By Jeffrey A. Rendall, Images courtesy of Cobra Golf
You can tell that Cobra Golf is different just by looking – viewing their funny commercials with David Feherty, glancing at their distinctive driver shapes and colors, and seeing their innovative iron heads.
Right away you’re figuring that there’s more to it than just a glitzy marketing operation. Cobra’s become a household name in modern golf, not only because the company sponsors some of the game’s brightest young stars (Geoff Ogilvy, Camillo Villegas, Ian Poulter, JB Holmes and Jason Gore, to name a few), but also because of Cobra’s reputation for player-friendly golf clubs.
Cobra’s brand has become so distinctive that you have to strain your brain to remember that the company is a subsidiary of Acushnet Company, better known in golf circles as Titleist’s parent.
Cobra’s slogan for its 2008 products is ‘longer, straighter, convention busting,’ and it won’t take long to discover that that’s the truth. In a day and age where everything looks oversized and everyone’s saying that their products are better than everyone else’s, Cobra has managed to carve out a niche for golf clubs that really do go long and straight.
As for ‘convention busting,’ that’s up to you to determine.
Todd Colburn, Cobra’s Director of Global Marketing tells us a little bit about the company: “Cobra golf is celebrating its 35th anniversary in 2008, which is fitting – because over the course of those years we’ve built a reputation for designing superior performing golf equipment for players at all skill levels.”
Cobra itself was founded by Australian Amateur Champion Tom Crow in 1973, and since its beginning, the company’s been committed to research and innovation that has produced some of the most technically advanced clubs in the game.
Two years after its beginning, Cobra introduced the original Baffler ‘utility’ wood, which was truly the first of its kind – and led to a complete paradigm change in golf. Nowadays, most players carry utility clubs, and even the pros are notorious for using them to help extricate themselves from tight situations.
Cobra also introduced the first oversized irons to golf – and just like for utility woods, just about everyone’s sporting some sort of oversized look. Simply put, the bigger clubs breed more confidence and are easier to hit – even if they’re a far cry in looks from the tiny little blades of the old days.
How strange we must look to the golf legends of the past – they’d hardly recognize a single club in our 21st century bags.
The bottom line is that modern golf equipment makes the game more-friendly to the occasional player, who takes advantage of the technology to get the golf ball in the air and hopefully steer it towards the target. Thank God for oversized favors.
And according to Colburn, it’s the company’s ‘forward looking’ orientation that keeps it on the cutting edge. “With products like the Baffler, the Oversized irons in the 90’s and today with the Speed L4V and LD drivers, Cobra’s commitment to innovation remains unchanged. While our products continue to evolve, our philosophy also hasn’t changed: Performance first and an attention to detail that avid golfers have come to expect from us.”
Another unique aspect about the company is its history of providing accessibility to product demonstration and trial. “When we launched the original brass sole Baffler in 1975, our founder issued the infamous ‘asphalt challenge,’” Colburn explained. “He challenged club professionals around the world to try this product from any lie, including their country club parking lot.”
“If they weren’t satisfied, they were encouraged to return the club at Cobra’s expense,” Colburn said.
Luckily for us, we don’t need to try our new Cobras off the cart-path – the company’s name and reputation are well enough established so that we’ll just take their word for it.
Even though the ‘asphalt challenge’ is a thing of the past, trying out the products remains at the core of Cobra’s strategy -- this year alone (2008), Cobra will offer over 4000 trial and fitting events focused on matching the right product to the golfers, utilizing the company’s Speed Tuning custom fitting process.
So there’s no excuse for buying clubs that don’t ‘fit.’ Somehow, that takes away our ability to make excuses, but on the golf course, it’s all about getting it right.
In addition to the players noted above, some others have recognized the quality and forward leaning philosophy of Cobra golf. We can’t name names, but the current World No. 1 player employed a Cobra stainless steel deep face driver to win his first Masters and a famous Australian player (who takes his nickname from a large sea predator with sharp teeth, and recently reappeared on the world golf scene by leading the British Open after three rounds) reached the top ranking in the 90’s using a bag full of Cobra clubs.
More recently, Australian sensation Geoff Ogilvy won the US Open in 2006 while wearing Cobra’s logo – probably the company’s most notable win to date.
Trying out the Cobra products was the best part of this equation, and even though I wasn’t competing for a US Open title, I found that the clubs performed very well under many different circumstances. I was fortunate to try the company’s latest drivers and irons, including the award winning S9 irons.
The first thing I noticed about the drivers is they come in a ‘series,’ meaning there’s a slightly different head/shaft/spec combo for each model. There’s the ‘M’ model for low to medium swing speeds, ‘F’ model for medium to fast speeds and ‘X’ for those generating the highest club head speeds.
Having been tested in the past, my driver speed ranges from 105-108 mph, which puts me at the high end of the ‘F’ series and the lowest end of the ‘X’ model. I found success with both models, though the stiffer shaft in the ‘X’ series seemed like it was more accurate. Maybe it’s all in my head, but I found a comfortable playing ‘zone’ with the ‘X’ model and stuck with it.
Likewise, some slower-speed companions enjoyed the ‘M’ models, and particularly liked the large size of the club head.
It looks like every driver is the maximum 460 cc’s these days – and at times, it almost seems difficult to hit a truly bad shot with these clubs. The size of the sweet spot is much bigger than it used to be and the face so large that if you can’t hit these clubs, you might consider taking up another sport.
As I’ve found, there’s never any guarantee with a golf club that you’re going to keep the ball in play, but what these clubs accomplish is simply put – more solid hits, more often. That’s about all you can ask from something you purchase, that it helps you play better.
The same is true for Cobra’s irons. I tried the S9 model, notorious for its oversized head and to say the least , its distinctive look. The size of the head places it in the Game Improvement category (it was the winner of the 2007 Golf Digest Hot List Editors’ Choice Award in this category) and features three-piece construction – so it’s a bit of a departure from a traditional forged look.
The set runs 4-GW, so there’s no 3-iron. I personally like long irons (maybe from having grown up with a 2 and 3-iron) but there’s no doubt having a gap wedge was a nice addition to the set.
Forgiveness is added from the S9’s comparably wide soul – together with the club’s low center of gravity, which makes it easier to get the ball in the air.
Performance-wise, the Cobra S9 irons are extremely user friendly. Having tried numerous game improvement irons over the years, there’s a certain level of confidence that’s built-in to the big iron heads. Bigger is better when you’re trying to learn the game – or get better – and I’d certainly recommend trying them if you’re in the market for these types of clubs.
My personal preference is a more traditional-looking iron, but it didn’t take long to get used to the looks of the S9 irons – especially since they were very easy to hit.
As for all the products we feature, I would recommend that you give Cobra a try. The company’s unique marketing gets the clubs noticed, but the clubs themselves do most of the talking.
And it sounds like that commitment to excellence will continue, too. Here, Colburn gets the last word: “A central component of Cobra Golf’s global success lies in our relentless commitment to customer service. Cobra continually invests in our partnerships via educational forums and product knowledge seminars. We understand that Cobra is only as strong as our partners’ ability to promote and represent our products to avid golfers.”And based on the strength and distinct look of Cobra’s products, it shouldn’t be hard at all to keep it near the top of the industry.
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