Because reviving once popular franchise names that still resonate with consumers is all the rage in the golf equipment industry right now, Cobra has just announced the RETURN OF THE KING (by way of the new KING LTD Driver).

Rest assured that with KING LTD Cobra is doing a hell of a lot more than trading on nostalgia. What Cobra is doing is reinventing a classic while at the same time redefining the driver category for better players.

Before we dig in to the details, let me take just a second to point out that the KING LTD isn’t a replacement for anything in the current Cobra lineup. I expect we’ll see the evolution of FLY-Z, FLY-Z+, and FLY-Z XL carry-on in later announcements. The KING LTD is a brand new flagship offering.

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The KING LTD Backstory

As you may (or may not) recall, last September COBRA PUMA GOLF partnered with The Center for the Advance of Science in Space (CASIS) and Nanoracks LLC on a six week materials science research investigation on-board the International Space Station.

If you’re wondering what the hell space has to do with golf, the short of it is that Cobra was trying to determine if they could learn something about material properties in a zero gravity environment that could be applied to golf products here on earth.

While I suspect we’re going to hear more about this whole outer space angle in future Cobra releases, the KING LTD product line is the first from Cobra that leverage bits of that research.

For example, the Cobra KING LTD is the first driver to feature a SpacePort. It’s got the official Space Is In It logo and everything.

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The Obligatory Technology Chapter

As we move through a discussion of Cobra’s new technologies, the key thing to remember is that for all the bells, whistles, and shiny things that move, much of what makes KING LTD so compelling involves Cobra’s ability to save weight. As you should all know by now, saving weight in one place in order to reallocate it in a more desirable location is a large part of what club engineers strive to do with nearly every release.

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So with that said, let’s look at the KING LTD tech that comes from space research.

TeXtreme Carbon – Used in the crown of the KING LTD, TeXtreme Carbon makes the crown 20% lighter than a standard carbon fiber offering. Not only is it lighter, TeXtreme is stronger and offers better surface smoothness.

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SpacePort – The most visible technology on the KING LTD, SpacePort’s translucent window let’s golfers literally see inside the club.

Looking past any resemblance to TaylorMade’s R1 (if I don’t point it out, someone else will), there’s definitely a bit of a wow factor here, so it’s fair to ask if the giant hole in the bottom of Cobra’s new driver is actually purposeful.

Let’s put it all out there; golfers love visible tech (and it doesn’t get much more visible than SpacePort), but visible tech doesn’t preclude actual tech. SpacePort offers tangible benefits as well.

Firstly, SpacePort gives Cobra internal access to precisely dial-in swing weight with variable (0-14g) internal Tungsten weights. Secondly, Cobra leverages SpacePort to position weight low in the club head, while at the same time totally eliminating the need for hot melt (the glue clubmakers inject into driver heads to keep any small bits of debris that may come loose over time from rattling around). That saved another 4 grams, which, as you’ll see below, was used elsewhere to optimize launch and spin characteristics.

Should anything come loose (which Cobra says is highly unlikely given its internal structures), unscrew the SpacePort and shake it out.

SpacePort isn’t some factory-accessible-only thing either. Cobra wants you to open up your driver and take a look inside. The internal technology is actually labeled. The company wants you to see exactly how good the KING LTD is.

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SPIRALOCK – SpacePort is viable because of the inclusion of a thread system specifically designed for high load and high vibration applications. The SPIRALOCK thread system prevents the Space Port from loosening or over-tightening during impact.

Functionally, what SPIRALOCK does is eliminate the need for additional support structures (specifically an internal port cover). Eliminating that cover saves Cobra another 6 grams and creates a clean, aerodynamic exterior.

Other Features

Not everything built into the KING LTD comes directly from space. Cobra has built in some earthly improvements as well.

Refined Hosel Design – Cobra’s adjustable hosel design is already the lightest in golf, but with some additional refinement the company was able to shave an additional 1 gram of weight (every little bit helps).

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Don’t worry if you’re sitting on a pile of Cobra shafts. While the internal structures have changed, the tip adapters from BiO Cell and FLY-Z carry over.

Next Generation E9 Zoning – E9 Zoning is the Cobra technology that helps to preserve ball speed on off-center strikes. The new 811 TI face allowed Cobra to strategically thin out the face to increase ball speed on off center hits.

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But Does It Perform?

“This is our racecar. Everything that gets us more distance went into this driver and everything that doesn’t came out” – Jose Miraflor, Director of Product Marketing, COBRA GOLF

So far we can tell you that the KING LTD looks cool and the technology stories are compelling. Most importantly, from a performance perspective, the mass properties are undeniable.

If you haven’t done so already, or need a bit of a refresher, absolutely go check out our story on Center of Gravity and why it actually matters.

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For those not willing to take the time to read through our center of gravity articles (you’re missing out on important info), let me give you the 20 second version.

As the center of gravity (CG) moves towards rear of club, Moment of Inertia (MOI – forgiveness) increases.

As the CG pushes towards the neutral axis (an imaginary line running perpendicular to the center of face and through the rear of the club), efficiency – the undeniably important relationship between ball speed, launch angle, and spin rate improves.

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From a design perspective, it’s very difficult to move CG closer to the neutral axis while also moving it back, which is why drivers designed outside the middle of the bell curve tend to either be low launch/low spin (Alpha DBD, SLDR, JPX-850, or very forgiving (G30 series, FLY-Z, 915), but seldom, if ever, both.

Claims of low spin with forgiveness, or distance with forgiveness, or any previous version of stories that promise distance without compromise, border on nonsense.

There’s always compromise.

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When you wash away the layers of marketing mythology, more often than not you get a moderately forgiving, moderate spin driver. In terms of the bell curve and how it’s applied to golf equipment, no compromise has been repurposed to mean average.

Today that changes.

We knew that if we were going to reintroduce the KING Cobra it had to be something much more advanced and special, incorporating innovative technologies that would only surpass its’ legacy. And we are confident we did that with the KING LTD driver; it is truly game-changing for golfers and fit for a KING.” – Tom Olsavsky, VP of R&D, COBRA Golf

As another company was fond of saying not too long ago, you can’t argue with physics, and the physics – in this case, the mass properties of the KING LTD driver – make a compelling argument why Cobra will once again have the driver to beat in 2016.

Never Mind Apples…The Numbers to Numbers Comparison

With KING LTD, Cobra has created a driver with an MOI roughly equivalent to Cobra’s own FLY-Z+ (rear weight placement), PING’s G30 LS Tec and Titleist’s 915 D2, while pushing the CG closer to the neutral axis than anything other than Mizuno’s JPX-850 with the weight in its most-forward position.

In everyday terms, Cobra’s KING LTD will be one of the highest MOI (most forgiving) drivers on the market, and will also be among the lowest spinning. It’s important to note that, unlike TaylorMade’s SLDR, for example, KING LTD’s rear CG means you won’t have to sacrifice high launch to get low spin.

You get both, and that, along with high MOI, is the actual recipe for distance with forgiveness.

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Cobra KING LTD Pro

Need even lower spin?

That’s where the KING LTD Pro comes in. The pro head is the same size and shape as the standard, but because the actual loft of the club is lower, the CG is pushed so low that it’s actually below the neutral axis. No other mass-market driver can make that claim. Cobra calls this ZERO CG technology.

The effect on MOI is minimal. While it’s not as high as it is in the standard model, it’s still in that same general MOI ballpark as FLY-Z+ (rear), LS Tec, and 915.

The Comparative Analysis

As we’ve already discussed, mass properties dictate driver performance. Have a look at the chart below. I’ve taken our 2015 CG/NA chart and dropped Cobra’s KING LTD drivers into place.

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As you can plainly see, what Cobra has done with mass properties places the KING LTD in an entirely different space. The company is essentially without peer right now, and is arguably the only company in golf who can stake a legitimate claim to anything close to a true no compromise driver.

The KING LTD Series is anything but average.

Too Low Spin?

Educated readers will likely point out that with the CG close (and even below) the neutral axis, it’s possible KING LTD may not spin enough for some golfers. That’s actually the reason why Cobra produced both a standard and pro model. With up to 12° of loft available, even low spin players should be able to optimize launch conditions with the KING LTD.

For the majority of us, the extreme low spin characteristics of the new driver should prove to be beneficial.

Specs, Pricing, and Availability

The Cobra KING LTD is adjustable from 9.0° to 12.0° in ½ degree increments. Draw settings are available at 9.5°, 10.5°, and 11.5°. The stock shaft is an Aldila Rogue Black.

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The Cobra KING LTD Pro is adjustable from 7.0° to 10.0° in ½ degree increments. Fade settings are available at 7.5°, 8.5°, and 9.5°. The stock shaft is also an Aldila Rogue Black.

Retail availability begins 10/1 at a suggested retail price of $449.99 (both standard and pro).