The Nike VR Pro Forged irons are Nike's Tour-level irons for 2014. Whilst they are good, they are more of an upgrade than a makeover.
The original Nike VR Pro Combo irons were launched in 2010 and the new design is very similar in looks, feel and performance to that set. The main differences are that Nike has done away with the traditional blade-design of the short irons and added a new "shot making gel" in the pocket cavity behind the face of the 3 to 6 iron.
Don't get me wrong, these are very good and I understand that the design of better-player irons hasn't changed vastly in recent years, but having seen some huge innovations from Nike in their woods, wedges and balls, I was expecting more from the VR Pro Forged irons.
After all, with both Tiger Woods and Rory McIroy on your team, you can expect better players will be taking a closer look at the equipment Nike are producing.
The design is very much geared towards Nike's Tour players and low handicap amateurs. They have a simple, traditional look at address that is compact and perhaps a touch more square than the previous versions.
The short irons are very thin and sharp at address and are great for knock-down shots and chip and runs around the green.
Despite the cavity in the short irons you won't be left wanting when it comes to feel and workability as they still have plenty. The soft, almost numb, feel when I struck the short irons for the first time was a welcome sensation on a particularly cold day.
I'm told the reason Nike added the cavity, rather than the previous muscleback design, is to improve the distance gapping throughout the set and offer a slightly higher ball flight. If there was a difference in apex height from the new design, it was minimal. In fact, each iron head is around 5 grams heavier than before, which I would imagine might cancel out any height increase. Despite this, I think the short irons may now be more forgiving than before.
The good news is that Nike have added the 6-iron to the group that feature the pocket-cavity design. Where it was a standard cavity in the 2010 model, the pocket cavity in the new design will see the 6-iron rightfully take its place in the long-iron category where it can enjoy more speed and forgiveness.
Brace yourself for the long irons, they are certainly small and sharp at address as you can see from the 9, 7 and 4 irons above. I urge anyone who waggles one of the VR Pro Forged long irons in a shop and gets put off, to try them before deciding they don't fit their needs. They are incredibly small and compact when you first set them behind the ball but like the 2010 versions, they offer a surprising amount of forgiveness.
The old design featured a gap or pocket cavity in the 2-5 iron, standard cavity in the 6 and 7 iron, and then a blade design in the 8-PW. Perhaps the best thing about those irons was the forgiveness in the long irons. The first time I hit the old 5-iron, I flew the green by 10 yards, not expecting such speed and flex from the pocket-cavity.
Now that air-filled speed-pocket has gone. Whilst you can't see it in this photo, Nike have filled this pocket with their new shot-making gel.
Whilst I was worried the gel may limit the flex in the face, thus limiting ball speed, there was very little difference in testing them versus the previous model. Nike say the gel, or polymer material, is there to improve the feel and sound.
For me, the feel, looks and forgiveness in the new design didn't offer much I hadn't seen before in the previous version. I think the real key will be in the new groove design.
The X3X grooves, featured in Nike's latest wedges, have been redesigned to offer more spin in the VR Pro Forged set. You need to be a serious golfer to notice or feel the difference in the grooves, but I trust there is an improvement there.
Perhaps my impression of these is skewed slightly by the fact I was such a fan of the original design. Whilst this is a simpler design, without the options of which of the pocket-cavity, cavity or blade irons to use to make up your set, it still requires a good, experienced driver behind the wheel.
It seems the days of traditional blades are behind us as manufacturers find ways of producing all the feel and workability players demand in a cavity-back design. If you are a staunch user of traditional blades, and are looking for a new set, I advise you try out this set. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.
The VR Pro Forged irons did surprise me with their forgiveness, but I still would recommend them only to players that are at least flirting with breaking par each time they tee it up.