In 2009 Nike Golf released its line of Victory Red irons, consisting of three designs — a full cavity version, a split cavity version and a blade version. It was only a matter of time before Nike added a driver to supplement this successful series of iron designs. We first heard of the VR driver back in September in a series of tweets from Nike Golf athlete Paul Casey, when he tweeted photos from Nike Golf’s R&D facility The Oven in advance of the VR driver announcement. We received the release date for the VR driver in November, and we have since learned that fairway woods and hybrids have been added to the VR line, and all will be available this Friday January 28th along with the VR driver.
This past weekend I had the opportunity to take the VR STR8-FIT driver to the range to give it a test drive. On Sunday I headed over to the driving range at my local course Stonecreek Golf Club and hit the new VR driver along with the driver I currently use, the SQ Sumo. The day before I had gone to my local PGA Superstore to hit the SQ Dymo STR8-FIT again to refresh my memory as to the characteristics of this driver, and get some stats from the simulator there. All three drivers have 10.5 degrees of loft and a stiff flex stock shaft. I hit approximately 50 range balls with the new VR driver using three face angle settings — square, 1 degree open and 1 degree closed. I hit about a dozen balls with each setting. Here I share the results of my test and my opinions of the VR STR8-FIT driver:
FIRST IMPRESSION: DESIGN/APPEARANCE
Out of the box the first impression of the VR STR8-FIT is one of tradition meeting technology. The classic pear shape of the head is a step back from the square headed design of the SQ MachSpeed, and the slight ridge at the back edge of the crown subtly recalls the powerbow of previous driver designs. A handsome and durable metallic black paint job covers the crown, and a glossy finish on the crown is back after two years of a matte finish on the SQ 5000 and SQ Dymo.
The sole of the club reveals the red Compression Channel that resides just behind the leading edge of the clubface and continues back to the trailing edge. Design details like the diamond facet pattern at the back of the sole recall the same element in the back heel and toe of the METHOD putter (link). The black and red color scheme of the VR line distinguishes it from the yellow and black theme of the SQ line.
The stock Aldila Voodoo shaft has an attractive deep burgundy color and pattern, and the butt end of the grip has a dial pattern with lines for each of the 32 face position adjustments. The thoughtfully-designed headcover tops off the look with a combination of leather and nylon details, a handy magnetic closure that opens and closes easily, an embroidered swoosh on the front and raised VR logo on the top.
FIRST IMPRESSION: PERFORMANCE
The first swings on the range really gave me a feeling of power in this driver. The shaft is about an inch longer than the one in my SQ Sumo, so that alone gave me confidence that I could hit the ball farther. The weighting of the head in relation to the shaft and grip felt comfortable to me, the head did not feel too heavy or too light on the end of the shaft during the swing and the club makes a nice swoosh sound (no pun intended) through the hitting area.
There is a lot of technology in this driver, and knowing that the lie and face angles can be adjusted in 32 different combinations gave me even more confidence in the club. After hitting just a few balls I had the feeling that I had better control over my drives, and knowing the club can be tweaked to fit whatever is going on in my swing on a particular day (one of the main benefits I think an average recreational golfer like myself can get from the adjustability) gave me more faith in my swing and the assurance I could keep the ball in play.
The STR8-FIT system makes the club very easy to adjust. The wrench that comes with the club is intuitive to use, and it takes just a few turns to loosen the locking nut and remove the head. Markings on the head and shaft collar make it easy to position the head in any one of the 32 adjustment positions, and grooves in the plastic piece at the end of the shaft guide the head into position. Tightening the locking nut is easy, and the wrench beeps when the locking nut is tight (the wrench has a battery-powered sensor in it).
The 32 face positions make this driver ideal for the better player who can take full advantage of the adjustability to dial in the driver to his particular swing tendencies. The face can be adjusted in .25 degree increments, and the lie angle adjusts from upright to flat (not sure of the degrees here). For the average recreational golfer whose swing is not as consistent (I speak for myself here), this amount and precision of adjustability might be a bit more than he or she really needs — but I think the real advantage here is that on any particular day you can adjust the face angle to counteract any particular negative swing tendencies that are happening in your warm up session. If on the range prior to your round you are slicing or hooking the ball, a few quick turns of the wrench and you can help to straighten out your drives for the particular day (per USGA rules players are not allowed to adjust the club during play).
I think the end result is a greater feeling of trust in your swing during a particular round of golf — if you feel the club will help you hit the ball a bit straighter, I think you’re more apt to swing more freely and with more confidence.
In my test I hit about a dozen balls with the face square, a dozen more with the face 1 degree closed, a dozen more with the face 1 degree open, and a dozen more with the face adjusted back to square. I was able to consistently hit a draw with the face closed and a fade with the face open. Since I’m not the most consistent driver of the golf ball (understatement of the year), I feel this was at least partially due to the faith I had that the club would help me create the particular shot shape.
Because of the adjustability, a better player can adjust the club to help create a ball flight. If a course has a predominance of left-to-right holes, open the face for a fade. For more right-to-left holes, close the face for a draw. For a player like myself who is not always consistent, the adjustability creates the assurance that I can achieve a fade or draw with the help of the club.
With my current SQ Sumo driver I average about 230-235 yards off the tee, that’s about 210-215 yards of carry and another 15-20 yards of roll (at least with the hard sun-baked ground here in Arizona). So I’m not going to win any long drive contests any time soon. These distances were confirmed with the launch monitor I borrowed again from my friend and teacher Jack Carter (see launch monitor photos below). I averaged about the same numbers on the simulator at the PGA Superstore the day before with the SQ Dymo STR8-FIT.
With the VR STR8-FIT I was definitely longer. With the club in the 1-degree closed position I was getting carry distances in the mid to high 220’s, which with roll would put me in the 240-250 range — I’ll take that. With the clubface in the square position carry distances were in the high 210’s to low 220’s, and in the open position carry distances were in the mid to high 210’s (again see monitor photos below). When I would really catch one on the center of the clubface the ball would just take off, pretty fun for an average player like myself.
When I tested the VR driver and was intentionally trying to play a fade or a draw, with the face adjusted to be open or closed accordingly, I was able to play the particular shot more consistently because I had faith that the club’s adjusted face position would help me pull it off.
I’m not the most accurate driver off the tee, and my misses tend to be split pretty evenly between left and right. That being said, on a particular day I may tend to hit the ball more left or right. I feel that if I can determine what my predominant shot shape is on the practice tee (or if I‘m having a major tendency one way or the other) and I can set the driver to counteract that, I’ll have more success keeping the ball in play.
I thought the VR STR8-FIT had a pretty big sweet spot. Mishit shots that did not contact the center of the face exactly ended up going almost as far as shots that I hit in right the middle of the club face. Of course the further out toward the toe or heel I hit the ball, the less distance I got, but if I hit the ball anywhere near the middle of the club face I got very good distance. So I felt this driver was not only long but forgiving too.
If a particular driver model has a loud or inappropriate sound it can be distracting. This is not the case with the VR STR8-FIT — it has a sound similar to my current SQ Sumo driver. It’s different than the solid “thwack” that the SQ Dymo has, but the VR’s acoustics are in no way tinny or aluminum bat sounding. In my test the VR STR8-FIT made a solid, pleasing sound when I made contact with the ball.
Nike has a winning driver design with the VR STR8-FIT. This attractive, traditionally shaped driver is heavy on technology, and its precise adjustability will allow the better player to tweak the club to their particular swing tendencies. The average recreational golfer can benefit from the confidence that comes with being able to adjust the club to help counteract negative swing tendencies and/or help them to play a particular shot shape. The VR STR8-FIT will allow players of all levels to trust their swing more, and swing the club more freely for longer, more accurate drives and a more enjoyable golf game overall.
A fun note here — as I tested the VR driver I caught the eyes of a few of the other golfers on the range. I struck up a conversation with one of these players, Richard from Michigan, and he asked me if he could try the VR driver with the face adjusted to the 1 degree closed position, to counteract the fade he had been playing. I watched him hit a few drives and sure enough, his fade straightened right out. A few long and straight drives later, Richard handed the driver back to me, seemingly pleased. Who knows, maybe Nike Golf has a VR STR8-FIT convert customer on their hands.
I personally can’t wait to put this driver in my bag and see my drives fly not only longer, but more importantly where I want them to go.
Editor’s note: The product reviewed above was supplied by the manufacturer to the reviewer/author free of charge for reviewing purposes only. The reviewer/author was not paid for this review, and the opinions expressed in the review are strictly those of the reviewer/author.