If you troll the major golf equipment chat rooms on the Internet, one thing becomes clear, people draw conclusions quickly about a new product simply based on looks alone.
While aesthetics can have some psychological value, being “pretty” is really not all that important when it comes to what matters – function.
I, too, am prone to prefer certain looks over others, but as a golf professional I realize that if a tool (which is really what a golf club is) does what you need it to, than that is what makes it outstanding.
You want a great example? How about the new Nike VR X3X Toe Sweep wedge.
On a recent trip to the company’s Portland Headquarters to view their 2014 initial product line it was this club that was the first to catch my eye. It’s hard to ignore the unusual toe shape with a bulbous sole. I had questions, and I wanted to try it desperately. I would get that chance the very next day in Las Vegas.
Was it a gimmick or was there something to the shape of this alien looking creation?
The Nike Golf craftsmen responsible, Mike Taylor, would provide a few answers but the validity of the club was borne out for me in an hour long test session.
“In the rough, in the sand; it just feels real stable,” Taylor, the king of grinds for the Swoosh brand shared in his distinct Texas drawl as we chat in the clubhouse at TPC Summerlin. “It’s crazy out of the nasty rough. It’s just so much fun.”
It turns out the the stability of the the wedge was an unexpected but welcome consequence.
Taylor told me he initially set out to create a sole geometry on the wedges that would make it more versatile. It took a lot of prototypes to get it to where he wanted. The residual benefit of having a wide sole and more mass towards the toe of the club was the centre of gravity shifted in that direction as well. As a result the club face does not tend to have a high rate of closure, keeping it square to the intended face angle through the hitting area.
On the opposite end of the club head, the heel area has been dramatically relieved of material. Taylor conveys that is a preference for most of the tour players he works with. The feature makes the wedge more effective in situations where you open up the face.
Having known Mike for some years, and given his past work with players like Tiger Woods, I trusted what he was saying about the benefits of the wedge. Now I just had to see the results for myself.
It was a few minutes later on the practice green at the TPC Summerlin I ran across Tony Dabbs, a Product Director for Nike Golf. Dabbs handed me a 60 degree model of the new wedge with a grin that told me I was about to surprised by their latest wedge design. It turns out he was right.
Over the period of an hour I hit buckets of balls from every lie possible. From tight fairway grass, from deep bermuda rough, from light rough, from uphill and downhill lies, and in every possible ball placement within a bunker.
Through the duration there was never problem pulling off effective shots with performance really shining through in the deep rough and bunkers. Dabbs knew that would be the case but let the wedge speak for itself.
The intriguing part about the wedge is that the extreme design at the back is not visible at address. In fact. the club head is very traditional looking in that position. Compact, clean, attractive. In recent Nike Golf vernacular, “Covert”, if you will.
For a company not particularly known for their wedge designs, the look of the Toe Sweep wedge should garner them some attention. The performance proves that the experiment goes beyond the visual. Don’t be afraid to test them for yourself when they hit retail shelves on January 31st.
The VR X3X Toe Sweep wedges are available in 56, 58, and 60 degree lofts.