When designing a driver, there are two main motivators behind every engineering choice: distance and dispersion.
For a driver to be better than its predecessors, it has to either send the ball farther or keep it closer to the middle. Ideally both. However, achieving those concepts can often be at odds with one another. Gain speed, maybe give up dispersion. Tighten dispersion, perhaps lose speed.
So, the design problem Cobra Golf tried to solve with their new King F9 Speedback driver was creating a head shape whose aerodynamic properties would lead to more clubhead speed, while offering a product whose center of gravity was competitive with lower-and-backer peers looking to produce ideal, more forgiving ball flight for all players.
The end result is a head shape that's unorthodox but, Cobra says, delivers on those goals.
Speedback is the name for the total package Cobra created to simultaneously offer a more aerodynamic head while not allowing the weight associated with raising the crown shape to drive up the center of gravity. Standing over the ball, you probably won't notice much is up.
The carbon fiber crown, which is 12 percent larger than the F8 series and wraps seamlessly into the 811 titanium driver body's skirt as a means of saving weight, has a pair of raise sections that not only help with aerodynamic performance but shore up the crown's strength at impact. The stiffened sections, dubbed PWR Ridges, could also help with alignment. By wrapping the crown into what is a pronounced skirt compared to other drivers in the market, the bonded end product saves 4 grams over the prior F8 models.
Where the Speedback package becomes noticeable and pronounced is not only in the elongated skirt but in the taller (deeper) stature of the sole under the trailing edge. It looks like a billboard compared to other current drivers, and it will probably invoke some feelings about those square drivers Nike and Callaway made in a bygone era. But the F9 sole still retains the character and shape of a modern driver, keeping as rounded of a look as possible to prevent unwanted drag, along with softer leading edges. That shaping in the back contains a hefty chunk of weight (relatively speaking). The point of this design decision was to create mass properties to spread out the weight and drive down the center of gravity into a more forgiving, ideally-launching position.
The Speedback, er, backing feels a bit like the sole of a platform shoe, but there's a practical application. Again, a golfer isn't going to see it when they're standing over the ball, which is part of the point. So long as the ball goes longer and straighter, and the club looks about right and sounds about right throughout the swing, golfers should love it.
Yes, the accent color they're pushing is yellow. But it looks sharp. There's a gray-ish color available for the more conservative golfer, but I've always found Cobra's color choices pretty on the money. They take changes, but they execute them well.
While the Speedback shaping is the eye-catching and headline-stealing part of the club, several features continue through from Cobra's drivers past which should appeal to golfers.
The E9, CNC-milled 811 titanium face returns, which Cobra believes is key to delivering consistent, precisely made faces from product to product. They've made CNC milling a key part of face construction throughout their line.
Cobra Connect grips, powered by Arccos Golf, are standard and will give a golfer access to the performance-measurement platform. The adoption rate to using Arccos more broadly has been a win for the platform.
The sole features to weight portions in the dead middle, with the idea of pushing the heavier 14-gram weight in the forward slot to kill spin and move the CG slightly forward. With the 2-gram weight in the forward position, the CG moves back and launches higher with a touch more spin and improved moment of inertia (MOI).
The MyFly hosel adjustability returns, of course, though its readings are slightly different. Now the driver heads come in three explicit lofts -- 9, 10.5 and 12 degrees -- and the MyFly hosel shows adjustments in positive and negative increments, as well the draw-bias settings. Each head can move up or down 1.5 degrees with the hosel, while the Smart Pad keeps the face square at address regardless of hosel setting.
Curiously, Cobra has scrapped the Plus model after the F8 line. Functionally, there wasn't much upside to having a separate model in the line for a better player. Now, the 9-degree F9 head is effective the Plus model for better players. Each head has a different profile for spin and launch, and the 9-degree head is designed to kill spin and come off with a lower launch.
The Dual Roll face, which changes face radii on bulge and roll by halves of the face, then tilts that axis for better dispersion on low-heel and high-toe hits, is back, too. However, the factor of change on the radii between the upper and lower halves of the face will change based on the loft, too. Higher-lofted drivers will offer more bulge on the lower portion of the face to help the ball get in the air as compared to the 9-degree head built for a player less concerned with that strike point.
There are four aftermarket stock shaft offerings:
- Low launch and low spin: Fujikura Atmos Black TS 7 (S, X).
- Mid launch and low spin: Project X Hzrdus Smoke 60 (S, X)
- Mid launch and mid spin: Fujikura Atmos Blue TS 6 (R, S, X)
- High launch and mid spin: UST Helium 50 (R, L)
Cobra is also offering a Tour Length shaft of 44.5 inches on the 10.5-degree head, inspired by Rickie Fowler's 43.5-inch driver shaft.
The Cobra Golf King F9 Speedback driver drops on Jan. 18, 2019, for $450 in 9-, 10.5 and 12-degree heads for men, as well 12.5-degree heads for women and youth.
Fairway woods and hybrids
The King F9 line wouldn't be complete without fairway woods and hybrids, but they're not afterthoughts with Speedback starring.
The fairway woods employ the CNC-milled face for the first time, which the company claims will deliver in upwards of 2.5 mph more in ball speed in testing compared to a hand-polished face. The Speedback design in the fairways means placing a fixed 15-gram tungsten weight in the low-back position on the sole for ideal launch along with a 360 Aero carbon-fiber crown with PWR Ridges for stability, as well titanium sole trips for ideal airflow.
Redesigned Baffler rails are placed for ideal turf interaction for better contact at impact. The Baffler rails change in shape through the line, with the rails shallower in the lower-lofted (and numbered) woods to account for a difference in attack angles.
The MyFly adjustability offers eight loft settings, three with draw bias, while SmartRail technology keeps the face square at address, like the Smart Pad for the driver.
The Cobra King F9 Speedback fairways retail for $270 each and come in 3-4 (13-16 degrees), 5-6 (17-20 degrees) and 7-8 (21-24 degrees) heads with either the Helium 60 (4F2-LITE) or Fujikura Atmos Blue 7 (R, S) as the stock graphite shafts for men.
A Tour head is available, too, offering a more compact shape with a more forward CG position for less spin and more workability. The 3-4 head ranges from 12-15 degrees, and the 5-6 wood ranges from 16-19 degrees. The stock shaft is the Project X Hzrdus Smoke 70 (S, X).
For women, there are 3-4, 5-6 and 7-9 heads with 3-4 degrees of added loft and Fujikura Atmos 55 graphite shafts.
The King F9 Speedback hybrids come in traditional and One Length (7-iron length, lie and weighting) options, and both sport designs similar to the fairway woods, with Speedback technology utilizing a 15-gram (interchangeable) tungsten weight for a low-back CG, as well Baffler rails for ideal turf interaction. A forged 455 stainless steel face delivers on ball speed, while a 10 percent larger overall profile offers a higher MOI than the King F8 hybrid. A straighter leading edge is a welcome change for aligning shots.
The King F9 Speedback hybrids are $220 each, and they're available in 17-, 19-, 21- and 24-degree heads for men with stock Fujikura Atmos 70 shafts (L, R, S). For women, the hybrids come in 22-, 25-, 28- and 31-degree heads with the stock Fujikura Atmos 60 shaft. The One Length hybrids are available in 19-, 21- and 24-degree heads with a Fujikura Atmos One Length 70 shaft (L, R, S).