Cobra's new King F9 Speedback driver excels in our field test

Cobra's new King F9 Speedback driver excels in our field test

Reid Nelson Equipment Editor
image (Photo courtesy of Cobra Golf)
The new Cobra King F9 Speedback driver features a 460cc head, but the sleek design disguises some of its volume and creates a very pleasing look.

When Cobra brought out its then-new King F8+ driver in late 2017, staff player Rickie Fowler put it in play immediately and he finished the year averaging 300.3 yards off the tee. Then in 2018, with the F8+ in the bag from the first of the year, he averaged 300.6 yards in driving distance.

Not bad for a vertically challenged, slight-of-frame player – Rickie’s just 5’9” and 150 pounds, and that’s probably with his Puma golf shoes on! – regardless of the fact he’s one of the best-conditioned athletes on the PGA Tour.

But for the 2019 season just concluded, the extremely popular Fowler switched to the new Cobra King F9 Speedback driver and finished the year with a driving average of 303.1.

OK, it’s not a huge difference. But three yards are three yards, and when you consider you’re taking a finely tuned athlete, already playing with the most technologically advanced equipment available … and his numbers are improving, not by tenths of yards but by yards? Well, that’s saying something.

Now, if you’re already playing Cobra’s King F8 or F8+, you might not feel three, five or even 10 extra yards are worth the investment in Cobra’s newest driver. But if you haven’t tried Cobra in the last few years – or if you’re like so many, who have gotten locked into a driver from one of the “big four” manufacturers – it’s high time you tried the F9.

We recently had a chance to demo Cobra’s latest driving weapon and, like Fowler’s, it has gone straight into the staring lineup, replacing an old favorite that had survived several generations of updates from literally all the big-name OEMs. For the record, our test club is a 9-degree head, fitted with a 6.0 (stiff) HZRDUS Smoke shaft (one of four premium stock shafts available without any upcharge).

 Why the King F9 found its way into the bag when so many other drivers from so many other manufacturers had not is a function of the F9’s technology, certainly. But it’s also a matter of intangibles associated with the club – subjective factors like looks, feel and sound.

Let’s start with those, since most golfers will agree, if a club doesn’t look and feel good, technology doesn’t mean squat. To our eye, the King F9 Speedback is one of the more appealing drivers we’ve seen in years. True, it’s a 460-cc head, but it has a more compact, more playable look, thanks to an aerodynamic design that features softer, rounded leading edges and raised crown, skirt and tail areas that swallow all 460 cubic centimeters in a taller profile, as opposed to an unwieldy-looking, more expansive footprint.

The adjustable hosel, which allows for plus or minus 1- and 1.5-degree loft adjustments in standard lie and +/- 1-degree draw positions, provides eight different loft/face angle options.

As for feel and sound, the two go hand-in-hand with the King F9. And both can be described in one word: Solid.

Considering the driver features a CNC milled face, with thicknesses and curvatures controlled to the tightest industry standards, and a carbon fiber crown that wraps the entire head – a crown that is Cobra’s largest ever and is 10 grams lighter than titanium – both sound and feel are certainly products of the F9’s advanced technology.

But human hands and ears can’t feel and hear technology. What the player feels and hears is simply the satisfying “thwack” of solid contact, even on strikes that are slightly off-center. No hollow, metallic clanks, nor overly dampened thuds.

In addition to the adjustable hosel, the F9 Speedback features two moveable sole weights, one 14 grams and one 2 grams,  that allow players to fine tune the center of gravity, thus fine tuning launch angle, trajectory and spin rate. With the heavier weight forward, just behind the face, players who prefer to “work” the ball will benefit from a low-to-mid launch angle and lower spin rates, as well as a slight fade bias. Switch the weights, moving the heavier one to the pronounced “Speedback” bulge, set low at the back of the head, and drives launch in the mid-to-high range with slightly more spin and a more forgiving, draw-biased trajectory.

The adjustability of the King F9 Speedback makes the club extremely playable for a wide range of skill levels, from mid-to-high-handicappers to Fowler himself. There’s even a “Tour Length” model that, at 44.5 inches, is still an inch longer than what Rickie plays, but is an inch shorter than the standard King F9. The Tour Length, aimed specifically at elite players, comes with 18- and 6-gram sole weights “to help deliver more accuracy without sacrificing distance,” according to Cobra.

Without any upcharge, F9 buyers can select from four premium shafts from three different manufacturers. The HZRDUS Smoke 60 shaft, from Project X, in our test driver is a midweight shaft with a mid-launch, low-spin profile for players with medium to faster swing speeds. Fujikura’s Atmos Tour Spec Blue 6 shaft is aimed at the same player, but produces a mid-launch, mid-spin profile, while the Atmos Tour Spec Black 7 is a heavier shaft for faster-swing players looking for low-launch, low-spin characteristics. And finally, UST Mamiya’s Helium shaft is a lightweight option that provides a higher launch for players with slower swings.

If you want Rickie’s Graphite Design Tour AD IZ-7x shaft, that will cost extra at your local club fitter. But the four premium shaft options offered by Cobra at the $449 retail price are the genuine after-market articles, not proprietary versions made specifically for the OEM.

We haven’t talked here about all the technical advances Cobra has built into the King F9 Speedback because, frankly, we can’t “see” things like the E9 Technology that expands the sweet spot across nine different points on the face. Or the 7-degree face axis tilt that makes up for the “toe droop” that occurs at the bottom of every swing. Or the perfected bulge of the CNC milled face or the roll curvature that enhances the aerodynamics of both the crown and sole. And we don’t expect golfers to “see” those things when they’re shopping for a new driver.

But if you are in the market for a new driver, and you don’t consider the Cobra King F9 Speedback, you’re cheating yourself. And that is a tangible fact.

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