Even though Cobra consistently drops high quality and often innovative equipment, it tends to fly slightly under the radar. It’s larger competitors – Titleist, Callaway, TaylorMade, and PING – each has a relatively clear and discernable identity and a flagship product or two on which to hang its proverbial hat.

Even Mizuno, which doesn’t have the same gaudy sales figures as some of the larger brands has arguably the best performing iron lineup top to bottom, and perhaps more importantly, a cult following among better players.

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So where exactly does that leave Cobra? Neither Callaway big nor Tour Edge small, Cobra sits comfortably on the periphery, somewhere in golf equipment purgatory. It has recognizable star power with Rickie Fowler, Bryson DeChambeau and Lexi Thompson, but beyond the Cobra loyalists, it’s seldom the first brand average would-be consumers walk in the store asking about.

And let’s be clear, this situational reality isn’t a function of product quality, more so it’s a reality of an extremely competitive marketplace, and while we continue to see more OEMs enter the hardgoods space, the market itself isn’t getting much bigger. Without dragging you too far into economic weeds, unless smaller brands can address a niche left unserved by the major OEMs, or offer consumers something discernably different, it’s always going to be a “fighting for whatever pie is left” scenario.

With that, Cobra’s reimagined KING Forged TEC Irons give us some indication as to where Cobra believes it fits in this larger framework. It’s an iron the Cobra faithful have likely been waiting for and frankly, it’s an iron Cobra needed to make. Often innovative on the metalwoods side, Cobra’s iron offerings are perhaps more different than groundbreaking. And while being different may present Cobra’s best opportunity to capture your attention, there’s something to be said for sameness, especially in the emerging Players Distance category where Cobra is among the last of the names you know to bring a hollow body iron to market.

Like I said, this is the iron Cobra needed to make.

Apart from some proprietary technology, Cobra is sticking with a recipe similar to that of its primary competitors. The Players portion of the Players Distance blueprint means crafting an iron with a smaller footprint, less offset, and a thin-ish topline and melding it with enough workability to keep competitive golfers and just about anyone else seeking more distance, happy. Cobra describes Forged Tec as offering “a sleek, muscle-back shape and sophisticated design.” It’s a description befitting all but the largest offerings in the category.

From there, formulas deviate. Some claim to boost distance via a thin face, a higher launching low and rear center of gravity, and the help of some exotic formulation of plastic, goo, foam or something you might find on aisle 13 at the local grocery store. Others prefer to let hollow work as hollow does; allowing the face to flex unimpeded for maxing performance. Either way, the story ends the same. As an allegory for the brand itself, I suppose you can put Cobra somewhere in the middle. According to Cobra, the KING Forged Tec features “a hollow cavity infused with energizing foam microspheres.” Not unlike Callaway’s Urethane Microspheres, Cobra’s magic material brings softer feel and more pleasing sound. A thin PWRSHELL Face with an updated forged insert increases the Sweet Zone (think of it as area of the face most likely to produce consistently high ball speeds). As you would likely expect from an iron in the category, a tungsten toe weight pulls the CG more behind the geometric center of the clubface. No doubt some of you are saying, “Hey that looks like an i500 or enter your favorite players distance iron here _________________.” Is that really such a bad thing?

There’s very little in the golf equipment world that hasn’t already been explored and nearly everything looks like something else. That last bit happens because physics is absolute and the status quo is what invariably sells.

The twist here won’t come as any sort of surprise. A key point of differentiation for Cobra is the inclusion of a Forged TEC ONE Length version. To date, Cobra is the only major OEM to offer a one-length version, let alone for the overwhelming majority of its clubs.

As the name suggests, Forged TEC ONE Length irons maintain the same length throughout the set. The standard length is 37.5” which is Cobra’s typical 7-iron.

To help optimize ball flight across the set, Cobra tweaked the lie angles. While you can order them any way you’d like, the long irons are more upright, while the shorter irons and wedges are a bit flatter. This has been a point of consternation for some who seem unwilling to take 30 seconds to better understand the dynamics of ONE Length performance.

We’ve covered it before, but it’s worth beating the drum again. Despite shafts being the same length, golfers invariably swing the longer irons faster (more speed, more force) than the scoring clubs. That results in flatter dynamic lie angles relative to the scoring clubs. What Cobra is seeking to do is deliver consistent lie angles at impact. That’s significantly more important than having the same lie angles at address.

Shaft weights will again vary throughout the set. Long iron shafts are lighter to promote a higher trajectory, while heavier wedge shafts help mitigate the longer shaft length to provide a more penetrating trajectory into and around the green.

As has become almost standard for Cobra, the KING Forged TEC irons feature Cobra CONNECT™ which leverages Arccos technology (sensors embedded in the grip) to automatically record each shot.

With that, is this the KING Forged Tec the iron that pushes Cobra toward the center of the Players Distance conversation, or is it just a fraction late to the party to have a meaningful impact?

Specs, Pricing, and Availability:

The KING Forged Tec variable length irons (MAP: $1,099 steel; $1,199 graphite) are available in a stock 8-piece (4-GW) set in both right and left-hand versions. The stock steel shaft is the KBS $-Taper. It’s available in regular (R110) and stiff (S115) flexes.

Project X Catalyst 80 graphite shafts are available through custom only in regular, stiff, and x-stiff flexes and each set comes stock with Lamkin Crossline COBRA CONNECT grips in black.

The Forged Tec ONE Length irons are available in a stock 7-piece (4-PW) set in both right and left-hand versions. The stock steel shaft is the KBS $-Taper Lite. It’s available in regular (R110) and stiff (S115) flexes. Graphite is available through custom in regular, stiff and x-stiff flexes.

The Forged Tec irons in variable and ONE Length will be available at retail and at cobragolf.com beginning November 1, 2019. For more information visit cobragolf.com.