The King F8 range of woods and irons features a number of firsts, so I caught up with Jose Miraflor, VP of Marketing at Cobra Puma Golf to find out what's new and why everything is Nardo.
Hi Jose. You have introduced the new King F8 drivers and say they have been two and a half years in the making. Is that a standard Cobra life cycle or have you taken a bit more time over this one?
The main technology in this King F8 driver, which is the face, the first ever 100% CNC milled titanium forged face, took a long time. You can’t just walk into something that nobody has ever really done and take it for granted. We had to learn the process which is a multi-step process, not just creating the face plate but what you do to it after you weld it on. Whilst most people are still just hand polishing the face to the shape that they want we decided to take a new step and mill it to perfection to deliver a face that is thinner, lighter and faster than ever before.
It was quite surprising watching the video earlier seeing all the hand finishing of the driver faces. Is that the way everybody does it?
Yes, unless you are casting your face, which some people do now if they are using a carbon fibre crown, but usually one part of the head has to be removable. In this case we have two pieces. We are using a carbon fibre crown but we like to use a face plate because we can forge it and make it thin with the E9 shape in the back. We then plasma weld the face to the crown, but that is when we stop doing it like everybody else. They will then hand polish it like we said, but we decided that we were going to fixture it and mill it to perfection instead.
I presume the reason this hasn’t been done before is that technically it has been too difficult?
Yes it is a struggle. That is why it took two and a half years. We had to find and buy the right things to make it fixture well so that you can repeat it. I don’t want to reveal too much of how we do it because I don’t want to make it easy for other people to catch up, but let’s just say it was a little painstaking, and there was a lot of moaning and groaning and arguing, but in the end here we are two and a half years later with something that we are very proud of being able to create.
Without giving away any secrets are you able to say what the biggest challenge was?
Yes, when you mill on a surface that is curved in many directions it takes a lot of programming and added to that how do you finish it off? It doesn’t just go off into an edge where you can finish and then obviously there are issues with holding it in place for milling. Normally when you mill things it comes from a block of material, for example when you mill a putter it starts as a block of steel, where we are putting it into a fixture to hold it and then mill it in the same way over and over again. So that took a little bit of time to get right.
Is it a quicker process than hand polishing?
I would say it is quicker and more reliable because when you hand polish you will have a lot of fall out. If a person hand polishes too much the head may get too light or the face may get too thin so you can end up with something that is out of spec for CT or it can break. If they polish too little you might have a head that is too heavy that needs to be polished again or it may have the wrong thickness in the face and it is too slow and doesn’t perform very well. So this process helps to solve all of that.
The other big thing with the King F8 driver is the aerodynamic features that it has on the crown and the sole. How did you arrive at that design?
We have watched other people do aerodynamics and we have thought that is interesting. We saw some penalties of aerodynamic features, because typically if you add aerodynamics your crowns get tall which can raise Centre of Gravity. Or if you have some kind of aerodynamic trip it is usually made out of titanium and it is a weight penalty that again impacts on CG moving it higher. We have always tried to create CG’s that are low and back to make the club more forgiving and have more speed.
So we went through a long process to understand the impacts of aerodynamics and fortunately one of our engineers who is Head Of Innovation, Mr Mike Yagley, came from Boeing and as a golf ball guy understands aerodynamics really well and he taught us how to do it.
We did some streamlining, we created our own versions of aerodynamic trips and we picked a polymer material to use on the crown that is lightweight, 1/10th the weight of titanium, so there is no weight penalty allowing us to keep our low and back CG.
On the sole of the club we are using titanium, as you should as it is going to make contact with the ground and you don’t want polymer there as it will wear right off, but of course weight here is actually an advantage because it is pushing CG lower. The position does mean it moves CG forward a little bit but we are willing to accept that for the aerodynamic benefits.
We are really happy with the 360° Aero package that we have been able to deliver and what we are saying is that with this club we can solve aerodynamic problems throughout the downswing not just at the very bottom.
How much extra speed are you anticipating this will generate for a player with say a 100 mph swing speed?
We think you will probably get about 4mph more ball speed due to a 4% saving in efficiency and 4 mph speed equals quite a few yards so you are going to get some yardage out of it.
The face we have created this year gives you ball speed and the aerodynamics give you club head speed and the two working together give you a lot of distance.
That sounds pretty good to me! Moving onto the King F8 fairways, the rails, which I like, are a little closer together and a bit larger than before. How do you decide the size and where to put these? Is it trial and error or a complicated mathematical equation?
It is trial and error. Testing, testing, testing is what you want to do and fortunately for us we have not only a great testing panel, but we also have some of the best players to help. With Rickie Fowler, Bryson DeChambeau and Lexi Thomson working with us we can test, we can test with their teachers watching and looking at the launch monitor data, and one of the things we learnt was, especially with Rickie, was that he prefers the rails to be a little bit closer together. When you make them a little bit closer it helps with turf interaction.
When you look at the thickness of the rails and you make them a little shallower on the 3 wood and a little deeper on the 5 wood, 7 wood and hybrids it gives you a lot more turf interaction forgiveness meaning it doesn’t dig when it goes through the ground allowing you to deliver an aggressive downward blow.
As you say the rails are also on the King F8 hybrids which I like. Can you explain about the shape of the hybrid that you are saying makes it subliminally pleasing to the eye?
We call it the golden shape and it is a shape that we have been using for a couple of years now. We have done a lot of shape testing with both our iron side panel and with consumers and we find that this shape is very pleasing to the eye. It is very forgiving looking, yet when you hit it it sounds good and because of the rails it goes through the turf very well. So as a whole package it makes the club very likeable to a lot of consumers.
Was it deliberate for it to be that shape or was it just the way it worked out?
We started with probably three different shapes and this was the one that was most preferred. Not only is it an address shape but it is even the way that the toe rises and the curvature up from the sole, through the skirt and up to the toe, all of that we worked on.
We had people look at it at address, we had people look at it face on, and also how it looked just sitting in a bag and we asked questions and through listening to the answers we came onto this shape and our engineers were really happy because it tested really well.
Whilst we touch on the shape we also need to talk about the colours because Cobra has been renowned for normally having a range of very bright colours in the metals, but this year you are going for a single colour. Can you explain to me why you have done that?
This year we are taking no prisoners. We are taking it a little bit more seriously. People make fun of Cobra and say “you know what they are into colours and not into technologies” which is not true. We have a lot of technology and we have had it for years and this year we wanted to remove any type of negativity so we have come out with one, brand new colour. It is still a different colour, we call it Nardo, and we got the inspiration from automotive manufacturing.
We have been watching the trends in that industry and we saw this colour that was being pioneered in a lot of high end automobiles. It is a flattish grey that is really soft in colour and we melded it with our carbon fibre and we have even used it within the carbon fibre so when we join the two on the crown of the driver and the 3 wood it looks very striking.
Even the solid colour on the crown of the hybrid looks very striking. We are very happy with the way it looks. It challenges people’s convention, it is not black, it is not white, it is not red, and it is not blue, it is Nardo, and it is very fresh and very new. I challenge everybody to go and take a look and I think they might like it.
There isn’t going to be an orange version for Rickie then?
No, this year I think you can expect to see Bryson, Rickie and Lexi all using this Nardo colour. Rickie might try and take an orange weight or something and put it in or ask for some orange lines but that is ok, and I think you will see a lot of players liking the Nardo look.
This time last year we were talking about One Length irons for the first time and you said you were going to play with them all year round so I wonder how you are getting on with them and has it improved your game?
I have to admit I am out of them! Here is where I struggled. I definitely hit more 4 iron and my 5 iron more consistently but because I am not a high ball flight player I didn’t have enough loft and I couldn’t get the balls to stop as well as I wanted them to. The distance was there but it didn’t quite stop fast enough for me so I went back to variable length.
This year though I am going to have to give it another shot. We have come up with a lot more technology in One Length. A lot of people said the long irons flew a little bit low and the short irons flew a little bit high and so we did a lot of testing and a lot of polling of the people who had bought One Length and most people were really happy.
But some feedback was can you get the longer irons to fly a little higher and can you get the ball to land softer with the long irons, and can you get the wedges to fly a little flatter so I can control them in the wind. We listened to that and the engineers went back to the drawing board and we created a 6, 5 and 4 iron this year with a slightly wider sole area that brings the CG lower and further back, which helps with dynamic lofting and helps to launch the ball higher and actually also gives a little bit more speed.
We are excited about that and we have also pioneered a new thing this year called progressive CG. With progressive CG you take your long irons and make them shallower with shallower hosels to keep the CG low and then as you move through the set towards the wedges the hosels become taller which moves the CG up so all told it makes the long irons easier to get in the air and easier to keep your short irons flatter. So that really helps out with the little things that we have learnt over the last year from our people who are loving the One Length, so we are giving them more of what they want.
Did the sales of One Length irons meet your expectations in the market?
Absolutely the One Length helped us lead the charge and you had to make the decision if you were One Length or Variable length so you had to try them both and inevitably you fell in love with one of them because if you haven’t tried a Cobra iron in a while you are missing out on a really soft, long hitting set of irons that really perform, and you just have to find out yourself which one is the set up for you, Variable Length or One Length.
With your experience this year what was the real surprise with the One Length?
The surprise was really about the velocity of how many people wanted to try it. If you thought about it in 2015 there was a lot of talk about One Length with Bryson doing so well and wining. There was a lot of talk and nothing to satisfy that need and then in 2017 we launched it and we are the only large OEM to create a set. There were smaller makers, but ours was probably the most affordable and versatile to use, and people fell in love.
So we had to increase the forecast like crazy to match that and we also had to increase the forecast of variable length as well, because inevitably people fell in love with both and we are really excited about both of them and it helped us to really grow in market share and gain momentum in the iron business.
This year you have also brought out a One Length hybrid which is also a 7-iron length to fit in with the One Length concept. Did you ever consider doing hybrids at the same lengths, but at a longer length, because that is maybe what I would have expected?
Yes we have tested hybrids that are all one length but are longer and those do work but we thought it was important to really think about the consistency that One Length delivers so we quickly turned round and were able to prototype a hybrid with 7 iron weight and with the right lie angle and with the right kind of shaft and it did really well.
As high as the new irons are hitting it, this hits it even higher so if you need launch, if you need some speed, if you need some spin, the One Length hybrid is really going to change it for you.
One of the secrets behind it is a story I like to tell. We have some great teachers who are Cobra ambassadors in Mike Schy, who is Bryson’s coach, and Claude Harmon III, who helps out with Rickie and has some other great students, and they both saw this club, and they both hit it, and they said, hey, hey, hey, this has a lot more than just easy hitting.
What you can do in the short game with this incredible club is going to be great because the Baffler rails on it is going to prevent it from digging, so watching these guys around the green they were showing off some short game skills with it, talking about how they were going to create some skills videos for how to use this One Length hybrid not only with the full swing but around the green as well.
So in terms of this year’s range which club are you most excited about going forward?
That’s a hard question. I think we are launching three great technologies that are very different. I am pleased to say that I think we are the first forged titanium face that is CNC milled in a driver so I am really excited about that because of the distance it is going to bring.
I am excited about One Length in the second year because of how good the improvements are including the iron set up and the hybrid addition.
But really, this Cobra Connect system, the first ever full set of connected clubs, is something with which we really are challenging people’s conventions. If you think about this, most people don’t treat their golf game like a business but if they did they’d improve.
Most businesses don’t do well without analytics. You check to see how the business is doing, you work on what is not right, how you spend, where you spend, what you work on, what’s your strategy and you go and get better. Not many people do that with their golf game. The Tour players have been doing it for 20 years, they keep their stats, they understand what are their strengths, what are their weaknesses and they work hard on their weaknesses and they work to maintain their strengths. Why aren’t we doing it as normal golfers, why is it just the Tour players that can have this? Shot Link is a $30 million a year business that runs this for the Tour players.
What we are doing is partnering with Arccos Golf, and we have taken their sensors, made them lighter and embedded them in our grips on all of the F8 clubs and it is going to allow the golfer to improve. You are going to know exactly how far you actually hit your clubs.
You will know if your tendency is right to left, left to right, where the ball goes, and that means you are going to make better choices on the golf course. That is really all golf is. Most people don’t even know this but 40% of golfers never get the ball to the green, almost 70% of golfers never get the ball to the pin, which means that most golfers are choosing a club that is too short and they need to pick a longer club.
I have been fortunate that I have been play Arccos for a long time and I hate that I have found out that my 7-iron doesn’t go 160 yards, it actually goes 153 yards, so all this time I am 7 yards shorter than I really thought. Now I know that I am picking the right club and I am hitting more greens, I am less short and my game is improving. That is going to happen for a lot of people because they are going to make better choices.
Arccos is also doing a lot of great things through Arccos Caddie to help you choose the right clubs and to make the right choices. We are also doing fitting things with Arccos to help you set up your driver, play with it for 3 rounds, and it will tell you how good that loft or that CG setting is for you.
There are a lot of firsts in this and nobody else is doing this in golf so I want to say to everybody out there who haven’t tried it, if you buy a set of Cobra irons, just a set of seven, we are going to give you seven more sensors to equip the rest of your clubs, and they may not be Cobra’s – I feel sorry for you – but it means you are going to know what your real distances are and you are going to improve and that is something we are in this for.
Cobra is here to help you improve your game no matter what level you are, Tour level to beginner, we want to help you improve, to get you to love this game and to get more people playing it, get hooked on it, and these are the technologies that we think we are leading in and will help that happen.
Thank you Jose
Read reviews of all Cobra King F8 clubs