Nike Golf Designs the Future for Amateurs, Pros Alike
I know there are millions of good people in the Midwest and East Coast regions that will walk to my keyboard and slap me for saying this, but: Spring is approaching – and all of the nation’s great and glorious golf courses will be open for business.
It’s the perfect time to start warming up to the idea of playing again with a look at the elite golf equipment coming out of Beaverton, Oregon.
The Innovation Unleashed Conference at Nike’s Pacific Northwest campus unveiled the constant, dedicated research and development that goes into making me a very average golfer and stars like Rory Mcilroy and Tiger Woods the best in the world.
Nike offered journalists a rare and unique look into the company’s entire golf design process and facilities – from apparel and equipment to material and manufacturing.
The Nike golf compound is a multi-acre site tucked into the suburban woods of the greater Portland area. It includes the Nike Tiger Woods Center, the official ground zero of Nike Golf’s activity, The equipment might not be completely designed or constructed there – but it’s where they’re unveiled. Golfers gathered at the there for a look at everything from shoes to golf balls, drivers to putters.
Much of the event was dedicated to Nike’s latest club technology – the Covert 2.0 Series. Intended as game changers for Nike Golf, Covert 2.0 represents the top of the line for the Oregon crew.
The VRS Covert 2.0 Drivers are most commonly recognized for their empty heel – a cavity back design with Fly-Brace technology to provide more impact and energy transfer at ball strike for more forgiving straight line distance.
Once the Nike golfer is off the tee on a par five, the VRS Covert 2.0 Fairway Woods employ the same High Speed Cavity Back technology with a lower center of gravity to get the ball up in the air on approach.
The VRS Covert 2.0 Hybrids use progressively smaller head designs with increasing face heights on each model to adjust for distance.
Once inside that 200 yard mark, the VRS Covert Forged Iron use a Nike NexCOR face to offer more ball speed and, as a result, more distance. The irons take a page from the woods with a high-speed cavity back design with a lower, deeper center of gravity.
Finally, the VR X3X Toe Sweep Wedges offer a wider sole area toward the toe of the club – with new Nike X3X groove technology along the face. The entire design is intended to provide a more consistent shot with ball better flight, finer spin and more stopping power on the green.
The golf balls Nike players will tee up use new Speedlock RZN Core Technology: Journalists were able to take the RZN’s apart to analyze how the new tech interlocks the core and other shell to form a tighter bond, more impact on strike and more speed and distance.
The four new varieties of Nike golf balls coming out of The Oven (the company’s golf ball laboratory) include the RZN Platinum, RZN Black, RZN Red and RZN White. Each packs different performance capabilities for different skill levels.
On the apparel side, 2014 sees Nike offering two new shoes and three pieces of outerwear.
For footwear, the new Nike Lunar Control offer full-grain leather uppers and Nike’s proprietary Lunarlon technology for lightweight cushioning.
The Nike Lunar Clayton combines a handcrafted, waterproof leather upper with Nike Lunarlon technology in the outsole. A leather welt to the outsole protects from the elements.
Working Nike golf wear from the outside int, the Nike Hyperadapt Wind is a light, windproof, rain-resistant unit for spring use.
The Nike Innovation Woven Cover-up offers a lightweight wind-and-water resistant Dri-FIT stretch woven body with 3D knit sleeves to allow better movement by the arms and shoulders.
Finally, the Nike Lightweight Innovation Color Polo has been redesigned for optimal movement and is bonded rather than stitched to lie more closer to the body.Decked out in the gear swinging the latest home team equipment, Nike golfer and legend in the making McIlroy was on hand at the event to demonstrate the dexterity of the Nike Covert 2.0 line in genuinely skilled hands. With the clubs under his control, balls went where requested. High trajectory. Low. Draw. Fade. It’s no wonder he won the Australian Open just days later playing his Nike set.
Nike golfer Paul Casey from the UK also appeared to discuss how all of Nike’s work comes together to help formulate his world class game. He also unveiled how he evaluates new Nike equipment before it goes into his bag, whether on the course or at one of Nike testing centers.
Golf clubs, balls and apparel are analyzed and employed by Casey and other professionals at an entirely different level than amateur players – even lower handicap players.
I would compare the perception abilities to race car driving. I often say the difference between an amateur racer like me and a professional lies in the senses. Pro drivers see differently. They sense speed differently. They feel the car as mortals do not. They start racing as children, and their senses develop to a heightened, almost superhuman level.
The same goes for pro golfers They begin playing at a very early age in most cases. As a result their sensory abilities attune specifically to the game. With a new Nike club or golf ball in Casey’s or McIlroy’s hand, they feel, see and hear differences the average golfer does not. They can detect how tightly packed the resin core of a golf ball is and talk about feeling whether a ball is fast, slow, soft, quiet or quick.
All of this Nike technology might seem like overkill to the weekend duffer, but – having played a lot of golf with a lot of different equipment under varied conditions – I will tell anyone willing to listen that a new, cutting edge ball and some brand name equipment like Nike’s efforts will had 20-50 yards to any golfer’s efforts. It’s never a racket or said overall when major golf research and development is involved.
After all the R&D is done, Nike Golf clubs and golf balls must perform for the PGA tour pro and for the local public course player. That’s the razor’s edge at the Tiger Woods Center. They need to build equipment that will sell to everyone from scratch players to high handicappers – while enabling their trademark brand pros to win championships on the PGA Tour.