Devil Ball Proving Ground: Nike’s VR_S woods, Method Concept putter

Welcome to Devil Ball's Proving Ground, where we put the latest golf equipment through its paces. Today we take a look at Nike's VR_S woods, and the Method putter.

Tester -- Jonathan Wall -- Handicap: 2.7

Target Golf Audience -- All Players

You rarely see the words "Nike" and "underrated" together. When you produce neon yellow uniforms for the University of Oregon and some out-of-this-world shoes, you expect a level of fanfare to come along with your products.

But for one reason or another, Nike's golf club line has, for the most part, flown under the radar over the years ... until now. The Nike VR_S line (we had a chance to try out the driver, 3-wood and hybrid) may have a stealth look to them with the muted grays and silvers, but when we put these clubs to the test, they certainly made a loud (and proud) statement.

Initial Thought

One of the knocks on Nike's woods in the past (especially the driver) was that the clubs were too loud. Some of my friends used to comment that it sounded like you were hitting an aluminum bat when it came off the face. It appears the engineers heard the complaints and found a way to get rid of the "ping" sound, because this year's VR_S driver sounds incredibly solid off the face.

That's a huge improvement after years of trying out Nike drivers and being frustrated with the lack of feedback I received from mishits. A big reason for the improvement in sound and feedback is due in large part to the new "NexCOR" face technology -- thickest in the middle and tapered toward the perimeter -- that's designed to increase ball speed over a large area of the face.

The ball rocketed off the driver, and the trajectory didn't seem to balloon on me. There was a penetrating ball flight that started with the driver and went right on down through the 3-wood and hybrid.

The grays and silvers, with a hint of VR red, give these clubs a clean look. I know some enjoyed the yellow in Nike's previous line, but these sticks scream class. You don't need to be flashy to get your point across -- especially when the clubs speak for themselves.

Transitioning and Playability

Like a number of clubs on the market today, the VR_S driver uses the STR8-Fit technology to give golfers a number of different face angles. With eight settings from 2 degrees open to 2 degrees closed, you can use the wrench to make a host of changes to your driver.

Whether you really need the adjustable setting or not, it's nice to know you have the option to switch things up if you have a bad round. Even better? Nike decided to scale down the hosel area on the club which, if you'll recall, was incredibly busy and bulky in previous versions. Needless to say, this was an update that needed to be made.

All three clubs I received came with the Fubuki K-series (X-flex) shaft, which was a tad bit light for my taste (when you use a 71 gram shaft, everything feels like a twig). But after taking it through a lengthy range session, I noticed my ball speed and swing speed started to increase.

Even though it felt like I was swinging a feather in the beginning, Nike clearly knew what they were doing when they decided to lighten things up.

Mis-hits on this club were almost non-existent, which is great news if you're a weekend golfer. I hit a few off the toe and the heel just to get a sense of how the ball flew and was amazed how the "NexCOR" technology masked the mis-hits. Even if you have an off day, it's nice to know your driver won't give you a sense that the wheels are falling off.

Final Verdict

I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by the entire VR_S line. All three clubs performed at an extremely high level -- especially the 3-wood, a sneaky long stick that could be one of the best on the market -- on the range and the course, to the point where I would have been fine putting them in the bag for a money game with my buddies.

I've rarely given Nike clubs a look in the past, but after trying out the entire line, I'll definitely give them a spin in the future.

Price — $299 (driver) / $199 (3-wood) / $169 (hybrid)

Nike Method putter

Tester -- Jonathan Wall -- Handicap: 2.7

Target Golf Audience -- All Players

Initial Thought

Let's get this out of the way right off the bat: The Method Concept doesn't look like your conventional putter. When I pulled this model out of the box, I had to do a double-take at the design. Nike makes a number of conventional flatsticks, but this futuristic version looked like something we'll all be using when golf is played on the moon.

At first, I questioned if the putter had gotten knocked around in transit. Surely a company wouldn't throw a odd-shaped black bar on the back that looked out of place. But as I later found out, the bar (as well as the entire design) was put there for a reason.

Transitioning and Playability

Nike certainly isn't the first to design a hybrid putter that takes the best parts from the blade and the mallet, but it's safe to say nobody thought of putting together a futuristic design that turns heads on the green.

Built with a 90 gram putter face and 200 gram body, the combination of the two give the Method Concept a very high MOI that allows the putter to perform with the stability of a large mallet, while still keeping a lot of the same characteristics of the blade putter.

The lightweight aluminum face and heavy stainless steel body position the center of gravity towards the back in the head and lower to the sole, giving you a truer roll off the face.

Once you get past the funky design, you'll start to notice this putter can roll the rock.

Final Verdict

The Method Concept is a great putter, but for the traditionalists out there, it may be hard to get past the red and black colors and radical design. I'll admit it took some getting used for who's used the same putter model since 1997, but there's something about this putter that draws you in.

Price — $239

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