Arguably the biggest splash ever made by Nike in the equipment market was when they announced that they were going to get out of dodge back in 2016.
Yet despite its departure from the club and ball market more than two years ago, Nike was all over the headlines this past week, as an alleged former employee with the handle of ‘oli_willson13’ posted pictures on Instagram of what he claimed was the ‘VPR Strike’ driver; one that was set to be released last year.
Golfwrx.com reported that the former employee said there would be two drivers as part of the release – the Vapor Strike and the Vapor Strike Elite.
The former would be geared towards higher handicappers with a steep angle of attack, while the latter – sporting an RZN head – was aimed at better players who sweep the ball.
Apparently, the ball speeds on the Elite version offered an extra 8 mph when compared with the Blue Vapor FLY Pro, although his boldest claim of all was that Rory McIlroy was so enamoured with club that he pleaded to use it at the Open Championship that year at Royal Troon.
That was not to be, although intriguingly he declared that parts of the face were illegal, while the points where COR was measured were within the rules.
As such, it was to be marketed as ‘The legal, illegal driver’.
It must be stressed that we aren’t able to verify the claims, but the four photos shared in the Instagram post gave a full view of what might have been.
The black and red colour set on the crown goes somewhat against the hallmarks of their direction of travel in terms of design – we’d grown accustomed to a tinge of blue. The crown also appeared to sport some cutting-edge carbon fibre.
The most striking feature of all is that the speed slot is much bigger and thicker than anything else we saw from the brand. We didn’t get much of a look at the face, but the sole oozes might, and it’s not hard to imagine this one as a real powerhouse. And a stylish one at that, too.
The likes of Messrs Woods and McIlroy quickly moved on to sign with TaylorMade in the wake of Nike throwing in the equipment towel, while other big hitters such as Brooks Koepka and Tommy Fleetwood have enjoyed the versatility of becoming free agents ever since.
Yet one can’t help but wonder if this particular model of driver – if indeed legitimate – could have changed the course of history.
The latter duo has enjoyed particular success over the past two years, although it must be pointed out that Koepka used a Vapor Fly 3-iron in each of his three major triumphs, while the Englishman still carries a Vapor Fly fairway wood (along with VR Pro irons) in the bag.
McIlroy and Woods have diverged a bit further. Who could argue with the form of the resurgent American this year (albeit his success has come in spite of his driving, rather than because of it).
But McIlroy’s fortunes, on the other hand, have been more mixed. Distance is certainly not a category in which he has fallen short, but a lack of consistency and accuracy off the tee has played a significant part in his recent career stagnation. Could this unknown gem which never made it to market, but fuelled much fanfare on the internet last week, have seen him reach loftier heights since 2016?
We’ll never know. But looking at these enticing pictures of this well-kept secret, it seems safe to assume that this beast of a weapon could have done the power of good for many an amateur golfer – be that aspiring low handicappers, or the occasional Sunday morning hacker.
And it may just have helped plug that 8 per cent downturn in revenue within Nike’s equipment division that precipitated their shock decision to give it all up.
So, on behalf of all and sundry, we ask: C’mon guys, couldn’t have you have stayed in the game a bit longer? Or at least just long enough to give us the VPR Strike?