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Cobra Fly Z and Fly Z+ Drivers, Fairway Woods and Hybrids

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Cells and bright colors? Maybe you were skeptical of Cobra’s Bio Cell line of drivers, fairway woods and hybrids. They looked cool or corny — depending who you asked — but quickly garnered respect as one of the longest, most forgiving products on the market. In our 2014 GolfWRX Gear Trial testing, Bio Cell drivers and fairway woods were winners of both our Forgiveness-First and Balanced-Performance categories.

For 2015, Cobra-Puma stayed with the bright colors for which it’s now recognized, but the company has continued to innovate and improve from an engineering standpoint. Thanks to a Flip Zone Weight System, a Speed Channel that looks like a moat around the club face and center of gravity (CG) that continues to drop lower, the Fly-Z line from Cobra is likely to surpass the performance we saw from the Bio Cell line.

Cobra’s Fly-Z line uses “Zones” — thus the “Z” — instead of cells, which places weight throughout the clubheads more strategically, along with a few other tricks that will separate the Fly-Z from the Bio Cell. And it’s cool, Cobra says, and keeps the ball in the air a long time, which is why the company is calling the line “Fly.”

Cobra Fly-Z+ Driver ($399)

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Some golfers need a driver with a CG that is located in the back of the club head to hit their longest drives. Other golfers need a CG that is more forward for maximum distance. Cobra’s Fly-Z+ driver allows for both with its Flip Zone weighting system.

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The Flip Zone is made up of two weight ports and a 15-gram weight that allows golfers to shift the driver’s CG by 4 millimeters from front to back. By placing the weight in the driver’s front weight port, golfers will lower its center of gravity, which Cobra says lowers spin rate by roughly 400 rpm and raises launch angle by 1-to-1.5 degrees. Placing the Flip Zone weight in the rear weight port will have the opposite effect, and it also makes the driver slightly more forgiving.

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Angle of attack may be affected as well, depending on how the individual player reacts to the weight change.

What’s different from the Bio Cell+? 

  • A Speed Channel
  • Cells vs. Zones
  • A Carbon Fiber Crown and Sole Inserts

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The Speed Channel on Cobra’s Fly-Z drivers is different than the slot technology seen in other companies’ clubs. The Speed Channel is located on the perimeter of the face rather than underneath or on top of the face, which helped Cobra engineers move 2 grams of weight lower in the club head. That increased the size of the drivers’ sweet spot by 18 percent, according to Cobra, leading to as much as 3 more yards on toe hits and 2.5 yards on heel hits.

What’s a “Zone?”

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Zone-weighting allowed Cobra to move more weight lower in the 460-cubic-centimeter clubhead. By doing so, the company picked up ball speed across the face, especially on mishits. The Fly-Z+’s Carbon Fiber crown and sole inserts, which are thinner and stronger than titanium, also helped the company save about 8 grams of weight from the chassis of the club, which was redistributed elsewhere.

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Like green? You got green. Starting March 15 2015, “Verdant Green” will be available at retail — conveniently close to both the Masters and St. Patrick’s Day. The rest of the colors — Black, Blue, Orange, Red and White — will be in stores on Jan. 23, 2015.

Similar to the Bio Cell drivers, the Fly-Z line has Cobra’s MyFly adjustable hosel, but it’s slightly lighter than the previous MyFly8 hosel design. It allows for five loft settings (8.5-to-11.5 degrees) and three draw-biased loft settings (9.0D-to-11.0D). It’s also backwards compatible with the MyFly8 shaft tips.

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MyFly8 works with the company’s SmartPad sole design, which helps keep the clubface relatively square even when you adjust loft/lie settings.

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The stock shaft is Matrix’s VLCT ST (60 grams), but other options include Aldila’s Tour Blue (76 grams), Tour Green (67 grams) and Matrix’s White Tie X4 (53 grams), which are available with no upcharge.

Cobra Fly-Z Driver ($329)

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The Fly-Z driver is designed for golfers who need more forgiveness, which was achieved by lengthening the profile of the all-titanium driver from front to back and adding a “Back CG Zone” with a weight that’s fixed on the rear of its sole. Its low, rearward CG will help most golfers hit longer, straighter drives.

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Just like the Fly-Z+, it comes equipped with Zone Weighting, a Speed Channel, a lighter MyFly hosel and a SmartPad.

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Loft settings for the Fly-Z range from 9-to-12 degrees with three draw settings (9.5D-to-11.5D). Stock shafts for the Fly-Z are 45.5 inches, 0.5 inches longer than the Fly-Z+. The stock shaft is Matrix’s VLCT SP (60 grams), but other options include Aldila’s Tour Blue (76 grams), Tour Green (67 grams) and Matrix’s White Tie X4 (53 grams), which are available with no upcharge.

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The Fly-Z driver is available in Green, Black, Blue, Orange, Red and White and will be in stores on Jan. 23, 2015.

Cobra Fly-Z+ Fairway Woods ($249)

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The Fly-Z+ has a compact head shape that sits slightly open at address. It also has what the company calls Front CG Zone Weighting and Crown Zone Weighting that moves the CG of the club head low and forward. Better players will appreciate the higher launch, lower spin and increased peak ball speed the weighting creates.

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The fairway woods are made from 455 stainless steel and also feature Speed Channels on their faces. The Fly-Z+ has a SmartPad and a MyFly hosel to help golfers gap their fairway wood yardages.

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Available lofts options include a 3/4 wood (12-to-15 degrees and three draw settings: 12D-to-14D) that measures 43 inches and has a swing weight of D3. There’s also a 4/5 wood (16-to-19 degrees and three draw settings: 17D-to-18D) that measures 42.5 inches and a swing weight of D3.

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Both clubs are available in left-and right-handed models, in X, S and R shafts. The stock shaft is a Matrix VLCT ST (70 grams), and Aldila’s Tour Blue (86 grams) and Tour Green (67 grams) are available at no upcharge.

All Fly-Z fairway woods are available in Black, Blue, Orange, Red and White.

Cobra Fly-Z Fairway Woods ($229)

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Cobra’s Fly-Z fairway woods have deeper head profiles and Back CG Zone weighting for more forgiveness. They also sit more square to the target than the Fly-Z+. Due to weight removed from the MyFly hosel, their CG is slightly more centered, away from the heel, than the Bio Cell. They have 465 stainless steel face inserts that are 20 percent larger and 18 percent thinner than the Bio Cell fairway woods’ face inserts.

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According to Cobra, the Fly-Z fairway woods produce 1.2 mph of ball speed more than the Bio Cell, which were one of the top-performing fairway woods in our 2014 Gear Trials fairway wood testing.

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The 3/4 woods have eight different loft settings (13-to-16 degrees and three draw settings: 14D-to-15D) with a 43.5-inch stock shaft (X, S, R, Lite) with a swing weight of D2. The 5/7 wood also comes in eight loft settings (17-to-20 degrees and three draw settings: 17D-to-18D) with a 43-inch stock shaft (X, S, R, Lite) and a swing weight of D2. Both woods come in both right-and left-handed with a Matrix VLCT SP 70 (70 grams) shaft.

Both the Fly-Z and Fly-Z+ fairway woods will be in stores on Jan. 20, 2015.

Cobra Fly-Z Hybrids ($199)

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Compared to the Bio Cell hybrids, Cobra’s Fly-Z hybrids are slightly larger and have a lower, more rearward CG to raise launch and lower spin. They also have Speed Channels in their faces for more forgiveness and ball speed. Like the Fly-Z fairway woods, the CG of the clubs was moved toward the center of the club head to create a more neutral ball flight, rather than a draw bias like the BioCell.

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The hybrids also have MyFly adjustable hosels and SmartPads to help their faces sit squarely regardless of loft setting.

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They’re available in 2/3 (16-to-19 degrees) with a 41.25-inch shaft wand a swingweight of D2.5, 3/4 (19-to-22 degrees) with a 40.5-inch stock shaft with a swingweight of 2.5 and 4/5 (22-to-25 degrees) with a 39.75-inch stock shaft (X, S, R and Lite-Flex) with a swingweight of D2.5. All hybrids are available in both right-and left-handed options and will be in stores on Jan. 20.

Click here to see what GolfWRX Members are saying about Cobra’s new Fly-Z line in our forum.

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He played on the Hawaii Pacific University Men's Golf team and earned a Masters degree in Communications. He also played college golf at Rutgers University, where he graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in Journalism.

48 Comments

48 Comments

  1. Payton

    Dec 20, 2015 at 3:18 pm

    So the Fly Z is higher launch and spin than the Fly Z+? Bothe are 460cc?

  2. SJ

    Jun 17, 2015 at 12:05 pm

    Last two years, I’m intermittently bombing my stock stiff shafted r11, but intermittent doesn’t help when you’re out of the hole. Decided to try the Fly-Z recently. Ball speed / launch etc statistics were all over the place with the R11 on two separate visits to the fitter, Fly-Z had much lower spin and better launch angle, ~20 yard average gain in distance due mainly to a smash average of 1.4. On the course, the bad swings that would normally produce a 25 yard slice now fade about 9-11 yards with the Fly-Z. Fantastic value.

  3. underdog58

    Apr 15, 2015 at 5:51 pm

    I hit the fly z plus at a demo last week at my course an they had a track man set up. I couldn’t believe how will I was hitting it, I gain almost 26 yds consisted. Launch angle was between 12 and 13 and spin was 2700 with weight in the front. So wow great, so I pulled out my sldr 430 set at 10.5 and it was a very big difference. Lost 25 to 30 yard of carry and spin was 2100 and angle was 12. Seems to me my old driver fell out the air. The bottom line is I order one, its here at the post office, I have to wait till tomorrow and pick it up.

  4. Chad

    Feb 27, 2015 at 11:13 am

    Just got fitted for a Fly-Z with a Fujikura Speeder Pro 66 stiff shaft. Sweet. 1.52 smash factor….was crushing it. Very happy. Highly recommend trying it if you haven’t. Get fitted!

    • chris

      Mar 27, 2015 at 8:11 am

      1.52 smash factor is almost impossible….very unlikely.

  5. Jeff

    Jan 15, 2015 at 7:32 am

    Why was the launch date pushed back until February?

  6. M

    Nov 14, 2014 at 3:14 pm

    “By placing the weight in the driver’s front weight port, golfers will lower its center of gravity, which Cobra says lowers spin rate by roughly 400 rpm and raises launch angle by 1-to-1.5 degrees”
    I am pretty sure that moving the weight towards the face will lower launch and spin, and moving the weight away from the face would increase launch and spin.
    Example: The SLDR driver moved the weight towards the face and now says “Loft up” to offset this effect

    • Anna

      Jan 12, 2015 at 5:08 pm

      wrong. Moving the Weight forward will definitely lower launch and UP spin while moving the weight back will give you a higher launch and LESS spin. Think about it.

  7. Pingback: Cobra Fly Z and Fly Z+ Drivers, Fairway Woods and Hybrids | Golf Gear Select

  8. Teaj

    Nov 10, 2014 at 11:24 am

    just curious if they have done some testing with turf and dirt getting into the channel on the face of the club, I guess you could clean it out like you would an iron but still. same reason TMag inclosed theirs

  9. marcel

    Nov 5, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    yeah longer slice or hook is this what average joey needs?

    • Anna

      Jan 12, 2015 at 5:09 pm

      Have you noticed the word “Forgiveness”? Maybe you should try it out before ripping it?

  10. Donal

    Nov 5, 2014 at 5:20 pm

    Cobra make very good Drivers but they also make total sh*t houses remember S3 mournfully they make more bad ones than good ones as my ruptured wallet well knows think back 2005 onward oh no not again Cobra

    • ck

      Nov 10, 2014 at 1:15 pm

      Not even close to the same group of people working at Cobra Puma golf now. That’s like saying TMAG isn’t any good now because their stuff was bad in the mid 90’s. At least try it before you rip on it.

  11. Phil

    Nov 5, 2014 at 4:49 pm

    Looks like a bite off the old Ping G30…

  12. jack b nimble

    Nov 5, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    waiting for July and 199 a club

  13. Jay

    Nov 5, 2014 at 1:03 pm

    It would be nice if they did launch and spin comparisons to their current line and not just the canned “it’s longer and more forgiving”.

    • Anna

      Jan 12, 2015 at 5:10 pm

      That’s what they did! Go to the cobra website and you can read a lot of articles on it or mygolfspy.com

  14. Ray

    Nov 5, 2014 at 12:36 pm

    I still play the Cobra Speed LD, 10.5, and can’t find anything better. Have Ping also, but their shaft weighting just feels like a 2X4 to me. To repeat, Nothing like a Cobra. Ditto my 3w Cobra Bio Cell – kills it !

  15. Dennis H

    Nov 5, 2014 at 12:26 pm

    I have had the Bio-Cell irons and Driver silence they came out. I was fitted and hit them better and they felt better than and other club I hit. This is my problem and one that I’m sure others will agree with. I paid full retail for my clubs and within 2 months, Cobra dropped the price of the driver from $299 to $199 and the irons dropped over 30% in price. Cobra almost seems that they don’t believe in their product and cut the price quickly making everyone hesitant to buy them. You would never see Ping drop their price like that. Cobra’s are Great clubs, but they just seem to cheapen themselves

    • Mat

      Nov 7, 2014 at 12:49 am

      You nailed it. Cobra won’t hold its price. You just have to be patient, and you can get them for a steep discount from original MSRP.

      • Chris

        Nov 12, 2014 at 3:09 pm

        As someone who works in the retail side of things, this kind of thinking is part of why the industry is suffering right now. The whole “I’ll just wait until it goes down in price halfway through the season,” kills these companies. The only reason why they drop prices is because nobody is buying at the full retail anymore, and it’s not just Cobra that does it. Usually the first to drop prices is TaylorMade either with a promotion or permanent markdown. Year to year you don’t see much gain in buying a new driver, so rather than buy one on sale every year why not wait a couple years, set aside the money for it and buy it at full retail to keep these companies from panicking and throwing out a price drop in May.

        • Tony

          Nov 23, 2014 at 11:23 am

          Why don’t the manufacturers reduce the frequency at which they come out with new clubs, say when they have real performance gains to offer? That’s what’s killing the industry.

  16. Robert

    Nov 5, 2014 at 11:36 am

    I agree with the previous commentary on how Cobra has kind of covertly slid under the mainstream radar of really really good and user friendly clubs. Being a club builder / fitter I generally get to try out just about everything that comes to market and I have to say that no company consistently impresses me any more than Cobra. Their marketing to the “younger” crowd may have something to do with their perception, but there is nothing “immature” about their performance. That’s for sure. I personally game a biocell+ driver and have my biocell fairways and hybrids on tap anytime I have a match that really matters. They are point and shoot. Another thing I like is that they don’t have the ultralight feel of alot of current clubs. They feel substantial without being bulky. Feel and sound is as good as anything available IMO. I will definitely be picking up some of these new woods when they hit the stores. And I’m quite sure I will be thoroughly impressed as usual with Cobra products. Good job Cobra.

    …..and get me that Master’s green asap!

  17. Josh

    Nov 5, 2014 at 10:54 am

    I was recently reading a technical paper by Tom Wishon regarding loft changes with this type of adjustable hosel, and he went on to prove that it was not possible.

    For the driver most people just set it where it feels comfortable and leave it that way, but what does that mean for the fairway woods and hybrids? Has anyone tested w/ trackman, comparing say the 16 degree setting vs. the 19 degree setting on the 2/3 hybrid?

    • Kurt

      Nov 5, 2014 at 11:24 am

      I believe he is measuring the static loft of the head when soled only, which won’t change because you are changing the angle of the shaft into the head with these adjustments. But the dynamic loft when compared to the shaft does change. Which in my opinion is what matters since the dynamic relationship between the shaft and head is what matters when swinging and hitting a ball.

    • Chuck

      Nov 5, 2014 at 2:04 pm

      I am not sure if Tom Wishon is correct about asserting that Cobra’s hosel adjustability claims can’t be true; but Tom is almost invariably right.

      My question is why would a manufacturer even try to do anything that takes away a consumer’s ability to move the face angle along with loft? My guess is that there are an awful lot of advanced players who are less concerned with actually de-lofting a driver face than they are with a hosel adjustment that allows them to make the driver play more open.

  18. other paul

    Nov 5, 2014 at 12:27 am

    I would switch to cobra irons and woods based on performance. The good looks are a bonus ???? my driver would be tough to beat, it’s pretty much optimized.

  19. tim

    Nov 4, 2014 at 10:29 pm

    I’ve been playing the bio cell 3/4 wood the past few months with a matrix shaft and it’s a beast. If this new offering is actually better…. damn!

  20. Barry S.

    Nov 4, 2014 at 7:26 pm

    I hit a guys Cobra Long Tom at the range yesterday. Unbelievably sweet feeling club and the best looking head of any driver I’ve seen in a long time.

  21. nikkyd

    Nov 4, 2014 at 6:04 pm

    I bet youll take a nice gouge out of a premium ball if you hit a ball right square in the speed groove channel.

    • ChiefKeef

      Nov 4, 2014 at 11:36 pm

      If you’re hitting it that far off center then you have a lot more problems than a mark on a golf ball lol

    • graymulligan

      Nov 7, 2014 at 12:35 pm

      If you’re somehow bringing the last 8th of an inch on the perimeter of your driver face into play, maybe you shouldn’t be buying premium balls.

  22. Teaj

    Nov 4, 2014 at 12:29 pm

    For what ever reason, people just overlook Cobra as a premium golf club manufacture. the guys that play them love them, I myself have tested and would have been pleased to play some of their equipment but other manufactures offerings just seem to pull me in a little more. why is that? who knows, and if I can’t figure it out I’m not sure they will be able to, than again thats why they get paid the big bucks so who knows.

  23. Ry

    Nov 4, 2014 at 12:00 pm

    2 things:
    1- The Fly-Z + is a 460 head? Even the Bio Cell + was a smaller head. Setting up for a smaller Pro model during the middle of 2015 I’m guessing.

    2- What are companies thinking announcing something 2 months before the holidays but saying it won’t come out until a month after the holidays? This driver could have KILLED it for holiday sales for cobra and now they just got killed themselves. I mean everyone wants a new driver for Christmas or Hanakah or whatever they celebrate.

    • Mikec

      Dec 26, 2014 at 11:55 am

      OEMs release in Oct-Nov or in the spring/late winter and those that do the latter will always announce at this time. May seem perverse but it is marketing none the less.

  24. Michal B

    Nov 4, 2014 at 11:40 am

    Does anyone knows, if there will be any pro version of this driver?

  25. RAT

    Nov 4, 2014 at 9:17 am

    I still play the first version of the ZL driver, this might make me up-date but it would have to beat out the ZL..

    • peter ruggles

      Nov 5, 2014 at 12:13 pm

      Tried the ZL, long enough straight enough then tried the ZL Encore, a bit longer, then tried another white Encore; for some reason it’s 15-20 yards longer. I’m not complaining, and I can’t figure out why, as I’ve juggled all combinations of heads and shafts.

    • Payton

      Dec 20, 2015 at 3:16 pm

      Like you, I play an original ZL that I purchased here @ WRX and it”came off the Tour van”. Not sure what they did to it, if anything, but it’s in the bag. Have compared it to many others, including the ZL Encore and it’s tops.

  26. cb

    Nov 4, 2014 at 9:01 am

    Looks like it is the year of the speed channels

  27. ABNJM

    Nov 4, 2014 at 8:23 am

    I look forward to smashing golf balls with this. I’m still bagging an AMP CELL Pro Driver cause I hit it so well. Love Cobra Drivers.

  28. Jim

    Nov 4, 2014 at 8:18 am

    Another great looking club from Cobra. But no one seems to mention that Cobra’s hosel adjustment only adjusts one way and therefore the grip will change positions each time you adjust it. Doesn’t work well with grip position, or helper grips. Just a thought. I’m surprised they didn’t use a hosel similar to Titliest’s (I know they’re not business partners anymore).

    • Steve Barry

      Nov 4, 2014 at 9:17 am

      True, it does change the orientation when you change the settings. I personally don’t like this, but everything I’ve read, adding a cog like this adds weight to the adapter. Ping clubs change orientation and I believe Nike’s do too. Callaway’s didn’t used to, but I’m not sure about their latest iteration of it or not.

      I believe it’s just one more reason to get properly fit, even though most on this site (including myself) choose to buy all the latest goodies and just see if we strike lightning.

    • Robert

      Nov 5, 2014 at 11:34 am

      I agree about the ZL. One of the best drivers ever and still a performer.

  29. Johan

    Nov 4, 2014 at 8:12 am

    Cobra hits the wicket again with their forward-thinking, practical design. The colors are a little garish but who cares? My current Cobra driver kills it!

  30. Jonny B

    Nov 4, 2014 at 7:59 am

    Looks sweet, can’t wait to hit it. I think all the colors are bad business for retailers because they won’t know which to stock, but regardless – if this performs better than the BioCell it is sure to be a good seller.

  31. BC

    Nov 4, 2014 at 7:57 am

    Very, very excited for this product. Quietly, Cobra engineers have been hitting home runs with their metal woods the last few years and it shouldn’t change in 2015

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Whats in the Bag

Jimmy Walker WITB 2020

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  • Equipment accurate as of the Farmers Insurance Open

Driver: Titleist TS3 (8.5 degrees @ 7.75, C1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Fujikura Ventus Blue 6 X

Fairway wood: Titleist TS3 (18 degrees @ 17.25, C1 SureFit setting)
Shaft: Mitsubishi Tensei CK Pro Blue 90 TX

Irons: Titleist 620 CB (3), Titleist 620 MB (4-PW)
Shafts: True Temper AMT Tour White X100

Wedges: Titleist Vokey Design SM8 WedgeWorks (54-M, 60-04L), Titleist Vokey Design SM8 (64 degrees)
Shafts: True Temper Dynamic Gold Tour Issue X100

Putter: L.A.B. Directed Force 2.1T

Grips: Golf Pride Tour Velvet

Ball: Titleist Pro V1x

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Equipment

What It’s Like: TaylorMade Golf’s “The Kingdom”

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One of the best parts of this job, beyond the people we get to meet, is the facilities. All of the core OEMs have a “place” that is exclusive, away from anything normal, and you gotta know someone to get a ticket in.

That’s what the “What It’s Like” series is about. Those certain OEM places with no doors open to the public. Those places that if you happened to sneak in, there is no way you can Fletch your way around into two steak sandwiches and a bloody mary.

I never admit this, but I used to manage a night club in Los Angeles called Les Deux (it was cool for a minute). It was a fun although soul-sucking endeavor but the thing that made the experience stick out was the exclusivity of it. If you got in by knowing someone, greased the door guy (me), or got invited, it was four hours of awesome. Yes, it’s a lame example, but there is, unfortunately, something about getting to the other side of a closed door that is just awesome.

TaylorMade Golf’s Kingdom is location No. 1, and as you would expect, it’s nothing short of pure golf ecstasy.

My Experience

I have been to TaylorMade HQ quite a number of times, and typically those visits involve time at what I call the gear junkie mecca (short of Tiger Woods’ garage or the Nike Oven graveyard now called Artisan) AKA The Kingdom.

The coolest thing about it is how subtle the location is. Located just steps away from the front door of TM HQ (and a very random corporate basketball hoop) sits a small-yet-elegant building that if you didn’t know was there, you would fly past it. Once you pull into the side parking lot, unload your sticks, and head to the door, there is still that feeling of “will they actually let me in?”

Here’s the thing. The best (all of them) have been in here. To test, practice, hang out, get fit, get wowed to potentially be on staff and everything in-between. A schmuck like me should get nervous, but then it happens, the door opens and you are not only let in but you are greeted by the master of ceremonies and a man I truly adore Tom “TK” Kroll.

With the passion to match not only yours but anyone else who walks in, he makes sure every nuance is seen and experienced. From the lobby with current TM athletes on the wall to the locker room with your custom locker that sits next to an exact replica of Tiger’s bag. There are snacks, extras shoes, gloves, swag, coffee, beer, and all your wildest dreams…and we are barely in the facility.

From a 35,000 foot view, The Kingdom has everything a golfer would ever want, need, or wish for. Starting with Duane Anderson’s putter studio that has tested thousands of strokes from players ranging from a 20 handicap to Rory McIlroy. The data compiled in this room is staggering. We did a video (link below) that gives you the full rundown.

There are three (one with an Iron Byron for testing) main inside hitting bays with all the bells and whistles you would assume. TrackMans, cameras, big screens, fresh gloves hanging on the wall, and a club fitting matrix with every TM combination you could think of.

The outside hitting area is heaven on earth. There is no other way to describe. Huge hitting area with multiple styles of grass, lies, pins, etc. Any shot you would need to hit can be recreated here on grass with a ball flying into the air and not into a screen. My favorite area is the Flick Tee. In honor of the great teacher and longtime TM staffer Jim Flick. Its tucked up high and privately in the corner of the range under a tree and this may sound ridiculous but you can almost feel Mr. Flick standing there with you as you look out onto the facility. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.

As mentioned, the man who manages your experience is Tom Kroll. He’s about as respected and beloved as anyone in the industry and for good reason. You combine passion with service you get an awesome human to hang out with. Everyone that has been through these doors has a TK story, which includes a chuckle and a smile.

I chatted with him recently about The Kingdom, and this is what he had to say.

JW: Walk me through how The Kingdom came to be what it is now? Basically origin to current day…

TK: Back in 1994, I was in R&D, running player testing, and we needed to find our own testing range. We built our headquarters in Carlsbad in the 1990s and added the range in 1998. Only robot, cannon and player testing were done at the start. Once in a while, a tour or staff pro would come out and test, but it was all operated from one building. At the time, what’s currently the clubhouse at The Kingdom was actually a maintenance building. But in 2010, The Kingdom was reimagined to the layout we have now.

Over the last three years I’ve been at The Kingdom, we’ve added GEARS, Quintic high-speed cameras, and a Foresight simulator bay. We transformed the putting lab with a Perfection Platforms articulating floor and SAM technology. Last year we resurfaced the main tee, redesigned and dedicated the Flick Tee, underwent a complete renovation of the short game area with new bunker complexes, redesigned the targeting downrange, and developed a par-3 routing. We partnered with Kurt Bowman Design, a longtime designer under Jack Nicklaus.

Our superintendent Mark Warren and his crew have done incredible work with our current maintenance equipment, and I can’t wait to see the conditions after we deliver a brand new fleet of brand new Toro equipment. We structured a long-term partnership with Toro and Turf Star Western.

JW: What is the simple function of The Kingdom? 

TK: We still have the robot bay and R&D does development work almost every day. We are mostly a resource for the entire company: Global Sports Marketing (Tour), developmental pros and ams, AJGA standouts, our Crusaders (club professionals), and commercial teams. We host pre-lines to introduce new product to our at-large teams and training events. We’re even a PR resource, hosting media, social influencers, celebrities, and professional athletes.

We also act as a hub for our Crusaders. They send their members to us, and we wholesale back to the staff account. I’ll do a significant amount of corporate events, charity events and have had “Flicks at The Kingdom” where we set up a giant projector and our employees bring their kids, beach chairs and blankets to watch a movie out on the range. Really a fun and cool event.

JW: Give me three awesome stories or experiences from your time there that you are cool sharing.

TK: It’s tough to only pick three! From Reggie Jackson stopping by to Matt Ryan, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, Albert Pujols, Mike Trout, Jake Arrieta, Zack Greinke, President Bush. Those may be the most haughty name drops of all time! What can I say, it is beyond the coolest job I have ever had! It’s truly tough to pick, but here are my three…

Story 1: Tiger was preparing to make his first PGA Tour start after fusion surgery and he just spends the day grinding out here. He was testing an early proto of the TW irons and to see how much speed he still had. There’s a sound that only he and maybe two or three others make when they center it up. That sound is something that goes through your body, I can still hear it. It sticks with you.

He’s playing old school lofts, which are three degrees weaker than any other tour pro, but the carry distances were still there, the windows he hits it through, holding it against the wind, flighting a 6-iron even ripping a 5-wood 275 yards. His feedback and ability to discern the most minute details working with the advanced teams developing the irons was fantastic to witness.

To come full circle, I played with him in the Southern Cal Amateur when he was 16-years-old and had a front-row to his 62 at Hacienda, I was keeping his scorecard so he has my autograph. To again be standing three feet from him while he goes through the process is just special.

Story 2: I’m going to put two guys in the same bucket (because The Kingdom is so magical, I hope the golf gods are okay with it). Rory now spends a day out here the week of Farmers–he has for the last two years, and with the U.S. Open there 2021, I think he’s a lock for the next few. He went through two sets of irons in a wind quartering off the right at 20-25 mph. The consistency of launch, speed and spin were shockingly close! It was one of the greatest ball-striking exhibitions I’ve ever witnessed. We handpicked the range after his day, it took us 10 minutes He’s also the most gracious, down to earth person.

Jon Rahm stops by five or six times a year. To watch his sessions in the putting lab, to see Duane show him what’s changing and getting Jon back to baseline and see his confidence, to the 4-iron flop shots after we tell our Seve stories. Jon is part of the family. His brother and dad came out before Jon and Kelly’s wedding. He’s one of the two or three others where the sound goes through you.

Story 3: Has to be Operation Game On (OGO). We have partnered with  Tony Perez for over 15 years, we are the cherry on top of a 6-10 week program where wounded veterans take lessons and the graduation is a fitting at The Kingdom. I had a dear friend, Joe Horowitz, who’s a golfer and a musician, here late one day and I mentioned the OGO guys were coming the next day. It’s Veteran’s Day and the Marine Corps Birthday. Not to mention Jon Rahm would be here for a last tweak before he left for Dubai. Joe shows me a video of him singing the national anthem at the Jaguars game a few weeks before, and we both say let’s do that for the OGO guys. I get in early and send an email to all employees to be on the tee at 9 a.m. sharp. We have the OGO guys arrive and Jon is hanging in the locker room. I’m stalling to get all the employees onto the tee through the side gate, I walk the boys into the bay and hit the roll up door. Outside are 250 employees cheering these guys on! Joe sings the anthem (goose bumps every time), then happy birthday to Jon and the marine corps. There’s fittings, a pizza truck, Jon Rahm signed U.S. Open staff bags for the OGO boys. Then, get this, Jon goes on and wins that week in Dubai!

JW: If you could change anything about the property or the experience what would it be?

TK: At TaylorMade, the relentless pursuit of improving is in our DNA. The Kingdom is no different. We’re constantly innovating and reimagining the downrange experience. From targeting, to conditions and turf types, we’re always nuancing and squeaking out ways to be better. One example, we’re designing each of our targets with a specific purpose. When players are testing at The Kingdom, we want them to feel that every shot has a consequence. So, we want to deliver a real-world experience in every testing situation. We went through a massive redesign last fall and are currently still working with the advanced research team on new ways to enhance our testing and fitting experiences to meet the way that players perform in competition.

When it comes to the overall experience, The Kingdom has transformed from a predominantly R&D and fitting facility to the most capable environment to test, measure and understand how equipment performs and how golfers interact with their equipment. I call it the ultimate truth machine. We help golfers at every level uncover the insights they need to improve. After each session, we’re going to know everything about the club, the player and the ball flight.

So we came from a place where we were mainly focused on research, fitting, and selling. Our goals have changed. Now we obsess over how to help golfers get better.

What would I change? If you’re curious and passionate about making change, the answers are out there. The first thing we do is listen. We’re going to change everything that needs to be changed in order to meet our goals. I have an incredible focus group to bounce ideas off of. To ask our tour pros, club professionals, and teachers for feedback on the design ideas and what they like and prefer is fortunate. We’re constantly learning, we’re constantly improving, and if there’s a better way do something, then we’re going to figure it out and do it.

JW: What does the kingdom look like in 10 years?

TK: We have a lot of incredible plans for new targeting, bunker complexes, and refining the purposeful design of the range and short game area. Beyond that, we have designs for new teeing areas, a new short game complex, adding another GEARS system and Foresight Simulator, along with other new technologies. I can’t disclose all we do, since the R&D guys get a bit jumpy when I start going on about all the cool stuff and high science! I don’t know exactly what The Kingdom looks like in 10 years as technologies and our understanding continue to improve, but I do know give me six months, and we’ll have done something new. Always grinding to get better!

JW: Tell me a little bit about your career at TaylorMade.

TK: 31 years is hard to do in a “little bit” but I’ll try to give you the Clif Notes! Bob Vokey ran our Tour department and had me running his repair shop in Vista after George Willett took a job driving the Tour truck for TaylorMade. I was refinishing wooden clubs and repairing clubs for the local country clubs. I told Bob I was going broke making $4.50 an hour and driving all over San Diego. I asked if he could get me a job at TaylorMade and I started on the custom line with Wade Liles! Get to work at 2 p.m., off at 1 a.m. and golf in the morning. It was the life! Not to mention, I was lucky enough to meet my wife who worked for the company.

I started our player testing and worked for the great Dr. Benoit Vincent–the smartest man I know. I was a pretty good player, and I played a bunch of USGA and national amateur events. But when I did a TV commercial, I lost my amateur status and made the decision to turn pro. I quit my job and started that journey. Our CEO wanted me to take a leavem and I said: “I need to be all-in on this.” I had two children, a mortgage, car payments and had to buy health insurance while getting through all three stages of Q School. I realized I was a better amateur than a tour pro. We had our third child, and then I got the sales rep job in San Diego. After 10 years of sales, I moved inside the building and the ran innovations department before taking over our metalwoods category when we hit our highest market share in history. I spent a few years in product creation, ran global experiential for a few years and then got the best gig in all of golf here at The Kingdom. Been here for three years, and we’re just getting started!

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Puma Golf teams up with Ernie Els in support of Autism Awareness Month

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Puma X Els Autism

April is National Autism Awareness Month, and Puma Golf has teamed up with ambassador Ernie Els in support of the Els for Autism Foundation.

Throughout April, Puma will donate a portion of every individual sale of the brand’s Ignite Pwradapt Caged shoes with the proceeds going towards the Els for Autism Foundation.

Puma X Els Autism

Every pair of Caged shoes sold this month will include a blue Els for Autism shoe bag and puzzle piece ribbon lapel pin – with the color blue and the puzzle pieces representing Autism Awareness.

Puma X Els Autism

The Els for Autism Foundation helps deliver and facilitate programs designed to serve individuals with autism spectrum disorder. You can purchase the shoes here.

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