Recently I reviewed Nike Golf’s Victory Red STR8-FIT Driver, and as a follow up to that review the fine folks at Nike Golf sent me the companion STR8-FIT fairway wood to test and review. I tested the VR STR8-FIT 15-degree 3-wood, and for this review I was able to hit it on the range three times and play it in two live rounds on the course here in Phoenix — one at the Whirlwind Devil’s Claw course and one at my favorite track, Papago Golf Course. I was also able to game the VR STR8-FIT driver in the same two rounds, and will have some additional insights on that club also, as well as some additional information about the Compression Channel technology used in the VR driver, fairway woods and hybrids that I have learned since the VR driver review.
FIRST IMPRESSION: DESIGN/APPEARANCE
The first impression of the design and appearance of the VR STR8-FIT fairway wood is similar to that of the VR STR8-FIT driver — tradition meets technology. The top view (of the crown of the club) at address is that of a traditional pear-shaped fairway wood, with a small hint of the powerbow from previous designs at the trailing edge of the crown. But upon flipping the club over, the sole reveals the new Compression Channel technology that is key to the performance of this club.
Unlike the driver, the compression channel does not travel over the entire sole of the club, rather the sole plate covers the channel in the center of the plate, presumably so the channel does not catch when one hits the club off the turf. The club has the same handsome black and red color scheme as the rest of the VR line, and has the same stock Aldila VooDoo shaft and Nike grip with the diagram of the 32 face positions on the butt end of the grip as the VR STR8-FIT driver.
The club comes with a matching headcover similar to the driver headcover (but without the magnetic closure, the cover just slips over the clubhead), and comes with three tabs to identify which fairway wood it is (3, 5 & X). The club comes with the STR8-FIT manual, the diagram showing the possible clubhead positions and the STR8-FIT wrench to remove and replace the clubhead.
FIRST IMPRESSION: PERFORMANCE
The first impression I had of the performance of the VR STR8-FIT fairway wood was of power, distance and control. The head of the VR fairway wood is heavier than that of my current SQ Sumo 3-wood, and as result I was able to swing easier and get a very solid strike on the ball, letting the momentum of the heavier clubhead do the work.
I hit the ball noticeably farther with this club than my current 3-wood — in my one range-only test I was hitting the ball about 10-15 yards farther in my estimation, judging from the yardage markers on the range (I did not use a launch monitor for this test). On the range prior to playing my two rounds I was crushing the ball (for me), which gave me confidence going into the round.
Knowing the club face angle could be easily adjusted also gave me confidence that if I was having a problem on the range I could adjust the club and give myself some extra help fixing it going into the round. And the Compression Channel technology gives the fairway wood improved feel and forgiveness on mis-hit shots (more on this below).
Like the VR STR8-FIT driver, the VR STR8-FIT fairway woods have 32 adjustable face positions and subsequent lie angles — this is probably more than an average golfer like myself really needs, but for better players this amount of adjustability will allow them to precisely fine tune the club to their individual specifications and swing tendencies. For the average golfer, knowing the club can be easily adjusted on the range in a minute or two to help counteract a swing flaw on a particular day can give them added confidence going into their round on the course. I was able to easily remove and replace the head in under minute using the included STR8-FIT wrench.
The traditional shape of the clubhead is conducive to working the ball. The adjustability of the face angle in .25 degree increments allows players to adjust the club to achieve a particular shot shape. I tested the club on the range using the neutral, 1 degree closed, .5 degree closed and 1 degree open settings. I was able to effectively fade the ball with the 1 degree open setting, draw the ball with the 1 degree closed setting, and hit a gentle draw with the .5 degree closed setting (my favorite shot shape). I played both rounds on the course using the neutral setting, and was able to move the ball either way when I needed to.
In my range sessions I was hitting the ball about 10-15 yards farther than my SQ Sumo 3 wood with an easier swing no less (because of the weighting of the club). The same held true in my live rounds on the course — I hit several shots where I just nutted the ball (for me at least). Most notably was my second shot on the par 5 10th hole at Papago, where after a very poor drive (a snap hook left into the right rough of the adjacent 1st hole), I was able to put a smooth swing on the ball and crush the ball (literally, I was using my Nike Crush ball), carrying the desert between 1 & 10, putting the ball in the center of the fairway and in position for an easy wedge and a subsequent birdie (where I sank my birdie putt from just off the green with my Method putter). Shots like that one (and I had several in my two test rounds) assured me that this club will soon take its place in my bag.
Because I was able to swing easier with this club (due to the weighting) I was able to hit more accurate shots with it. Admittedly not every shot was great, but I was much more accurate overall with the shots I hit with this club. On two of the par 5’s on the Whirlwind Devil’s Claw course I used this club off the tee and was able to confidently strike the ball and put it in the center of the fairway. On several shots from the fairway I was able to control the ball and put it in position for my next shot. Confidence that this club would do the work allowed me to swing easier and hit more accurate shots.
As I said, not every shot was great, but on my missed shots the club was more forgiving than my current 3-wood. This is due to the Compression Channel technology — since my VR driver review I learned that this technology was designed around the fact that better players’ mis-hits are more often low on the clubface (hitting the ball thin). The Compression Channel is designed to give the clubface additional flex at the bottom to add forgiveness and yield more distance and a better shot when the ball is hit low on the club face. Hear Tom Stites explain more about how the Compression Channel technology works in this video from the 2010 PGA Merchandise Show Outdoor Demo Day.
The VR STR8-FIT 3-wood has a pleasingly solid sound, a standard “plink” similar to my current SQ Sumo 3-wood and other metal 3-woods on the market. There are no strange or out of the ordinary acoustics in this club.
ADDITIONAL NOTES ON THE VR STR8-FIT DRIVER
The two rounds I played with the VR STR8-FIT 3-wood were the same first two rounds I played the VR STR8-FIT driver (I tested that club on the range for that review). The driver had many of the same characteristics on the course that I am describing here in the 3-wood — great weighting and a solid feel that allowed me to swing easier and let the club do the work, which resulted in many good drives. I drove the ball well in all three range sessions and in my first test round, not as well in my second test round (I think due to swinging a bit too hard and fast), but I have a lot of confidence in this driver, and it is now in my bag for the 2010 season.
Like the VR STR8-FIT driver, the VR STR8-FIT fairway wood is another winner that combines traditional design with innovative new technology, allowing players of all skill levels to easily work the ball. The Compression Channel technology will give low- and high-handicappers alike better overall feel and more forgiveness on misses low on the clubface. The precise adjustability will give better players the ability to precisely adjust the club for their particular game, and average golfers will gain more confidence knowing they can adjust the club to counteract swing flaws on any given day.
I can’t say this enough – I love this club! And as soon as possible I will be getting this club into my bag for the 2010 season.
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.