The only -- and I mean only -- factor that should determine whether you buy a driver or not is what you experience in a fitting. Hype doesn't trump distance. Brand loyalty isn't as important as dispersion. Sound and feel mean more than status and swagger.
When I stepped into a hitting bay at PGA National and hit the Cobra King Speedzone driver for the first time last month, my fitting experience told me all I needed to know. I smashed a drive downrange with the shape I love most, and I waited for the numbers to hit Trackman.
"321 yards total," said my fitter. "Is that good for you?"
I'll take two.
For the last five years or so, I've put drivers from only a couple of brands in my bag. Cobra has been there more of that time than any other brand. Their products are as good as any in the market, and what they've put out fits my game tremendously well. That's why I have high expectations for the brand with each new driver release. These days, advances in driver technology are incremental. There are few earth-shattering emerging technologies, so manufacturers are designing clubs to perform better on the margins: more forgiving mishits, increased use of advanced materials and distributing discretionary weight to create ideal launch conditions.
Those were all the goals with the Cobra King Speedzone and King Speedzone Extreme drivers, the 2020 premieres from the company powering Rickie Fowler, Bryson DeChambeau, Lexi Thompson and now Jason Dufner.
The company emphasized six particular zones to improve upon the King F9 Speedback, which is the core upon which the Speedzone was designed. However, it all boils down to a few basic principles: getting sturdier, lighter materials to replace heavier ones and manufacturing with more precision.
The biggest change is a new chassis -- cage, base, whatever you want to call it -- that's the foundation of the club. The Titanium T-Bar Speed chassis effectively took away crown and side space that was previously titanium and allowed engineers to replace it with more carbon fiber wrap. Dubbed the 360 Carbon Fiber Wrap, the material makes up a full 50 percent of the body of the driver and affording 25 grams that was positioned low and back in the clubhead.
Those 25 grams -- plus four more -- were added to the weight pad (the Speedback) in the back of the driver. The Speedzone has 69 grams compared to 40 grams in the F9 Speedback. That's a big weight shift in one year.
The end result of having more discretionary weight is a lower center of gravity and more MOI for better launch conditions on strikes across the face.
Cobra has also further advanced its CNC milling on the face. The F8 line was the first to feature a CNC milled face, which takes out buffing and grinding over a wheel, allowing machinery to do so to spec and without human intervention. With a tighter tolerance, golfers could expect significantly less variance from club to club. With the Speedzone, the amount of CNC milling on the face insert has increased. The new Infinity face increases the milled area of the face by 95 percent, enabling more control over face and leading-edge thickness, as well face curvature on the dual-zone bulge-and-roll design. A sunburst shape is on the face, while the leading edge connecting to the chassis was milled from head to toe in part to be an alignment aid and in part to avoid potential distraction.
In playing the driver on the Palmer Course at PGA National, the first thing I noticed was the King Speedzone is a louder driver at impact than some recent Cobra offerings. It's not deafening, but there's more volume than the F8+ I have lovingly bagged the last two years.
However, for a guy whose longest-hitting days are probably just behind him, being able to preserve my distance for a few more years with the Speedzone is a great asset. I feel as confident in the Speedzone as I do the F8+ that I can work the ball on command, hitting my preferred mid-height draw with ease and even working in a power fade on a windy day.
I'm not always worried about hitting the fairway so much as getting the ball enough in play that I can get to the distance I want into the green. The Ventus Black shaft I got fitted into creates a solid dispersion pattern for my style.
There's another King Speedzone driver for players looking for more forgiveness and to keep the ball in play. That's the King Speedzone Extreme, which is a bit of a departure from its cousin. The Speedzone Extreme doesn't have the 69-gram weight back like the Speedzone. Instead, it's 17 grams. The Speedzone Extreme has a larger profile for more moment of inertia, and, like its cousin, there are two interchangeable weights on the sole, at 14 grams and 2 grams (18 grams and 6 grams in the Speedzone OG), to slightly move the center of gravity. The Speedzone Extreme has the highest moment of inertia of any driver Cobra has ever produced.
Both offerings are available in a shorter 44.5-inch length preferred by Rickie Fowler, who has a big influence on the brand and, coincidentally, is a gearhead (in a good way). The MyFly8 hosel offers a variety of lie and loft adjustments on both drivers. They're available in a glossy black and yellow finish or a matte finish with black and white that looks sharp. The Speedzone is available in 9- and 10.5-degree heads. The Speedzone Extreme adds as 12-degree option.
The new Cobra King Speedzone and King Speedzone Extreme drivers retail for $450 each. The decision to keep the price under $500 may speak some to their challenger status, but it's practically an invite to include them in your next driver purchase cycle. Pre-orders start Jan. 3, 2020, and they're available Jan. 17, 2020.