One of the categories that Nike has always been pretty good at is irons, especially forged irons. Some of the blade/cavity hybrids such as the Victory Red Forged Split Cavity and the VR_S Forged are among the best irons I have reviewed over the years.
So when Nike said they had re-invented the muscle back in the Vapor family of irons, I was immediately on my way to the Nike Performance Centre at Archerfield to test them out.
As you would expect, most blades have the majority of the head weight in the hosel of the club and therefore the Centre of Gravity (CG) is towards the heel of the clubface. If you hit the ball from the centre of the face, you were effectively missing the sweetspot.
Tiger Woods knew this and Nike showed me one of his blades where a hole is drilled into the toe of the club and a heavy tungsten weight inserted and covered up to move the CG into the centre of the iron. This will also slow the toe of the club down, so you need to have Tiger's power in order to play a club like this, which is why no-one does it in blades for us mere mortals.
However with the Vapor irons, Nike has taken this principle and created what they call a 'Modern Muscle' whereby more weight is added to the toe of the club to move the CG to the centre, but within a club design that could still be called a blade.
Where traditional muscle back irons have more mass in a triangle rising from the centre of the back, the Vapor irons have inverted the triangle and put the weight around it, if you can see what I mean.
Nike has done a great job to make it blend into a blade design using PVD on the back of the iron and the feel is just what you would expect from a similar style blade, but with more forgiveness in each of the 3 models:
Nike Vapor Pro Irons Review
The Vapor Pro Irons are a little larger than traditional blades although you may struggle to see that. The 2 to 4 irons are 1% longer and 0.5% to 1% taller and this does give a better visual appearance.
They are still effectively blades and the thin top line and more compact head will appeal to low single figure players who consistently hit the centre of the face.
The short irons from 8 to PW get a little on the compact size, but the forged construction gives them a lovely feel. Nike blades have always been very good and the addition of the modern muscle retains the blade looks and performance and adds a touch more forgiveness if you want it.
Nike Vapor Pro Combo Irons Review
The blade/cavity back hybrid is something Nike do very well and this continues with the Pro Combo, which should suit most single figure golfers.
Whilst it looks and plays like a blade, the head actually has a five piece construction of a 1025 carbon steel chassis, RZN inserts, forged steel face, PVD backing and an aluminium medallion.
The mid-sized heads are slightly deeper with a thicker top line and in the 2 to 7 irons there is a small cavity hidden in that modern muscle that is filled with a modified version of the RZN (pronounced Rezin) material that Nike use in their golf balls.
This allows 45 grams of weight to move to the edges of the club to increase the Moment of Inertia (MOI) and make the Vapor Pro Combo a little more forgiving.
They do this really well and the firm feel and sound was everything you would want from this style of iron. It was balanced, forgiving and you could still shape the ball if you wanted to.
Where the longer irons have a machined face on a forged chassis, the short irons from 8 to PW are forged head with a smaller cavity. Like the Vapor Pro they are also a little on the compact size and I would have preferred to see the relative head size of the 7-iron continued down through the shorter irons.
To me the short irons seem a little compromised as the bigger cavity on the heads neutralises the forged feel a little. If they have to be the same size as their sister irons, then I would rather swop in the 8-PW from the Vapor Pro into my Pro Combo set as the feel is better.
However if you like a firmer, heavier feel from a cavity back short iron then the Vapor Pro Combo versions are not the end of the world and round out a set which offers a great blend of forged feel, playability and forgiveness and I do like them.
Nike Vapor Speed Irons Review
Whilst I am sure Nike saw a smooth transition between the 3 models, the Speed irons are probably a little further apart from the Pro Combo than the Combo's are to the Pro.
That's not a bad thing, as the generous heads with their larger cavities offer mid handicappers the chance to have a blade style iron that gives them more margin for error.
Again there is a split in style with the 2 to 7 iron featuring a hollow head to create a deep and low CG to help get the ball up in the air more easily. The larger cavity in the back of the head is also supported by Fly Beam struts to stiffen the head and increase ball speeds. The shorter irons from 8 downwards feature a cavity back design with the RZN insert to give a little more feel.
The shafts are half an inch longer and the Vapor Speed irons are really easy to hit and had a lovely feel for what is essentially a distance iron.
Overall I am a fan of the Nike Vapor irons. I feel that they work as a family and the styling and modern muscle design bring a new element to blade style irons that combines the best of forgiveness with traditional styling.
Unless you are an elite player I would skip the Vapor Pro and head on down to the Vapor Pro Combo as that is a quality iron for category one players. Despite the different head constructions, there is a good consistency of sound and feel through the set, which is commendable.
The more forgiving Vapor Speed will suit a lot of high single figure players and upwards, so if you are in between it would be worth trying both.
I would also look at some mixing and matching between sets as the longer irons such as the 2 and 3 iron in the Pro Combo could be useful additions to a Vapor Pro set if you can get the distance gaps right as the lofts are different for each model.