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Nike's Slingshot irons have received nothing but rave reviews but we're not quite convinced
I am a medium handicapper and anyone that knows me will confirm that I am happy to try anything that may improve my game, so it was with great optimism that I went on course with these Nike Slingshots, as Nike says that the club is designed to benefit the pro, the beginner and everyone in-between.

They also say that the centre of gravity, they call it Air CG technology, is in the space between the clubface and the metal bar across the back of the club. This promotes a higher launch angle and helps square the clubface at impact. The club also has a wide sole which should help prevent 'fat' shots and a progressive offset to position the hands ahead of the ball which should also help square the clubface at impact.

This might be the case but here we had the classic example of not having a shaft to suit your swing. My clubs were fitted with a regular graphite shaft that proved too whippy for me, resulting in more high hooks than any other shot. Although I did hit some good shots, one memorable 3-iron which flew against the wind about 20 yards longer than my normal clubs, they were few and far between and as a result I have reluctantly taken them out of my bag and reverted to my old weapons.

In Nike's defence though, I have to say that I like the look of this Slingshot. Looking down on them they have a 'chunky' head with a thick top line that gave me a feeling of great confidence, thinking I can't miss with this. The bar across the back of the club has the Nike swoosh engraved in it and I always think that it looks classy. I would love to try these clubs with either a steel shaft or a stiffer graphite shaft as I think they could be long and forgiving in the correct specifications.

I would definitely recommend the Slingshots but try before you buy as they are close to premium prices. I have seen them priced online at £499 for steel and £649 for graphite although there will be better deals available.

One concern I would have though is the fear of rust developing in the deep cavity but if you were to look after your clubs better than me then it should not be a problem
Morris Forbes, 16 handicap

Second opinion
I'd promised myself a new set of irons this season so when I got the chance to test some Nike Slingshots I thought it would be a good opportunity. I currently have Lynx Black Cats with regular graphite shafts that, I have to say, I like. However, I have spent most of the of last couple of seasons without a 3-iron after the head decided to fly of in the direction of the putting green while I was practising.

Even a fix by the pro couldn't keep if from coming off a month or so later. The real clincher for a new set was the fact that the pitching wedge decided to go the same way, except it detached itself from the shaft during a shot in a medal round late last year. Given that and the fact that they also need re-gripping, action was required. So it was very timely when the editor of ScottishGolf was looking for a tester for the Slingshots.

First, I looked up a well-known golf site and immediately looked for other reviews of the clubs just to see what I was letting myself in for. Words and phrases like 'superb', 'a must buy', 'awesome', 'much straighter' and 'I now hit my 7-iron 60 yards further' gave me mixed emotions. I was drooling at the prospect of hitting the ball further and straighter, but I was not looking forward to having to fork out the best part of £700 for a set of irons that I couldn't afford not to buy if the reviews were to be believed. I first took them to my local driving range for a first test. The set I had was graphite, although they are available in steel (my preferred option).

The irons have an excellent feel and balance to them. They make a comforting swish sound as you swing - I'm fairly sure it is the design of the slingback undercut cavity on the back of the heads that causes this. The heads also seen to have a low profile and indeed the position of the cavity changes with loft, apparently to give long iron assistance and short iron control. The product description says they have 3-D flow weighting with progressive offset and wide sole.

Unfortunately, it was an extremely cold evening for the driving range try out. However, initially they did feel good and the ball had a good flight and flew as far as it does with my Lynx. They were certainly easy to hit and felt very comfortable just after a few shots. So having a few swishes under my belt it was off for the real thing. I was lucky enough to be invited along to another try out - this time Forrester Park, Dunfermline - during another cold, damp day.

We played a match, had a great time and I was able to keep in the game right till the end. I put that down to the ease of use of the clubs - I even squeezed in a couple of birdies and one of my playing partners commented on how straight I seemed to be hitting them. However, I did not feel I was getting the same distance as I would have expected which, although this could have been down to me on the day, left me feeling a little disappointed. I also realised that the set only comes as 3-PW, which makes them even more pricey.

I also managed a game at my home course at the weekend and although again my form was patchy, I definitely was a bit shorter with them, and left thinking that the irons were not really for me. So the good news is that, in the short term, it has saved me a chunk of hard earned cash but the bad news is that I am still looking for new irons.
Richard Callison, 7 handicap.

Third opinion
We don't usually allow ourselves the luxury of three testers per club/s but in this instance we decided on at least one more view for two reasons. First, I happened to be playing with Richard Callison (above) on the day in question at Forrester Park and thought he was being a bit picky. As far as I could see he was hitting the ball straight and long although only the player himself can say if he's getting the same distance he usually would.

Second, the Slingshots have received very favourable reviews and at least two magazines to our knowledge - one specialist golf title and one men's lifestyle mag - have voted these irons as their golf product of the year for 2003. Because of this, we wanted to make sure we weren't marching out of step with the rest of the world - not that we object to doing that on principle but simply because there's a thin line between having opinions, and being prepared to back them, and just being pig-headed and stubborn.

In addition. Nike's chief designer, Tom Stites, has a hard-won and well-justified reputation as both an innovator and a craftsman so anything he produces is worthy of a second, or third, look. Nike says of the Slingshots that the metal bar arcing from heel to toe positions the centre of gravity low, rearward and in the heel of long irons to help square the clubhead at impact and to create a higher ball flight for long, soft-landing shots. The flow weighting of the Slingback design shifts the centre of gravity incrementally higher, closer to the face, and towards the toe as it moves toward the short irons. This progression reduces the launch angle and increases the spin rate which helps prevent shots from ballooning while maintaining the ability to hold greens. The centre of gravity (CG) of the Slingshots is suspended in air behind the face, creating Air CG.

In appearance the clubs are pleasingly traditional from the front, with a clubhead that is considerably smaller and chunkier than many other irons but appearance only counts for so much; it is performance that will make or break the deal and like the two other testers, I was initially excited but subsequently a little disappointed. It's difficult to be over-critical because they work, and work well. They feel light and stable to swing, and produce a high yet penetrating flight. Yet I also found them to be a touch shorter than my own clubs and the whoosh noise created by the steel bar across the back of the clubhead was a bit disconcerting.

Ultimately we measure any set of new clubs against those we already have and in my case these simply did not perform well enough to tempt me to think about a change - especially at this price.

But there's no substitute for experience so don't rely on our word - and we do seem to be marching out of step with a lot of well-qualified people - get your hands on a demo set and decide for yourself.
Martin Vousden, 10 handicap.

©    27 - MAY 2004

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