Some good ideas never go out of fashion and rails on the soles of higher lofted fairways and hybrids is one of them. It sometimes baffles me why they ever come and go in the market. Maybe that is why the Cobra King Baffler fairway is so named.
Whatever the reason, the rails on the sole of the club help keep the face squarer through impact and also stop it digging into the ground if you are a steep swinger playing in soft conditions.
It also of course makes it easier to play from the rough because there is less of the sole in contact with the bottom of the heavy stuff and so it goes through more easily and I certainly found this to be one of the main benefits.
The Baffler may look like the King F6 fairway at first glance from above, but the 147cc head is smaller than the 171cc 3-wood and even the 149cc 7-wood. It does look compact at address, but in a good way and I think it will still provide everyone with enough visual confidence.
I like the white groove lines on the face and the circular pattern in the middle as it makes alignment easier and frames the ball at address.
Unlike the F6, there is no Speed Channel around the edge of the Baffler face, just a 455 steel face insert welded into the 17-4 steel body.
In between the rails are two weights weighing 3g and 15g and having the darker, heavier weight at the back will move the CG to the rear increasing launch and spin.
This is a variation on the adjustable sole weights on the King F6 fairway but in a smaller space and they work well at giving you options.
Combine this with the 8 loft positions on the MyFly8 adjustable hosel and you have 16 possible combinations to choose from, so some professional fitting help would be advisable.
I used the F6 Baffler with SkyTrak to see the differences and having the heavier weight at the back when the club was at 17.5° was better for me as I could launch the ball with a little more spin.
With the heavier weight forward, my ball went 2 to 4 yards further as the CG is closer to the face. This increases ball speed and reduces spin a little and when the launch was the same or a little higher that is when I got a distance gain.
This will be very player dependent as the changes are quite subtle and in that vein I would say I preferred the sound and feel when the weight was forward too.
I then played around with the lofts with the heavy weight at the front and at the lowest 16° loft, the launch was over a degree lower than with the loft at the highest 19° and consequently it was shorter as it carried less.
Funnily enough the 17.5° setting was still better than the 19° as the higher loft also added more spin. The face sat quite closed at 19° too, more than I would prefer, and with the lie changing a touch as you adjust the loft, it just goes to illustrate that sometimes these adjustable clubs seem happier around the middle of the loft range than at the extremes.
What will also make the King F6 Baffler more playable is the shaft which is a full inch shorter than the King F6 7-wood at 41.75 inches. It is 0.5 inches longer than the King F6 2/3 hybrid and I think the balance of the smaller head and shorter shaft make the Baffler a good alternative to the longer hybrids because it will play a little straighter.
The driving force behind the King F6 Baffler this time around came from Rickie Fowler who's coach is a big believer in sole rails, so the emphasis is on a club that Fowler can use on Tour to alternate with his King Utility Iron, which he does. Therefore better players will probably be drawn more to it as it will fly a touch lower than most fairways.
However with the right loft setting then it could have wider appeal right up the handicap levels where the shorter shaft and sole design will offer more consistency and control for those whose drives go off the rails.