COBRA RADSPEED Irons – Key Takeaways
- COBRA RADSPEED irons are sleeker and slimmer than last year’s SpeedZone irons.
- 3D-printed medallion helps maintain the lowest CG in the game improvement category.
- ONE Length option features even lower and deeper CGs for improved launch.
- Combo sets and a black PVD finish are optional.
Every golf journalist going is wearing out the rad references today in their launch articles on the new COBRA RADSPEED irons. Just so you’re forewarned, we’re going there, too.
If you’ve already read Tony Covey’s article on the COBRA RADSPEED drivers, you know RAD stands for Radius of Gyration. If you haven’t, go read it now, as Radius of Gyration is what makes the COBRA RADSPEED irons so gosh-darned rad.
OK, now that we’re all caught up, COBRA acknowledges its last two game improvement irons, the F9 Speedback and the SpeedZone, had a couple of issues. While both – particularly the F9 – performed well in our Most Wanted testing, it’s fair to say golfers weren’t terribly enamored of their looks.
So, yes, the COBRA RADSPEED irons are getting prettied up. But while beauty may be only skin deep, this makeover goes to the bones.
COBRA RADSPEED Irons – Sleeker and Slimmer
Performance aside, COBRA says the feedback it got from fitters and the marketplace in general on the SpeedZone and F9 irons wasn’t flattering.
“We heard some of those negatives words you never want to hear in the industry,” says COBRA’s VP of R&D, Tom Olsavsky. “Chunky or shovel … words designers really hate hearing.”
Prettying up the COBRA RADSPEED irons sounds like it should be easy. But a nip here and a tuck there have unintended consequences. Both F9 and SpeedZone were designed for the lowest CG in the game improvement category. That led to a bottom-heavy design that included a goiter-looking growth on the sole.
“In reality, (those irons) were designed for a certain performance and they did a really great job of it,” says Olsavsky. “But we wanted to slim down the look from the bag view and from the shop rack view.”
Super-low CG is the Holy Grail of game improvement iron design. The lower the CG, the easier it is to launch the ball high, particularly for slower swing speed players. And the higher the launch, the steeper the angle of descent. That’s key for a lower-spinning game improvement iron, especially if you hope to hold the green with anything longer than an 8-iron.
So how do you get rid of the things that helped you get the lowest CG of any GI iron on the market without actually losing the lowest CG of any GI iron on the market?
Carefully. And in steps.
Step One: Radial Weighting
The first rad challenge of keeping CG low is actually making sure it stays centered. That’s where Radial Weighting – extreme heel and toe – comes into play.
“We’re trying to move this weight as far apart as possible,” says Olsavsky. “It’s the strategic placement of weight relative to the CG. We want to spread it far apart to increase that Radius of Gyration.”
The COBRA RADSPEED irons have three grams of additional weight in the heel and 10 grams – in the form of a screwed-in weight – in the toe.
“We’re trying to spread that weight out and bring stability and forgiveness to a higher level,” adds Olsavsky. “It centers the CG behind the hitting zone and adds a lot of stability.”
The 10-gram weight is standard but it can be adjusted plus or minus up to six grams with different screwed-in weights. Those weights, however, are not user-adjustable. They’re there to allow fitters and custom builders to fine-tune performance for individual golfers but are still light enough to not impact the CG.
“Our iron business has grown and most of that has been driven by custom builds,” says Olsavsky. “The fitting business has become a growing part of the industry. If you’re going to get fit, don’t skimp.”
Step 2: Dump the Goiter
COBRA’s Speedback shaping was all about getting the CG low. But as mentioned, there may have been a little too much junk in the trunk. The new COBRA RADSPEED irons feature a redefined thinner overall shape (for a game improvement iron, that is) and that growth on the sole has, mercifully, been shaved off.
“We relieved the sole geometry and we slimmed down the backside,” says Olsavsky. “The sole is typical of what you’d see on any game improvement iron. You need a little bit of sole width and a little bit of bounce. We still want to have that playability.”
With the goiter gone, the new sole geometry is smoother and much more traditional looking. In fact, the entire head shape is thinner and more refined with a more rounded trailing edge and a thinner radius blending the topline to the sole.
All these changes, however, come at a cost. When you take weight off of the back and the sole of an iron, the center of gravity has to go up and you start losing the performance benefits the super-low CG got you in the first place. To combat that, and to drive the CG even lower, COBRA got by with a little help from its friends at HP.
Step 3D: Medallion Innovation
The third – and most radical – step in moving RADSPEED’s CG into the nether regions of low may be the most innovative: a 3D-printed cavity medallion system.
“We call it a system because it has multiple pieces,” says Olsavsky. “But it’s a 3D-printed polymer material that we use in the back of an iron.”
COBRA is the first and, so far, only OEM using 3D printing in actual manufacturing. We first learned of COBRA’s commitment to 3D printing last June and the company released its first 3D-printed club – the KING Supersport 35 putter – in November. The COBRA RADSPEED irons use the unique combination of high strength and lighter weight of 3D-printed latticework to drive the CG low.
“When you think about medallions, their goal is to dampen vibrations of these very thin-faced, fast irons,” says Olsavsky. “The challenge is when you use material to do that, it adds weight. 3D printing is a great way to keep the stiffness of the structure but reduce weight.”
The polymer medallion saves about six grams which helps drive the CG to depths below that of last year’s SpeedZone. COBRA also says the polymer medallion will improve feel.
Carbon Fiber, PWRSHELL and Turbo Yellow. Oh, My!
COBRA admits golfers – as well as some fitters and retail sales folk – didn’t love the look of that carbon fiber strip in the topline of the SpeedZone irons. The strip did serve a purpose – to save weight – but it was, well, different-looking. To make RADSPEED easier on the eyes, COBRA is switching to a black strip because black, after all, is slimming.
“The whole idea behind these irons is how we can save weight,” says Olsvasky. “(The strip) saves about two grams but it also helps the visual. We changed the blending of the topline … to make it look a little closer to slightly ‘better player’ iron.”
That, most definitely, will be in the eye of the beholder.
COBRA continues to refine its variable thickness cup face which it calls PWRSHELL. This iteration – made from 17-4 stainless steel – is less than two millimeters thick. An internal speed channel at the bottom helps the face flex.
Outside of drivers, game improvement irons see the most technology. And since that tech lives in the cavity, you see all sorts of efforts to dress it up. RADSPEED’s color scheme is called Turbo Yellow to highlight the medallion’s 3D-printing technology.
In addition to the standard chrome, the COBRA RADSPEED irons will also be available in a black PVD finish, albeit with a unique twist: a silver sole. It’s a different look for sure but if you like a black finish but don’t like the idea of sole wear, this is a solution.
“We know PVD finishes tend to wear more than the DBM (Diamond Black Metal) that we use,” says Olsavsky. “But we’ve seen competitors with PVD finishes. Golfers want something different in their bags and people do love the look of these and how they make the irons look a little smaller.”
COBRA RADSPEED Irons – ONE Length
COBRA’s ONE Length business is very predictable. When Bryson does well, COBRA does well.
Historically, ONE Length had been roughly 35 percent of COBRA’s iron sales. This year’s mix is closer to 40 percent. Having the U.S. Open champ as your ONE Length poster boy certainly helps.
This year Bryson dumped his COBRA utility irons in favor of SpeedZone long irons. “He loved the way they performed,” says Olsavsky. “They provided him with a little more back CG than the utility irons. He was looking to hit the ball very high and control his shots into the green. That was the key to his strategy at Winged Foot.”
The new COBRA RADSPEED irons in ONE length feature long-iron CGs even lower and further back than their variable-length counterparts. Both the blade and sole are a little thicker, helping the ONE Length golfer hit it higher and land it softer.
“If we can move that CG a little bit back, it helps achieve those heights the golfer needs,” says Olsavsky. “We had taken a little bit of that away from them by shortening the length of the club.”
Each iteration of ONE Length irons has seen subtle adjustments as COBRA has learned more. Since the entire set uses 7-iron length shafts, COBRA has had to alter the heads for proper launch conditions. We’ve seen CGs move lower and farther back in the long irons while the mid and scoring iron CGs continue to be optimized.
You’ll also find the lofts in the RADSPEED ONE Length long irons slightly weaker than those of their variable-length brothers. When combined with the shorter, lighter and slightly more flexible shafts in the long irons, you get trajectories a little bit closer to what you’d expect to see in a variable-length set.
Specs, Price and Availability
The standard seven-piece (5-PW) set of COBRA RADSPEED irons come with the KBS Tour 90 as the stock steel shaft. The UST Recoil 460 ESX is the stock graphite shaft and the Lamkin Crossline Connect with a built-in ARCCOS sensor is the stock grip.
The ONE Length RADSPEED set has three steel shaft options: the KBS Tour 80, 90 and 120. The UST Recoil 460 and 480 ESX are the graphite options. The same Lamkin Crossline Connect grip is stock.
Both the variable and ONE Length RADSPEED irons will retail at $899 in steel and $999 in graphite.
As mentioned, the COBRA RADSPEED irons will also be available in black PVD – in both variable and ONE Length – at an across-the-board $100 upcharge. The black PVD sets will be available by custom order only.
An optional combo set with a RADSPEED hybrid substituted for the 5-iron is also available, selling for $1,099 in chrome and $1,199 in black PVD.
The women’s version is available in variable length only, in COBRA’s Elderberry color scheme. The UST Recoil 450 ESX shaft and Lamkin Crossline Connect grip are stock. Women’s sets are available in either 5-GW or in the combo set option with a RADSPEED hybrid instead of the 5-iron. Pricing is the same as the men’s versions.
All sets are available in left- and right-handed models.
The COBRA RADSPEED irons will hit the retail stores Jan. 29.
For more information, check out www.cobragolf.com.