“Every one of our testers told us that the Nike VR Pro Hybrid is longer than what’s in their bag today. They averaged just over 219.71 yards….which now makes it the longest hybrid we have tested. I’m guessing the performance results are going to surprise a lot of people. If you are buying a hybrid anytime soon…make sure to add this one to the demo list.”
Nike VR II Pro Hybrid
(Written By: GolfSpy_T) Very early this Spring we submitted the list of clubs we’d like to review to Nike. One club we actually left off our initial list was the 2011 Nike VR Pro hybrid. We did have some discussions about including it, but ultimately we just didn’t think there was enough buzz to warrant adding it to the list. Nike provided us with everything we asked for, and we more or less thought that we were done with Nike equipment for the year.
Now I can only speculate about what goes on behind the scenes at Nike, but here’s what I think happened. I think Nike, who for the last couple of years has been quietly (by Nike standards anyway) producing by far the best equipment in the company’s history, feels like some of their stuff isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Unfortunately for Nike, despite some significant (some might call them Major) wins over the last couple of years by Nike athletes Stewart Cink, and Lucas Glover, and a feel good victory by the affable (and awesomely-named) Johnny Vegas, recent history probably hasn’t been exactly what the team at The Oven was hoping for. A handful of solid wins aside, the biggest name in the Nike Golf stable, and no doubt the driving force behind the company’s success at the retail level, was well into a downward spiral of positively epic proportions. It’s not that Cink and Glover aren’t very good golfers, and by all accounts decent people; the reality is they simply don’t draw people to product like Tiger once did. Once again…just my opinion here; despite being better than they’ve ever been, interest in Nike Golf products probably ain’t what it used to be.
While smaller companies do it all the time, it’s less common for a big OEM to reach out to us and ask us to review a specific product. This however, is exactly what happened with Nike and their VR Pro hybrid. At first I was a bit puzzled. Why would Nike ask us to review a product that isn’t generating much buzz? As it turns out, that was precisely the issue. Nike had on store shelves what I think they believe to be one of the best hybrids on the market, and it appeared as if almost nobody was paying attention.
The Marketing Angle
On paper the new Nike VR Pro hybrid reads like most any new product. It has a 21% hotter face than the previous model. It features Nike’s compression channel technology along with variable face thickness for greater distance and control. From a design perspective the profiles, Nike claims, blend seamlessly with those of the VR Pro irons at address. All of this is fairly standard stuff, and it’s all meaningless if the club doesn’t perform.
Nike ships it’s hybrids stock with “made for” variants of the popular Project X graphite shafts and a proprietary Nike grip from Golf Pride.
We don’t score on the grip, but our testers generally aren’t fans of (actually they despise) Nike’s standard grip. It actually feels pretty good (squishy, but not overly soft), but once there’s a little bit of sweat on your hands, forget about it. Good luck keeping a solid grip on the damn thing. In fact, the stock grip has become a bit of a running joke with our testers. Any time a Nike club is on the list for a given session, many of the guys ask to hit it first because they know that once they start sweating, all bets are off.
Yeah…I know it’s a little thing, and it’s not like we deduct points for it, but, as I just said, it’s a little thing, and one I think Nike can easily (and should) fix.
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 hybrid 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 testers also had the opportunity to hit the 18° hybrid, for the purpose of data collection, formal testing was done with the 21° hybrid in the tester’s choice of regular (5.5) or stiff (6.0) flex.
Our testers averaged just over 219.71 yards with the Nike VR Pro Hybrid, which now makes it the longest hybrid we have tested (Adam Idea Pro A12 was previous longest) by about 3.5 yards. The numbers are very similar when we look at our adjusted averages (best and worst 2 shots removed from the equation).
Specs may play a role in the added distance here. While the loft is 1° weaker than the previous long hybrid, we’d be remiss not to point out that the stock shaft is actually .5″ inches longer than than both the Titleist 910H and the Adams Idea Pro A12, and .25″ longer than the Cleveland Mashie. The added length most definitely translated to increased club head speed (+2 MPH on average compared to the last club we reviewed), and since speed often equals distance…well…you get it.
MGS Distance Score: 95.82
Looking at the raw numbers it’s reasonably safe to say that the extra .5″ of length had only a minimal impact on accuracy. Testers missed the center line by a raw average of 16.46 yards (15.65 adjusted), which is very similar to the results achieved by 2 of the 3 other hybrids we’ve tested this season. While some might be turned off by the longer shaft, we don’t find any significant cause for concern where accuracy is concerned.
MGS Accuracy Score: 86.25
Consistency proved to be a bit of a mixed bag. Two of our testers put up numbers that I would classify as exceptional, while another put up very good numbers. While the remaining 3 weren’t stellar, only one tester put up would I would classify as below average numbers. On the whole the good results far outweighed the bad, which suggests that for many, the Nike VR Pro hybrid will prove to be a very consistent club.
MGS Consistency Score: 94.18
I’m guessing the performance results are going to surprise a lot of people. I think it’s reasonably safe to say that Nike probably isn’t at the top of the list when it comes to hybrids, and yet, just as with the rest of the 2011 Victory Red lineup we’ve tested, the number suggests Nike’s clubs can more than compete with nearly anything else in the marketplace.
MGS OVERALL PERFORMANCE SCORE: 90.87
If you read our review of the Nike VR Pro Driver you may recall that Nike took a bit of a beating in some of our subjective categories (feel and sound chief among them). Although we don’t score hybrids for sound, as part of the VR family of woods, my expectation going into this is that the hybrid wouldn’t fair much better than the driver.
There’s a bit of a trend sweeping the hybrid space these days. Many manufacturers including Nike, Miura, and to an extent Cleveland are trying to give their hybrids a more iron like appearance by tweaking the crown design to better resemble the profile of an iron at address. While some appreciate that the profile of their hybrid closely matches that of their irons, others find the two-tone appearance off-putting. Personally, it’s not a design I’m overly fond of (I don’t personally care if my hybrids look like my irons or not), but I can appreciate the thinking behind it. I also appreciate the fact that unfinished portion of the crown (designed to look like the topline of an iron) is nearly impervious to sky marks. In the end, I’m basically ok with function over form.
Though we did have a single 9, the majority of our testers definitely indicated they prefer a seamless crown design. A couple of testers mentioned that they find the compact head a bit intimidating, although for me that compactness is part of the appeal.
MGS Looks Score: 80.09
Most of our testers agreed that when hit on the sweet spot, the Nike VR Pro hybrid offers very good feel. Shots that missed that spot were greeted with puzzlement. What our testers (nearly to a man) told me is that although they wouldn’t say mis-hits feel bad, it’s simply that when you miss what one tester suggested was a very small sweet spot, they just feel weird. It’s admittedly difficult to quantify weird, but the majority of our testers thought sometimes great + sometimes weird = 8.
MGS Feel Score: 80.63
No big shocker here. Every one of our testers (with varying degrees of assertiveness) told us that the Nike VR Pro Hybrid is longer than what’s in their bag today. That’s an assertion that is largely supported by the data, and one with which I’m in complete agreement. If pure distance is your objective, look no further than the Nike VR Pro.
Tester Perceived Distance Score: 99.44
One quick look at our interactive test chart and you’ll see that our testers weren’t always finding the center line. To be sure I saw some great shots, but I also so some mis-hits, and some balls that tailed off in either direction. This has proven to be true of every hybrid we’ve tested thus far, so while not a stellar number, our testers were largely of the opinion that the VR Pro is as accurate as nearly any other hybrid they’ve tried.
Tester Perceived Accuracy Score: 83.31
Our testers were all over their map with their perceptions of the VR Pro Hybrid’s forgiveness. Some found it extremely forgiving, while others felt that it was overly penal on mishits. My personal opinion is that’s it’s probably middle of the road in this category. I’ve definitely hit more forgiving hybrids, but I’ve hit a lot worse as well. Given the design, which almost certainly is geared towards better players, it’s about what you’d expect, if not slightly better.
Tester Perceived Forgiveness Score: 86.00
Likelihood of Purchase
It’s rare that a LOP score exceeds both the look and feel scores for a given club. In the case of the VR Pro Hybrid, that’s exactly what happened, however. While concrete evidence of nothing, it does suggest that our testers think enough of the performance aspects of this club that they’re willing to overlook some of the subjective things they don’t. While it’s not quite the highest LOP score we’ve ever seen, it’s certainly above average, and serves as further evidence that if you’re not looking at the Nike VR Pro, you’re probably overlooking one of your better options.
Tester Likelihood of Purchase: 86.00
Overall our testers scored the VR Pro hybrid similarly to the driver. They don’t hate it. In fact most found plenty to like about it, but there are some quirks that leave testers scratching their heads a bit.
TOTAL SUBJECTIVE SCORE: 85.89
I’ve commented in every hybrid review I’ve written that I absolutely prefer, hell I demand that my hybrids be relatively compact. I’ve never been particularly solid with a fairway wood, and as it turns out, the more a hybrid looks like a fairway wood, the less I’m inclined to put it in my bag. With that in mind, it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise that I really like the design of the VR Pro. Of course, we also can’t ignore the fact that the VR Pro is among the best performing hybrids we’ve tested in 2011.
Perhaps it’s as simple as smaller head = better performance as the two smaller hybrids we’ve tested have outperformed the larger ones across a range of handicaps. It could also be that Nike has managed to create a very, very good hybrid that surprisingly (to me anyway) stands out above the crowd. While the VR Pro hasn’t replaced my gamer, it’s a clear choice among the other hybrids we’ve reviewed thus far.
Look…I’m getting tired of being surprised by how well Nike clubs have performed for us. I was surprised by the VR Pro Combo Irons. I was surprised by the VR Pro wedges. I was surprised by the VR Pro driver. And now I’m surprised by the VR Pro Hybrids. I’m starting to feel like and idiot, so from now on, I’m done being surprised by unexpectedly good performance from Nike. From today forward, my expectation will be that Nike products will perform as good or better than most anything else. Based on the totality of what we’ve seen in 2011, I’ll save my surprised face for when they don’t.
MGS TOTAL SCORE: 90.37
Have you hit the Nike VR Pro hybrids yet? What about previous Nike hybrids? If so we want to hear what your thoughts and opinions. Join the conversation!
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