By Joel Beall and Mike Stachura
Nike bowed out of the equipment game in 2016. That didn’t stop a Swoosh club from taking the Internet by storm this week.
An Instagram post from someone who identified themselves as an “ex-Nike employee” surfaced showing photos of a “VPR Strike” driver, a product that allegedly was going to hit the market in 2017.
The former employee, who goes by the handle of oli_wilson13, told Golfwrx.com that the driver, which featured a massive speed slot and deviated from the previous year’s blue-and-neon colour scheme, was actually illegal in certain parts of the face. “Was going to be marketed potentially as ‘The legal, illegal driver,’” Wilson told Golfwrx.com. Wilson also shared that the VPR Strike gained eight mph of ball speed versus the 2016 Vapor Fly Pro, and that Rory McIlroy loved the driver so much he begged to put it in play at the 2016 Open Championship. (Nike announced it was discounting its club and ball business just three weeks after the Open.)
Though Nike never made a major dent in the equipment industry, these photos true their share of eyeballs and curiosity. However, this is not the first time an unreleased Nike product has made its way onto social media, many of which weren’t scheduled to be brought to market. But, according to a former Nike insider, the picture of the VPR Strike is “very real.”
“It was very much a done product,” the source told Golf Digest. “It was fully cooked and athlete-tested. It was locked and loaded.”
The source said the rumours swirling since the photo appeared may have several “embellishments” and “partial truths.”
But, the source said, “What might have been…”
Despite its exit from hard goods, a handful of Nike clubs remain in tour bags. Tommy Fleetwood still plays VR Pro blades and a Vapor Fly fairway wood. Brooks Koepka has used a Vapor Fly 3-iron for all of his three major championships, while Patrick Reed used a Nike wood in his Masters victory. Kyle Stanley, one of the better second-shot players on the PGA Tour, still employs Nike clubs as well.