When you think of Nike irons, you tend to think of one man in particular and the blades that have taken him to so many victories. In fact, many have commented that it is Tiger’s use of blades that has caused a renaissance in their use, both among Tour players and better amateurs as everyone looks to capture just a shard of the great man’s ball striking ability. The Victory Red appellation is obviously a combination of Nike’s recent domination of iron win count (22 victories on all major Tours this year and 27 on the same tours last year) along with Tiger’s favored final day colour.
Tiger has had direct input to the design of all the Victory Red irons. Prior to his absence from competition with his knee injury he worked alongside Nike’s team of designers and engineers with the aim to create Nike Golf’s best irons ever. It goes without saying that out of the 3 Victory Red irons his efforts are most evident in these, the new premium irons – the Nike Victory Red Forged TW Blades.
Nike tell us that the VR Blades have the same centre of gravity (COG) as Tiger’s irons and have already been picked up by Nike Staffers such as Paul Casey, KJ Choi, Stewart Cink, Charl Schwartzel – who recently won at the Madrid Masters on the European Tour after only 3 weeks with the new irons – and many others. For so many of their Tour players to have adopted them so early clearly shows that Nike have come out with something that offers a little more than the previous generation. While Tiger did not have these irons in the bag at his victory at the US Open in Torrey Pines, he thought enough of the marque to find space for a 60-degree Victory Red Wedge.
Three-quarter view showing high muscleback and long hosel
Material: 1025 forged carbon steel
Forging House: Undisclosed (China)
Standard grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet Cord
Standard shafts: Dynamic Gold
Custom shafts: Available from Aldila, Royal Precision, True Temper, UST
Face-on view highlighting box toe, straight leading edge and hosel-toe lines
A traditional muscleback that differs from Nike’s original Blades by have a larger muscleback and a fractionally thicker toe-line. The clubhead is also a fractionally longer heel-to-toe than the original Blades but you’re looking at no more than a 1/16 of an inch, if that. The club is finished in sparkling chrome that is so shiny that it’s practically a mirror and the face and muscleback is a blasted matte to reduce glare.
For the traditionalists, the colour scheme of the Victory Red line is always going to be a little gaudy but these clubs have 2 things going for them: firstly, the colour scheme is far more muted in real life than it appears in photos, and secondly at address all that can be seen are the clean chrome lines of the head with the only hint of colour coming from the small red circle near the top of the ferrule.
It’s at address that you can really appreciate what a beautiful piece of forging they are. When the club is sat next to the ball, the thin top line, elegant hosel and straight edges flow together to make the ball look even bigger giving you real confidence. It’s only when you get down to the longer irons that the realization that these are butter knives kicks in and that they are going to demand the best swing you have.
3,5 and 7 irons at address
Exceptionally good, these are players irons and make no apologies for it. While mid-trajectory shots are the easiest to produce, both high soaring shots and three-quarter punches are well within your grasp and a full swing generates serious distance. Deceptively for a club with such a high COG (from both the high muscleback and the long hosel) there’s still enough spin that you are able to work the ball with ease and even hold greens with long irons. The sole is narrow with a rolled leading edge and a ground-off trailing edge which favors precise ball-striking and the ability to pick the ball off the turf with medium to small divots.
In the short and medium irons, flag are targets and the ball can be fired at them with real venom as distance control is very simple. Moving towards the longer irons requires a little more circumspection as you become aware that these clubs have been designed for performance first and forgiveness second. That’s not to say that they are difficult clubs to get airborne but missing the sweetspot in any direction results in a noticeable loss of distance – but then that is a fact of life with pretty much any blade – and tingling fingers as your mistake is made known.
VR Blade sole grind
One of the rewards of playing blades is that wonderful sensation you get when you flush one out of the middle. The satisfaction of hitting the ball dead on comes from the choral symphony of feedback as the club sings in your hands in a way that no cavity back ever will. Nike have only been in the business of producing blades for a few years now and while it’s a little unfair to judge them against the acknowledged masters of forged irons like Mizuno and Titleist, in a like-for-like comparison it would be hard to say that these irons have quite the feel of the MP-67 or the Z-M. That’s not to say that the VR Blades do not give you a fantastic level of feel, it’s just that they are a fraction of a percent off the top spot.
While the VR Blades are very similar in concept to the previous generation of Nike’s blades, they contain a series of small but definite improvements that mean that the performance is so good that they should be considered by anyone looking for new blades.
Tiger had this to say about these irons – “I like the new VR Blades because of the consistent feel throughout the bag, how good it looks in a playing position and my workability. I can shape the ball both ways, change my trajectory, do whatever I need to do to hit the ball closest to the hole and be as efficient as I can throughout the round. That’s ultimately what you want to have happen. I hope to have these new irons in my bag upon my return to competition.” – And let’s be honest, you don’t get much more of an endorsement than that.
For more information visit www.nike.com