When an OEM releases a new flagship driver, it’s reasonable to expect a certain percentage of its new-fangled technology and materials to trickle down into the fairway woods and hybrids that are often launched alongside, but firmly in the shadow of the lead dog.
It’s a similar story with Cobra’s Speedzone series, where a good bit of the conversation will likely center around the driver, but make no mistake, the SZ fairways and hybrids aren’t just “painted to match” add-ons there to round out the set. There is a bit of trickle-down at play, but this time everyone benefits.
The same driving forces (sorry, bad pun), which inspired the Speedzone drivers are present in the fairway woods and hybrids. That said, deciding which technologies (materials and/or construction) to include boils down to a simple cost/benefit analysis. Fairway woods and hybrids are roughly 1/3 the size (volume) of a driver, and with smaller faces and reduced footprints, there isn’t as much wiggle room in which to manipulate mass properties.
Because any changes in performance are incremental and not monumental, the marginal benefit of each new technology isn’t likely going to be game-changing. Manufacturers must consider how far to try and push an individual design knowing full-well the market will expect something bigger and better in 18-24 months. It’s a delicate balance, no doubt, but Cobra insists it doesn’t leave anything on the drawing board for next time.
Picture a Venn diagram with three circles (Distance, Accuracy, Forgiveness). Inside each overlapping area sit examples of different features (materials, construction) that adhere to some fundamental underlying truth in club design. For instance, MOI (the rough measurement of forgiveness) is increased by moving weight away from the CG – so generally low/rear in the clubhead. This weight has to come from somewhere and is typically the result of using lighter materials (think carbon in place of titanium or titanium in place of steel). Increased ball speeds aren’t necessarily a function of maxing out CT in the center of the face, but more so face and design attributes that allow for higher CT numbers over a larger percentage of the face. Accuracy is more nebulous, but modifying the bulge/roll of the clubface is often the most common engineering target. While Twist Face attached a catchy name to something every major OEM already incorporated to varying degrees, it did get golfers thinking about the relationship between the curvature of the clubface and downrange accuracy.
The significant upgrade from the F9 Speedback to the SZ Fairway is a new hollow split rail Baffler sole design, which is both lighter (10.6 grams) and thinner (front rails and grooves are 73% and 76% thinner respectively) as compared to the previous model.
Hollow rails flex more, resulting in a 70% larger sweet spot (heel to toe) at a swing speed of 110 MPH. For guys on tour, that translates to an increase of .3 MPH of ball speed and 1.8 yards of carry. It’s not massive, but we are in an era where every little bit counts because little bits are all that’s left to gain. For the rest of us common folk, the typical YMMV disclaimer applies.
The updated Speedzone hybrids share the same hollow split rail technology as the fairway woods.
Every gram of saved weight is helpful in shifting CG locations based on what engineers want the club to be able to do. A more forward CG results in lower launch/spin and more workability, whereas a deeper/lower CG promotes higher launch and more forgiveness. The salient point here is engineers were able to harvest nearly 11 grams of weight and lowered the skirt, which in effect pushed the stock CG lower/farther back than in the F9 fairway.
For the time being, the Infinity Face is reserved for the SZ driver. The smaller size of fairway woods makes implementing Infinity Face more challenging, especially in the transition from hosel to face. Time typically creates opportunity, so it isn’t a leap to think we’ll see something a version of Infinity Face in future generations of fairways (and maybe Hybrids).
While it hasn’t been extended over the edge, the SZ fairways hold over the CNC milled face from the F9, while the SZ hybrid adds the rhombus-shaped E9 face pad to the 2-piece construction with thin 455 stainless steel face.
As compared to the traditional method of polishing (grinding) a face, Cobra says the milling technique it uses for the SZ fairway is 5x more precise. Milling is also more expensive, but fundamentally it puts Cobra in a better position to reliably control thickness, and thus, CT tolerances over the entire face.
Moreover, Cobra is the only major OEM going the milled face route, and as such, it serves as a point of differentiation. A selling point of tighter spec tolerances and advanced materials is often the calling card of higher-priced JDM (Epon, PRGR, Royal Collection) brands. By comparison, the MSRP of Cobra’s fairway woods continues to sit comfortably below the $300 mark.
The primary function of the rails (other than spark some nostalgia for those of us who still hold onto an original Baffler) is to stabilize the clubhead at impact, allowing it to glide through rather than dig into the turf. The function is the same in both the fairway and hybrid and not that I’d know anything about it, but on the off chance you catch a fairway wood a little chunky now and again, Cobra asserts the baffler rails help golfers retain up to 2.3 MPH of ball speed, which equates to about 8 yards of distance.
More speed and greater versatility have always been the selling point of Baffler rails. It’s one of the longest-running bits of tech in the golf equipment world, likely because it works.
3 DIFFERENT FAIRWAY MODELS
The Speedzone Fairway lineup consists of three models. While Cobra isn’t billing it exactly this way, you can think of it a bit like one for Rickie, one for Bryson and Lexi, and one for the masses. That’s not verbatim from the marketing materials, but it’s a good way of thinking about the design differences between them.
The standard Speedzone fairway is as everyone would expect. It’s mid-sized (167 cc) with a shallow profile and is the highest launching/spinning of the three models. It the middle of the bell curve play that’s likely to best fit the broadest swath of golfers, which explains why it offers the widest range of lofts for both RH/LH golfers. Cobra is also releasing a women’s Speedzone fairway in three lofts (18.5°, 22.5° and 25.5°) in a single gloss black/rose gold colorway.
Speedzone Tour Fairway
The Speedzone Tour is a super-compact fairway that some might see as a precursor to what’s now called a super hybrid. It’s a direct descendant of the F6 Baffler Cobra made for Rickie Fowler to use at Augusta. While the smaller footprint is what golfers will likely notice, what’s under the hood is a more forward center of gravity designed, which makes it lower-launching and more workable than the standard model. As is almost always the case, workability comes at the expense of MOI, but for the target golfer, a forgiveness hit shouldn’t be much of an issue.
You may be interested to know that Rickie moves between a 5-wood and an F9 Speedback 4-iron depending on course conditions and setup.
Speedzone Big Tour Fairway
The Speedzone Big Tour (13.5° only) shares a good bit of its DNA with Cobra’s 14.5° LTD 3-wood. That’s a classic case of a club that perhaps over-performed and overstayed its welcome a bit because of it. The LTD was (and still is) a beast of a 3-wood, and if not for the retail benefits of putting something newer in Bryson and Lexi’s bags, it might have been content to leave better-than-good-enough alone.
Minor tweaks to launch and spin characteristics, sure, but nobody was looking for an overhaul. It’s one of those situations where a healthy bit of the design goal was simply to not screw it up. Case in point, the faux rails. The revamped Baffler rail design is a hallmark technology in both the standard and tour models, but in the Big Tour, they’re little more than paint to maintain cosmetic continuity with the rest of the line, not alter the playability. It’s designed to fly longer than a conventional 3-wood, and perhaps a bit straighter too, but the objective here isn’t a steep descent and soft landing.
The standard Speedzone fairway woods (MAP $279) are available in 3 (14.5°), 5 (18.5°), and 7 (22.5°) models in both RH/LH. The more compact Tour model (RH only) is available in 3 (14°) and 4 (17.5°) models. The Big Tour is offered in both RH/LH in 13.5° only.
All fairway woods feature Cobra’s MyFly adapter, which spans 5 lofts and offers 3 draw settings.
The Speedzone hybrid (MAP $229) is available in four lofts – 2 (17°), 3 (19°), 4 (21°) and 5 (24°) and only the 17° comes in both RH/LH.
A One Length Hybrid is also available in #3 (19°), #4 (21°), and #5 (24°) models. Only the 3/19° is available in LH. The women’s Speedzone hybrid is available in lofts of 4H (21°), 5H (24°), 6H (28°) and 7H (31°).
SHAFTS & COLORS
Pardon the obligatory Wiz Khalifa mention…”hit the pedal once make the floor shake”…As with the SpeedZone drivers, black and yellow with red accents is the primary colorway for both the fairway and hybrid, with a secondary option of matte black/white/red accents.
There are three stock Speedzone fairway shafts, each with a different launch/spin profile.
- UST Helium (high launch/mid spin)
- Mitsubishi Tensei AV Blue (mid launch/mid spin)
- HZDRUS Smoke Yellow (low launch/low spin)
The stock shaft in both hybrid models is the UST Recoil ESX 480.
A full menu of 20+ no upcharge shafts are available through Cobra’s custom department.
As it has for the last several years, Cobra will again include Cobra Connect (powered by Arccos) sensors at no extra charge.
All SPEEDZONE products, including Speedzone Fairway Woods and Hybrids, are available at retail and online beginning January 17, 2020. For more information, visit Cobragolf.com.