In 2009 Nike Golf introduced its line of Victory Red irons, which featured three different models for three levels of play — The VR Forged TW Blades for better players, the VR Forged Split Cavity Irons for low- to mid-handicappers and the VR Cast Full Cavity Irons for mid-to high-handicappers. Now Nike Golf has updated and (slightly) renamed the VR line for 2011 to be the new VR Pro line, again consisting of three iron models — the VR Pro Blades for better players, the VR Pro Combo Irons for low- to mid-handicappers and the VR Pro Cavity Irons for mid- to high-handicappers. The VR Pro line retains the classic look and feel of the previous VR line, and (finally) reintroduces a club design that fans of Nike Golf have been asking about for the last several years — the Pro Combo iron.
The Pro Combo was one of Nike Golf’s more successful iron designs, and some Nike Golf equipment aficionados (myself included) say it’s one of the best, if not the best, irons they have produced to date, perhaps with the exception of the current VR line. We’ll have to see if the new VR Pro Combo irons can live up to the reputation of their predecessors, and from the looks of the sleek new design and initial comments by other Nike Golf fans it looks like this is a distinct possibility.
A few weeks ago Nike Golf sent me a set of the new 2011 VR Pro Combo Irons to test and review. I’ve tested the VR Pro Combos on the range as well as in a couple of rounds on the course, and I share the results of my tests here:
FIRST IMPRESSION: DESIGN/APPEARANCE
Right out of the box you know this is a special set of irons. Clean and classic describes the design, and the gleaming chromed forged steel grabs your attention immediately. The set consists of blades for the 8, 9 and PW, split cavity backs for the 5, 6 and 7 irons, and pocket cavity backs for the 3 and 4 irons. If you want learn more about the Pro Combo set makeup you can find more information in the press release and in the VR Pro microsite at nikegolf.com.
The 8-PW are all-chrome blades, the 3-7 irons have a beautiful matte finish inside the back cavity with chrome around the outside, and the soles of all irons are all chrome. The new VR Pro Combo logo and Nike swoosh are on the back of each iron, and the straight line of the muscle back/split cavity/pocket cavity complete the clean look of the back of the iron. As a side note, you’ll be able to personalize your VR Pro Combos starting in Spring 2011. The stock shafts are True Temper Dynamic Gold, and the stock grips are Nike VR Tour Velvet by Golf Pride. Custom options are available for both shafts and grips.
Simply put, the VR Pro Combo is a beautiful, clean, classic iron design that’s loaded with cutting edge technology.
FIRST IMPRESSION: PERFORMANCE
Both on the range and on the course I immediately noticed how solid these irons are. They have a great feel when you strike the ball, they are forgiving (especially as you progress from the short to the long irons) but still provide good feedback from mis-hit shots. A plus, scratch or low handicap golfer will really do these irons justice, but a mid-handicapper (like myself) can play these irons because of the forgiving design.
The VR Pro Combos promote a high ball flight, and that is consistent throughout the set — all clubs produced shots that were higher than my current irons, and as the clubs progress from the short to long irons that high ball flight is maintained, allowing shots to land softly even with the long irons. It’s easy to control the distance with these irons (I hit these exactly the same distance as my second generation Pro Combo Tour irons) as they promote a consistent shot from club to club.
They are very workable, and I felt I had great control over the ball with these irons. Spin control was also good, and there was no noticeable difference between what I am used to with my clubs with pre-2011 grooves and the VR Pro Combos with the new USGA and R&A conforming X3X grooves (more on this below).
APPEARANCE AT ADDRESS
A thin topline and classic iron profile are what you see at address. The toplines are slightly thicker than a blade, about the same as my Pro Combo Tour irons, and the 3 and 4 iron actually have a slightly thicker topline than the rest of the set. A slight offset promotes forgiveness and confidence. You can’t see any of the pocket cavity in the long irons or the split cavity in the mid irons at address. These are gorgeous irons to look at when you’re over the ball.
The VR Pro Combos are extremely workable, and it’s easy to shape the ball right or left throughout the set. The high ball flight allows you to land the ball softly from a variety of distances. I have good control of the ball with these irons, and with a solid downward strike I can spin the ball when I need to.
The VR Pro Combo irons promote a high ball flight throughout the set. Whether I’m using a short, middle or long iron, I am able to consistently produce shots that fly high and land softly.
Distance control was exceptional with the VR Pro Combos. I was able to rely on distance being consistent from shot to shot and from club to club. The high ball flight also added to distance control, as I was able to land the ball softly and consistently.
SPIN CONTROL WITH NEW GROOVES
The VR Pro Combos feature new conforming X3X grooves — this means there are more grooves on each club face, and the groves are deeper and closer together. This groove configuration yields a result that is very similar, if not identical, to pre-2011 non-conforming grooves. For me there was no noticeable difference in the spin produced by these irons compared to my irons with pre-2011 grooves. I was able to effectively spin the ball when I needed to with these irons.
I feel I can be very accurate with these irons, especially the short irons. I feel very confident when playing the VR Pro Combos, and confidence inspires performance. Whether I have a 5-iron or a pitching wedge in hand, I feel I can put the ball close to the flag when I have to.
These irons have terrific feel, very solid on shots that are struck near the center of the face. The short irons have an especially pure feel, and the middle and long irons feel very smooth through the ball. They also give great feedback on shots that are less than perfect.
The VR Pro Combos have a great balance of feel and forgiveness. Designed for players of varying abilities — from the advanced player to the mid-handicapper — they produce a great shot from a solid strike while still giving a decent result from mis-hit shots. The long irons (3 & 4) have game improvement characteristics built in — the pocket cavity puts weight further back in club head to help get the ball in the air and increase forgiveness.
The VR Pro Combo irons have solid acoustics, that great sound you expect from a player’s iron when the ball leaves the middle of the club face.
The VR Pro Combo irons are a true “instant classic” from Nike Golf. From the precise short iron blades, through the solid split cavity middle irons to the smooth, forgiving pocket cavity long irons, this third generation Pro Combo iron could very well be the best iron design Nike Golf has developed to date. Combining solid feel, forgiveness and playability, the VR Pro Combos are perfect for the better player and mid-handicapper alike. If you are serious about your golf game and are looking for a clean, classic iron design that incorporates the most up-to-date technology, the VR Pro Combos deserve serious consideration. I dearly love my second generation Pro Combo OS and Tour irons and never thought I would find something I liked more, but I’ve found a new favorite in the new VR Pro Combo irons.
Have you tried the VR Pro Combos yet? If you have, let us know what you think in the comments below.
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.