A couple weeks back Cobra announced its KING Oversized iron. Today it adds to its 2017 lineup with the introduction of 2 additional models. Actually, we could make a case that it’s actually 4 new models.

Blame Bryson DeChambeau.

Cobra’s story… likely Cobra’s big story for 2017 is the DeChambeau-inspired single length irons sets. As Cobra’s VP of R&D, Tom Olsavsky, suggested, you can easily make an argument that single length irons were the biggest equipment story of 2016 with no sales.

Beginning with today’s announcement, Cobra hopes to change that.

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The irons we’re focusing on today are the KING F7 ONE and the KING FORGED ONE, and given all the buzz around DeChambeau and his unorthodox approach to the golf swing and the equipment, it should come as no surprise that both irons will be available in single, or ONE, length sets.

In the interest of getting you up to speed with the new lingo, I should also tell you that both sets are also available in variable length as well. Previously we wouldn’t have mentioned length type at all, and you rightfully would have assumed that the irons were regular, or normal length, but this is a new world, people. Normal is now called variable length. Embrace it.

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A Very Brief History of Single Length Irons

Let’s begin with just a bit of background. Single length irons aren’t new. In the days of wooden shafts, single length was the standard. When steel became the new standard, single length fell out of favor. Tommy Armour revived single length in the late eighties and early nineties. The company was #1 at the time, and single length was never really its focus. The Tommy Armour sets suffered from unresolved gapping issues, and as Titleist, Hogan, Callaway, and Cobra emerged as market forces - usurping Tommy Armour - single length irons all but disappeared from the mainstream market.

More recently, largely unknown 1IronGolf has offered single-length sets for the last several years. And as many of you know, earlier this year Tom Wishon also entered the single-length retail market under the Sterling brand.

Cobra is raising the stakes further by becoming the first major OEM to bring the concept back to the mainstream market. Cobra isn’t just making single length irons; it’s making them the focus of its 2017 lineup.

To that end, in addition to a pair of variable length F7 offerings, the company has announced two models of single length irons under (the) ONE umbrella.

KING F7 ONE LENGTH

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For the game-improvement crowd, specifically those looking not just for more distance, but more consistent distance, there’s the KING F7 ONE Length.

On the technology side, the F7 ONE is the evolution of last season’s F6 iron. Consider it a subtle refinement of what is quietly a very good iron. Key technologies include:

TECFLO – Described in simple terms as technology that flows through the set, TECFLO offers progressive cavity construction designed to optimize the performance of each iron in the set. Basically, the long, middle, and short irons are designed differently and perform differently.

PWRSHELL – Thinner and stronger face structures with welds placed farther from the face allow for a larger sweet zone with higher ball speeds on mis-hits. It’s not dissimilar from Callaway’s FaceCup technology.

T.O.P. Technology - Cobra-speak for the aluminum body caps that free up discretionary weight (compared to steel), which is then placed... wait for it... low and back.

Progressive Spin Technology - V-Grooves in the long iron for lower spin and more distance. U-Grooves in the middle irons for optimal trajectory, and wedge spaced grooves for more spin and precise control in the scoring irons.

Also worth mentioning, both F7 sets feature 100% CNC milled grooves, a rarity in the cast game-improvement space.

The sum total of the technology is a game-improvement iron that builds on the F6 platform to provide the added distance that retailers like to see (2.6 yards in the variable length 5 iron) and the greater distance consistency that golfers have asked for.

KING Forged ONE Length

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As you’d expect from a more player-centric club, the laundry list of technology isn’t quite as deep with the Forged ONE.

The KING Forged One leverages Cobra’s 5-step forging process, which in addition to yielding tighter tolerances, creates a tighter grain structure for outstanding feel.

Like the KING F7 One, the KING Forged ONE offers CNC milled faces and grooves. Tungsten weighting in the 4i-7i to help drive the CG low, and a Thermoplastic Polyurethane Insert (TPU) in the 4i-8i that improves feel and helps distribute weight to the perimeter.

For those interested in such things, the KING Forged ONE is the iron that Bryson DeChambeau has in his bag.

The Deep Dive

Having spent nearly 6 hours in a room with members of Cobra’s R&D team being stepped through the 2017 lineup, I can tell you that the company is completely committed to the single length concept, and that has me more than a little intrigued by these ONE Length offerings.

As you may recall, Cobra made a significant investment in Bryson DeChambeau. I might have suggested there was an element of dice-rolling in play with the signing, but with DeChambeau having earned his tour card, he’s in prime position to make an impact, and Cobra believes that puts it in prime position to make an impact as well.

Company insiders believe DeChambeau has the potential to be one of the best players in the world, if not THE best. A quick look at his ball striking stats suggest there could be something to that. Keep in mind that, in his win at Hilton Head, he gained 10 strokes on the field with his approach shots. If that type of strong play continues, if his potential is realized, expect ONE to be at the forefront of Cobra’s offerings for years to come.

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The ONE Length FAQ

During the presentation, my time on the range, and on the course, I had questions (and observations), and I’m sure you have questions too. So rather than treat this like a standard product release article, I’m going to be bold and try and anticipate your questions.

Here we go:

1. What are the benefits of ONE Length irons?

In theory – and in Cobra testing – the answer can be summed up in a single word: Consistency.

When your irons are all one length (for Cobra’s 2017 lineup, that means 7-iron length), your 5-iron swing is the same as your pitching wedge swing. A more consistent setup should lead to more consistent results. That makes sense.

“If we can make you more consistent, you’re going to hit it better.” – Tom Olsavsky

In one test case, Cobra sites a mid single-digit handicap golfer who went from a 20% success (good shot vs. not so good – we’ve all been there) to an 80% success rate with his 4-iron. All he did was switch to single length clubs.

Take a look at these impact patterns. This testing was done by GEARS Golf. Club order was randomized… basically they tested the way we would test, and the results suggest much greater consistency with the ONE Length long and middle irons.

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Consistency is great, but there’s also an argument to be made that ONE Length is better for those of us suffering from back ailments, or anything else that makes that extra bending over that comes with hitting short irons and wedges more uncomfortable.

“We don’t want to say it’s for the old and decrepit, but people play golf for fun, and if it hurts when you’re playing golf, that’s not fun.” -Tom Olsavsky

Playing with a bit less pain should make the game more enjoyable. I’d call that a benefit too.

2. Do I need to swing like Bryson DeChambeau to play ONE Length irons?

Nope.

Bryson’s lie angles are 73°. That’s probably not going to work for you, and Cobra has accounted for that.

While Bryson is known for his one-plane swing, nobody expects you to swing it like Bryson. Cobra’s ONE Length Irons are just as suitable for two plane swingers – and that’s most of us.

You still need to be fit to find the proper lie angle, but it shouldn’t be much, if any, different than what’s in your bag now.

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3. Will I lose distance with ONE Length Irons?

Probably not.

While individual mileage always varies, Cobra has gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure there are no distance penalties with ONE Length irons. In fact, ONE is the most tested iron in the history of Cobra Golf.

First, remember that distance is driven primarily by loft. It’s why loft jacking is all the rage. We also know that, when it comes to iron length, shorter is often… well, shorter.

During its research, Cobra learned that ½” in shaft length equates to about 1.2 yards of distance. All other factors being equal, with the jump from a 7 iron to 6 iron, we’re not talking about that much of a distance penalty.  Step from the 7 to the 5 or the 4, well, now you’re going to have distance and gapping issue. No worries, though, Cobra sorted that out too.

Cobra’s engineers got most of the distance back by simply putting weight back into the head (for consistent swing weight you need to add weight to the long iron heads to offset the loss in shaft length). By lowering the center of gravity, Cobra got even more distance back.

The end result is basically equivalent distance between the variable length KING F7 and the KING F7 ONE Length.

I should also mention that Cobra put an exhaustive amount of work into ensuring that the gapping within ONE Length sets was as good, or better than any variable length set on the market today.

Short answer - there are no distance or gapping issues for you to fret over.

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4. What about the short irons?

What a great question. Thanks for asking.

With the short irons, Cobra had basically the opposite problem; too much weight. To fix it, Cobra actually had to remove weight from the short irons. This is most notable in the unique cavity design of the wedges.

What you’re left with on a comparative basis with variable length F7 are higher launching, more forgiving long irons, and lower launching, higher spinning wedges. All of that is attributable to differences in CG (Center of Gravity) locations between the ONE Length and variable length sets.

What’s interesting and arguably counterintuitive; results from that same GEARS test I referenced above suggests that, despite comparatively longer shafts in the scoring clubs, golfers are actually more consistent with ONE Length short irons as well.

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Again… that consistency plays right into the marketing message. ONE Length. One Swing.

The suggestion is that consistency in one area (length) yields consistency in another (ball striking).

5. What about metalwoods? Are those single lengths too?

For now, at least, no. While Cobra will no doubt continue to investigate the viability of single-length clubs at the top of the bag, ONE Length adopters will continue to play variable length metalwoods.

6. Should I play ONE Length Wedges?

It depends. Cobra’s Tom Olsavsky believes that strong wedge players might be best served sticking with what they have. You already have a great short game, why mess with it?

Golfers who need help, however, may want to consider adding Cobra ONE Length wedges (56° & 60° available through custom order) to their sets.

Once again, the argument is consistency.

For now, only a single bounce/grind option will be available in each loft. If consumer demand is high enough, Cobra could add more options.

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7. Won’t fitting be a problem?

It shouldn’t be. To make things as easy as possible for fitters, and to help golfers better realize the potential of ONE Length irons, Cobra’s 2017 fitting carts will include a 5, 7, and 9-iron. This will give golfers a taste of what it’s like hitting ONE Length in the middle of, as well as near the outer edges of the set.

Basically, it’s a confidence play to help golfers understand that the concept works as well in practice as it does on paper.

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8. Is it weird playing with ONE Length Irons? What are the potential issues?

I cheated. That’s two questions. The answer to the first is most definitely yes.

The Cobra guys tried to talk me through it by frequently repeating “7-iron swing”. It’s sage advice, but avid golfers may find themselves fighting a mental battle when presented with 7-iron length and 5-iron loft. We’ve been playing this game a while, and we’ve come to expect our lofts to present with a certain amount of length attached to the handle. For some, myself included, decoupling length and loft may pose a bit of a mental challenge.

In my case, I struggled to get over the mental block of over-swinging the 5-iron. The R&D guys tell me that all I have to do is trust it and it will go as far as a conventional 5-iron. I do trust them, but initially my confidence in the team did little to dissuade me from swinging out of my shoes.

That said, even flailing a bit whilst trying to force what in my mind is a 7-iron to go 5-iron distance, I did notice much more consistent impact pattern on the face than I’d typical see with my own 5-iron.

With the wedges, the mental block was the opposite. I found myself fighting a tendency to under-swing, because, well, if I take my 7-iron swing with this extra-long wedge, it’s going to fly too far.

Nope.

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For avid golfers, it will likely take time to recondition the mind. Even with the mental issues, impact patterns were consistent, despite the longer shaft length. That’s intriguing for sure.

What surprised me most was how comfortable I got pitching and chipping with longer than standard wedges. It’s a bit like shaking off winter’s rust. It takes a few reps to recondition the feel (it’s a process), but once you have it, you have it. No need to give it any more thought.

Where I struggled mightily was with open-faced shots, particularly from greenside bunkers. There’s a 90% chance it was 100% a mental block. That could suggest that the 56° and 60° wedges are where this single length thing might get a little too weird for many of us. Still, I’m going to have another go at it and see if it gets any better.

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9. Who are ONE Length irons for?

Potentially everybody. More realistically, my early impression is that ONE Length is a serious option for anyone who needs help with iron consistency.

ONE Length should certainly be considered for beginning golfers as well. Single length irons reduce the complexity of the iron game and with it, the overall learning curve.

Honestly, I was disappointed to learn that ONE Length irons won’t yet be available for women (yet). With my wife threatening to pick up the game, I believe ONE Length would make the learning process more enjoyable.

And yeah…there is a legitimate case to be made for seniors and anyone else who might be suffering from a physical problem that makes swinging shorter irons uncomfortable.

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10. Is anybody actually going to buy these things?

Yes. I think. Maybe.

Ultimately the consumer adoption rate could be tied to Bryson DeChambeau’s success on Tour. I’d wager there isn’t another product on the market for which retail success is so inextricably tied to a single player. If DeChambeau starts winning and winning often, we’ll likely see tour adoption increase, and ONE Length may very well be the next big thing.

“If this becomes the hot thing like I’ve seen other hot things in the business, we’re going to run out.” -Tom Olsavsky

If that doesn’t happen, you can probably toss ONE Length in the pile of potentially good ideas that never quite went mainstream. It certainly appears Cobra has plenty riding on Bryson DeChambeau’s success.

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As for Cobra’s competitors, we’re not aware of anyone else with single length irons in the immediate pipeline. Olsavsky told me he wouldn’t be surprised if somebody introduced a set at the show. If I had to wager, I’d be on PING, but it also wouldn’t surprise me if rest of the industry collectively takes a wait and see approach.

With all of that said, as the calendar turns towards 2017, I can honestly tell you that ONE Length is the new iron product I’m most excited about (at least so far). It has real potential to help golfers lower their scores… you just have to be willing to give them a try.

I definitely will.

Variable Length Too

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For those looking for a more conventional set of irons, both the KING F7 and KING Forged Tour will be available in variable length sets. Physically, the head profiles are identical to their ONE Length alternatives, though as you’d expect, the internal weighting is in-line with other standard offerings. Otherwise, the same technology is baked in.

While ONE Length irons feature red, white, and blue badging, medallions in the variable length sets feature Cobra’s signature orange and black.

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Pricing, Specs, and Availability

KING F7 ONE

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  • Stock Set Makeup: 5-GW ($100 per additional iron)
  • Stock Shafts: True Temper KING F7 (steel), Fujikura Pro 63i (graphite)
  • Stock Grips: Lamkin REL-Blue with Red & White Accents
  • Dexterity: Available for both Right and Left handed golfers
  • Retail Price (7-piece set): $699 steel; $799 graphite

KING F7

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  • Stock Set Makeup: 5-GW and 4-5H, 6-GW
  • Stock Shafts: True Temper KING F7 (steel), Fujikura Pro 63i (graphite)
  • Stock Grips: Lamkin REL-Black
  • Dexterity: Available for both Right and Left handed golfers
  • Retail Price: $699 (7-piece steel), $799 graphite (available through custom only), $799 (combo set, steel), $899 (combo set, graphite)
  • Women’s combo set also available for $899

KING FORGED ONE LENGTH

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  • Stock Set Makeup: 4-PW (56° and 60° wedges available for $119 each)
  • Stock Shafts: KBS TOUR FLT (120g stiff; 110 regular)
  • Stock Grips: Lamkin REL-Blue with Red & White Accents
  • Dexterity: Right-hand only
  • Retail Price: $999

KING FORGED TOUR

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  • Stock Set Makeup: 4-PW (3i and GW available through custom)
  • Stock Shafts: KBS TOUR FLT (120g stiff; 110 regular)
  • Stock Grips: Lamkin REL-Black
  • Dexterity: Right-hand only
  • Retail Price: $999

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Retail availability for all sets begins 1/13/2017

For more information, visit CobraGolf.com