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Nike Golf – The #1 Golf Company in the World?

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Nike – Wants To Be #1 In Golf Industry

(Written By: Tony Covey aka: GolfSpy_T) Rumors of Nike Golf’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. I would know. I started a few of them.

Not long ago I told some friends that I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Nike left the golf business as soon as the current crop of endorsement deals expired. Tiger can keep his Sunday red, but the swoosh is getting the hell out of Dodge, and it’s not looking back. Nike isn’t serious about golf.

The evidence is there. TaylorMade isn’t simply ahead right now. With a strong tour presence and aggressive marketing campaigns ripe with harvests of hyperbole, they are dominating. The competition…Callaway, Cleveland, Nike, they’re docile, passive. Good dog. They’re practically hibernating.

All but the most loyal Nike fanboys would certainly agree that Nike Golf has been especially quiet this season. The spring’s “Speed Trial” thing never really caught fire, and apart from a couple of putters, Tiger shoes, and the launch of the fitness-centric NG360 initiative, Nike basically slept through the summer…and fall. They didn’t look the least bit interested in being the #1 Golf Company in the World.

What I saw this season was a company that failed to stir emotions, a company completely unable to generate even the smallest amount of lasting buzz.  2012 belonged to somebody else…anybody else really. It was a year of RocketBallz, and velocity slots; orange drivers, all-black drivers, purple and blue ones too. Mizuno hit with the 59′s. Cobra and Callaway made color legit. PING proved it could finally compete on aesthetics, and when TaylorMade wasn’t busy buying Adams, they ruled the golf world like kings. Nike, the largest sporting goods company in the world; they were barely a footnote. But that’s golf, and more to the point; that’s Nike Golf.

Nike doesn’t care about being the #1 Golf Company in the World.

I Hate Nike Golf

This guy hates Nike Golf. That’s what you’re thinking, right? This is how my job goes. I say something nice about a company…I’m in their pocket. Something negative, we’ll it must be personal. I’ve got it in for ‘em.

Wrong…and wronger. And as long as I’m clearing up misconceptions, let’s be clear about one more thing; this is not a review. I attended an event. I talked to some people. I had fun. I sent some tweets. There were presentations. Nike put lots of stuff on the table (literally and figuratively). This article is a reflection of that experience, but once again… THIS IS NOT A REVIEW.

Moving on…

Search the Internets, you probably won’t find anybody doing objective data-driven reviews who has been more complimentary to Nike over the last couple of years. I am most definitely not a guy who hates Nike Golf. Whether its wedges, irons, or woods, on performance alone, Nike has consistently been near the top.

Scoff if you’d like at what I’m about to tell you, but here’s the deal. While they’ve no doubt shot themselves in the foot with their unwavering dedication to one questionable made for shaft after another, and a near total lack of emphasis on custom fitting; all other things being equal, Nike is producing among the very best drivers in golf – top 3, year after year.  #believeit

If Nike Golf has 99 problems, the gear ain’t one.

What Nike has is a huge perception problem. Stop me if you’ve heard any of these before…better yet, stop me if you haven’t:

  • Nike is a shoe company that makes golf clubs
  • …and those clubs are garbage
  • Nike hasn’t earned anything in golf…they bought their way in
  • Without Tiger Woods, Nike would be nothing
  • Nike’s RZN golf balls feel like rocks
  • Nike doesn’t really care about selling golf clubs

Sometimes perceptions reflect reality, but even when they don’t the ugly truth is that perceptions usually prove to be more important than what’s real.

That said, there is some truth in some of those, so let’s put it all on the table right now.

Absolutely Nike bought their way into the golf business. The days of club inventors making their bones selling clubs out of their trunks are over, and they have been for quite some time. In a game dominated by TaylorMade, Callaway, Titleist, and others, you don’t spend simply to win, you spend for the privilege of competing. Those who can’t pony up the buy-in money play their game at the kiddie table. That’s just how it is.

And yeah…Nike’s seat was paid for largely with Tiger Woods. He put Nike Golf on the map, and to this day (perhaps in dwindling numbers) guys have full bags of Nike clubs because of the Tiger effect. It remains true that as Tiger goes, so does Nike golf. When he’s not winning majors, Nike isn’t selling clubs…at least not like they did when Tiger was the undisputed #1.

And oh absolutely, Nike’s 1st generation RZN golf balls do feel like rocks. Put your hand up if you’d like to see Nike scrap RZN and bring back the One Tour. Ok…put your hands down…it’s not going to happen. RZN really is, and it’s not going away.

The rest of the list; it’s less cut and dry. It’s where perception and reality diverge.

Nike clubs aren’t garbage…at least not anymore. Once upon a time maybe Tiger won with inferior equipment. Those were the early days of Nike Golf, but they’ve gotten much, much better, and over the years; it hasn’t been just Tiger winning with Nike. Trevor Immelman, Lucas Glover, Stewart Cink, and Charl Schwartzel have all won majors as Nike staffers. Other Major winners (Louis Oosthuizen) have won with some Nike in the bag too. Whether they bought it or earned it; whatever flawed perceptions exist, Nike is a legitimate golf company. #believeit

On a larger scale, Nike isn’t a shoe company; they’re a sporting goods company. More to the point they’re the #1 sporting goods company in the world. They’re a major player in every sport they’re involved with. Whether it’s soccer (or metric football as some like to call it), basketball, or even skateboarding, if Nike competes, Nike almost always wins.

Which brings me to the last item on my list.

Nike doesn’t really care about selling golf clubs.

That one is mine.

What I’ve learned as a golf equipment writer is that every company has a unique personality. Its own vibe. Some are straight-faced and tightly wound. Some are thinned-skin and delicate. Some are more fun than others, and others are more fun that you might think. And then there’s Nike Golf.

In many respects Nike’s vibe reflects the Pacific Northwest (Portland) culture. Nike Golf as a company is laid back, friendly, and welcoming. You couldn’t ask for nicer people to work with, but I swear to Mount St. Helens, there has never been anything in any interaction with the team at Nike that truly led me to believe they give a damn about being one of the industry’s major players. At times, I’ve wondered if they’d care if they never sold another golf club. While TaylorMade is kicking ass and taking names, Nike is rolling over begging for a belly rub.

Sure…having Tiger on staff, that’s cool. Winning majors…that’s cool too. But hey man, this golf thing is fun, so let’s relax, and have a good time, right?

If Nike’s not winning at golf (and they’re not), the reason is simple. Nike Golf isn’t really competing. They’re just having some fun. They’re not trying to win. Or so I thought.

The Same Ol’ Nike…or Maybe Not

You’ll have to forgive me for expecting more of the same out of Nike’s recent “Non-Stop Innovation” 2013 Launch Event. Actually, I probably should be forgiven for being surprised there was a launch event. As I said at the onset, I believed Nike’s quiet 2012 was a sign that Nike Golf was all but done.

As is the trend these days (one that’s not going away, I might add) the presentation from Nike Golf President, Cindy Davis, was streamed live over the Internet.  There was loud music, a speed-painted rendering of the new VRS Covert Driver, and the assertion that THIS is “The most exciting club introduction in the history of Nike Golf”.

The reality of the equipment game is that you can substitute “Nike Golf” with the name of any other golf company, and in one form or another that same statement will be made multiple times year in and year out. This year is always better. It’s a declaration that has come to mean nothing in the golf industry. And yet, despite falling back on an industry cliché, something was different this time. Something very un-Nike was happening.

Covert Doesn’t Begin to Cover It

Nike did an insane job keeping the Covert driver under-wraps. It wasn’t spotted on the range at any PGA events. We weren’t sitting on a pile of “Spy Pics”. Few knew it was red before Nike started leaking images, and fewer still knew anything about the Covert being the world’s first cavity back driver. Nike’s new approach to adjustability…barely a whisper until MyGolfSpy thought to play around with a couple of the teaser images in Photoshop.

This isn’t how Nike operates. Stuff usually leaks, and they smile about it. Not this time. This was perfectly executed TaylorMade-type stuff, and that’s no insignificant detail.

Making a Statement

What you guys weren’t able to see…what wasn’t streamed live on the Internet…was a series of product presentations from Nike Golf. For the US media in attendance, Nike cut right to the chase with an 8:00AM presentation on the new club line up. If you’re looking for the 10 second highlight reel, it goes about like this:

Here’s the new driver. It has a cavity. It’s red. It’s got a completely redesigned adjustable hosel. And oh by the way…

We got in this business to be the #1 golf company in the world!

And that was barely the beginning.

“The difference between the competitor’s adjustability system and Nike’s is the difference between a donkey and a racehorse”

Before the presentation would end the formerly affable Tom Stites, Nike’s Director of Product Innovation, and his team would systematically illustrate why Nike believes its new FlexLoft system is superior to Cobra’s MyFly/SmartPad combo, Titleist’s SureFit, and TaylorMade’s FCT/ASP setup. In a very un-Nike-like fashion he mentioned the latter two by name, and the really crazy thing; by the time Tom was done showing charts and graphs, and projecting laser beams from driver faces, he had made a believer out of me. That’s right I #believeit.

[The difference between the competitor's adjustability system and Nike's] “is the difference between a donkey and a racehorse”Tom Stites

Just in case there’s any confusion, this time around, Nike isn’t the donkey. And Tom Stites isn’t looking for a belly rub.

Nike Has The Current Gold Standard In Adjustability

Now all the adjustability in the world won’t make up for suspect performance, and truth be told, I haven’t yet taken so much as a single swing with the VRS Covert, so I really don’t know if the redesigned NexCor face, or the huge cavity in the sole are genuinely everything we’re being told that they are. Those are topics that require more investigation, but as far as the adjustability aspect of it goes…

Nike’s goal was to create a robust system that was as easy to use as an iPhone (no manual required). Nike’s FlexLoft system is wholly unlike Titleist’s SureFit System, which Stites described it as the “anti-iPhone”. Nike isn’t playing nice any more.

Nike’s FlexLoft should prove to be easier for the average golfer to understand than offerings from TaylorMade or Titleist (the Titleist one in-particular, while robust absolutely requires the manual). Cobra’s MyFly, which I love, is so simple my mother could figure it out (almost), but doesn’t allow for independent face angle adjustment. TaylorMade’s FCT/ASP combo – a gearhead’s dream – falls somewhere in between.

SmartPad, like ASP, is a ground-based visual-only technology. Nike’s FlexLoft actually decouples loft and face angle. It’s one of only two systems I’ve seen where both face angle and loft changes are real, and can be measured even when the sole isn’t grounded (FYI…Harrison has the other).

The Most Complete Hosel-Adjustable System In Golf

The benefit, Nike claims, is an adjustable hosel that produces significantly increased vertical dispersion (launch angle), and significantly wider lateral dispersion (left to right) over any competitor’s system. The simple version; Nike’s FlexLoft system works better and does more.

FlexLoft is, for now anyway, the most complete hosel-adjustable system in golf. #believeit

From what I’ve seen thus far, I think it’s safe to say that the VRS Covert will be the single most compelling driver released during the first half of 2013. As with any club that doesn’t conform to outdated ideas off tradition, I’m certain there will be detractors…the “no serious golfer would ever play a red driver” crowd. For the life of me I can’t fathom who would qualify as a more serious golfer than Tiger Woods, or Rory McIlroy, but I guess they must exist, and they must be so serious in fact that they’re more concerned with color than performance.

In actuality, serious, in this particular case, is little more than a euphemism for tight-assed. The cavity, and the red thing won’t work to Nike’s detriment, and neither will the swoosh on the crown. If it’s good enough for Johnny Vegas (he told me he loves it…and I think he means it), it’s good enough for me…and you too. Get over yourself already.

Nike Covert Driver – Technical Details

  • Covert will be available in 2 models – a 460cc Performance model and a 430cc Tour model. The tour will launch lower and spin less.
  • Both models are adjustable in 1° increments from 8.5° to 12.5° degrees
  • Nominal (actual measured) loft of the heads is 10.5 degrees
  • World’s first cavity back driver relocates mass to the perimeter and directly behind face. The design also dramatically reduces crown vibrations, which improves sound and feel
  • Updated NexCor face technology features a 45% larger hot zone
  • Stock shafts are the Kuro Kage Black (Performance) and Kuro Kage Silver (Pro) both have Nike graphics but are otherwise identical to the aftermarket versions
  • Nike has not yet determined if sleeves/tips will be available for retail purchase
  • Tour players will use the same sleeves

The #1 Golf Company in the World

In the interest of moving things along, and staying under 4000 words, I’m going to do everyone reading (and Nike Golf too) a disservice. I’m going to skip ahead through Nike’s updated line of RZN golf balls (they fixed the sound/feel problems…and maybe the distance issues too), their 2013 footwear lineup (including the 13.4oz. Lunar Control shoe), and the apparel collection too.

It’s all interesting (none of it more compelling than a shiny red driver with a giant cavity in the sole), and we’ll cover all or most of it in due time when we start reviewing some of this stuff, but the real say what? moment of the two day event was that statement about being the #1 Golf Company in the World.

Let me say that one more time in case you missed it. Nike’s plan is to become the #1 Golf Company in the World. And here’s the thing…they’re not kidding. #believeit

Now I know what some of you are thinking. There’s absolutely no way Nike (not a real golf company) can overtake TaylorMade…or even Callaway (a distant #2). Once upon a time people said the same thing about TaylorMade. Guys inside Callaway laughed when Mark King said TaylorMade would be the #1 Driver in Golf. Who’s laughing now? TaylorMade wasn’t born #1. They took care of their business. Nike could do the same.

I’m not saying you shouldn’t be skeptical. We’re talking about a company that’s been in the golf business for over a decade, and hasn’t yet been able to make a dent in the marketplace. A ding maybe, but not a dent.

But then again, Nike’s got a fairly solid track record when it comes to being #1 at stuff, and empires fall every day – even TMaG-sized empires – even in golf.

A History of Winning

Consider this: Nike has overtaken Adidas as the #1 brand in metric football. To me, that actually sounds like a much more daunting task. And before you start yammering about credibility, reputation, etc., consider that Nike decided they wanted to be the #1 brand in skateboarding (a world foreign to me), and so, despite initially being received as a bunch of posers (I think I’ve got the lingo down), they were able to overcome that perception, and actually reach that top spot. Nike? The #1 Skateboarding Company in the World? Yup. #believeit

Once again, making it in golf has to be easier than that.

Still not convinced of what Nike is capable of when it’s determined? Should we talk about basketball? College football? Like I said, Nike’s got a fairly solid track record with this stuff.

I’m not saying it will happen. Nike could fall flat on its swoosh, but there are some compelling reasons why Nike’s plan could work, and it all starts with a bright red cavity-backed driver…and more cash than Nike Golf has ever had to work with before.

Nike 101

To understand why this time is different, you need a very rudimentary understanding of how money gets divvied up at Nike. Every year the different segments (golf, football, basketball, etc.) make their plans and plead their cases to the corporate decision makers. And year after year the bulk of the money goes to football (metric) and basketball and other sports where RZN isn’t. This year, however; things are different. More money than ever before has been allocated to the golf division, which is going to allow Nike Golf to do things it has never been able to do before (like compete with TaylorMade dollar for dollar).

You already know where some of the money is going. While Nike is still not on the record about Rory, or Nick Watney, or Kyle Stanley, I was told that the names we know about are little more than the tip of the iceberg as far as Nike’s plans to revamp its PGA Tour Staff is concerned. There very likely will be more (many more) PGA Tour guys playing Nike than we’ve seen in previous years, and they’re all going to be playing that shiny red cavity back driver we keep talking about.

You’re not going to beat TaylorMade by trying to be TaylorMade. One point of differentiation between Nike’s approach and TaylorMade’s; for Nike it’s not about spread. They’re not concerned with topping the Darrell Survey. They don’t care about club counts. What Nike cares about is winning…and winning each and every week. When you see the winner’s bag, they want you to see Nike. The other stuff…the #1 this, or the #1 that… it doesn’t matter. This is the Al Davis model. Just win, baby!

When you see red drivers on TV, that’s Nike building the same sort of association with red that TaylorMade has developed with white. If it’s red, it’s Nike. Sorry, Cobra-PUMA, Ian Poulter, and Jonas Blixt, Nike just cornered the market on red drivers. How do you feel about yellow? The blue is nice.

To help cement that association, sell some clubs, and hopefully begin to develop the type of reputation that can carry a company to #1 status (or at least put them in the conversation), Nike is going nearly all in with that shiny red cavity back driver. Over 50% of the marketing spend for the golf division will go towards promoting the Covert driver. It’s a huge risk, but nobody, not even Nike, can get to #1 by playing it safe. The VRS Covert isn’t simply the signature product for 2013; it is the signature product for the entire 10+ year history of Nike Golf. If they didn’t before, Nike most certainly cares about selling golf clubs. They’re determined to win, and they’ll spend to do it.

The Red Devil’s Advocate

Let’s assume Nike fires on all cylinders, and the VRS Covert proves the be the hottest selling club in the comparatively brief history of Nike Golf. If we can assume it offers competitive performance (and it will) I’ll go on record right now with a prediction that the Covert will be the biggest retail success in Nike Golf’s History. I’ll go so far as to say that if Nike proves to be half a TaylorMade where the marketing is concerned, the Nike Covert driver is going to be the “it” club of 2013. It should be this season’s RocketBallz. It deserves to be. The VRS Covert has the potential to give Nike instant credibility (the kind they’ve never had) on a mass-market scale. I’ve seen the club (and the competition’s clubs), and I #believeit.

The only question is whether or not Nike’s marketing team can sell it? They better. It’s step 1 to becoming #1.

I know…slow down cowboy, let’s not get too far ahead of ourselves. If the formula was as simple as pay lots of PGA players, paint driver, do a little marketing, become #1 in golf, somebody would have done it a while ago…wait… never mind.

In fairness, TaylorMade was #1 before they painted a driver white, but the TMaG example illustrates that no single thing can take a company to #1. All the pieces have to fall into place, and there’s one piece we haven’t talked about yet.

TaylorMade has to screw up, just like Callaway screwed up.

In 2003, with TaylorMade already gaining ground, Callaway, then maker of the #1 Driver in golf, released the ERC Fusion. It was revolutionary for its time. Its carbon fiber crown would become the signature of modern Callaway drivers. Unfortunately, Callaway burdened the driver with a retail price over $600. Consumers hated it, and those who actually bought it suffered through above average failure rates. The club was, in nearly every respect, a colossal disaster.  One year later TaylorMade took over the #1 spot and hasn’t looked back.

Callaway for its part still hasn’t fully recovered, and to this day, there’s a measurable chunk of the golfing demographic that still associates Callaway with the ERC Fusion (and some equally questionable follow-ups). They left the brand, and they haven’t looked back either. The moral of the story is that one big mistake can completely upend a golf company. Who’s to say TaylorMade is immune?

What If….

What if TaylorMade falls behind on adjustability? What if they released a driver that simply didn’t perform? What if they overestimate the public’s willingness to pay top dollar (and then some) for a fairway wood? TaylorMade might fail to adapt to changing market conditions. They might not recognize when it’s time to rein in the hype machine.

A TaylorMade mistake could happen. It might not need to be a big one, but Nike needs a mistake, and for their part, they’ll need to be perfect while they wait for it.

Today’s reality is that, regardless of how you feel about TaylorMade’s products, or the company itself, their foot is firmly on the accelerator, and thus far they aren’t driving recklessly. TaylorMade mistakes are few and far between – almost non-existent really. Catching up to them won’t be easy. Non-Stop Innovation doesn’t happen overnight. Nike has no delusions.

There’s not a definitive timetable anyone at Nike is talking about. There’s been no declaration of a #fiveyearwar, but there is a plan, and more importantly there’s a new attitude at Nike golf. There’s an edge to their previously chill demeanor. They’re focused. They’re building buzz, and they’re calling out the competition. It’s a very different, more exciting Nike Golf, and if the Covert driver sets the tone the way Nike needs it to, it’s going to be very interesting to see how this all plays out over the next several years.

Have Your Say

What do you think of the new VRS Covert Driver?  Does Nike have what it takes to be the #1 Golf Company in the World?

{ 71 comments… read them below or add one }

rookieblue7 November 14, 2012 at 10:23 am

Well written and articulate T. And it looked like you might’ve had a little humbling experience while there, even if it was just a softening of your older views on Nike, lol.

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D.Ronsky November 14, 2012 at 10:40 am

I have to say that for the first time since taylormade first came out with the adjustable hosel, this is a major innovation to the golf market, in driver style/performance and adjustablility. Got to give kudos to nike and hope that this driver does really preform. Still interested to see how taylormade reacts to this innovation from nike; nike can only hope it’s a new type of ASP…. Barf

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Cobra nut November 14, 2012 at 10:57 am

I may just have to give this thing a go, I was all set to buy the new Cobra Amp Cell driver but after this well written piece I may wish to hold off. It seems that this Nike company may have gotten my attention with this driver. Any word on pricing on the driver yet? And are the fairway woods able to do the same thing as the driver? And please do not tell me they have an iron set comparable to the Amps I may lose sleep if you do lol, thanks for a good piece of information.

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GolfSpy T November 14, 2012 at 11:06 am

Retail price is $299 for the Performance Model, $399 for the Tour. They’ll hit the street February 8th.

The fairway woods (and hybrids) are similarly designed to the driver. The Tour models are adjustable, while the Performance models have traditional glued hosels. Retail is 199.99/249.99 for the fairways and 179.99/229.99 for the hybrids.

Nike will also be releasing VRS Covert irons as well (this post was creeping up on 4000 words already so something had to be left out). The talking points are similar to TaylorMade’s RocketBladez…more distance on low on the face mishits. They’re also designed to hide the cavity at address. They’re definitely a game improvement iron, but generally speaking I think the trend is to move away from shovel-esque designs in the GI category. What we’re seeing this year is more streamlined…the type of thing that could entice mid-handicappers to think seriously about Game Improvement again. The Nike VRS Covert Irons are definitely cut from that mold.

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stevenhw8 November 14, 2012 at 11:07 am

Great read, T! As usual.

1. To me it will boil down to performance. AFAIK, these are the only 2 models with independent adjustability and the only thing standing between the VRS Covert and the title of THE driver of 2013 is Cobra’s AMP Cell. The RAZR Fit Xtreme was just some of the same old and what will be TM’s move? More white? Driver with a speed pocket? From my perspective as a consumer, 1 driver 5 lofts is the only thing that would make me spend $299 or $399 for a new toy.

These are the 2 models I’ll be testing in February when a golf show comes to town. Hopefully MGS will have a head-to-head match up by then!

And yes, I also believe they do have what it takes. They got the money (which basically covers all aspects) and now they got the executives’ nod. Only question left is… do they want to?

Grab the popcorn… 2013 will be a great year!

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stevenhw8 November 14, 2012 at 11:09 am

Damn those new shoes look schweeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeet! Perhaps you’ll consider writing a second part about the gear you left out? :)

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cdvillasenor November 14, 2012 at 11:14 am

Good write up, T! I would probably group myself in with the Nike fanboys but I didn’t start playing their irons until last year (Pro Combos) and still don’t play their woods/hybrids. However, I really love their apparel/shoes/accessories. It’s nice to see them pushing to become on of the top companies in golf and I’m looking forward to their offerings in the Spring.

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BK in Wisconsin November 14, 2012 at 11:17 am

Terrific review ;-)
(couldn’t resist)

Seriously, that was a fantastic article that answered questions I didn’t even know I had. Nice work.

BK

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Super Tuna November 14, 2012 at 12:10 pm

Hah! The dig at the PNW attitude had me snorting my unpronoucable coffee product just a bit. Even so, leave us alone : p

Two things
A: I’m very much looking forward to trying out the whole wood line. Now that they’re finally giving us a deep face option through the “Tour” version, I might finally find a Nike driver I can use.
B: I really hope they get aboard the custom fitting train and get some carts out there or something. It’s hard for many people to argue with a sales rep who will see you hit driver Y, then had you a TM or Titleist driver with a shaft from the cart that fits you better and gives an immediate 8-10 yard gain. When someone’s buying a driver already, going from $399 to $499 doesn’t mean much to most people. Out driving their playing partners for a few weeks before they escalate as well seems well worth the cost.

Get on the fitting train Nike. I appluad you for not giving another “made for” as the standard option but that isn’t going to be good enough to upend TM, who markets just as well but also fits people quite well so it’s hard to beat the performance AND they take care of the gear heads at the same time.

Fitting carts. Custom fit locations. Rep’s who actually know squat about you’re own clubs. Please and thank you.

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stevenhw8 November 14, 2012 at 12:40 pm

+1 to that.
I went to a golf show last year. After my Mizuno fitting I stopped by at Nike looking for a driver.
The guy gave me a driver with PX 6.0 and here hit it. It felt bad, distance was bad, everything was off.
Sorry, we don’t have other options. Take it or leave it. LOL

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GolfSpy T November 14, 2012 at 12:46 pm

Here’s the real shame in all of this; Nike has one of the best, if not THE best shaft upgrade policies in the industry. Basically Nike puts non-stock shafts into 1 of 4 upgrade tiers (where pricing is concerned). So yeah…there’s almost always going to be an upgrade charge, but what’s really cool…nearly EVERY shaft you can imagine fits into one of those tiers. If they don’t have a shaft on hand, they’ll go get it for you, and the price will fall into one of those 4 tiers I mentioned.

If you want it, you can get it through Nike, but they don’t do a very good job of letting the public know that.

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GolfSpy Matt November 14, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Forget the public, I worked in golf retail for a good amount of time and I didn’t know this until X and I talked about it the other day.

Good read, T.

-Matt

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Bill November 14, 2012 at 12:59 pm

Nicely written, and I must say, this has elevated my interest somewhat. It would be nice to see TM get knocked down a notch (I’ve pretty much tried everything of theirs, and own none of it). They have proven that you don’t have to make great stuff, you just have to convince the Great Unwashed that it’s great. ;) Sorry, I digress… IMO, in order to make this work, different shafts are going to have to be offered with this ‘one size fits all’ head. Differing swing speeds, AOAs, etc., are NOT going to be satisfied with one shaft. And they are absolutely going to have to offer the tips for sale to guys who want different shafts for different courses, conditions, etc. (me). But then again, to be #1 they will have to market to the 90+ handicappers, who are the bulk of the golfing public. So in all likely hood they will not market anything I will be interested in.

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nic November 14, 2012 at 2:07 pm

Great read! Thanks for the info. Can’t wait to get my hands on one for testing….

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nick clough November 14, 2012 at 2:34 pm

Looking swish isnt the only reason Mr Woods is and has been for the last decade plus, plastered in Nike deals, endorsements and the odd glove. Credit where credits due they sometimes absorb consumer feedback, digest enough to be polite and them ram the rest down your own throat. I dont know what would hurt more that, or paying for the ridiculous prices, upgrade fees, surplus charges and the rest of it for fad membership. Nike was born a fad and will remain one

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john man November 15, 2012 at 12:45 pm

hater

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Jonny B Good November 16, 2012 at 6:57 am

Oups… Somebody is frustrated I think! Taylormade staff or maybe a Titleist employee here?! Get ready man… These guys are up to something and you guys better beleive it! Its only starting!

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BritishGolfer November 14, 2012 at 2:56 pm

Very interesting read; regarding TaylorMade making a mistake I’ve heard from guys who have hit their new driver (that replaces the R11S) it is quite disappointing and thus would leave the door open for Nike to dominate the driver market. On the flipside, apparently the new fairway that replaces the RBZ is 10 yards longer and incredible to play, as are the new Rocketbladez irons. Will be a very interesting 2013 and a tough battle for the likes of Titleist, Mizuno, Callaway, Ping and Cobra.

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mygolfspy November 14, 2012 at 3:25 pm

“kreeeeeeeeeeeek”…said the door.

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lloyd January 31, 2013 at 4:52 pm

read the small print taylormade tested the new rbz stage 2 against the old burner not last years rbz and to gain 10+ more yards you have to be hitting the ball over 150mph to gain it
dont be fooled taylormade are the kings of marketing

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wdgolf November 14, 2012 at 2:59 pm

I’ll gladly hit the Covert, after reading this it’s the #1 club I want to try out this year with the new Amp in second.

I really hope Nike plans to release their adapters at a reasonable price though.

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GolfSpy T November 14, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Aftermarket tip availability is TBD. Nike’s legal team is working through potential liability issues. You know…some jackass doesn’t install the tip properly and the head flies off and injures or kills somebody.

Nike needs to make sure they can’t get dragged in to court because of it.

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wdgolf November 14, 2012 at 6:29 pm

How does TM mitigate this issue?

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GolfSpy T November 14, 2012 at 6:34 pm

While we have some experience with TMaG’s legal team, I don’t know what work-around they came up with. Callaway must have done the same. It’s also slightly possible that neither company seriously considered the legal ramifications, but I doubt it.

I’ve heard (unconfirmed) that Titleist doesn’t offer tips for the same reason.

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Brian November 15, 2012 at 3:37 pm

Legal issues should be no different than suppliers of components, and they seem to have figured it out. They sell heads, shafts, ferrules and grips to the great unwashed and seem to be satisfied they’re on solid legal ground.

IMO, I believe the OEMs are reluctant to sell the tips separately as they: a) want to sell the tip with one of their shafts; and b) their head may perform better (or worse) with a shaft they’ve never tested and their reputation is on the line.

Tony Castillo November 14, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Very good article and well written. I am using Nike VRS wedges and they work just great. The urge of getting this RED driver is there. I hope that Nike will go around Manila’s golf courses and have us try this new driver and their other stuff (a bandwagon?) as what TM and Ping are doing inclusive of club fitting. This for sure will make a major statement that Nike means no nonsense business.

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Three Guys Golf (@threeguysgolf) November 14, 2012 at 4:28 pm

No specific comment other to say that I can usually only make it through 4 sentences of a Golf tech heavy post without bailing out. Thankfully the tone of your post was perfect and engaging. Loved the mini-rant as well. I am one of those who never gave Nike any credit for equipment but now am a believer after putting the VR-S in my bag.

Good stuff as usual!

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Theoo November 14, 2012 at 4:37 pm

@Golfspy T- Do you ever see Nike or any other big OEM offering club components for purschase only instead of having to buy the full club?

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sdcotte November 14, 2012 at 10:27 pm

Great read. Thought about buying the new 913, might have to change that and try the Covert.

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frank November 15, 2012 at 5:03 am

great column!!! I have read numerous reviews “on this site” that had the Nike clubs up in the ranks. I have never once hit it though. Mainly due to the fact that when you walk into a dicks or GG they hand you callaway, Ping, Titleist, and TMAG. Nike really can’t be found “in your face”. Nike has to get over that hump as well. The red is alurring to a degree but people need to “WANT” to try the thing.

The main grab with the RBZ was the crazy 17 more yards add. Nike has to hit the homerung with the add campain to ensrue people are going itno stores asing to see it.

When speaking to basketball shoes everybody wanted the “Jordan’s” and Nike made it on that. They didn’t have to be in your face with add in the store but having Mike and the campain I WANA BE LIKE MIKE made everyone want those shoes. They make god awful renditions now and people line up and sometimes fight to buy them for $200 plus. That is where Nike needs to go if they want this #1 ranking.

Golf is different and people want to know where your product is, go pick it up, and go right to the hitting bay or range. Sitting in the corner of big box stores is going to earn a nice dusty look on that high polish red.

BTW…anything with the fairway woods? or are they only competeing with the divers for now?

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Brian November 15, 2012 at 3:41 pm

Looks to me like the photo immediately above “Nike 101″ in the article is a fairway – or maybe a hybrid. Look at the size of the face relative to the hosel and the hand the head is resting on. There are also fewer scoring lines on the face than the driver photo.

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RAT November 15, 2012 at 6:10 am

No matter they must prove it before stating it is the best ever..!This is a gimmick for sure .

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David W November 15, 2012 at 8:49 am

THIS IS NOT A REVIEW…LOL. Great article, I hope Nike does increase it’s Golf business. They won’t be able to do it without good equipment (sounds like they are heading that direction) and the more good equipment we have to choose from the better off we are! I haven’t hit a Nike iron since the slingshots and I was not a fan. I have hit the old Sasquatch driver and 3 wood and was pleasantly surprised. I think the new driver looks great, I just hope they offer colors other than red. I wouldn’t hit an inferior driver because it was the color I like but if they are comparable it would work it’s way into the decision.

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Tyk November 15, 2012 at 9:12 am

Enjoyed the article (NOT review!) as always T!

I have only gamed a couple Nike clubs, but for the last few years they’ve had several up on my radar as potential gamers, they just never seem to quite make in in the bag. I’ve worn and liked their shoes and clothes, disliked their golf balls (all of them), and always wondered how a company that will spend as much as they do on securing Tiger Woods can not capitalize on him in the club department.

The Covert is the first club ever from Nike that has me looking forward to seeing it and hitting it. So, something is different!

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jakesofa November 15, 2012 at 10:18 am

This is the type of article that brought me to mygolfspy. Thank you for you honest input into the “new” Nike golf.

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Gregh November 15, 2012 at 11:27 am

this sounds good but I have tested almost all of the new drivers and I think but am not sure that the weight of the stuff that goes into an adjustable driver’s hosel affects the numbers when it is tested. Example the more adjustablity the higher the spin rate. That said the fact that open or shut are no longer tied to higher or lower is a very good thing.

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DL November 15, 2012 at 12:28 pm

Not a fan of the name “Covert”… performance TBD.

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GolfSpy T November 17, 2012 at 8:00 am

“Covert” is because the cavity is hidden (at address anyway). Basically, visible technology that’s only in your face when you want it to be.

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Brian November 15, 2012 at 3:45 pm

While it appears there have certainly been covert operations to keep this hidden while in development, the name “Covert” probably couldn’t be a bigger misnomer, given the bright red colour of this beast. Regardless, I like it a lot – though it still needs to perform to make it into my bag.

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Joe Doctor November 15, 2012 at 9:55 pm

Wilson Deep Red anyone? Variety is the new spice of life, but white=Taylormade, Orange=Ricky Fowler, and Pink=Bubba . Adams new Drivers are focused on sound. If this hollow sole club sounds bad it will flop. Let’s hope the club’s sound has some “soul” when you hit it.

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orientalmuffin November 15, 2012 at 11:25 pm

Great article. I agree that Nike has to approach being number one from various angles i.e. allow for fittings, have the right product at the right time etc. However, I think it’s biggest obstacle is it’s own name ‘Nike’.

When people think of Nike, they think of a ‘giant corporation’, a ‘Commercial enterprise’. Nike is a vanilla term used to describe a sporting monolith (for lack of a better term). Same with Adidas. But Adidas did not (wisely) put their name to their golf clubs. They disassociated themselves from the golf club by using an established golfing name instead. A name that is virtually laser-etched into people’s minds as being a golf product – i.e. Taylormade.

That’s what I feel Nike should have done. And if they were not able to do this via purchasing a golfing name, then establish a new one. Then build it from the ground up to be number one. Do what Toyota did with Lexus. For the most part, Toyota has removed itself as much as possible from the Lexus brand so people will feel the name (Lexus) implies luxury and esteem. This made it easier for Toyota to compete with the german branded opposition.

Which is why I feel that Nike are unlikely to make it to No. 1. They’ll probably give it a good shake (so to speak) but they won’t get there. Or if they do, are not going to be able to maintain it.

Which is a shame. Because they have some good product out there (eg Nike pro-combo irons and the VRS Pro limited edition driver).

Anyway, I wish them luck!

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Drew November 16, 2012 at 10:23 am

I swapped out all of my Nike stuff for Callaway and Cleveland. Not sure if I will go Nike again but ya never know.

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frank November 16, 2012 at 11:09 am

Number don’t lie boys and girls. 2% down in 2010 4% down in 2011. this article is a great telling story to the nike era in golf. if they are making these stements at their releases then grabbing RORS and the other folks on the list GST states above it coul dbe telling in what they are trying to accomplish. star power is one thing et the equipment to back it up “along with the marketing” is the next in line.

I can’t beleive the “rumor” of 10 years at $250M is getting thrown around and the highest paid nike golfer Tiger is doing some good recruiting.

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frank November 16, 2012 at 11:10 am
kevin November 16, 2012 at 10:50 pm

i dont have a brand loyalty but lets say im seriously going to get fitted on driver when season over est coast started, i do hope it turns out to be swooth Cvt driver specially for its 299 price tag…..

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M November 17, 2012 at 8:05 am

Ok, so I think the only Nike golf club I ever tried was their very first driver. It’s been so long ago that I don’t even remember the name. That thing was so baseball bat aluminimum sounding that I never looked at another Nike club again. Had a guy a couple of years ago crack two driver heads and finally gave up and bought a Titleist 910.

That being said this is the first year since that first driver that I would even consider stopping by the PGA Show Nike tent. If the performance isn’t there than their toast for me for another 10 years. Period.

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Tony Castillo November 17, 2012 at 4:02 pm

I hope so too. The shafts on the stock drivers and irons are not good. They need to be changed always and that will require add-on expense. Better they offer heads so that we, the consumers, can have choices on shafts and fittings. I know that this will have a negative impact on economics because clubs will then be used for so many good golfing years.

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Craig November 23, 2012 at 7:22 am

At the end of the day it doesn’t matter how much marketing hype you give to any modern driver, it still isn’t new technology. If you remember, it was Tom Wishon who gave the world an adjustable driver over 17 yrs ago. So if you are just brand washed like 95% of the golfing world out there, sure feel free to keep trying to buy a better game. As most decent custom clubfitters in the industry know, it ain’t gonna happen

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Tony Castillo November 24, 2012 at 9:40 am

Custom fitters always says that off the rack clubs have shafts inferior compared to the aftermarket ones. If this is the case, why do club companies resort to this? Why don’t they use the real deal shafts? Price?

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lloyd December 13, 2012 at 2:39 pm

the thing nike needs to do is not just aim at the american market but the europe and uk market big time. i dont think nike is a big seller in the uk thats wot nike needs to change to gain more success with there clubs get it advertised on the tv make sure all top names are seen using it including tiger woods stream it on the net players testing it out make people believe its the best driver on the market like taylor made did brain wash people with the r11 range. ive used taylor made / ping / titleist clubs and now nike and be honest nike is just as good after all most of the forged irons from all companies are made in the same place just a different brand name its down to you wot you want to be seen using. for me its nike golf.

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Tony Castillo December 13, 2012 at 10:28 pm

Well, it is about time that off the rack clubs have the real deal shafts. Its really just a waste of money for us consumers to install the real deal shaft and waste the original ones. This is the reason why I always opt to buy just the heads and get the real deal shafts and have them fitted. I have TMs that I have installed new choiced shafts which performed much better. Thanks for the information and more power.

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steve December 14, 2012 at 1:35 pm

After selling Ignite Drivers 7 years back and some great shoes made by Nike gave up on them clubwise.Sold the customer a set of Pro Combo irons around 2005.After losing the 7 iron we were told no iron replacements available in Australasia.Customer was treated like he was a nuisance to them when he wrote letters to U.S.A

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Matt December 20, 2012 at 4:13 pm

Good article. I don’t question Nike’s innovation or the quality of their staff equipment. They aren’t lacking in design. Tom Stites is one the best in the industry. Unfortunately, the company still hasn’t proven to have the customer service, reliability, and manufacturing production quality of more traditional brands. Their percentage of discontent customers is still the highest in the industry. This is isn’t a “perception” problem, it’s a problem.

I would love to see the Covert revive Nike Golf, and bring up their service and quality for the every day consumer. I really think Nike’s fresh aesthetic and style could be crucial to attract the younger generation to preserve the health of the sport in the future.

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StarGolfGames December 27, 2012 at 10:32 am

Here’s some Nike scoop for everyone. In addition to Rory going to Nike, Nick Watney and Gary Woodland are going to be leaving Titleist for Nike. Plus a couple other Titleist pro’s are going to be moving to the swoosh soon. Be on the lookout for that announcement.

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Lawrence Kowalski December 27, 2012 at 2:53 pm

Did I miss the perforce data or was this whole article hype about Nike to kick up their sales? Sounds like a lot of hype with NO data to convince a cautious buyer. Has anyone with credibility even hit this thing?

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steve December 27, 2012 at 3:25 pm

Will have to improve their after sales customer service Big time in Australasia.Couldn`t get replacement irons for ones customers lost.Their gear is good but service not up there.

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bullwinkle December 27, 2012 at 9:16 pm

I loved the article, and I have to agree. I saw the Nike reps presentation to the PGA Superstore in Atlanta. The staff there were Adams fans prior to TM buying them, they were usually not Nike enthusiast. The single presentation changed most of their minds as it did mine. I was about to order the Cobra and I will be trying the Nike “Big Red” before I think of another driver. I’m not a Nike club fan but I’ve worn their shoes in every sport they made shoes for. They fit my feet but you have to buy 1 size larger to get that fit.

This is what MGS is all about.

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gunmetal December 28, 2012 at 11:33 am

No matter how great and technologically superior the Covert is, it absolutely won’t matter. Taylormade is king of drivers and will stay that way as long as they are willing to pay “whatever it takes” to say that. They pay guys on the Hooters tour to tee up their drivers. That’s insane! But every week the average joe sees countless TM clubs and TM can run their stupid commercials that say #1 Driver and more drivers than blah blah blah Nike….combined! Sad? Maybe. Reality? Absolutely.

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Ethan Karnes January 4, 2013 at 5:38 pm

that is the craziest driver i have ever seen! I LOVE IT!!!!!! call me easily persuaded but i am fully convinced that if nike follows up this driver with some sweet irons, people will notice and taylormade will rest in peace while nike steals the thunder! Crazy Stuff!

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Supergolfer January 20, 2013 at 6:01 pm

Nike has everything it needs to be #1 in golf!!!!!
With Rory Mcllroy, Tiger Woods, Nick Watney, and the great Kyle Stanley. Cmon who will beat that????

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Ron Forest January 23, 2013 at 9:37 pm

GAY, COOK MAKE IT THREE WEEKS, THREE WINS FOR NEW R1 DRIVER

TaylorMade Golf’s new R1 driver is off to a sizzling start in 2013. Less than two weeks from its global availability at retail, February 1, the revolutionary club has notched three wins, including two of the first three events on the PGA Tour.

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lloyd January 24, 2013 at 12:19 am

I think nike could be No1 golf company in the world as they have money to do it but they need to focus 100% on there products. I no taylormade has the No1 driver but thats all they got as for some coment on this blog saying the R1 has 3wins i dont think so just cuz a TM staff player has the R1in his bag dosnt mean his using justin rose is using the old RBZ with the R1cover on it same as martin kaymer both useing the old stuff apart from DJ winning last week with the R1 i havnt seen any more wins

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Tony January 24, 2013 at 12:59 am

May i ask when the Nike Covert Driver will hit Manila, Philippines? I hope your distributors here will not price it exorbitantly.

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axshat January 25, 2013 at 3:33 am

I always trust on the big brands, and finding the best deal on this products. I found best information website where you get the great deal.

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Uncle Arnie February 20, 2013 at 3:07 pm

I bought my red little friend last night. I traded in a Ping G20 driver that just didn’t work for me (the rest of my G20 clubs are remarkable). I was starting to have buyers remorse until reading this article. With snow on the ground, I will have to wait to seriously test this baby, but there is a lot of good press out there. Thanks for thorough treatment of this topic!

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Cleveland nut March 29, 2013 at 1:49 am

I traded in my Cleveland black last week for a Nike Covert performance driver. Never was a Nike fan but with this driver i am hooked.It is amazing. I had my first 296yards drive with minimal effort.I also got the Nike Covert tour 3 wood and my placement is WOW!!. I shot my first 79 yesterday. Thanks Nike. WELL DONE. Will trade my CG16 irons next week for covert irons

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Justin Taylor March 2, 2013 at 3:30 am

I’ve hit this red rocket at a club launch in brisbane Australia last week. At the same time I was able to hit the 913d2 driver and the x hot callaway. I have to say, what a year for exceptional product. All three felt great and performed extremely well. I hit the Nike first and was simply blown away by the stability, consistency and feel off the face. I simply loved the feel off that hot face and how it performed through the entire swing. It was very easy to pick up straight away and crunch it. It was awesome. After that I tried the others. I was so hyped after the Nike that I wasn’t expecting the feeling to be almost as nice from the 913d2 or the x hot but they were! I also got more distance from both of them compared to the Nike. What I didn’t get was the same consistency or stability. The callaway appeared longest and you could feel the spring off the face which was realky nice and better than the 913d2. This spring like feeling was more pronounced than the Nike. The covert you hardly felt at all almost forged iron feeling ( buttery)The 913d2 was pure quality and was more workable but a bit less forgiving as you would expect from titleist. For whatever reason I was disappointed that the Nike wasn’t as long as the other two because I was finding myself wanting the nike to blow them away. I love the colour and the feel is just silky smooth and just brilliant. I can’t get it out of my mind and I am holding on to the fact that I haven’t tested it on a Trac machine or fiddled with the shaft or fit settings. I have never considered Nike ever as my perception was that Nike weren’t ever real contenders. I have Adams irons and driver with TM woods and rescue which I love. My interest has certainly been awakened about this bold new sexy looking cavity back driver and for the first time ever I want the numbers to stack up so I can own this Nike driver. I wasn’t sure on the look until I saw it in the flesh and guys it looks Goooood! Check it out for yourself but this could just be the year Nike starts its assault on the big guns. If Nike get any sort of momentum with this new line watch out TM and others you could be in trouble.

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Golf Czar March 27, 2013 at 5:01 pm

I will try and frame this the best I can… Preamble, I partially tore my gluteal tendon about 15 months ago and since then I have lost about 10 miles off of my swing speed. Down from 105mph to 96mph. I have been reading quite a bit about swing speeds, launch angles, smash factors etc. and see that with a 96mph Swing Speed, 141mph ball speed (Smash Factor 1.469) I should be playing a 12 degree lofted driver. Well, drop into your local golf shop and try and find a 12% driver… not easy is it. However with the Nike and the Cobra AMP Cell, you have the opportunity to get to 12 degrees or pretty darn close. With the Cobra you can only set the loft to 11.5 and do not have face angle options. With the Nike you can adjust the loft and face angle independently, where with the Amp Cell and most other clubs the higher the loft the more open the face.

I spent over an hour testing the Cobra, The Covert and The Covert Tour and walked out with the regular Covert. The tour model was very harsh to me and while I wanted to love the Black/Red combination, the regular won me over. The regular version is very smooth, feels great and has a nice solid sound. The Red color is very pleasing and the “swoosh” vanishes in overhead lighting as he curve of the club and other light reflections almost completely diffuse/obscure the swoosh trademark. Again with my swing and ball speed I was able to generate an average carry distance of 236yds and total distance of 258yds with rpm in the mid 2,900 range. Adjusting the loft down to 8 degrees saw a loss of 5 total yards and 20 yards of carry. The 10 degree loft yielded results between the two poles. The great thing about this driver is the broad spectrum of loft choices that you can use during the season. As your game gets “warmer” during the summer and your swing speed increases you can decrease the loft and unlike he Taylor Made, the face angle setting does not require you to sole the club at address. This is a great club and you should test it at the first chance you get, taste vary, but results do not.

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Jason April 9, 2013 at 6:15 pm

I use 3 wood covert tour and vr pro dual sole wedges and they are amazing. The wedges out preform my previous vokey sm4 and Cleveland 588. The feel from any lie was more or less the same and the adjustability of the covert tour 3 wood was amazing it doesn’t even look like you did anything at address. Currently waiting on my vr pro blades to come in to give them a proper review but at the store they where nice with great numbers for me. I play of +3 and can’t wait to see what nike does next to help improve my game

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Robert October 17, 2013 at 9:03 pm

I played the Nike Covert Tour driver, 3 wood, hybrids and Combo Forged irons. Just switched to Ping G25 driver, Callaway 3 wood, Ping G25 Hybrid and Mizuno MP 4 MP 54 combo. All changes were a huge performance difference for me. MUCH more accurate with driver and Callaway 3 wood is best 3 wood I’ve ever hit. I’ve gone from win some lose some to dominating. Even their VRS Staff Bag looks cool, but lacks feature that other golf OEM’s make sure exists in their bags. Side pockets, dividers, towel ring if you need or prefer one. Tiger is playing with inferior equipment still. He’s stuck with them and there’s no turning back. Ping, Titleist and Mizuno all put out better equipment than Nike. Don’t even get me started on Taylormade. Good drivers, but really. Hype is their game.

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GolfSpy T November 17, 2012 at 1:10 pm

Hey Tony – Great to see you here. As far as the shafts go, Nike’s team told me they’re identical to the aftermarket versions (save the custom Nike graphics). Obviously this hasn’t been the case in the past (look no further than last year’s “Fubuki)”.

I think the trend is quickly (finally) moving away from the made for stuff. Titleist stopped doing it with this year’s crop. PING’s stock options for the Anser driver are ‘real’ as well. Cobra is using a made for variant of the Fujikura Fuel shaft in the standard AMP Cell, but a real (again, custom graphics) Kuro Kage in the Pro model.

Callaway for its part is doing unmodified Aldila Trinity and Matrix Black Tie (7m3) as stock in the RAZR Fit Extreme. It will be interesting to see if TaylorMade follows suite. I suspect they’ll continue to use made fors in their standard models and real ones in the TP offerings.

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