November 15, 2017
By Jonathan Wall, PGATOUR.COM
- The process of milling the face of the driver involves eight steps and takes 25 minutes to complete. (Photos by Jonathan Wall/PGATOUR.COM)
Club design is viewed as an exact science, where a fraction of an inch or a half gram can be the difference between an inefficient product and one that makes its way to retail. Many assume drivers are mass-produced by machines, but there's a rarely-discussed part of the design equation that's fairly inexact and random.
That would be the polishing and grinding of the face once it has been welded to the body. The process is done by hand by someone with years of experience, who measures the face to ensure the proper bulge and roll, thickness and shaping are added to the finished product.
"The guys who do this for a living know what they're doing," said Tom Olsavsky, Cobra’s vice president of research and development. "But not every driver face is perfect, so there ultimately winds up being some slight differences from driver to driver and excess that doesn't make the cut."
Tighter tolerances can ultimately be a benefit to the bottom line for any company, which is part of the reason why Cobra opted to introduce a CNC milled face — the E9 face and head are made from a high-strength, lightweight Ti 8-1-1 titanium alloy — with the company's new F8 and F8+ drivers.
While the eight-step milling process takes roughly 25 minutes, the product that ultimately comes out is more exact than what's been offered in the past. According to Olsavsky, the face is also 3 percent lighter and 10 percent thinner than its predecessor. That allows the face to flex more effectively at impact, while at the same time shifting discretionary weight low in the head for optimal low-spin and launch characteristics.
During testing, Rickie Fowler also noted that the milling pattern could be a benefit on competition days when precipitation comes into the equation.
"Having that extra surface roughness, it sort of displaces the water and allows the ball to sit on the face a bit longer," Fowler said. "If it gets wet out there, you don't have to worry about the ball slipping off the face."
Designers also improved the overall aerodynamic efficiency of the head with the addition of aerodynamic trips strategically positioned on the crown, sole and skirt. The polymer trips are one-tenth the weight of titanium and allow the air to glide around the head for improved clubhead speed, which ultimately leads to more distance.
Subtle changes were also made to the overall head shape through a reduction of the peak crown height, which was moved farther back, and face area. The edge radii on the topline and leading edge were also softened to reduce drag.
Weight saving initiatives come in the form of a five-ply carbon fiber crown and fewer weight ports in the sole. As opposed having three weight positions like F7, the F8 and F8+ only have two ports that house two- and 12-gram weights.
The F8, which offers a larger, more forgiving profile, has a port in the heel and back of the head that alter draw-bias and launch; the F8+, which boasts a more compact profile, has a port in the back of the head and one right behind the face to dial-in launch and spin. Along with having the ability to adjust shot shape, spin and launch, an eight-way adjustable hosel allows for a three-degree loft range.
In the past, Cobra has offered a myriad of crown color options. However, this time around the options have been scaled down to black and a new "Nardo Grey" that's been popularized by the automotive industry.
Both drivers also feature Arccos' stat-tracking GPS sensor, called "Cobra Connect," concealed in the butt-end of the grip. The sensor weighs 4.6 grams and doesn't affect the overall swing weight of the club. Once the sensor is paired with Arccos' app, golfers are able to log distance and statistics during their round.
Cobra's King F8 (9-12 degrees) and F8+ drivers (8-11 degrees) retail for $400 and will be available Jan. 12 with a myriad of stock shaft offerings.
The F8 is offered with Mitsubishi Chemical's Tensei CK Blue 50, Aldila's NV 2KXV Blue 60 or NV 2KXV Green. The shaft options for F8+ include Aldila's NV 2KXV Blue 60, NV 2KXV Green 65 or Project X's HZRDUS Yellow 75.
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