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It's the one that Tiger Woods plays and looks great but how does the Nike Ignite driver play?
I was thrilled to be given the new Nike Ignite driver for review but I always worry when I am given a loan of something like a £360 club in case I like it a little too much and end up having to buy it. Of course, immediately after the purchase, when the novelty wears off, I revert to the big hook or block right and am also several hundred pounds out of pocket.

First impressions are important to me, and with the Nike driver I must admit the first impression was not that great. I am not a big fan of the over-sized driver head and at 460cc this is a 'Big Un'. In saying that I was surprised at the spec because at first glance the head did not appear as large as other drivers on the market with the same dimensions.

The shaft looked to be thicker than normal but I was surprised on first feel how light this beast is. As a loyal Dundee United soccer fan I was pleased to see the flashes of tangerine on the head cover and behind the clubhead (for those unfamiliar with the joys of Scottish football, Dundee United was a famous Scottish football team of the 1980s - not so famous now). I am not too sure if I like this colour scheme on a golf club though - it reminds me of a chocolate orange biscuit.

So to the real test, off to the local driving range to see if all the hype can be believed. After a warm up and few hits with my trusty old Wilson Deep Red I moved onto the Nike Ignite. The first swing was not my best, a bit quick from the top - I would normally expect a big push with that swing. In this case it was anything but; the ball started right but drew back to the centre nicely.

The first few swings were still not my finest but even with them the ball soared into the air and hung for what seemed like a lifetime. Eventually the inevitable happened, I made a good swing with it - I really had to slow down to do it. This time I caught it sweet as a nut. I am sure the ball stayed in the air for all of 10 seconds and it flew over 300 yards (always add on 20% for poetic licence when reading a golfer's description of his own shots).

My worst nightmare had come true because I loved it. What would my wife say? We cant afford it as I have just bought a Wilson 3-wood and driver last month, not to mention over-spending on birthdays and the downstairs of our house being decorated. Then again, this club can make me so happy, my wife won't have to tolerate me after another bad driving day, it will help me get my handicap down to category 1 for the first time in 10 years. I want it.

Of course the acid test for any club is not in the false environment of the range where you get a second chance and there is no real pressure. It's on the golf course playing in a tense match with the editor of ScottishGolf when every shot really counts. I normally play with nine degrees of loft, the Nike has 10.5 and the shaft, although labelled as stiff, seemed more like a regular to me. Under more pressure the old familiar wayward shot started to creep into my game again. However, to be fair these clubs are designed to help the average golfer and if there was such a tool that would make all of us hit the ball like Tiger then the game would no longer be fun.

So to conclude, in my humble opinion the Nike Ignite is a good forgiving club that allows the nearly sweet strike to travel almost as far as the one out of the screws. It certainly goes further and it looks good. The downside is that we have all seen this hype before, with a poor swing you will still hit a poor shot and no it will not transform your game  only you can do that with hard work.

Some facts from Nike:
The material used, NexTi, is the next generation in the evolution of titanium. NexTi is a titanium-based alloy that can be directionally engineered to produce a layered yet tightly compressed metal that is thinner, lighter, and stronger than titanium.

The unprecedented strength of NexTi gives Nike, the company says, the freedom to expand the effective hitting area or 'sweet spot' of the clubface.

The clubhead design has a face much like a trampoline that begins to lose its effective bounce the further you move away from the centre and the closer you move towards the edges.

Steve Fenton, 8 handicap

©    16 - NOVEMBER 2004

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