“When we look at the spin numbers for the Nike VR Pro wedges we see some fairly interesting things”….”I personally came away impressed with both the accuracy and consistency of this wedge.”
Nike VR Pro Wedge Review
(Written By: GolfSpy T) Have you bought new wedges this year or have you held on to your non-conformers? For all of the outcry, backlash, and noise stemming from the so-called new groove rule, personal feelings about the rule aside, I must admit that it has made our 2011 wedge testing especially interesting. Proprietary groove technologies like Cleveland’s “Zip Grooves”, Callaway’s “Mack Daddy”, and even Vokey’s “Spin Milled”, have either disappeared from the vernacular entirely, or have all but lost their bite as wedge manufacturers learn to play by the new rules.
Before all this new groove nonsense, the playing field in the wedge space was anything but level. Certainly there was plenty of debate of which grooves produced the most spin, or which grooves were best at tearing the cover off a golf ball, but for the most part the marketplace was dominated by less than a handful of industry leaders with everybody else, with respect to sales anyway, relegated to the roles of also-rans. Now if you’re one of the big boys in the wedge space, you probably hate the new rule, but for others in the industry the rule change means more than less spin; it amounts to a once in a lifetime opportunity to wipe the slate clean, develop new technologies, and prove to the average golfer that your wedges are better than they’ve ever been.
The Nike Approach
So far we’ve looked at how Callaway and Mizuno have adjusted to the new changes. The Nike model is certainly more similar to the Callaway approach in that the heart of the technology boils down to more grooves, more tightly spaced together. What is unique about Nike’s offering is that unlike just about everyone in the industry, the major talking point for what Nike calls High Frequency X3X grooves isn’t spin. In fact, at this year’s PGA show I spoke with a Nike representative who willingly acknowledge that the new grooves generate less spin than the old. Of course, most of us are well aware of this fact, but it’s always nice when you can get an honest response instead of a spoonful of sugar-coated marketing goo.
While Nike claims that the new grooves do provide enhanced spin in wet conditions (think morning dew, rough, rain, and anytime there’s gunk between your club and the golf ball), they’re not talking about spin for spin’s sake. Instead they’re talking up consistency and control. In a spin-happy marketplace it’s somewhat of an unusual way to sell a wedge, but when you can trust that your wedge is going to produce a consistent ball flight from any lie, spin becomes almost irrelevant. Which would you rather have, a wedge that spins the ball back 10 feet on every shot, or a wedge that puts the ball where you want it time after time? Control sound better, doesn’t it?
Lots of Options
While not exhaustive, Nike does offer a very solid selection of loft and bounce options in both Satin Chrome and Oxide Raw finishes. For lofts above 54° two bounce options are available for right-handed golfers. As is too often the case, left handed golfers are left with only a single bounce options, and only 52°, 56°, and 60° lofts are available. Though most of you probably won’t care, I’ll also point out that Nike does not currently offer a 64° option in their wedge lineup.
Material Composition: 1025 Carbon Steel (Forged)
How We Tested
Target greens on our 3Track Equipped simulators from aboutGolf were set at 100 yards. After being allowed several shots to verify the appopriate club for the distance, testers took their choice of a 52°, 56°, or 60° wedge and hit a series of shots. Testing for the Nike VR Pro wedge 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 is 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 Wedges and provide feedback in our subjective categories (looks, feel, 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.
For wedge testing, performance scores are derived using what we refer to as radius-based scoring. Instead of simply asking our testers to hit the ball as long and as straight as they can, testers are asked to stick their shots as close as they possibly can to a pin set at 100 yards.
80% of the total performance score is calculated based on where each shot fell in proximity to the hole. Closer is obviously better.
As we do with irons, we apply a formula to normalize the data across varying handicap levels. Our scoring attempts to account for difference in ability levels between high and low handicap golfers, 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. Details for each and every shot hit during our tests is available to you in the interactive portion of this review. Please check out that page, and tell us what you think about the radius-based scoring system.
Though Nike and other manufacturers highlight the performance of their wedges from the rough, our scoring is derived exclusively from shots taken from fairway lies.
As has been the case with the wedges we’ve tested thus far, our golfers were reasonably accurate with the Nike VR Pro Wedges. Our most accurate tester, Dan, averaged just a hair outside of 15 feet from one hundred yards. On the other end of things, Blake missed by an average of just over 35 feet. Inside 15 feet is exceptionally good, just outside of 35 isn’t half bad. In fact, 4 or our 6 testers left themselves an average putt of less than 25 feet. Though it sometimes gets lost in the averages, the majority of testers hit several shots inside of 10 feet (it’s a lot easier to miss by a big margin than it is to stick it firm).
When raw accuracy numbers are translated to our scoring system, we find that our 4 most accurate testers posted scores between 93 and 96, while even the guys on the low end averaged a little over 89 between them.
MGS Accuracy Score: 88.16
The consistency results mimic the accuracy scores, though not with the same testers. My score (just a hair under 98) was the highest of the bunch, although two of our other testers posted very similar scores. Nick, who was the least accurate overall, was not surprisingly the least consistent as well; posting a score of just under 85. One other tester also posted a consistency number in the 80s, while everyone else managed scores in the low to mid-90s.
MGS Consistency Score: 92.71
When we look at the spin numbers for the Nike VR Pro wedges we see some fairly interesting things. With the other wedges we’ve tested thus far, at least one of our testers has maxed out our scoring system and received a perfect 100 as an individual score. That didn’t happen with the Nike VR Pro Wedges (although one tester, Tim, came extremely close).
Once again it was Nick who couldn’t quite get going with the VR Pro wedges. His spin score of 85 was relatively low. Of course, everyone else managed to put up A-level spin scores, with 3 of 6 testers posting scores above 96. What this tells us is that while the Nike VR Pro wedge might not be the highest spinning wedge from fairway lies, the numbers are certainly high enough to suggest it generates more than enough spin.
MGS Spin Score: 92.16
Let’s be honest. When we think wedges, most of us don’t think Nike. Quite frankly I didn’t know what to expect before testing began. Given how well their VR Pro Combo irons tested for us, I thought there was a chance our testers would achieve similar results. When we crunched the performance numbers, we discovered they did just that.
MGS OVERALL PERFORMANCE SCORE: 89.16
The wedges we received from Nike were finished in Satin Chrome. As far as the shape is concerned, there’s absolutely nothing that stands out. In fact in that respect, the Nike VR Pro Wedges are nearly identical to most everything else on the market today. The sole grind is less pronounced than in others we’ve tested, however; there is a reasonable amount of heel relief, particularly along the trailing edge. Though not visible at address, the back of the club is a bit busy for my tastes (two-toned VR Pro, Nike swoosh, High Frequency X3X, and some lines to separate things out), but none of it is visible at address, so it’s not a big deal, I suppose. While the grooves are noticeably more plentiful and closer together when held up against a non-conforming wedge, on it’s own the design change is barely noticeable. What is unique is the X pattern etched between grooves. The pattern is visible, but not distracting at address.
As a group our testers were largely indifferent about the looks of the VR Pro wedge. While none truly loved it, nobody really hated it (although we did receive a couple of 6s in our surveys). While a single 9 was received on the high end, most everyone else, including myself scored it an 8.
MGS Looks Score: 80.63
Though I can’t explain why, the Nike VR Pro wedge was a bit of a let down from the Pro Combo irons. There isn’t a whole lot of buttery feel here, however; if you like your wedges to produce a firm “click”, then this one might be right in your wheelhouse. We had a single tester rate it a relatively lowly, but that was offset by a couple of testers who actually really like the firmer feel this wedge produces.
In fairness, testing of the Nike VR Pro wedges was done pretty closely to that of a couple of wedges for which the feel scores were nothing short of exceptional. Feel is as relative as it is subjective, so I’m not completely shocked to see our testers rate the feel of the Nike VR Pro wedges a bit lower than some of the others we’ve tested.
MGS Feel Score: 82.42
Though we find testers often misjudge their own accuracy, it can certainly be argued that this is the single most important of our subjective categories. As I noted in the performance section, nearly every testers had more than one shot that amounted to a tap-ins distance away from the hole. Regardless of how our testers rated the feel, they seemed to remember, and appreciate the accuracy. This was clearly reflected in our surveys where no single tester rated the wedge below an 8 for accuracy. Most scored it even higher.
Tester Perceived Accuracy Score: 93.17
With minimal offset and a relatively thin topline, the Nike VR Pro wedge sets up very much like you’d expect a player’s wedge should. Somewhat surprisingly none of our testers seemed the least bit uncomfortable with the club, and many indicated they felt very confident that they’d be able to produce solid results with each and every swing. While a single tester rated the club a 7, most everyone else rated it an 8 or 9, making for a surprisingly good forgiveness number.
Tester Perceived Forgiveness Score: 87.79
Likelihood of Purchase
As it often does, our LOP rating provides the clearest insight into how our testers feel about a given club. While one tester told us he’d bag it in a heartbeat, the majority of those who tested the Nike VR Wedge for us didn’t indicate any high degree of confidence that they would ultimately purchase the wedge. While in one respect it’s telling, in another it’s somewhat disappointing (especially given the accuracy data we collected). From a performance perspective there’s not a reason in the world this number shouldn’t be higher, but it suggests that Nike still has some work to do in convincing golfers that their wedges are as good, or better than anyone else’s.
Tester Likelihood of Purchase: 77.04
While there is nothing wrong with the Nike VR Pro Wedges, and arguable plenty that’s right, our survey results scored out as pretty much average overall. While I personally came away impressed with both the accuracy and consistency of this wedge. Feel, and to a lesser extent looks, are for me the two most important subjective considerations. While neither was remarkably unimpressive, I can’t honestly say that I was overwhelmed either.
TOTAL SUBJECTIVE SCORE: 85.15
The reality of things is that certain manufactures are know for certain types of clubs. When consumers hear the name Adams, most think hybrids. Cleveland…they’re a wedge company. TaylorMade, they’re driver guys. In the grand scheme of things Nike, despite making huge inroads in a relatively short period of time, is still a company trying to build a reputation for something. And while they’re not known as a driver company, or a hybrid company, or a wedge company, from what we’ve seen this year, they’re becoming increasingly comfortable as a very well-rounded golf company who, in 2011, has shown us a VR Pro product line that deserves your attention.
MGS TOTAL SCORE: 88.76
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