If you're going to design a line of irons that can please the full spectrum of player types, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy seem like pretty good guys to work with. At least, that's the feeling you get from Nike's R&D team, who are largely responsible for the company's new Vapor iron franchise. Consisting of three models, Vapor Pro ($999), Vapor Pro Combo ($1099), and Vapor Speed ($799), the latest and greatest from the minds at Nike Golf (including the previously mentioned major champions) is aimed at making players of all abilities happy by providing them with the optimum combination of precision, forgiveness, and distance.
Tiger's future iron, the Vapor Pro, is positioned as the replacement for the traditional blade. According to Rob Arluna, Nike Golf's global golf club business director, the new iron was originally inspired by Tiger and further enhanced by some help from Rory.
"We made the Vapor Pro Blades feel and perform better with a technology advantage over the traditional blade," says Arluna. "We then extended that innovation and design to Vapor Pro Combo and Vapor Speed irons."
The main technological advantage provided by the Vapor Pro design is what Nike calls a "modern muscle," a design that incorporates tungsten plugs that significantly improves the CG location of the club by moving it closer to the center of the clubface. Unlike traditional blade designs, which feature a CG that's closer to the hosel, the Vapor Pro and its modern muscle design provide the best results when the ball is struck in the middle of the clubface, and produces much improved results on shot struck off-center.
According to Tiger himself, the new irons provide what he describes as a "heavier hit," on the ball, and shots that hold their line more precisely, particularly in the wind.
"I hit three of four shots with the Vapor Pro," said Tiger, "and I knew right away - they sound and feel more solid, more balanced and even more consistent than the tungsten loaded traditional blades I have played for years."
Rory McIlroy, who will also most likely be switching to the new Vapor Pro irons, echoed Tiger's sentiments regarding the new sticks.
"When I joined the Nike team, the VR Pro Blade irons were one of the easiest transitions in my bag. To improve my performance, my collaborations with the Oven team were based upon consistency and feel," said Rory. "With the new Vapor Pro irons, they've worked to achieve that for me."
Other features of the new Vapor Pro irons include a carbon steel forged construction, slightly longer blade length in the long irons with slightly more bounce for added forgiveness through the ground, precision-machined X3X grooves, minimal offset, and thin top lines. A low-glare satin chrome finish provides a classic look all traditionalists will appreciate.
The Vapor Pro Combo irons, which fit nicely between the Pro and the Speed, also utilize the modern muscle design to provide a combination of precision and ball speed, as witnesses by Rory's performance in the Open Championship in which he used the prototype version of the 2-iron (called the MMPROTO 2i). Like the Vapor Pro, the Pro Combo irons feature a CG closer to the center of the face, making them both more precise and more forgiving than past Pro Combo models. The 2-7 irons in the set are built with a forged body, high strength steel face and lightweight RZN insert to help provide higher launching shots, more distance, and improved MOI and forgiveness. The 8-PW are one-piece forged clubheads with a shallow cavity that promotes a more penetrating trajectory for accuracy and versatility in the scoring zone.
The RZN material, which is a modified version of the material used in Nike's RZN golf balls, helps displace a significant amount of weight (approximately 45g) from the outside of the clubhead, improving feel at impact and increasing stability on miss-hits.
Other features of the Vapor Pro Combo irons include progressive blade lengths and sole widths, precision machined X3X grooves, slightly longer, lower profile long irons, and traditionally-shaped short irons.
The final and most widely appealing model in the Vapor lineup, the Vapor Speed, is aimed at players who simply want maximum distance and forgiveness. Like the Pro and Pro Combo irons, the Vapor Speed is also built with Nike's modern muscle design, which moves the CG not only closer to the center of the clubface but also lower and deeper in the clubhead. This CG location, combined with very thin clubfaces and lighter, longer shafts, provide high launching shots with maximum carry distance.
"This is the longest distance iron that we have ever created," says Nate Radcliffe, Nike Golf's director of engineering, "if you want to hit it long and straight this is the iron that fits that profile."
The 2-7 irons in the set feature a hollow construction that help them function like metalwoods for maximum distance, while the short irons and wedges in the set are built with RZN in the cavity, improving feel, sound, and stability at impact. Other features of the Vapor Speed irons include moderate sole widths, beveled leading edges for more versatility from a variety of lies, precision machined X3X grooves for optimum spin and consistency, progressive face heights, and larger blade profiles.
All models in the Vapor lineup will be available on nike.com and at select retailers on October 31st.
(Photos: Courtesy of Nike)