No one, not even the pros, hits every tee shot in the center of the face. When better players miss, they tend to hit the ball low and toward the heel, so last year Nike released the Victory Red driver with a channel that ran along the bottom of the club, just behind the face, that was designed to make those misses more playable.
The next generation of that club has just been released, the Nike Victory Red Pro, and the technology has been taken a step further. Instead of running only behind the face, Nike's Compression Channel now goes around the entire sole of the club.
"We're literally as fast as we can be in the center of the face," says Tom Stites, Nike Golf's director of product creation. "If we get any faster, we're going to be non-conforming."
But the trick is to help players get that ball speed from as many places on the face as possible.
"If you compare the face of any driver to a trampoline, the most spring you get in the trampoline is in the dead center," Stites says. "As you get closer to the edge, it gets more rigid. If you put a piece of plywood on the trampoline, anywhere on the plywood would spring just about the same amount. That's what we're trying to accomplish, to get that [maximum] rebound in as many places as we can."
According to Nike's research, the new VR Pro driver has a 2% higher Coefficient of Restitution (COR) across the face than its predecessor, which translates to 4-6 more yards off the tee.
At address the club has a classic teardrop shape, but Nike's STR8-Fit system allows golfers to set the head in 32 different positions ranging from 2° open at address to 2° closed. Nike says the club has up to 45 yards of left-to-right adjustability. The STR8-Fit system also lets players adjust loft and lie angle.
"It's still a club that is primarily going to help players with an inside-to-outside swing path because their misses tend to be in the heel," Stites told me. But he added that the technology can also help players who have an outside-to-inside swing.
Watch the video below to see Stites talk about the VR Pro driver.
The Nike VR Pro driver will be available in early February 2011, in lofts ranging from 8.5° to 11.5°. It will come standard with a Project X graphite shaft for about $480. More shaft options will be available through custom fitting and ordering.