By Mike Stachura
Nike's line of Covert metalwoods and irons were introduced last year with the idea of selectively combining the technologies of the two club categories in an effort to maximize distance for each. That's why we saw drivers, fairway woods and hybrids with cavities in the sole (building on the idea of perimeter weighting found in irons) and irons with thin multi-thickness faces (building on similar concepts found in drivers and metalwoods).
Today, Nike introduced the second generation of the Covert family, the VRS Covert 2.0 metalwoods and irons, and while the mission remains the same, the changes reflect unique efforts to enhance ballspeed and forgiveness.
The VRS Covert 2.0 ($300) and Covert 2.0 Tour ($400) both reflect a change in the internal structure of the "cavity back" design. The wall of the cavity, which was perpendicular to the sole on last year's models, is now angled slightly away from the face to control vibration for better energy transfer.
"If you can control the flexing of the body, you can tune it so you reduce energy loss and eventually enhance ballspeed," says Robert Boyd, Nike's innovation team leader for metalwoods and irons.
Both the Covert 2.0 and Covert 2.0 Tour have larger face areas and increased moment of inertia, or stability on off-center hits, and according to Nike research, both drivers should launch the ball slightly higher than their predecessors.
Unchanged is Nike's unique "FlexLoft" approach to adjustability that decouples loft and face angle. Each of the drivers come in one head that adjusts to one of five lofts between 8.5 and 12.5 degrees. Separate of the loft adjustment, each loft can be subsequently adjusted to one of three face angle settings (left, neutral and right). The Covert 2.0 Tour, whose shape reflects that preferred and played by Nike staff players Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, also utilizes the Mitsubishi Rayon Kuro Kage Silver shaft, which features titanium-nickel fibers in the tip for improved stability.
The improvements to the VRS Covert 2.0 ($200) and Covert 2.0 Tour ($250) fairway woods reflect a push to lower the center of gravity on both to reduce spin. The CG shift comes through a lower profile shape by pushing the shape of the crown and sole flatter toward the ground. The VRS Covert 2.0 fairway woods are available in 15- and 19-degree models, while the VRS Covert 2.0 Tour fairway woods feature the same hosel mechanism as the driver. There are two heads, one that adjusts between 13 and 17 degrees of loft and one that covers 17 to 21 degrees of loft.
That same basic idea is seen in the VRS Covert 2.0 hybrids ($180), which reduce face height and decrease profile as the loft decreases. Thus, the face height on the 26-degree 5-hybrid is slightly taller than on the 17-degree 2-hybrid. The VRS Covert 2.0 Tour hybrids ($230) come in two heads, which feature the same adjustable hosel mechanism as the driver and fairway woods. The two adjustable hybrid heads cover a 17- to 21-degree range and a 21- to 25-degree range.
Special high-strength steels, variable face thickness designs and a repositioned center of gravity are the changes for the VRS Covert 2.0 iron line.
The VRS Covert 2.0 Forged ($1,100, above) utilizes a SAE 8655 steel variable thickness face welded to a 1020 carbon steel body. A redesigned cavity positions extra weight in the toe to shift the center of gravity more in line with the center of the face compared to its predecessor, the VRS Forged.
The VRS Covert 2.0 ($700) also features extra toe weight in the cavity to shift the center of gravity to match up with the center of the face. Says Boyd, "By putting that weight in the toe, you also get a dramatic improvement in ballspeed and dispersion in toe shots, which is where most golfers have their mishits." The VRS Covert 2.0 uses high-strength 450 stainless steel in the long irons (4- through 7-iron) to improve ballspeed (the 8-iron through wedges are 17-4 stainless steel). The multi-thickness design utilizes a two-millimeter thick top of the face and a three-millimeter thick lower section supported by a flex-enhancing deep undercut cavity that cuts the thickness of the front of the sole to just 1.6 millimeters.
Both irons utilize Nike's new "X3X 27" groove profile, which is designed to increase the volume of each individual groove over the previous "X3X" groove for improved consistency from the light rough and wet fairways.
The new line is expected to be available in stores January 31.