The 2015 season ushers in a total refresh of the Cobra Golf iron lineup. As is the case with Cobra’s drivers, fairways and hybrids, everything from the svelte and sexy Amp Cell Pro (FLY-Z Pro) to the clunky BiO Cell (FLY-Z) iron is being replaced.

Even the senior-leaning Baffler has been pushed aside to make room for the new FLY-Z XL.

For those missing the requisite number of fingers to handle the count, that’s 4 distinct new iron offerings from Cobra Golf for 2015.

We’ve got a lot to get through, so let’s start our coverage with the replacement for an iron that, as you may recall, I wasn’t particularly excited about.

What…it was clunky.

FLY-Z Irons

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“It’s no secret we had a tough year in irons this year…because of you and your conversation about clunky irons” – Jose Miraflor, Director of Product Marketing, COBRA-PUMA Golf

To keep me from using words like clunky again, and to hopefully get more of you to actually buy the irons, Cobra has made significant changes…hell…I’ll admit it, Cobra has made significant improvements, to last season’s clunky BiO Cell irons.

Before we get into exactly how they did that, I should probably mention that Cobra thinks FLY-Z irons are suitable for handicaps from 5-25.

As a group, that admittedly wide demographic ranked feel as the most important iron characteristic.

Even when Cobra narrowed the range to 17 handicaps and above, while Easy to Hit was the most common answer, Feel proved to be just as important as distance.

“If you bought irons in the past 3 years, you probably don’t need any more distance” – Tom Olsavsky, Vice President, Club R&D, COBRA-PUMA Golf

The point of that story is to illustrate that while FLY-Z will rightful be regarded as a game-improvement iron, Cobra realized that even for guys who are looking for a club that’s easy to hit or extremely long, feel will always be among the most important considerations.

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I’ll come back to feel in a moment, but as we work through the technology that powers FLY-Z irons, let’s list out the design challenges Cobra faced in the creation of FLY-Z.

  • FLY-Z must be easy to hit
  • FLY-Z must be forgiving
  • FLY-Z must offer great feel
  • FLY-Z must be long
  • FLY-Z must NOT be clunky

Let’s address that last one first. In my mind, Cobra made 3 significant changes in order to de-clunk FLY-Z.

  • They thinned the topline.
  • They made the toe slightly more compact
  • They got rid of that elaborate square-holed mess in the back cavity that I can only assume was meant to pound us over the head with the idea that they put tungsten plugs in their (BiO) Cells.

Hooray.

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FLY-Z is a much smoother flowing, more refined, design. Chrome plating further improves the look of the total package while providing a more durable finish.

The game-improvement iron is never going to be as sexy as the blade, but FLY-Z proves (as a few other have as well) that forgiveness, distance, and generally playability need not make one’s eyeballs hurt.

FLY-Z Technology

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Now that we’ve gotten the superficial stuff out of the way, let’s get down to the real business.

As you know by now, unless we’re talking about slots in faces, forgiveness is achieved largely through perimeter weighting. To that end FLY-Z features deep zone (it’s all about Zones with Cobra this year) undercut cavities, which allowed Cobra to steal mass to use around the perimeter of the club…as well as the obligatory low and back locations.

This, along with typical game-improvement design considerations (wide soles, low CG), checks off the easy to hit and forgiving boxes on Cobra’s list.

That deep zone undercutting also allowed for a larger unsupported face, which helps create the distance part of the equation.

The other piece of the distance equation is borrowed from the FLY-Z metalwood lineup. Remember that Speed Channel Face stuff? Cobra built that into FLY-Z as well…sorta.

Visible on the sole of the iron, Speed Channel describes an area where Cobra removed a bit of the metal to create more stress, and in turn more flex, and dare I say, trampoline action, while the ball is still on the face.

Cobra says this helps propel the ball forward to help create more ball speed.

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Worth a mention, Speed Channel also describes a small undercut channel near the top of the face. It’s not in and of itself visible technology, and so the Cobra guys made sure to stamp “Speed Channel” on the cavity badge (see above), so we’re aware something is happening inside the iron.

Cobra isn’t claiming to be the longest iron in golf. It’s not even claiming to be 1 or 2 or even 3 clubs longer.

The thinking is that FLY-Z is plenty long enough, but when you get the other details right, any distance concerns tend to work themselves out.

“If they get all those other things like easy to hit, and control, and forgiveness, they’re going to get the distance. The bigger problems are those other things.” – Tom Olsavsky, Vice President, Club R&D, COBRA-PUMA Golf

Progressive Spin Technology

One of the unique, and I suppose interesting, design considerations of the FLY-Z iron is what Cobra is calling Progressive Spin Technology.

Basically, the 3-6 irons feature V-grooves, while 7-SW feature higher spinning U-grooves.

Why does that matter?

The important thing here is that V-grooves are only marginally lower spinning. We’re talking about a 200 RPM difference in a 6 iron. That translates to 2.5 yards more carry (compared to U grooves) with an extra 1.5 feet of roll.

In Cobra’s testing, not only were V grooves in long irons longer on average, distance was more consistent, and shots showed tighter dispersion compared to U grooves.

Forged Feel?

FLY-Z-Cutout

To transform the unpleasant clackiness usually associated with game-improvement irons to a pleasant forged feel, Cobra turned to what it’s calling a Harmonic Cavity Insert.

While we’ve seen sound-dampening inserts before, this is the first time Cobra has used and insert that’s completely independent from the badge.

The insert extends all the way into the cavity, while covering the opening to the cavity as well.

Cobra’s frequency analysis showed a significant decrease in peak magnitude because of the insert, but the question is, does that really translate to a forged feel?

My opinion is that while FLY-Z unquestionably offers better feel than BiO Cell or AMP Cell before it, we’re not quite in line with Amp Cell Pro (and we assume FLY-Z Pro).

Feel is excellent for a cast game-improvement club, but that’s as far as I’m willing to go.

Specifications

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Colors, Pricing, and Availability

As was the case with BiO Cell, Cobra FLY-Z Irons are available with Black, Red, Orange, Blue, or White badges.

Steel combo sets (7 irons + 1 FLY-Z Hybrid) start at $699. 2 Hybrid sets (steel irons) are $799, while 2 Hybrid graphite sets are $899.

Available February 6, 2015.

FLY-Z Pro Irons

FLY-Z-PRO

“We’re talking about superior feel, workability, and accuracy” – Jose Miraflor

If you’re like me, you might be tempted to say “the hell with forgiveness. I want those sexy thangs in my bag right now.” I get pretty ghetto when I’m excited, and that was in fact my reaction when I first saw the Amp Cell Pro.

Here we are two seasons later, and despite the implied warning (the FLY-Z Pro is designed for the Tour to 3 handicap crowd), I’m having filthy thoughts about the sexiest little beast in the Cobra iron lineup.

Give me a set NOW! I need it…badly.

I’m not particularly smart about my golf game.

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Of course, if you are like me, your initial reaction to the FLY-Z Pro might also have been something like this:

“So you got rid of the color dots, and changed Amp Cell Pro to FLY-Z? Real clever work there. Glad to see you didn’t mail it in, guys”.

That’s not 100% exactly the story of FLY-Z Pro, but even if that was the entirety of it, Cobra feels like they’d have a pretty solid excuse.

“Why are you guys just doing the same old iron? This guy makes us have to”. – Jose Miraflor

RICKIE

Rickie likes his irons. Rickie wants to keep his irons, so rather than make Rickie adjust to a new set of irons, Cobra is giving you the option to adjust (buy) what Rickie plays.

The distinction between what’s in Rickie’s bag and the previous retail version of the Amp Cell Pro is that Rickie’s irons have a bored out toe that Cobra filled with a tungsten plug.

While Tungsten is often used as part of a forgiveness-increasing perimeter weighting strategy, in the case of Rickie’s irons – and now the FLY-Z Pro irons – the tungsten serves to shift the center of gravity away from the heel and to the true center of the club face.

Incidentally, this off center CG thing isn’t a Cobra problem. It happens because of the longer hosel found on most muscleback designs. The longer hosel provides better feel, but it also adds potentially undesirable weight to the heel.

If you look at the irons of some of history’s best players…from Arnie to Jack to Tiger, their irons reveal that each favored a slightly heel-ward sweet spot on the clubface.

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By putting tungsten into the toe, Cobra was able to shift the center of gravity back to the true center of the clubface without sacrificing feel.

Worth a brief mention; this isn’t at all dissimilar from what Nike has done with their Vapor iron lineup. Moving the center of gravity back to the center is all the rage in iron design right now.

One other significant design enhancement is that for the first time Cobra’s FLY-Z Pro irons will feature the same CNC milled face and groove that Cobra currently use on its wedges.

As has always been the case, Cobra’s forged offerings (which include the FLY-Z Pro and FLY-Z+), are manufactured using a 5 step forging process that yields tighter tolerances, tighter grain, and ultimately better feel.

Specifications

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Pricing & Availability

Finally, Cobra will offer FLY-Z Pro (without the color dots that many of you apparently weren’t fond of) for $899. That’s significantly less than the majority of their competitors in the muscleback space.

Available March 1, 2015

 FLY-Z+

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Covering a range of ability levels from tour level to 10 handicap, is Cobra’s FLY-Z+ Iron.

Although it’s a direct replacement for BiO Cell+, Fly-Z+ is every bit the extension of the AMP Forged platform, and it most definitely bares some resemblance to the underappreciated original.

As with the standard FLY-Z, the + model features an undercut cavity in the 3-8 iron. As they did with FLY-Z Pro, Cobra used Tungsten weights (3-7 irons) to reallocate some of that proverbial discretionary mass to the toe in order so shift the CG to the center.

From the of course they did file; Cobra was also able to push a bit of weight back towards the heel (while retaining the center CG location). What we’re talking about is your textbook perimeter weighting = forgiveness story.

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The mass reallocation story isn’t groundbreaking stuff by any measure, but it’s all true to the design goals of FLY-Z+; specifically to create an iron that offers outstanding feel, a shape that appeals to better players, but enough forgiveness to make it playable for low double-digit handicap golfers.

Other noteworthy design elements include a vibration-dampening TPU insert (still not groundbreaking) and CNC milled faces and grooves

I didn’t spend much time with the BiO Cell+ irons last year, but I was impressed by what I saw, and this is an iron I’ll definitely be spending more time with once the snow comes and goes for me.

Specifications

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Pricing & Availability

If a forged iron with forgiveness at a competitive price point ($899) is on your radar, FLY-Z+ is worth looking into further.

Available February 6, 2015

FLY-Z XL

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If you remember that XL is the extension of the Baffler series, or you just assume that XL stands for Extra-Large, well, you shouldn’t need me to tell you where the FLY-Z XL irons fit in the Cobra lineup.

I’m actually hesitant to label FLY-Z XL game-improvement, nor would I necessarily call it a distance iron.

It’s The Villages offering.

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Once again, XL is a product line designed for senior golfers, and while that’s a massive demographic, team Cobra wanted to make sure that I, and others like me, understand that this iron was never intended for us (and so we probably shouldn’t say nasty things about the design).

“This iron is not for Tony! This iron is for the 55-75 year-old men looking for help getting it in the air”. – Jose Miraflor

What we’re talking about is a large footprint, dual hollow cavity design with a very low and deep center of gravity, and a heavy sole plate.

Thin faces promote ball speed, while a sound dampening medallion should help keep FLY-Z XL from aggravating your arthritis.

As you should be very well aware by now, that translates to a forgiving club that plays to the Cobra FLY-Z XL mantra of Easy Up and Left.

Specifications

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Pricing & Availability

Cobra believes FLY-Z XL competes favorably with the Adams Idea and PING Karsten sets. While the company is confident (everyone always is) that it will win on performance, it’s worth mentioning that FLY-Z XL ($499 – steel, no hybrids) starts $200 less than the Adams offering and $200 less than PING’s.

For an extra $100 ($599 for the mathematically challenged) you get 3 FLY-Z Hybrids (steel irons), and $699 gets you 3 hybrids with graphite iron shafts.

Available November 15, 2014