I was privileged recently to get a fore-taste of how Cobra Golf is meeting the challenge of its rivals at Manchester's Golfarium indoor simulator centre, with a chance to hit its latest King Cobra S9-1 range of drivers, which are heading for a golf shop near you next month.
Already the S9-1 ProD version has achieved success on Tour with victory for Geoff Ogilvy in the Mercedes Benz Championship in Hawaii and similar models are in the hands of top players including Ian Poulter, Camilo Villegas and JB Holmes. But it's the six other club members' options, which Cobra hopes will stamp their authority on the 2009 driver market.
Most distinctive features of the S9-1 drivers are their sleek, streamlined, confidence-inspiring looks at address, encouraging you not to hold back in the impact zone. Additionally the sound of metal on ball has been toned down to deliver less of a distinctive ring of vibration but more of that solid feel through the fingers rather than the ear drums.
And while I had to rely on computer generated monitors to discover the length, trajectory and direction of a shot in the simulator, it was clear that the S9-1's 'Hotter 9-points technology and enhanced frequency tuning' was delivering both power and forgiveness.
As well as options for fast and moderate swing speeds, the 460cc S9-1 will have Moderate Offset, Senior, Women’s and Offset Women’s versions - all featuring a special face insert behind the face, a longer, lightweight (45.5-inch) shaft and subtle dimples on the crown to give the golfer a cleaner look at address.
For each model, I'm told, the centre of gravity changes to a progressively more draw-bias and higher launch - from the F model (square face) to the M and M Offset.
Cobra fitters explained that whether a golfer’s ball speed is extreme 150+ mph (X), fast 125 to 155 mph (F) or a more moderate 110 to 140 mph (M), there’s an S9-1 clubhead/shaft combination to suit every ability make the most of player’s potential ball flight, accuracy and distance.
The S9-1 F driver will be offered in lofts of 9.5 and 10.5 degrees, S9-1 M drivers in 10.5 and 11.5 lofts, and S9-1 M Offset in 9.5 and 10.5 lofts. All will have Cobra/Aldila DVS-HL shafts fitted as standard. The S9-1 Seniors driver will have a loft of 11.5 degrees and the S9-1 Women’s driver will be available in either 11.5 or 13.5 (Offset) fitted with lightweight Cobra/Graphite Design Tour AD YS shafts. Suggested retail price for all models is £249 but likely to be around £199 in the shops.
For those elite souls with even faster swing speeds, with aspirations to play at the highest level and with £329 to spend, the black-headed 460cc S9-1 Pro has been developed in two models. For the record, Ogilvy preferred the deep-faced S9-1 Pro D with its mid-high launch with low spin, for a lower, piercing ball flight. The alternative is the shallow-faced S9-1 Pro S with its low-to-mid spin and higher ball flight.
Both feature a factory-installed swingweight screw 'to enhance speed tuning and customising with a wide range of shafts' and will be available in lofts of 8.5, 9.5 and 10.5 with Cobra/Matrix Ozik Xcon 6 shafts fitted as standard.
Cobra Golf will be at next week's PGA Merchandising trade show in Orlando, to throw its distinctive yellow cap into the ring of latest drivers to be revealed - and the S9-1 series looks certain to make an impressive impact.
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