All wedges pretty much look the same, right? Not Nike’s Toe Sweep wedge, the brainchild of legendary Nike club maker Mike Taylor that was released in 2014.
Related: Our slideshow of early prototypes of the Toe Sweep wedge, which show the developmental stages of the club.
The VR X3X attempted to solve the age-old problem of the heel of the wedge getting “stuck” on shots from long grass. Taylor’s solution was to create wedge soles with hardly any mass on the heel side, which also made open-face shots easier. Both Rory McIlroy and Johnny Vegas used the Toe Sweep grind to win on tour.
While these irons were never released, they were played by several of Nike’s tour players, and carry a special significance to us. Our founder easyyy scored a set of Trevor Immelman prototypes back in 2005, the year GolfWRX was founded, and hasn’t stopped talking about the Miura-forged protos since.
At the time, the Split Cavities were the standard to meet for all forged cavity-back irons. They were clean in shape, butter soft at impact and great through the ground. Several notable forged cavity-back irons followed, including our recent Nike favorites, the VR Forged Pro Combos.
Ever since Nike’s switch to its Covert design platform for metal woods, the company struggled to compete in the realm of low-spin drivers. The Vapor Flex 440 (released in 2016) was different. Sixty percent of the club head was made from Nike’s proprietary, carbon fiber-reinforced RZN material, a weight-saving scheme that boosted performance.
Our sources tell us that Nike’s line of 2017 drivers relied heavily on a RZN construction, and were by far the best-performing drivers in company history. If true, it’s a case of too little, too late.
Nike’s VR_S Forged were released in the U.S. after enjoying incredible success in Japan. While intended for mid-to-high handicappers, the irons caught on with low handicappers, as well as many PGA Tour players (including Tiger Woods), who used them as long-iron replacements.
Key to the success of the VR_S Forged was their two-piece forged construction, which merged a 1025 carbon steel framework with a thin club face that was welded to the body to improve ball speed and forgiveness. Despite their bulk, the irons looked and felt premium, and added value to their 9 sticker price with Nippon’s aftermarket 950GH shaft as the stock option. They were one of the best game-improvement irons released in 2012.
Years before slots became a common sight on clubs, Nike released a line of metal woods with something called a “Compression Channel” behind the club face, which was said to increase the size of the sweet spot by making the club face more flexible — particularly the bottom.
The Compression Channel was used on many models, but Nike’s VR (Victory Red) Tour driver, released in 2010, could have been the best. Proof of that showed up just three weeks ago, when Jhonattan Vegas used the six-year-old driver in his victory at the RBC Canadian Open.
The VR Tour measured 420 cubic centimeters, and had a classy, pear-shaped club head free of alignment aids. It was a thing of beauty.
Remember the #releasetheputter movement that originated in the GolfWRX Forums? Several sources inside Nike Golf have told us that if it weren’t for GolfWRXers, Rory McIlroy’s replica Method putter would have never been released. Pat yourselves on the backs, folks.
It’s true that most better-player clubs sold at retail are inspired by PGA Tour players, but it’s rare to get your hands on a golf club designed to the exact specifications of one of the best golfers on the planet. That was the case with the Method 006, which was the result of Rory McIlroy’s work with David Franklin, Nike’s renowned putter designer and creator of its Method technology.
Owners of the limited-edition putter, released in 2015, have a carbon copy of the flatstick Rory McIlroy used to win his third and fourth majors: the Open and PGA championships in 2014.
In 2003, Nike released its first set of blade irons, and to many they’re still the most beautiful blades ever produced. They were named simply “Forged Blades, ” and were unencumbered by the logos and colors that would be used on future Nike iron releases.
The Forged Blades were used by David Duval to win his lone major, the 2001 Open Championship at Royal Lytham & St Annes.
Released in 2003, Nike’s Slingshot irons were not only the company’s most commercially successful iron model, but also possibly one of the coolest game-improvement irons to date.
The irons featured a slingshot-esque “bridge, ” which stretched across the cavity of the hollow-bodied irons. It enhanced perimeter weighting, and helped golfers hit towering iron shots by moving weight lower and deeper in the club head. Thin, strong, “cold-rolled” 455 Stainless Steel club faces were also added for more distance.
The design was awesome, the name was perfect and the performance was impressive. This was Nike Chief Club Designer Tom Stites at his best.
In the golf world, the year 2000 is synonymous with Tiger Woods’ best golf. It was in June of that year he accomplished his most impressive feat — winning the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach by 15 shots. He then went on to win the next three major championships.
Fueling his performance was a new golf ball: Nike’s Tour Accuracy. The solid-rubber core ball is argued to have given Woods a distance advantage over his competitors, most of whom were still using wound golf balls at the time. It is also said to have pushed Titleist to release its first solid-rubber core golf ball, the Pro V1.