Written By: Tony Covey

Where versatility and total performance are concerned, I’m telling you right now that with Fly-Z, Cobra Golf has just announced the most compelling full line-up of metalwoods for the 2015 season.

In my mind, it’s unquestionably the one to beat, and I say that without a hint of reservation.

I’ll give you a moment to chew (or choke) on that, and while you’re masticating, I’ll go crack the door open just a hair while we all wait for the next delivery from TaylorMade, but from what I’ve seen – from philosophy to design, to performance Cobra Golf has pulled ahead of the field.

What’s the basis for that statement?

To really understand, it’s important you have a basic understanding of how mass properties impact golf club performance. Actually, more to the point, it’s important that you care about mass properties. You might even need to be obsessed with mass properties, and in that lies the rub for Cobra Golf.

It’s Complicated

it's complicated

I deleted roughly 1000 words from this article – an entire section I wrote titled A Mass Properties Primer (this probably makes my boss happy), because it’s too massive of a subject to try and wedge into a story about 3 new drivers.

The problem is that 1000 words barely scratches the surface of the subject, and the fact of the matter is that golf companies in general have become so flippant – actually promiscuous is probably the better word – in how they talk about saving weight, and moving mass low, or forward, or backward, or wherever the hell the story of the day necessitates that mass be moved, we as golfers have become anesthetized to all of it. It’s not that it doesn’t matter, it’s just that nobody is really listening.

Let me put that in words we can all understand.

The consumer doesn’t give a shit about CG location.

Seriously, have you yourself ever, or heard anybody else ask your local pro shop guy to explain the relative differences in the center of gravity location between two drivers?

Serious Engineering Reduced to Marketing-Speak

Cobra-FLY-Z+-Driver-15

Despite being a critical, likely the most critical element that dictates driver performance, center of gravity location – mass properties really – is not really part of the consumer conversation or knowledgebase.

If you’re looking for some basic, real-world, context, well…I submit that while an in-depth discussion of how a low and forward CG placement actually impacts driver performance would certainly be both meaningful and informative, it’s a hell of a lot easier, and sadly, probably more effective from a marketing standpoint to simply tell everybody to Loft Up or make the blanket statement that You Can’t Argue with Physics.

Cobra, for its part, isn’t insane enough to try and pull the mass market into the minutia of things like impulse lines, CG location relative to the neutral axis, or even the finer points of creating a high-MOI driver that generates ball speed like a TaylorMade SLDR.

And so, for its role in all of this, Cobra must take the complex but extremely compelling story of their FLY-Z+ Driver’s mass properties, including what I submit is unquestionably industry leading mass adjustment capabilities, and reduce it to the infinitely more consumer-friendly Flip it & Rip it™.

fipitandripit

Don’t get me wrong. It’s a clever, perhaps even brilliant marketing phrase, but it also undersells what Cobra has created with FLY-Z, and specifically FLY-Z+. So as we move forward with the breakdown of the FLY-Z lineup, I’m going to try and make the CG discussion as relevant as possible.

I know…wish me luck and read on.

For your part, I’ll simply ask that even if you refuse to believe almost anything that I have to say here, please believe this:

Saving and reallocating weight is essential to optimizing driving performance. Every last gram matters.

“We’re sub-gram fisticuffs downstairs [in Cobra R&D]. It’s 3/4 of a gram, we really want it”. – Mike Yagley, Director of Research and Testing, COBRA-PUMA Golf

Introducing the FLY-Z Family

FLY:
(verb)  To move through the air under control.
(adjective) To be hip or cool; in fashion; desirable

performance-for-all

For 2015, Cobra is offering 3 drivers (along with 3 fairway wood and 2 hybrid lines) each with distinct performance characteristics. All of the drivers are 460cc.

The Fly-Z and FLY-Z+ feature 3° of loft adjustability along with Cobra’s SmartPad technology, while the FLY Z XL is available in single lofts of 9.5°, 10.5°, and 11.5°.

While there are several key differences between the models, they share several common foundation Cobra technologies.

E9 Face Technology with Dual Roll

A core Cobra technology for the last several years, E9 is Cobra-speak for an off-centered elliptically shaped hot zone that provides comparatively better performance on high toe and low heel strikes.

The Dual Roll part basically means that the roll of the face is different at the top than the bottom to provide better performance on strikes above and below the sweet spot.

MyFly8 (FLY-Z and FLY-Z+) 

Cobra-FLY-Z+-Driver-11

What Cobra calls its 8 position hosel adapter (it’s how you adjust loft) and it’s among the lightest hosel adapters in the industry. For your own reference, Cobra claims that a 1° change in loft will increase launch angle by .7° and increase spin by approximately 350 RPM. That’s good info to have when you’re trying to get your driver dialed in.

SmartPad (FLY-Z and FLY-Z+)

Cobra-FLY-Z+-Driver-12

Sole technology that allows the club to sit square regardless of what loft you’ve chosen. Worth a mention, like TaylorMade’s ASP (remember that) SmartPad is only effective for golfers who sole their driver at address.

Speed Channel Face Technology

Cobra-FLY-Z+-Driver-4

A channel surrounding the perimeter of the face that provides better performance on mis-hits, while also allowing for a mass savings compared to tradtional face designs.

There were mentions elsewhere that Cobra would be making an 8 yards longer claim. Actually, from the Cobra perspective, Speed Channel doesn’t give you 8 yards, it can save you up to 8 yards (on fairly extreme mis-hits).

“When you mishit it, you’re losing yardage no matter what you do” – Jose Miraflor, Director of Product Marketing, COBRA-PUMA Golf

With Speed Channel, you’re simply losing less.

While Speed Channel offers visible technology, it actually works in conjunction with Cobra’s internal zone weighting (face technology…think TaylorMade’s inverted cone or Callaway’s Speed Frame) to provide maximum performance across more of the face. Speed Channel is the thing you can see that helps explain the things you can’t.

Zone Technology

Cobra-FLY-Z+-Driver-1-2

I touched on this literally two sentences ago, but in the bigger picture, Zone Technology is sort of a catchall to explain how Cobra engineers were able to save and reallocate mass, and how you (yes you) can position some of that mass to optimize your own launch conditions. Zone technology is most apparent in the FLY-Z+’s Flip Zone weighting system, but that’s actually only one aspect of Zone tech.

As you probably know, the previous two generations of Cobra drivers featured cell technology. They had so-called cells in the crown and in the face. The idea Cobra is hoping to convey is that Zones are bigger than Cells, and so you should recognize that the company is reallocating more discretionary mass than ever before.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s look at the individual products.

FLY-Z+

Cobra-FLY-Z+-Driver-1

By any reasonable measure, FLY-Z+ is the flagship of the 2015 Cobra driver lineup. It’s also the first adjustable CG Driver Cobra has ever created.

While it would be easy to skip ahead to the Flip Zone weighting system, what makes Fly-Z+ possible is its materials and construction.

Warning: Boring Mass Re-Allocation Stuff…

While the body and face are titanium, both the crown and skirts (the colored areas on the side of the club) are carbon fiber.

Carbon fiber…composite…whatever you want to call the material, in one form or another it’s been used for a number of years now. What Cobra wants you to understand is that all carbon fibers and composites are not created equal. Compared to Callaway’s reasonably well-known Forged Composite material, Cobra’s carbon fiber is lighter, thinner, and stronger. It costs more more, but Cobra believes the strength to weight benefit and the higher finish quality are worth the extra cost.

“We’re using a better and more expensive material than Callaway.” – Jose Miraflor

On materials alone, Cobra was able to save 7.5 grams over Titanium. Another 2 grams of weight was freed up by the Speed Channel Face while some really clever work on the internal bits of the MyFly8 hosel support structure (Cobra removed a significant amount of material without compromising stability or durability) freed up even more mass.

FLY-Z+construction

“If you look at everything that moves – airplanes, cars, trains, whatever…engineers figure out how to make those structures more efficient. Usually, that’s making things lighter and putting weight where you need it. That’s what we do, and we’re going to continue to do it”. – Tom Olsavsky, Vice President, Club R&D, COBRA-PUMA Golf

I know, none of this is particularly exciting, so allow me to simplify.

What we’re talking about is, in relative terms, a substantial amount of mass, all of which Cobra used to create Flip Zone technology, which, compared to the competition, Cobra’s Mike Yagley says is “a much more efficient and relevant mass movement system”.

Relevant is probably the key word there. What’s the point of having a whole bunch of moving parts if very little of it offers any real benefit to the golfer?

Flip Zone Weighting

Cobra-FLY-Z+-Driver-14

As you can probably piece together on your own, Flip Zone Weighting is the impetus for the whole Flip It & Rip It thing. Basically, Cobra took all of that mass they saved through material changes and engineering, and used it to create a front to back adjustable weighting – adjustable center of gravity – system.

No detailed was spared. Even the shape of the weight cover is purposeful. While it’s not a tremendous amount of mass, the triangular shape of the cover allows for slightly more weight to be allocated to the extreme end of FLY-Z+’s range.

The totality of the design results in an adjustable 15 gram weight system that allows for nearly a 4mm (that’s significant) front to back (or back to front) shift in FLY-Z+’s center of gravity. That’s currently the largest mass movement capability in the industry.

A Very Brief CG Primer

mass-properties

Now is where that Mass Properties primer I chopped out would have come in really handy. As far as design philosophy goes, understand that the majority of club engineers believe that a low CG position helps to create ideal launch conditions (ball speed, launch angle and spin rates). We’ll simply call this desirable combination efficiency.

A majority (clearly not all) also believe that a more rearward CG is necessary for promoting forgiveness and to an extent, accuracy. I suppose you could call this playability.

So to summarize, low/rear CG positioning is good. Some would say ideal. Certainly that’s Cobra’s design philosophy.

FLY-Z+ From a CG Perspective

Cobra-FLY-Z+-Driver-1

Despite all of this talk about face technology, it’s mass properties that most directly dictate performance, and so it’s extremely relevant that when the weight is placed in the forward zone, FLY-Z+’s center of gravity is the lowest of any 460cc driver currently on the market. In fact, the only mass-market driver (according to Cobra) of any size with a lower center of gravity is the company’s own BIO Cell Pro.

For comparison’s sake, Callaway’s first 2014 Big Bertha Alpha (gravity core down) currently is the second lowest in a 460cc head (we don’t yet know about Alpha Double Black Diamond), while PING’s i25 would be the 2nd lowest in a sub-460cc head. Both are very good drivers.

Simply put, with Fly-Z+, we’re talking about the most efficient (and that means performance) 460cc driver on the market today.

Cobra’s Tom Olsavsky says it’s the best driver he’s ever made (and he’s made more than a few). Now absolutely everybody in golf says that every year, and I did get caught rolling my eyes when I heard it, but again, it all comes down to mass properties. Olsavsky believes Cobra has achieved something nobody else in the industry has.

“Fron a CG/MOI Perspective there’s nothing else like this…people aren’t playing in this space at all. It’s not something they’ve done because it’s really hard to do and they haven’t saved the weight in their other structures to be able to do it”. – Tom Olsavsky

With such a low CG position, it must be unforgiving, right? Certainly, with weight in the forward zone, FLY-Z+ plus isn’t PING G30 forgiving, but as far as relative MOI goes, it exceeds that of Callaway’s Big Bertha Alpha (2014 version 1) and even Cobra’s own BiO Cell+. It’s not even worth including TaylorMade’s SLDR in this particular aspect of the discussion.

While it may be a point of reference not everyone is familiar with, FLY-Z+ with forward zone weighting is effectively a more forgiving, more playable, BiO Cell Pro. Believe me, that’s impressive.

“We’ve taken a tour driver and put it into a club they can actually hit” – Mike Yagley

FLY-Z+ Back Zone Weighting

Cobra-FLY-Z+-Driver-1-2

When the Flip Zone weight is placed in the rear location, things get really interesting. Although the center of gravity is raised slightly, the shifting of mass towards the rear of the club increases MOI by nearly 600 points; making FLY-Z+ more forgiving than all but a small few mass-market drivers.

In the interest of providing real information, the more forgiving list includes the Titleist 913D2 (and we assume the 915D2 as well), Callaway’s Big Bertha (2014 Version 1) with the perimeter weight shifted to the toe, and both the PING G25 and G30.

If you’re looking for a driver that can truly deliver on the promise of low spin with comparatively excellent forgiveness, FLY-Z+ is going to be extremely tough, maybe even impossible to beat.

Front Zone vs. Rear Zone Comparison

Cobra-FLY-Z+-Driver-8

At comparable swing speeds, Cobra says front zone weighting will produce .3 (that’s point-three) MPH ball speed. The front position will create a slightly higher launch (also .3°), but because of the higher spin rate (+400 RPM), back zone weighting will produce a higher peak trajectory.

In the language of golf equipment marketing, front CG produces a more penetrating trajectory with more roll, while Back CG creates a towering trajectory with more carry.

Comparing front to back for me; my spin numbers were approximately 600 RPM less in the front setting. Initially, my launch angle was 2° lower, and ball speed increased by 2 MPH.

The spin rate actually proved to be too low for my launch angle, which allowed me to add 1/2° of loft (from 8.5° to 9°) to get my spin numbers where they needed to be, and I picked up an extra couple of yards because of it.

Performance in each CG position depends on the golfer. Front is not always longer, and neither is back. Cobra’s testing suggests that roughly 60% of golfers will get better performance in the back CG setting.

Me, I’m willing to trade away a little bit of forgiveness to get maximum distance, so I’m good with the front.

Feel Changes Too

Cobra-FLY-Z+-Driver-10

What some may find surprising is that there is a pronounced change in feel when one shifts the Flip Zone weight from the front zone to the back.

Not surprisingly, I found the front zone produced feel similar to BiO Cell Pro while in the back position it was, is my mind anyway, not completely dissimilar from PING G-series drivers; louder…with a bit more of a pronounced pop.

What does all of this mean for the average golfer? Here’s Cobra’s last word on the subject of FLY-Z+.

“Pound for Pound, for what people are trying to accomplish, that’s a really good freaking driver. At this point we’ve got the most playable, best driver from a true mass adjustability standpoint compared to anything else in the market, like by far…We think, actually, we know we have lightening in a bottle.” – Mike Yagley

FLYZ+ SPECS

Cobra-FLY-Z+-Driver-3

Cobra’s FLY-Z Driver is loft adjustable from 8.5° to 11.5° with additional Draw settings at 9°, 10°, and 11°.

The stock shaft is a 45″ Matrix VLCT St. Although the shaft features proprietary Cobra graphics, it’s identical to the aftermarket equivalent.

Cobra will also offer Aldila’s Tour Blue (76g), Tour Green (67g) and Matrix’s White Tie X4 (53g) as no up-charge alternatives.

Additional no up-charge shafts may be added in the future.

Retail price for the FLY-Z+ is $399. Look for it at retail beginning February 6th, 2015.

FLY-Z

fly_z_blue

Among the first thing you’ll notice about the FLY-Z is that unlike FLY-Z+, it features a fixed back zone weight. This isn’t Flip it & Rip it, it’s just rip it.

That fact, coupled with the all-titanium construction, might lead some to believe that Cobra has followed the path of at least one other manufacturer and simply watered down a premium offering in order to justify a cheaper price point.

Is the FLY-Z just a FLY-Z+ with a fixed rear weight?

That’s not remotely close to reality.

With FLY-Z the goal was to create maximum inertia in a one-weight system. To Cobra that meant still keeping the CG low (although not as low as the FLY-Z+).

Once again, for reference purposes, we’re talking about a center of gravity location lower than Callaway’s Big Bertha, XHot, and V Series, Titleist’s 913D2, TaylorMade’s JetSpeed, and in the ballpark of TaylorMade’s SLDR with the weight shifted to the fade position.

The G30 Killer

fly_z_driver_address_black_8bit

That’s all good stuff, but given FLY-Z’s role as the most forgiving driver in the FLY-Z family, it was essential that Cobra push as much weight as possible towards the rear of the club.

“This [FLY-Z] is about what people really do. They don’t hit in the middle of the face over and over again. Hell, the robot doesn’t hit in there over and over again. Nobody does. The truth is people use the whole damn face so we’ve got to do things to make the club more playable” – Mike Yagley

How successful were they? From a mass properties perspective, FLY-Z is incredibly similar to PING’s G30 (the CG positions are within 10ths of millimeters of each other). That’s solid company to be in right now considering the G30 is currently, according to Golf Datatech, the best-selling driver in both the US and UK.

Cobra feels FLY-Z actually has several advantages over the G30. These would include a more traditional, eye-pleasing shape, what Cobra believes is better face technology, and while it may not matter to everyone, significantly more color options.

Is that enough to offset the impact of PING’s Turbulators?

It should go without saying that FLY Z vs. G30 is a test we feel like we need to perform.

FLY-Z SPECS, Pricing & Availability

Cobra’s FLY-Z Driver is loft adjustable from 9° to 12° and includes draw settings at 9.5°, 10.5°, and 11.5°.

Stock shaft is a 45.5″ Matrix VLCT Sp.

Retail price for the Cobra FLY-Z Driver is $329. Available February 6, 2015.

FLY-Z vs. FLY-Z+

At equivalent ball speeds, FLY-Z should launch roughly a degree higher than FLY-Z+ with Flip Zone weighting set to rear and produces an extra 300RPM of spin while increasing MOI by roughly 300 points.

As we’ve already discussed, FLY-Z is the more forgiving option, but that shouldn’t lead one to believe that it’s just a game-improvement driver.

Cobra believes that FLY-Z will be the better selling of these two models (although they wouldn’t be shocked to see the numbers approach a 60/40 split), and while certainly some of that is mandated by price, even some of the single digit handicap players inside Cobra are electing to put the standard FLY-Z in their bags.

FLY-Z Pro?

If you’re at all like me you may be wondering if Cobra has plans to release a FLY-Z Pro or perhaps even a FLY-Z+ Pro later in the year. Jose Miraflor tells me that it’s unlikely. Cobra believes that FLY-Z+ offers true tour performance, and the company is confident that it will eventually replace the BiO Cell Pro currently in Rickie Fowler’s bag.

fly-z-verdant-green

Updated Colors

That we’ve gone this long without discussing color really says something about how impressed I am by Cobra’s FLY-Z lineup.

Apart from some subtle shifts in color, there are two notable changes to Cobra’s 2015 color lineup:

  • Silver has been replaced by Cobra White.
  • Verdant Green has been added to the lineup, but won’t be available until later in the spring. I could give you some elaborate excuse for the delay, but the truth is delaying green until early Spring provides Cobra the opportunity to freshen things up a bit a couple months after the initial launch.
  • For the Asian market Cobra will be offering a black and gold model that would no doubt be a huge hit with New Orleans Saints fans.

fly-z-asia

FLY-Z XL

Rounding out the FLY-Z family is the XL model, which is really the continuation of the Baffler series.

While generally regarded as a super game-improvement driver, Cobra is positioning the XL as a more conservative option for the older golfer, and anybody else who fights a slice and needs a bit of help getting the ball airborne.

Not long ago we talked about Cleveland shifting its focus to “The Villages”, so it’s a comedic coincidence that the guys at Cobra actually did a good bit of their player testing at The Villages. Literally.

Side note: they had so much fun they almost didn’t go home…and we’re talking about guys who live in southern California.

FLY-Z-XL

Like the other two drivers in the family, FLY-Z XL features a Speed Channel Face. Like FLY-Z, the XL features fixed, back zone weighting. Because of the offset hosel, the XL is not loft adjustable but is available in discrete lofts of 9.5°, 10.5°, and 11.5°.

XL is the highest CG offering in the FLY-Z lineup and is really designed for the golfer looking for slice correction and a bit of help getting the ball up in the air. Cobra calls it Easy Up.

While it’s definitely not a driver that most of are going to seriously consider, for the intended audience (mid to handicap golfers, generally aged 55 and above), Cobra believes FLY-Z XL is the best of what’s around.

fly-z-xl-address

FLY-Z XL SPECS

Cobra’s FLY-Z XL is available in fixed lofts of 9.5°, 10.5°, and 11.5° (10.5° and 11.5° in left hand). It’s available in black…and well, that’s it.

The stock shaft is Cobra’s “easy playing” proprietary FLY-Z XL cut to 45.75″.

Retail Price will be $279 when it hits stores November 14th.

Final Thoughts

fly-z-family

For 2015 Cobra Golf has assembled an outstanding collection of drivers. While FLY-Z+ may very well prove to be best in class from a total performance standpoint, you need to look no further than what PING’s G30 is doing at retail right now to understand why the majority of Cobra buyers may gravitate to the more forgiving FLY-Z. And yes…XL will do very well with its audience too.

There’s no doubt in my mind that Cobra’s driver offerings will be among the top performers for the upcoming the season. Like I said nearly 4000 words ago, I think Cobra is the one to beat in 2015. Of course, what I believe and what Cobra can and will sell are two very different things.

You’re not going to see any bold claims from Cobra. The company won’t promise you 17 or even 7 more yards. There’s a good chance they’ll undersell the significance of what they’ve accomplished from an engineering perspective (that mass properties thing again). It’s more complicated than the average consumer can readily absorb.

Cobra may not get your attention, but they should.

I’m not going to tell you to go buy a Cobra driver. I’m not that guy. I’d simply suggest that when you’re demoing drivers this spring, whatever you take into the hitting bay with you…Callaway, TaylorMade, Titleist, PING, it doesn’t matter. Bring a Cobra driver in there too.

Prove me right. Prove me wrong. Either way, it won’t cost you a dime to find out for yourself if FLY-Z is what I say it is.