VR_S Covert driver. Unlike the company’s position in some other sports, Nike is the new kid on the block in golf. And here they were in 2013 attempting to sell consumers a driver with one-third of its sole missing. And it was red. And it had a Swoosh on the crown. Were they crazy? Tiger was never going to hit that. But as the technology behind the Covert drivers began to leak out, we suddenly became very interested.
For years, industry leader TaylorMade has been touting its movement of the center of gravity lower and more forward in the head, which helps create the high-launch, low-spin conditions golfers need to optimize their launch angles. But there’s a problem with moving the weight really far forward in a driver head – it decreases MOI, or in layman’s terms, it makes a driver less forgiving.
The cavity-back design removes the back-middle section of the sole, allowing Nike to bring perimeter weighting to the tee box.
That’s why the cavity-back design of the Covert drivers makes perfect sense. The removal of mass from the rear portion of the driver sole gave Nike engineers more discretionary weight to put in other places – not just forward, but in the rear corners as well, which boosts forgiveness.
The eye popping red crown and white Nike Swoosh will be the first thing golfers see, but the cavity on the bottom of the head is even more significant.
So even though the standard Covert driver measures 460 cubic centimeters and the Tour model measures 430, Nike’s slick engineering makes them play larger and faster than that.
Nike’s adjustable hosel, called Flex Loft, allows golfers to adjust the loft from 8.5 degrees to 12.5 degrees, a five-degree range that’s as wide as any of the big boys. According Ray Sander, the Nike Golf engineer who was behind the Flex Loft system, it also has another huge benefit. Because Flex Loft is a dual-axis system, not a single-axis or quadrant system, it allows golfers to adjust their loft and face angles independently.
FlexLoft allows golfers to adjust loft and face angle independently.
Single-axis adjustable hosels, the ones used by all of Nike’s competitors, have an innate problem — when golfers add or subtract loft on those drivers, they also change the face angle. But different companies have found different ways around that problem.
Covert drivers can be set to five different lofts (8.5 to 12.5) and a right, left or neutral face angle.
TaylorMade’s R1 driver has an adjustable dial on its sole that allows golfers to negate face angle effects by changing the orientation of the dial. Cobra created a specially designed section of the sole of its new AMP Cell drivers that allows the club to sit relatively square in all loft settings. But not all golfers sole their driver before they hit their tee shots, which can make TaylorMade’s adjustable dial a non-factor. And golfers who want a specific opened or closed setting with an AMP Cell driver can’t get it. According to Sander, however, it doesn’t matter if the club is soled or not because the Flex Loft system’s two sleeves work independently to keep face angle consistent during loft adjustments.
During face angle adjustments, the loft sleeve (the one closer to the club head) doesn’t move. But the upper sleeve and the shaft do, rotating the head 1.5 degrees to the right or 1.5 degrees to the left (from the neutral setting). During loft changes, the loft sleeve is the only one that moves, tilting the head forward (for less loft) and back (for more loft) without changing the face angle.
So does it work? Based on our FlightScope findings, it was hard to disprove. Our tester set the standard model of the Covert at 12.5 degrees in the right setting and watched his launch and spin numbers climb as high as 11.3 degrees with 3087 rpm of spin. At 8.5 degrees in the right setting, his launch was as low as 8.7 degrees with 2347 rpm of spin with a similar dispersion pattern.
Covert or Covert Tour?
The reason our tester hit the standard Covert (Nike calls it the “Performance” model) in the “right” setting is because Nike intended for it to have a a “square” face angle at address, not the opened look that many golfers with fast club head speeds prefer.
The reason our tester hit the standard Covert (Nike calls it the “Performance” model) in the “right” setting is because Nike intended for it to have a a “square” face angle at address, not the opened look that many golfers with fast club head speeds prefer. With Nike’s Covert Tour driver, he didn’t have to adjust it to the right setting — the Tour has a face angle around 1.5-degrees open in the neutral setting, which gives golfers the ability to have the club face square or as much as 3-degrees opened if they wish.
According to Nike, the Covert Tour is about 0.75-degrees lower launching and spins about 300 rpm less than the standard model. Every player is going to get slightly different results from the different models, but Nike’s range is pretty close to what we saw on FlightScope.
The biggest factor for golfers who are choosing between the Covert and Covert Tour will be the size difference of the two heads. The Covert is 460 cubic centimeters, while the Covert Tour is 430. Thirty cubic centimeters doesn’t sound like a lot, but the Tour’s deeper, or taller face makes it look even smaller than what it measures — at first glance, it would be easy to mistake the Covert Tour for a large 3 wood. That difference in size and construction makes the tour model more workable, but far less forgiving than the non-Tour model.
Some golfers may gravitate toward the Tour model because of it’s black face and sole, which is much cleaner looking than the standard model, and also because it’s the one Rory McIlroy is playing. But unless they need the extremely low launch and low spin of the Covert Tour, most will be better off with the standard model.
Sound and feel
Both the Covert and Covert Tour drivers sound exactly the opposite of what we expected — traditional.
According to Tony Dabbs, a product line manager for Nike Golf, the drivers can look like they do and still sound normal because of a support structure at the edge of the cavity that looks like an I-beam and runs from the crown to the sole and helps quiet the sound.
Covert Tour Address image
“Think of a cowbell,” Dabbs said. “It’s hollow and makes a loud sound. But if you put a bolt through it, it ties things together and quiets things.”
Because of their different designs, the Covert Tour has a harsher-feeling, higher-pitched sound than the standard Covert, which feels softer and sounds quieter.
Golf’s ruling bodies have made it extremely difficult for equipment manufacturers to continue add yards to a golfer’s drives, which is why manufacturers are doing everything in their power to make their drivers as adjustable as possible.
Engineers aren’t finding as many yards in the lab as they used to, but there are plenty of yards left for the average golfer to find through proper fitting.
With Covert, Nike has given golfers all the adjustability they could want and something new as well — a driver that can be low spinning and forgiving.
The Covert comes with “real deal” stock shaft options, Mitsubishi Rayon’s Kurokage Black 50 in the standard model and a Kurokage Silver 60 in the Tour, making the VR_S Covert ($299) and the VR_S Covert Tour ($399) a lot of driver for the money.