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)
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.
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.
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
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?”
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.
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.
MyFly8 works with the company’s SmartPad sole design, which helps keep the clubface relatively square even when you adjust loft/lie settings.
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)
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.
Just like the Fly-Z+, it comes equipped with Zone Weighting, a Speed Channel, a lighter MyFly hosel and a SmartPad.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
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)
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.
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.
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)
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.
The hybrids also have MyFly adjustable hosels and SmartPads to help their faces sit squarely regardless of loft setting.
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.
Jimmy Walker WITB 2020
- 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
What It’s Like: TaylorMade Golf’s “The Kingdom”
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.
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!
Puma Golf teams up with Ernie Els in support of Autism Awareness Month
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.
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.
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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