When Nike first started making woods, the fairways were one of the best things that they did, right up to the Nike SQ fairway with its yellow flash in the sole. For years many Nike athletes like Tiger Woods and Paul Casey continued to use it long after newer models came out.
Now the Nike Vapor fairways are the latest to try and live up to this heritage and the bright visual connection is there with the flash of volt green on the sole. The rest of the head also looks different with the red crown of the Covert fairways replaced with a gloss black finish.
There are two models on offer called the Speed and the Flex and both feature the same reinforced Covert sole and Compression Channel as the Nike Vapor driver.
The aim is to complement each other with the Compression Channel allowing the face to flex more at impact and the Covert Cavity providing stability and greater forgiveness as the weight is positioned more towards the outside of the soles.
The Compression Channel is narrower and deeper than on the Vapor driver due to the size of the head and because there is still headroom for the face to be faster on fairways, whereas the sweetspot of drivers is already at the limit.
Nike say that this head design increases ball speed by up to 1.5mph, or around 5 yards more, than the previous Nike Covert 2.0 fairway so we put both models to the test at the Nike Performance Centre at Archerfield.
Nike Vapor Speed Fairway Review
The Nike Vapor Speed fairway has a nice mid-sized profile with a silver face that contrasts with the dark crown to make it easy to align the club.
There is also a white alignment line on the bottom groove of the face, but it is hard to make it out on the silver background. The sole has also been modified with a flatter leading edge that makes it sit very well behind the ball.
It looks very good at address although the swoosh on the inside of the crown may not be to everyone's taste. Whilst it is less obtrusive than on the original Covert fairway, I feel a smaller version as an alignment aid would have added function to some nice form.
When you swing the club the fun really starts as it feels nice and light. The sound at impact is excellent with a solid and higher pitched 'zing' to make you feel that you have really caught each shot.
I have never really got on with Fubuki shafts as they generally feel very firm, but the z60 x5ct version that is in the Speed fairway feels lighter and much more playable than previous versions and suits this club very well.
I do prefer larger head fairways for the forgiveness and looks and the Vapor Speed fairway ticks these boxes and is everything that a good fairway should be.
The only suprise is that it initially only comes in lofts of 15° and 19°, when I would have thought 15°, 18° and 21° would have provided a nice range of options for most players. However the strong 19° 5-wood could be an excellent par-5 approach club for better players.
Nike Vapor Flex Fairway Review
The key feature that makes the Flex different to the Speed is the FlexLoft 2 adjustable hosel that allows you to vary the loft and angle of the face. The hosel has five loft options from 13° to 17° on the 3-wood and 17° to 22° on the 5-wood in 1° increments as well as three face angle settings that open or close the face by 1.5°. These work very well to change the trajectory of the shots in a subtle way.
With a few exceptions, adjustable hosels on fairway woods do look a little on the chunky side and this is no exception. However the dark head and shaft help mask the visual impact of the larger hosel.
The Flex version of the Vapor fairway probably looks a little better than the Speed thanks to those dark looks. Similar to the Covert 2.0, the Flex has a slightly smaller head with a taller face and although it still offers a good level of forgiveness for its size, it is still a little on the compact side.
It is set up to look slightly open at address as apparently that is what better players prefer. If you look closely you can see this as the top line looks open whereas the white groove at the bottom of the face looks square. The Vapor Flex actually sits square, but the optical illusion is there if you want it.
Despite this the feel at impact is lovely and as you would expect from a smaller head, the sound is more solid and a bit lower key than the Vapor Speed, but still very good. The trajectory is also a bit lower than the Speed because the Flex is a lower spinning club, so if you are a high spin player then the Flex could be better for you, especially into the wind.
The Vapor Flex does cost around £30 more than the Speed, however if you need the option of varying your loft or reducing your spin then it could be worth the extra investment.
As an adjustable fairway I do like the Vapor Flex, but all things being equal I am not sure why you would go for it over the Vapor Speed, unless the results of your fitting said it was better. The Speed costs less, sounds better and goes just as well from a larger head that is more forgiving.
When we met Francesco Molinari at the launch of the Vapor range he was using the Speed fairway for similar reasons and if the Speed works for him, then it will work for most of us mortals too.
The Vapor Fairway is a huge improvement on the Covert 2.0 and is the best fairway Nike have done to date so if, like us, you have been waiting for the second coming of Nike fairways, then feel free to rejoice.