When Cobra first appeared on the market, the King Cobra driver was in the hands of the best driver in the world, Greg Norman. Look back at early pictures of Tiger Woods and you will see it in his hands too.
The head was large for its day and offered a fast forgiving face, attributes which have continued through most Cobra drivers since.
The use of the King name continued until the Pro S9-1 Driver in 2009 before being overthrown. Now, in common with a few other manufacturers, Cobra has restored a classic brand name with their new King LTD driver.
Cobra say it is because they have created a premium driver that is the longest and straightest they have made so far. This is some boast as their drivers are usually pretty good in this regard. The price is high end too, so what do you get for your money?
Well, less, because Cobra has used space to bring down the weight of the materials in the King LTD head to improve the performance.
The Cobra King LTD is their first driver to align the Centre of Gravity (CG) with the neutral axis of the driver head. This is a line from the centre of the face to the back of the head and the optimum CG placement is as far back on this line as possible.
It is easier to hit this line closer to the face as the axis line is higher, but the benefit of the forgiveness is less and manufacturers have for years tried to get the compromise right.
Cobra are calling this the Zero Gravity CG position and the space analogies do not stop there, as they have worked with boffins on the International Space Station to research the best technology and materials to reduce weight without losing strength.
To get to this Zero Gravity position Cobra has reduced the weight of the crown using TeXtreme Carbon Fibre that is 20% lighter than normal Carbon Fibre and this is then moved to the outer reaches of the head to make it more forgiving.
Lowering the weight further is the SpacePort, which is the 16g circular weight in the sole made from aerospace aluminium.
You can unscrew this using your fingers or the supplied SpacePort Key to look inside at some funky space themed graphics and the back of the variable thickness face on the inside of the head.
This unique feature actually has a purpose, because having an open gap in the sole with the screw thread on the edge means that Cobra don't have to add more material create a housing where the weight screws in and therefore they can get the CG lower.
When you peer through to the front of the head you will notice the back of the E-9 face. This is now created from Forged 8-1-1 titanium that is lighter than normal titanium and that weight saving is also relocated to the SpacePort.
You can see how the face is thinner towards the edges to increase the ball speed and thicker in the middle to keep the faster centre within the legal limits.
If you have not seen the inside of a driver face before then this can be quite enlightening and shows what these manufacturers mean about variable face thickness.
I would recommend unscrewing the SpacePort and hitting a few shots to hear the air whistle on the backswing followed by the husky 'woof' sound as it comes into impact as is shown in the video below. Guaranteed to put a smile on everyone's face.
I tested it on Trackman with the SpacePort in and out and there sadly was no change in performance, as if it had gone further with it out I would love to have seen what Cobra made of that. It would have been up there with aligning the seam on the original Pro V1.
With the Space Port back in, the driver sounds very solid and the feel from the now familiar, but re-engineered, E-9 face was very good too.
The whole club felt very light to swing, thanks to the 60g Aldila Rogue Black 95 MSI shaft, which has a softer tip section to raise the launch a little. The flight was medium to high for each loft, even though the distance, spin and launch were right up there with the best in the market.
As ever the centre strike performance was pretty similar to previous models, but the launch monitor showed slight improvements in off centre strikes.
As standard the King LTD comes in one head that you adjust using the MyFly hosel from 9° to 12° through five positions and plus three draw settings too, so that enables you to tweak the launch angle.
If you need a lower spinning version, the King LTD Pro driver has a smaller head and covers the same loft range, but starts at 7° and goes up to 10°.
You can also see a slight gap in the head where the MyFly window shows through the hosel, which I can't imagine helps the aero-dynamics, but in reality has little or no effect.
This combines well with the slightly more subtle and reptile looking SmartPad on the sole that enables the face to pivot as you change the loft to keep the face square.
Cobra has gone for a shiny all black finish at address, including the shaft and whilst I know this is a 'stealthy better player' look, certain golfers may miss some sort of face/crown colour differentiation for alignment.
It is a very shiny head all over and what doesn't come through on the pictures is a very subtle checkerboard pattern within the gloss black finish that you can see if you look carefully with the light in the right direction. It's hard to notice, so for all intents and purposes, the crown is gloss black.
Usually premium drivers use the best materials and have lots of visual technology, but this is not the King LTD's style. SpacePort apart, the looks are understated and not as visually dramatic as say the old Cobra ZL Encore. You half expect some sort of gyroscopic moveable weight mechanism to be revealed when you opened the Space Port, as if you were entering a new world.
However the technology is all built in to the chassis, as getting the CG on the neutral axis is a good technical achievement and you don't want born fiddlers like you and me messing with that by changing the weight balance of the club manually.
The MyFly adjustable hosel, SmartPad sole and E-9 face with its Speed Channel trench around the perimeter are all tried and trusted features, so it would be madness for Cobra to change them too much, especially as most independent fitters I know highlight the Cobra face as one of the best for ball speed on off centre hits.
You can take the perfectly acceptable view that this is a well engineered head that delivers as is, with high tech materials to reduce weight so it doesn't need to add in adjustable bells and whistles to fine tune the performance. It is these materials that increase the RRP by over £100 from the Cobra Fly-Z driver, which has most of the same design features with the exception of the SpacePort.
So in simple terms, the Cobra King LTD is an advanced driver life form of an existing civilisation with a twist of a SpacePort that delivers performance of this world, rather than out of it. If all this and the dark looks appeal to you, then taking off for your local Cobra store will result in a successful mission for your next golf related missile launch.