I’ve had the fortunate opportunity to review three clubs from the new Nike VR_S line: the Driver(9.5 deg), Fairway Wood (3-wood, 15 deg) and Hybrid (3 hybrid, 21 deg). Each were shipped with the factory Fubuki shaft, all with stiff flex.
I’ll review each separately here, starting with the Driver.
Nike VR_S Driver:
I’ve hit previous generations of Nike drivers, ranging from the SasQuatch that first made noise at the 2006 Masters, to the more recent Sumo line of drivers – including the unique Sumo SQ square-headed driver. My experiences to date had not been convincing enough to help me make the mental leap necessary to look away from more tenured golf club manufacturers for getting off the tee. However, after a month of hammering away with the VR_S driver, I can comfortably say my previous reservations are gone.
There are several things to like about the VR_S driver – not the least of which is aesthetics. When I was finishing out college, I played the Titleist 975D driver and loved the simplicity of its look at address – the polished shine and dark grey/black colors playing a sharp contrast to the white of the ball on the tee. The VR_S driver is the first in the era of the large-headed drivers to remind how much the simplicity of the look at address plays into confidence off the tee. It’s a very sleek, very nicely done design.
Another thing I immediately noticed was how light the club felt in my hands. With my swing speed already pushing over 115 mph – this can be a dangerous combination! But, I was intrigued, as overall weight and feel was what prompted me to get rid of my TaylorMade R7 a couple years back – and switch to a lighter club with a lighter shaft. The Fubuki shaft on the VR_S is not only very light, but it’s also longer than most standard driver shafts – which will automatically generate a slight increase in club head speed if you trust that whole physics thing.
Then there’s the sound of contact and the resultant ball flight. I’ve played a draw for years and – with the STR8-Fit System launch angle left in neutral position – my traditional ball flight remained in-tact. But, I’m telling you – the ball seemed to launch higher and faster than my previous two drivers. I would suspect that’s the part of the advertising for the VR_S line that lauds the “unmatched ball speed” off the face. My feedback there is simple – “awesome”. In the month of playing the club, I felt that my traditional ball flight and trajectory has been significantly more consistent than with other competitors. Another huge win.
In soaking up all the information I could get my hands on while I waited for the clubs to arrive, I also read that ball spin off the clubface was minimized on the VR_S driver, over past generations. This is very important to me, as I’ve honestly believed over the past couple years that ball spin off the face is one of the key culprits to the challenges I’ve faced getting off the tee. After pounding drive after drive both at the range, and on the course – I can tell you the degree to which I have erred on my drives is significantly less than my previous driver. This has translated to fewer penalty strokes, more fairways hit – and more importantly, increased assuredness on the tee box.
To that last point, the thing I love most about this driver is how confident I feel over the ball. For a long time, I’ve had a pre-shot routine that I go through, mostly to calm myself down and to visualize my shot right before hitting it. With the combination of the crisp “tink” created by the NEXCOR clubface, the simple-but-elegant dark shine of the head – and the feather-weight feel of the club, I’ve felt significantly more confident that I’ll be setting myself up for a good approach shot into the green, and a chance at really scoring well on the day.
Nike VR_S Fairway Wood:
The VR_S Fairway Wood that I received was the 15 deg, 3-Wood. It’s been interesting to watch the almost schizophrenic evolution of fairway woods, from large-headed, tall-faced woods, to small-headed raylor-types – and back to somewhere in the middle. The Nike VR_S 3-Wood is equally as appealing to the eyes as the driver – but what struck me was the very thin and short club face. Too often, the average amateur with a 3-Wood in their hand feels the unnecessary urge to scoop under the ball through a series of accidental body motions that contort even the simplest golf swing. With the compact club face area, I’m given the feeling at address that all I need is solid contact. I very much liked the way the ball looks at address, with the VR_S locked and loaded behind.
This was a good time of year to test out my theory, as lies are extremely tight in the fairway in March. The first round I played with the club – I was hitting everything just a bit thin, resulting in screaming bullets down the fairway. No harm, no foul – but not the shot I’m looking for typically. In one particularly humorous series of three holes, I twice slammed the lip of a bunker 10-15 yards in front of me with what was intended to be runs at reaching par-5’s in two. Ben got an especially good kick out of it. But, that was just round one. I hit the range later that evening and finally convinced myself to do what I wrote in the first paragraph above – focus on solid contact, nothing else.
I’ve now logged about five rounds with the VR_S Fairway Wood in my bag – and have hit the club probably 20 times on the course. I’ve quickly become comfortable and confident with the ball flight and distance control. My home course has a handful of holes where control is paramount off the tee – and I’ve actually rethought my approach from the tee. I appreciate having the option of a Fairway Wood that sets up well off the tee, and promotes confidence allowing me to give it good solid rip.
Nike VR_S Hybrid:
The third club I received in the VR_S line is the 3-Hybrid (21 Deg). I have only been playing hybrids now for the past two full seasons, choosing initially to go with the smaller-headed variety from a couple of different manufacturers. The desire for the smaller head has been born out of what I can only describe as a comfort-factor/misnomer that a smaller club head equates to more control. To state this simply, I didn’t want to be standing over what was previously an iron shot and have what felt and looked like a larger-headed fairway wood in my hands.
When first opening up the VR_S Hybrid, I have to admit that this was the first thought that came to my mind – another larger-headed hybrid. But, I wanted to be open minded – and headed to the driving range with club in bag. I also brought my current hybrid (smaller head) with me to have a reference point. The first couple shots were a bit timid, but I quickly got to the point where I’ve been with the rest of the line – very comfortable over the ball.
The distance on the club is long, I can tell you that. I play forged blades for my irons, and I don’t remember hitting my 3-iron that far. I also noticed something that I completely did not expect. The feeling of the ball coming off the club face was significantly less heavy than with the smaller-headed hybrid I currently play. This was a pleasant surprise.
The next challenge was to see how the club hits off the tee. Interestingly enough, standing over the club at address, the larger head (for a hybrid) actually made me think less about the need to put an extra turn on the ball. A hybrid off the tee should be one of the easiest tee balls you hit all day. But, like so many amateurs, it’s easy to assume that even though the par-4 is only 345-yards, you really need to rip it in order to have the closest approach shot. I have a hole like this on my home course, and can tell you (friends will need to hold me true to this) that the only club I will hit off that tee this season is this VR_S 3-Hybrid. I’ll be 120-130 out every time – instead of risking a shot out of the trees hoping to scramble for bogey, just because I wanted a 50 yard lob-wedge approach.
Throughout the review, I’ve tried to avoid rewriting the same comments over-and-over across the three clubs, but the reality is that the ball flight, accuracy and feeling of confidence is consistent across each. This is actually the first time that I’ve ever carried the same line of woods/hybrids in my bag. I have always taken the Frankenstein approach of playing between two and three different manufacturers at a time. For the simple reason that I love the VR_S driver, hit the Fairway Wood so smoothly and the 3-Hybrid’s length and accuracy – I’ll be keeping each of these clubs in my bag for ongoing play. I would definitely recommend anyone looking for an upgrade to give the Nike VR_S line a strong look.
One more quick thing, too. I do feel it necessary to call out that the Driver really is the all-star of the VR_S lineup. I have long-loved the lighter 460cc-type drivers, combined with a lightweight stiff-flex shaft – setting up to give way to a huge ball off the tee. But, in the past couple years, I’ve had issues with keeping the spin off the face minimized – and the compounding effects in direction in check. With the new VR_S Driver, I’ve been longer, more accurate – and much more confident off the tee. It’s probably best summarized by saying the ball-flight and direction I picture in my pre-shot routine is much more appealing than it had been the past couple seasons.
Well done, Nike.
If you’re interested in seeing more pictures of the Nike VR_S lineup, check out our Nike VR_S Family photo album on Facebook.