“If you’ve been turned off by the feel of Nike forgings in the past, now is the time to give them another look. The Nike VR Pro Combo irons more than exceeded all of the MyGolfSpy staff’s admittedly average initial expectations.“
Nike VR Pro Combo Irons
(Written By: GolfSpy T) You may have noticed that nearly every (if not EVERY) manufacturer of golf equipment in the industry today has no less than 3 sets of irons on their current equipment list. The reasoning is simple enough; whether it’s a case of want or need, different style clubs appeal to different types of golfers. From super game-improvement iron like the SQ Machspeed and Slingshot mixed set, an iron for the improving player like the VR Pro Cavity, or a serious player’s muscleback like the VR Pro Blades, Nike’s 2011 lineup, like those of its competitors offers something for everyone.
One of Nike’s 2011 offerings, however, offers a degree of differentiation from the other guys, and from our perspective presented the most interesting review opportunity. While most of us have grown accustomed to all of the irons in our bags being virtually identical, Nike’s VR Pro Combo irons, which the company bills with the tagline “Change is Better” feature 3 unique head designs that progress and evolve as you move from the long irons to the short.
What you need to know about all this “change” is that the 3-5 irons feature a pocket (or slot) cavity design. The middle irons (5-7) feature a cavity-back design that isn’t entirely dissimilar from the design of Nike’s VR Pro Cavity irons. Finally, the short irons (8-PW) are pure blade. In addition to the obvious things like loft, lie, weight, and bounce, offset also decreases with each iron in the set. The shorter the club, the more workable (and presumably less forgiving) it is.
I’ve mentioned on a couple of previous occasions that I love the idea (and the implementation) of a progressive set of irons. While most any manufacturer will allow you to mix and match from any irons in their lineup, it’s really cool that Nike more or less does it for you. What I didn’t know is how our testers who normally play cavity-backs, and in some cases, game-improvement irons would respond when asked to hit a pin at 150 yards with a forged blade. It’s exactly this type of scenario that yields the most interesting results in our tests, and is exactly why I enjoy what it is I do so very much.
Material Composition: Forged 1025 Steel
We like that the lofts are what you might call the modern traditional (at least they’re not jacked up to support some senseless claim of more distance). We’re not crazy about the extra 1/4″ of length compared to most of the other irons we’ve tested targeted at better players.
How We Tested
The 6 golfers for whom we collected detailed performance data were asked to hit a series of shots on our 3Track Equipped simulators from aboutGolf. As usual, testing was done at Tark’s Indoor Golf, a state of the art indoor golf facility located in Saratoga Springs, NY. Detailed data for each and every shot for which we collected data is now viewable in the interactive portion of this review. This data serves as the foundation for our final performance score. As a supplement to our 6 performance testers, a subset of additional golfers were given the opportunity to test the Nike VR Pro Combo irons and provide feedback in our subjective categories (looks, feel, perceived distance, perceived accuracy, perceived forgiveness, and likelihood of purchase). This information, which we also collected from our performance testers, is used as the foundation for our total subjective score. Though tests were conducted at 150 yards with the club of the tester’s choosing, we encouraged our testers to hit long, middle, and short irons to really get a feel for how the 3 distinct clubs perform as a set.
To better replicate the on-course experience in our iron tests we set our target green at 150 yards, and asked our testers to choose the appropriate club for the distance, and basically take their best shots.
It’s worth noting that for all radius-based testing, our golfers are given the opportunity to hit several test shots in order to determine the appropriate club for the distance (we all know that distance can vary tremendously from set to set). In the case VR Pro Combo irons, the irons chosen ranged from a 6 iron on the long end, to a 9 iron on the short.
The highest percentage of the performance score was calculated based on where each shot fell in proximity to the hole. Closer is obviously better.
As we did in our review of the Dynacraft Prophet Tour Forged, we applied a formula to normalize the data across varying handicap levels. It stands to reason that a low handicap golfer should be more accurate than a high handicap golfer. Our scoring accounts for these differences in ability levels and makes a reasonable attempt to level the playing field (much like the Handicap system itself), so that it’s possible to achieve similar scores for all golfers. As we always do, we’ve made the details of each test shot available to you in the interactive portion of this review. Definitely check out that page, and let us know what you think about our radius-based scoring system.
The accuracy score is derived using our radius-based scoring system. Perhaps the simplest explanation is that scores are determined based on how long of a putt the golfer would have after each shot. Unlike when we tested the Dynacraft Prophet Tour Forged Irons, handicap actually proved to be the best indicator of performance. Even with our handicap adjustments, the two highest handicap players (Mark and I) posted the lowest score.
I just didn’t hit them very well. Mark, for his part, found he had to use a 6 iron to get the distance. This is notable since with his own irons, he’d very likely be taking an 8 to cover the same distance.
That said, our other testers finished with raw averages inside 40 feet, and Dan (our lowest handicap golfer) averaged well inside 20 feet. Considering the majority of our testers were hitting “less-forgiving” blades, we came away from the test impressed by the performance.
MGS Accuracy Score: 89.68
As I mentioned in the performance section, I simply didn’t hit the VR Pro Combo irons (in my case an 8 iron) particularly well, which accounts for the fact that I posted the lowest consistency score. Still, our other testers to a man (including Mark) all put up consistency scores in the low 90s, with low handicapper Dan once again leading the way with a borderline insane 98+. Most other testers were in the 92-94 range.
The majority of our testers hit the 8 iron at 150, which tells us that for a supposedly difficult to control blade, the short irons in the VR Pro Combo set are relatively easy to hit.
MGS Consistency Score: 92.96
I’ll admit to being slightly surprised by the results – if only slightly so, but our numbers indicate that the Nike VR Pro Combo irons, which are admittedly targeted at low to low-mid handicappers performed very well in our tests at 150 yards. While we might speculate that the numbers might not be quite as good with the longer irons, that’s almost always going to be the case. Besides, the theory is that if you can hit a blade you can hit anything.
Not only were our testers largely able to hit the blades. They hit them well, and enjoyed doing it.
MGS OVERALL PERFORMANCE SCORE: 90.18
We’ve been bringing testers in for well over a year now, and in that time we’ve learned quite a bit about bias and pre-conceived notions. There are certainly guys that love some companies, and hate others, but my observation is that no company has a greater polarization than Nike. We have guys that tell us they love everything Nike makes, while others tell us that hate it just as much. The challenge for us always comes in trying to get our testers to check whatever bias they have at the door, and as I’m fond of saying, just hit the damn clubs. Fortunately for this test we were able to find some open-minded, middle-of-the-road types, which we think is just perfect.
It’s admittedly very tricky judging looks when you’re essentially looking at 3 different clubs. Of course, we’ve also learned that the quickest road to a high looks score is with a blade. Even if our testers think they can’t hit them, the still love the looks. Such was the case with the Nike VR Pro Combo irons, which received 3 10s, several 9s, and nothing lower than an 8.
When it came to the middle and long irons, our testers told us they didn’t like the looks quite as much as the blades, but most liked the relatively clean appearance, thin topline, and compact look at address. A few Tiger Woods jokes aside, not a single tester had anything negative to say, and that almost never happens when we’re testing equipment from a major OEM.
With blades in the mix we figured the score would be high, but I had no idea how high.
MGS Looks Score: 97.65
The biggest knock on Nike forged irons in the past has been around feel. I’ve heard it numerous places, and I’d say it myself; the feel of previous Nike forgings have been disappointing – and that’s putting it kindly. I’ve heard the feel described as inferior, just plain bad, and even “the worst”. Quite frankly I had extremely low expectations.
Of course that all changed the first time I made solid contact with the VR Pro Combo irons. Much to my surprise, tester after tester said things like “wow”, and “so much better than my irons”. The dramatically improved feel was the single biggest surprise we encountered during testing, and tester after tester agreed with the initial assessment.
Nike mentions a new forging process in the marketing info, but we all know OEMs say a lot of things. In this specific case, however; we really think their is something to it. While the subjective score is slightly higher than I’d personally give it, I can’t find a ton of fault with the results.
If you’ve been turned off by the feel of Nike forgings in the past, now is the time to give them another look.
MGS Feel Score: 94.45
As I’ve said in every iron review I’ve written thus far, I am not, nor will I ever be, a believer in rating irons on distance (perceived or otherwise). That said…
Despite some testers needing two more clubs than they would with their own set, most rated the VR Pro Combo irons about where we’d expect for perceived distance.
Our average perceived distance score is probably somewhere in the mid-80s, so seeing scores in the low-80s for this club isn’t any real surprise considering the lofts are weaker than most of our testers carry. If anything, I’m going to applaud Nike for the 47 degree pitching wedge that comes standard.
Tester Perceived Distance Score: 81.39
Given that our testers were able to achieve decent results during our performance tests, we expected fairly solid accuracy scores. While one tester from whom we didn’t collect data rated them as low as 3, we did have a single 10, a few 9s, and a whole bunch of 8s. Looking back at the tests themselves, we think the number should probably be higher. While I’ll never be able to prove it, when our testers tell us things like a set of irons is “out of my league”, we think maybe it’s the fear and not the results talking.
Our take is that our testers were significantly more accurate than the think they were.
Tester Perceived Accuracy Score: 83.70
Once again, I think fear may have played a role in the results of the subjective surveys. Our testers told us mishits felt harsh, and that they observed a significant distance loss on mis-hits. Certainly the VR Pro Combos can’t compete with game-improvement irons when it comes to things like that, but overall, we think they’re as forgiving as anything else in their market segment.
For what it’s worth, one tester gave them a 10, which we think is too high, while another couple of other testers rated them as a 6. We think the right number is somewhere in between, and so did most everyone else.
Tester Perceived Forgiveness Score: 82.42
Likelihood of Purchase
When it comes to the LOP score for the VR Pro Combo irons, we had something happened that, to our knowledge, has never happened with one of our reviews. While most of the scores were in the 8 range (5 on the low end), not only did one tester rate the clubs a 10, he actually put his money where his mouth is and ordered a set the very next day. Most telling perhaps is that this is a guy who has bagged a set of game-improvement irons for 4 years, and has always believed he couldn’t hit a cavity-back, let alone a blade. Needless to say, he has come around.
Tester Likelihood of Purchase: 84.46
Overall the subjective surveys were a bit of mixed bag. While perceptions of Distance, Accuracy, and Forgiveness were slightly below average, results for our Look and Feel (our two most highly weighted subjective categories) were extremely strong. That coupled with a better than average LOP score, shows that while our testers believe that the VR Pro Combo irons might not be as long, straight, or forgiving as what they have in their bags now (contentions I’d differ with in some cases), generally, the really liked the irons.
Not a single tester asked me how many more shots he had to hit, and that’s always a positive sign.
TOTAL SUBJECTIVE SCORE: 88.75
We chose to review the Nike VR Pro Combo irons largely because of our curiosity about a major OEM’s pre-boxed combo set. While we’re always tempted to ask for a set of blades, we think the VR Pro Combo irons are the most interesting option in the Nike’s 2011 lineup.
Going into the review, we thought the irons would look decent, perform well enough, and probably feel worse than most any other forged iron on the market today. Instead what we received was an iron that scored well with nearly all of our testers, performed even better in their hands, and more than exceeded all of the MyGolfSpy staff’s admittedly average expectations.
Looking over our individual iron reviews you’ll find that we’ve set the bar extremely high when it comes to iron reviews. With the exception of your putter, your irons will account for the majority of your shots over most any 18 hole stretch. Irons likely also account for the largest single expenditure in your golf bag, so we believe the bar should be set high.
One might suggest that we’ve set the bar too high considering we’ve yet to award an A to any iron we’ve tested on an individual basis. The fact that the Nike VR Pro Combo has come as close as any iron thus far speaks volumes about the clubs.
MGS TOTAL SCORE: 89.97
What are your thoughts on the Nike VR Pro Combo Review? Please comment and let us know.
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