PGA Championship

Valhalla Golf Club


Cobra King F9 Speedback driver finds new way to optimize launch and distance with sleek aerodynamics

October 30, 2018

Justin Kosman

The Cobra King F9 Speedback drivers, the company’s engineering team will tell you, exhibit specific performance parameters that other companies cannot achieve. Mainly, they’re talking about making a driver aerodynamic and full of superior high-launch/low-spin ball flight characteristics brought about by a low center of gravity.

Their contention is that one often is compromised by the other. On a typical aerodynamically sleek driver shape, leading sections of the crown may be slightly raised while the trailing section is slightly lifted. Those shapes aim to reduce drag as the club moves through the air. The problem is that kind of design typically also makes it difficult-to-impossible to also yield a very low center of gravity (CG) in the head.

“We don’t think there’s been a great combination of great mass properties and great aerodynamics,” said Mike Yagley, Cobra’s director of innovation, research and testing, noting that the King F9 Speedback is now 17 percent more efficient aerodynamically than the company’s F7 driver from just two years ago. “And I’ll admit that I was once in the camp that looked at aerodynamics and said there wasn’t much there.

“But then I realized if you’re scrambling for fractions of a millimeter here or there in a head design, then scrambling for a 20 percent improvement in aero must be worth it. And we found that out to be true.”

The King F9 Speedback aerodynamic shaping is subtle but impactful, Yagley said. Not really about visible appendages, the goal was to take a driver head and make it display some of the properties of a well-designed airplane wing. In addition to revised trip-step features that were part of the crown of Cobra’s F8 drivers last year, the aerodynamics push also meant smooth, rounded edges on the leading edges of both the topline and sole-face juncture. As well, there were gentle curves on the sides, or skirt, and sole of the driver and a raised skirt on the back end, similar to what you might see on a race car.

But the Cobra team believes that driver aerodynamics are not just for those who swing fast. Their theory is that the more efficient a club is through the air, the easier it is for any player to achieve and potentially exceed his or her maximum swing speed.

“We call it the drag force, but ultimately what we’re trying to do is reduce the amount of work required to swing the club; that’s what really matters because you’re going to get more clubhead speed,” Yagley said, noting that the benefits start slowly at swing speeds around 85 miles per hour but increase significantly (as much as two-to-three percent) as swing speed increases “because it actually goes up by the square of the velocity.”

Typically, however, aerodynamic shapes would raise the CG, which would lead to low-launching, extra-spinny tee shots. Not ideal for distance at any swing speed. But the King F9 Speedback solves that problem by taking the carbon composite piece in the crown seen in past drivers and wrapping it around the perimeter. More composite on top means less titanium and that means more weight that can be redistributed low. Then, Cobra’s engineers took it a step further. A keel-like structure in the rear sole houses a substantial tungsten weight that pushes the center of gravity lower still.

“We spent a bunch of energy in terms of innovation to get to our initial concept of making a driver that was both aerodynamic and low CG,” said Tom Olsavsky, Cobra’s vice president of research and development. “We knew we were trying to get to a space that hadn’t been done before, but the goal was never to focus on one or the other because we had to have both.”

The King F9 Speedback still includes Cobra’s other recently developed technologies to increase ball speed and better mis-hit performance. Those include a face with variable bulge and roll to better optimize both the way shots curve back to center when hit off the heel and toe, but also the way they launch when hit high and low on the face. There’s more roll on the top half of the face for better launch, but less roll on the bottom half so those hits launch higher, too. New for this driver is how that lower face roll, as well as bulge in different sections of the face, is optimized for different lofts and swing speeds.

The King F9 Speedback can get those precise shapes because like last year every face insert is CNC milled to the design specifications, virtually eliminating the hand-polishing that’s part of traditional driver manufacturing.

Finally, the King F9 Speedback continues Cobra’s movable weight and hosel adjustability. Front and back weight ports can house a 14-gram weight to change spin and trajectory preferences within a given loft. The heavy weight back produces higher flight, while the heavy weight in the forward position reduces spin. Meanwhile, the heads will be offered in three standard lofts (9, 10.5 and 12 degrees) and one women’s and juniors loft (12.5 degrees), and each loft is adjustable by plus/minus 1.5 degrees. The 9-degree is designed with a decided emphasis on reducing spin for better, faster-swinging players.

The drivers also will feature the Cobra Connect distance-tracking grip sensors that partner with the Arccos Caddie GPS app to provide both statistical and gaming features.


Justin Kosman

The King F9 Speedback lineup also includes fairway woods and hybrids. The fairway wood lineup (F9 Speedback and F9 Speedback Tour) will for the first time feature CNC milled face inserts, designed to exhibit the same manufacturing efficiency and consistency that is part of the driver’s design. The fairway woods feature the dual roll face design for better launch conditions for both high and low mishits. Also like the drivers, the bulge curvature tilts diagonally from high toe to low heel to account for how the head droops slightly coming into impact.

The 475 high strength steel in the face insert is now thinner than in last year’s F8 fairway wood line. Also refined is the fairway wood’s most notable element, the dual rails on the sole that help to lower the center of gravity and provide smoother turf interaction. In fact, the whole sole design sits lower to the ground than last year’s model, thanks to the design of the rails, which control the club’s turf interaction before the back of the sole comes into play. The two versions include a more compact Tour version that features a weight pad towards the front of the sole. The standard model features that weight in the rear for easier launch.

The King F9 Speedback hybrids feature the same dual rail design on the sole. Like the fairway woods the height of the rails is progressive. Lower lofts have more shallow rails to better match the more sweeping swing, while higher lofts feature slightly taller rails to match the naturally steeper swing. The hybrids use a 455 stainless steel face insert and tungsten weighting in the rear of the sole.

Cobra’s King F9 Speedback lineup of metalwoods will be in stores January 18, 2019. That includes the driver ($450) and two fairway woods ($270), the standard model in three eight-way adjustable lofts (13-16, 17-20, 21-24 degrees) and the more compact tour model in two lofts (12-15 and 16-19 degrees). The hybrids ($220) are offered in standard model with four static lofts (17, 29, 21 and 24 degrees) and a single-length model, which comes at a 7-iron length in 19-, 21- and 24-degree lofts.