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Nike Vapor Fairway Woods and Hybrids: The AmateurGolf.com Review
29 Mar 2015
by Rusty Cage

see also: Equipment Reviews

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Nike Vapor fairway woods and hybrids are re-engineered to be lighter and faster.
Nike Vapor fairway woods and hybrids are re-engineered to be lighter and faster.
Longer, faster and stronger. That’s what Nike’s staff of golfers wanted most out the company’s new lineup of fairway woods and hybrids.

Nike’s pre-existing line, the Covert 2.0, wasn’t exactly chopped liver. Rory McIlroy racked up a monster season in 2014 with a bunch of them in his bag. I would even argue that his 5-wood approach shot over water at the Honda Classic’s dangerous finishing hole would’ve been the shot of the year had he not lost to Russell Henley in a playoff.

But that’s in the past. McIlroy has moved forward with a new Vapor fairway wood in the run up leading to the 2015 Masters. He, along with other Nike players requested lighter designs for their woods and hybrids, plus higher launch and more forgiveness.

In describing the new Vapor fairway woods, Nate Radcliffe, Director of Engineering for Nike Golf said, “Athlete insights drove significant chassis refinement. [They] wanted tighter but forgiving leading edges, fuller profiles and added ball speed. We’ve delivered that with the synergy of our FlyBeam and compression channel technologies.”

Let me paraphrase what Radcliffe is saying. The Vapor fairway woods and hybrids are better. I can attest to that having played a Covert fairway wood and hybrid for nearly a year.

Building off of the signature technology found in the Covert line, namely the cavity back sole which allowed mass to be repositioned towards the front to improve ball speeds and MOI, the Vapor woods and hybrids benefit from a pair of FlyBeams that reinforce the redesigned sole. When paired with a compression channel that runs across the bottom of the club just behind the face, these clubs produce lower spin rates and better ball speeds compared to their predecessors.

Vapor Speed and Flex Fairway Woods

The Vapor fairway woods are available in two models, the Speed and Flex. The Speed weighs a little less than the Flex. It has a larger, shallower face that makes it easy to square up. According to Nike, the Vapor Speed fairway wood has a 25 percent larger head than the previous model. It also features a sloped crown that allowed engineers to lower the center of gravity cutting down the spin rate.

Nike's Vapor Speed fairway 
wood emphasizes high launch, low spin and 
excellent forgiveness.
Nike's Vapor Speed fairway wood emphasizes high launch, low spin and excellent forgiveness.

The Vapor Flex has many of the same characteristics as the Speed. It’s lighter than last year’s Covert Tour model and spins less. And much like the Covert Tour wood, the Flex features a smaller head (relative to the Speed) and uses Nike’s FlexLoft 2 adjustable hosel to let golfers optimize their launch conditions.

The darker, bolder Vapor 
Flex features Nike's FlexLoft 2 adjustable 
hosel.
The darker, bolder Vapor Flex features Nike's FlexLoft 2 adjustable hosel.

Side by side, I personally prefer the darker face material on the Vapor Flex woods and hybrids over the silver finish on the Speed models. The dark finish blends better with the glossy black crown, makes the adjustable hosel appear less chunky and generally makes the head on both woods and hybrids look more compact which some golfers naturally prefer. As a fan of adjustable hosels, I like being able to change the loft incrementally to better suit my gapping needs. Keep in mind, if you plan on playing the bonded Vapor Speed fairway wood, you’ll need to decide between two lofts (15 and 19 degrees) which certainly limits your choices.

Performance - Fairway Woods

I demoed a 15-degree Vapor Speed paired with a stock Mitsubishi Rayon Fubuki Z 60 shaft (stiff flex). The Vapor Flex was set at the same launch angle and used a stock Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana S+ 70 shaft (stiff flex).

My gamer, a Nike Covert 2.0 performance 3-wood, registered 4000 rpm of total spin and a 13-degree launch angle using a Foresight GC2 launch monitor. Using that as a baseline, the Vapor Speed launched three degrees lower and generated a spin rate of 3000 rpm, a significant reduction. The Vapor Flex launched lower (8.4 degrees) than the Speed, but spun more (3700 rpm).

All three clubs generated solid numbers. Predictably, both the Vapor Speed and Flex were longer than my Covert by six to eight yards on average. As much as I like my gamer, I ended up preferring both Vapor models. The ball really jumps off the face; maybe it’s due to the compression channel, maybe it’s the larger heads. As far as accuracy, both the Speed and Flex flew pretty straight (less than 15 yards offline) and outperformed my Covert which pushes balls to the right when I miss hit the club.

Vapor Speed and Flex Hybrids

Like the fairway woods in the Vapor line, the new hybrids from Nike also benefit from the FlyBeam reinforced cavity back and a compression channel which has an optimized shape for the smaller heads found on these clubs.

A side-by-side comparison of 
the Nike Vapor Speed and Flex hybrids.
A side- by-side comparison of the Nike Vapor Speed and Flex hybrids.

If you like your hybrids on the generous side, you’ll definitely prefer playing these. Nike’s hybrids are designed more like miniature woods than driving irons. Both models launch high and go far.

From fairway lies and out of the rough, I personally still prefer the slightly more compact head design of the Covert Tour hybrid. Nike did a respectable job replicating the half-moon shape of my gamer on the new Vapor Flex, but it’s not a carbon copy. That being said, the Flex still behaves more like a tour model than the Speed. It has much lower center of gravity and a straighter leading edge that sits tighter to the turf that amplifies its versatility. Players who want a little higher ball flight and a little more forgiveness will prefer the Vapor Speed.

FlyBeam structure and a 
NexCOR face offer excellent stability and 
increased ball speed on all Vapor fairway 
woods and hybrids.
FlyBeam structure and a NexCOR face offer excellent stability and increased ball speed on all Vapor fairway woods and hybrids.

Like the fairway woods, the Vapor Speed hybrid is not adjustable. It comes in the following lofts: 17, 20, 23 and 26 degrees. The Vapor Flex hybrid has a FlexLoft 2 adjustable hosel. Nike’s system has five loft options - 17 to 21 degrees in the 3H and 21 to 25 degrees in the 4H. When paired with three face angles, FlexLoft 2 lets you adjust the club 15 different ways.

Performance - Hybrids

I tested a Vapor Speed 3H (17 degrees) with a stock Mitsubishi Rayon Fubuki Z 70 shaft (stiff flex). The Vapor Flex (same loft) came with a stiff-flex Mitsubishi Rayon Diamana S+ 80 shaft. They went up against my Covert 2.0 Tour hybrid which launched at 10.2 degrees and delivered an average 3400 rpm of total spin.

Both models excelled in accuracy, but the Vapor Flex won the blue ribbon for performance. It launched slightly higher than my gamer and knocked the spin down by 100 rpm. The Vapor Flex carried the ball 11 yards further than the Covert, and 13 yards more than the Speed.

Out of the three hybrids, the Vapor Speed launched the highest and spun the most (3650 rpm). Depending on how you intend to use your hybrids, the Vapor Speed might end up being the better of the two clubs if you’re willing to sacrifice a little distance in favor of a higher launch and softer landing.

Who’s It For?

They may not have delivered a resounding knockout, but the new fairway woods and hybrids are more than capable of out-performing the previous generation Coverts. Pound-for-pound they may not offer massive distance gains (your own results may vary) but they do make it easier to find the sweet spot shot-after-shot and can’t be bested for accuracy.

Anyone who is currently playing a set of Coverts should give these clubs some serious consideration. For everyone else who is thinking about upgrading to a newer generation of fairway woods or hybrids that are lightweight and easy-to-handle, Nike offers a set of balanced clubs that appeal to players who like bigger-than-average head shapes and and ultra-modern designs.

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