2015 Nike Vapor Driver Review
16 Mar 2015
by Rusty Cage

see also: Equipment Reviews

Nike rolls out cool looks and cool tech for its Vapor driver line.
Nike rolls out cool looks and cool tech for its Vapor driver line.

How do you hit it better than that?

That’s a damn good question. It’s also the subject of a brand new, wickedly funny commercial that stars a cavalcade of Nike athletes messing around with Vapor drivers.

You have to give Nike a tip of the cap for taking on a huge elephant that all equipment companies tussle with - convincing a customer to upgrade, even if the club they’re playing is really good. That’s certainly the case for Nike and their Covert 2.0 driver line which earned high marks for length, forgiveness and especially innovation. I currently enjoy playing a Covert so I represent a real conundrum for Nike. I should be pretty receptive towards upgrading my gear. But I love my driver. It’s long enough and forgiving enough. Can the new Vapor drivers really top that?

Nike doesn’t think a single driver can do it all for everyone so this year they released not two, but three models: the Speed, Flex and Pro. Visually, they all look similar looking down at their crowns. But under the hood they are all uniquely different, offering a vast range of launch and spin conditions that can help just about anyone dial in a ball flight that offers the right amount of distance and workability while maintaing an acceptable level of forgiveness.

Building off the success of the Covert model, Nike’s Vapor drivers take advantage of the following previously successful technologies: a cavity-back sole design and a deep undercut layer called a compression channel that the company first introduced in the form of their VR Pro driver in 2011. Yes, I suppose Nike is guilty of recycling, but that doesn’t mean a company can't take something old and make it better.

A closeup view of the 
reinforced cavity back design.
A closeup view of the reinforced cavity back design.

The new sole cavity is wider but shallower. It’s reinforced with Nike’s Flybeams which stiffen the back of the club and allows it to flex towards the front of the crown to improve ball speeds. The idea behind the cavity back, now in its third generation, is to reposition mass from the back of the head to the front which improves MOI across the whole club while reducing gear effect. As for the compression channel, it’s a completely new design. Nike engineers went through 37 iterations during development before settling on the final design that varies in depth (shallower in the center and deeper towards the heal and toe) which influences how the face flexes on both center and off-center strikes.

A less publicized feature, but certainly not insignificant, is Nike’s FlexLoft 2 adjustable hosel adapter which is approximately 5 grams lighter than the original component used on Covert drivers. The savings in weight (about 30 percent) allows the Vapor drivers to play lighter than their predecessors. The Speed and Pro drivers register a D3 swing weight when paired with their stock shafts, while the Flex weighs D4. As much as I tend to rave about the Covert drivers, I found it nearly impossible to consistently square up the ultra- heavy Tour model which clocked in as high as D6 depending on shaft.

So now that we have a general sense of the new lineup, let’s examine each individual club’s performance and benefits.

Vapor Speed Driver

Out of the three divers, the Vapor Speed is the lightest when paired with the stock Mitsubishi Fubuki Z 50 shaft (56 to 59 grams) and it also produces the highest trajectory and spin. A low and deep center of gravity location in combination with a mid-torque, high- trajectory shaft means the ball will launch high and land soft.

The Vapor Speed like all drivers in this series features the cavity back sole, the compression channel and is outfitted with a 460cc head. At address the Vapor Speed looks bigger than advertised when compared to its siblings. Nike elongated the head from front to back. They also made the crown a little more rounded and deeper in shape when compared with either the Flex or Pro. It sets up in a slightly closed position which can help players square up the face if they routinely lose shots to the right.

The significantly sloped crown 
of the Nike Vapor Speed driver.
The significantly sloped crown of the Nike Vapor Speed driver.

By all accounts the Vapor Speed is built for golfers who need a little help getting the ball up in the air or need a touch more forgiveness than what is offered in the other two driver models. I would, however, caution anyone from categorizing this driver as a high-handicappers golf club. Even a world- class player like PGA Tour pro Paul Casey found himself getting fitted for a Vapor Speed. For Casey, a self-described low-spin guy, the Vapor Speed performed better than the lower- launching Pro driver he initially coveted.

I tested all Vapor driver models recently at GolfSmith’s Lake Grove location. All data was measured using a Foresight GC2 launch monitor. My Nike Covert 2.0 performance driver is regularly set to 12 degrees neutral and all three Vapor drivers were set to 11.5 degrees neutral and were fitted with stock shafts (stiff flex).

My Covert driver numbers bounced around a little bit while I warmed up but ultimately settled at a 13 degree launch angle and approximately 3600 rpm of total spin. The Vapor Speed, while a solid golf club, was a little too light for my taste and I never quite got in sync with it. My mishits generally went to the right, averaging 26 yards offline compared to 15 yards with my gamer.

In terms of spin, the Vapor Speed produced nearly the same rate while launching the ball a half degree higher than my Covert. Although the lightweight shaft and head combination on the Speed are supposed to encourage higher ball speeds which in turn leads to more distance, I actually ended up swinging the club a fraction slower and came up 10 yards short compared to my Covert driver.

Vapor Flex Driver

The Vapor Flex driver is outfitted with some serious Harry Potter wizardry. FlexFlight, a Nike innovation similar in concept to Callaway’s Gravity Core found on Big Bertha Alpha 815 drivers, allows the center of gravity to be incrementally adjusted from low and forward to low and back.

FlexFlight features a tube made from the company’s lightweight RZN material. The FlightPod (also RZN) is a flippable 15-gram weight that can be removed and reinserted using the same wrench that adjusts the FlexLoft hosel. Flipping the module to the heavy end increases both launch angle and spin, while also improving the club’s MOI. Doing the opposite cuts the spin rate by approximately 300 rpm and the launch angle by a degree.

When combined with the FlexLoft hosel which has five lofts and three face angle settings, the Vapor Flex is Nike’s most- adjustable club. Truthfully, this isn’t a club that everyone needs to play. Given it’s premium price tag, it probably won’t outsell the Vapor Speed or Pro. But I love that Nike brought it into the marketplace both to flex (no pun intended) their engineering muscles and to help some customers maximize their performance from a very granular, multi- faceted adjustment.

The Vapor Flex driver lets 
you adjust the center of gravity.
The Vapor Flex driver lets you adjust the center of gravity.

“With a simple quarter turn, we can adjust the mass of the FlexFlight module forward and backward within the club to change the trajectory and shot shape for the athlete,” said Nate Radcliffe, Director of Engineering at Nike Golf. “As the last step in the fitting process, that can be the difference between the athlete being comfortable with the fitting and really being able to compete with it on the golf course.”

Make no mistake, by offering CG adjustability, Nike is targeting more accomplished golfers with the Vapor Flex. Visually, the crown is classically-shaped from front to back and the slightly open position at address caters to players with higher swing speeds.

Measuring it against my Covert driver, the Vapor Flex performed admirably - especially considering the FlightPod was left in its factory preset position. The Vapor Flex was tested with a stock Mitsubishi Diamana S+ Blue Board (61-gram) shaft. The Flex driver launched considerably lower than my Covert (11.8 degrees compared to 13) and spun less by 300 rpm. Although carry distances were nearly the same, the Vapor Flex had a little more run out as a result of a more penetrating ball flight.

Vapor Pro Driver

The last club I tested was the Vapor Pro. Without a doubt, it was my favorite driver out of the three even though it’s the least forgiving, which has to be expected from a typical low-and-forward CG driver.

The Vapor Pro is a classic better player’s club. A little bit heavier than the Speed even though the swing weights are identical, with a compact pear-shaped crown that feels dead solid when you make center-faced contact with the ball.

The Nike Vapor Pro driver is a 
classically-shaped player's club.
The Nike Vapor Pro driver is a classically-shaped player's club.

When testing the Vapor Pro driver with the same shaft as the Flex, I experienced a pretty wide shot dispersion including one spectacular miss to the right that was offline by 55 yards. While I wasn’t thrilled with spraying the ball, I was plenty impressed with the carry distances that consistently matched or surpassed the totals I registered with my gamer.

From an off-the-rack testing standpoint, the Vapor Pro launched a little too low (only 11.3 degrees) and sustained a peak height of only 21.5 yards. The average spin rate was 3200 rpm; a number of quality shots were in the 2600 to 2800 range. While my moderate swing speed and smooth tempo might not make this an ideal club for me (especially without a proper fitting), golfers with high speeds or fast transitions should flat out kill it with this stick.

Look and Feel (All Models)

All three Vapor drivers feel pretty solid, but fractionally lighter when compared to the clubs they are replacing. In terms of how they sound, I think they all could be a little quieter but thankfully none of them are high-pitched.

When it comes to paint jobs, Nike has chosen a glossy, black finish on the crown with some very subtle graphic detailing. Some people in the golf community would call it a return to form. Some might even suggest it’s a return to sanity. Although I may be in the minority, I really love the bright red look of the Covert lineup. I’d be lying if I didn’t say I enjoy giving my driver a solid rip especially if someone in my group happens to give me the stink-eye.

For those who do prefer a more in-your- face approach to design, Nike came up a custom crown for staffer Michelle Wie to promote at the beginning of the year. Apparently, Casey likes it too. Although there’s no way at this time for the public to get a hold of any, it wouldn’t be a shock to see these drivers released later on in the year in limited quantities.

Who’s It For?

If you’re already playing Nike golf equipment or have in the past, chances are at some point you’ll be tempted to give these sticks a look. By releasing three unique models, Nike is showing an astute awareness that a one-size-fits-all driver solution doesn’t makes sense for everyone.

Some players do fit the low-launch, low- spin profile that’s so in vogue these days. Other golfers need spin (sometimes a lot of spin). Fortunately, there’s three very different drivers to choose from.

I think anyone who has an open-mind about Nike’s branding direction and takes the time to undergo a thorough fitting consultation will find a Vapor driver that does in fact let’s you hit it better than your gamer.

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