By David Dusek
Among the first products Nike produced when the company began making golf clubs in 2002 was a set that combined cavity-back long irons with blade-style short irons.
The concept of blending different types of clubs to create a single set has been embraced on the PGA Tour, and now Nike hopes to popularize that strategy even more among amateur golfers with its new VR Forged Pro Combo iron set. The latest version, best suited for mid- and lower-handicap players, will arrive in stores Nov. 1.
Like previous iterations of Nike's Pro Combo sets, the long irons of the new set feature a pocket-cavity design that positions added mass in the bottom-half of the head to lower the center of gravity, making it easier to get the ball in the air. While last season's Pro Combo set offered pocket-cavity design in the 3- to 5-iron, this year's set offers that construction in the 3- to 6-iron.
The 7-iron through pitching wedge are designed as perimeter-weighted, cavity-back irons.
But what's really new is the addition of a polymer in the cavity that Nike says enhances feel and improves sound.
"When we first started prototyping these irons, we were using the same material used in the face of Method putters," said Chris Savage, Nike Golf's innovation engineer for irons and wedges.
Ultimately, Nike used a slightly different material, but Savage says it's nearly identical to the Method putter's polymer. About 1 gram of the material has been added to the bottom of the pocket cavities.
The Pro Combo iron clubface is forged from high-strength Spring steel while its chassis is made from carbon steel. This year, Nike gave the Pro Combo irons the same X3X 27 grooves previously found in Tiger Woods' irons and the 2013 VR Forged wedges.
The new grooves, which are tiny bit wider and shallower than the grooves in previous Pro Combo irons, are designed to more efficiently move water off the face at impact. They also help control flier lies, according to Savage.
Nike worked diligently to preserve the Pro Combo irons' aesthetic appeal to skilled players, especially when they view the clubs from the address position.
"You're operating in a really tight window," said Savage, when asked about designing game-improvement features into clubs intended for better players. Single-digit handicappers tend to like thin toplines and traditional shapes; they don't want to see the technologies that make clubs easier to hit.
"I think Pro Combos do a good job of bridging the gap between something that guys can look down at and feel comfortable with and something that can really help them play better," Savage said.
The VR Forged Pro Combo irons will come standard as an eight-club set (3-PW) with True Temper's new Dynamic Gold Pro shafts for $999.