Nike released three sets of irons for 2011 - the Nike VR Pro Cavity irons I'm reviewing here, and the Nike Slingshot and SQ MACHSPEED irons I've reviewed on other pages of this site. There were several nice things about the Slingshots, but they also had some drawbacks. And although I liked the Nike SQ MACHSPEED irons, they looked kind of funky. These clubs, however, look sweet.
A recent trip to a demo day helped me find out if Nike VR Pro Cavity irons hit as sweet as they look. For consistency, I always try to review clubs with graphite shafts, so I snagged a set of these irons with the stock Project X graphite shafts (the clubs can also be purchased with True Temper Dynalite 110 steel shafts). I hit the 4-iron through the gap wedge (A).
Nike VR Pro Cavity irons are designed to be game-improvement irons, but they're slightly different from the usual type. They replace the earlier Nike Victory Red irons, but they have slightly smaller heads and slightly thinner toplines. In fact, these two characteristics - the thinner topline and smaller club head - distinguish Nike VR Pro Cavity irons from most other game-improvement irons. Those other clubs typically have fairly thick toplines and oversized heads to inspire player confidence and make it easier for mid and high handicappers to find the sweet spot. Not the Nike VR Pro Cavity irons. Their appearance falls somewhere in between "player's irons" and the typical game-improvement variety.
Their performance, though, is game-improving. The compact heads and thinner toplines don't make these clubs difficult to hit, due to some innovative technology in the back of the club heads. In fact, I thought they were pretty forgiving. Naturally, I lost some distance on mishits, but the penalty wasn't tremendous like with some clubs.
The "demo dude" manning the Nike tent explained that these irons have what's called an "Opti-Mass" weighting system. The easy way to explain this system is by describing it as a progressive weighting setup. Basically, each club head's center of gravity (CG) is located in a different position, so that the CG is always in the right position to create optimal launch angles and consistent gapping.
Three different methods are used to construct the club heads of the Nike VR Pro Cavity irons. The method used for a particular club depends on that particular iron's purpose. For example, the heads of the long irons have a three-piece construction with extra weight added to enhance their forgiveness. The mid iron heads are optimized for feel and forgiveness and use a two-piece construction, while the heads of the short irons are optimized for feel and constructed in a single piece, leaving out the Opti-Mass system. The weighting made it easy to know where the club heads were at every moment during my swings. That knowledge inspires confidence, and we all know that's at least half the battle in golf.
The long and mid irons gave me a penetrating, medium-high trajectory with nice rollouts (try the Nike SQ MACHSPEED irons if you need lots of help getting the ball in the air). Overall distance (carry and roll) with the irons was good, although I think the slightly higher MACHSPEEDs might also be slightly longer. The short irons, of course, flew high and landed fairly softly on the greens, without excessive release.
They felt firm and solid on impact, but I would have liked a little more feedback on mishits. The sound at impact was a little harsh to my ears, but better than with some of the other clubs I've tested. The heads cut through the rough pretty well, and I didn't dig into any turf. The excellent turf interaction I saw with these clubs may have been the result of their wide- soled design, but maybe I was just having a good day - sometimes it's hard to tell. You might be the same way.
The Bottom Line: If you want your game-improvement irons to resemble players' clubs, you might want to consider the Nike VR Pro Cavity irons. They'll give you the help you need and look great at the same time. You might not play like the pros, but you'll look like you're playing their kind of irons. Overall, the Nike VR Pro Cavity irons are a fine set for mid to high handicappers.