Defining the F8 Player
If you ask Cobra, it’ll tell you that the F8 iron (like F7 and F6 before it) is designed for golfers with handicaps between 5-25. That’s a broad range, and the true sweet spot is almost certainly somewhere in the middle, but the larger point is that F8 is Cobra’s meat of the market iron offering. Steelhead, G400, and M1/M2; that’s your competitive set.
As you would expect from any iron in the Game-Improvement category, the F8 heavily emphasizes distance, but Cobra is also aware that distance-driven designs often bring with them undesirable consequences for accuracy and consistency.
So, part of the goal with F8 is to generate a bit of the additional distance the category demands, while retaining, if not regaining, a bit of the precision that’s almost always lost to loft-jacking. Those benefits, in combination with the insights that come from the included full-set Arccos integration, aren’t just the kind of things that will allow Cobra to compete in the marketplace, they’re the kind of things that should help you play better and smarter golf while hopefully shooting lower scores.
While I think the design could be cleaner, my opinion is that F8 is Cobra’s most significant leap forward in the iron category in some years, and when you factor in the integrated Arccos sensors, there’s an argument to be made that the F8 lineup should be regarded as the most robust golf system offered by any OEM today.
Let’s run through what makes the new irons better.
Improved Forged PWRSHELL Face
In terms of quantifiable performance benefits, the updates to Cobra’s face technology are likely the most significant contributors. The bullet points are what you’d expect from any manufacturer. The new face is lighter, thinner, faster, and, of course, it creates more distance.
The key bit in all of this is that Cobra has moved to a variable thickness forged face. The F7 featured a constant thickness (2.3mm) face, while the thickness of the F8 ranges from 1.9mm to 2.4mm. This allows Cobra to essentially tune specific areas of the face, effectively removing both dead and hot spots, while promoting more consistent ball speeds.
The new face insert is also 7-grams lighter, which gives Cobra the freedom to push weight lower in the head to promote higher launch.
Carbon Fiber Tuned Cavity
With the F8, Cobra has moved to a carbon fiber badge. As you’d expect, there’s a weight-savings benefit which frees up just shy of 2 grams of discretionary weight, but as far as Cobra is concerned, the primary benefit comes from the new insert’s ability to control vibration and produce better feel.
By now, hopefully, most of you understand that feel – specifically good feel – is the result of geometry and not a question of cast vs. forged. The more weight pushed to the perimeter (a signature feature of game-improvement designs) the more good feel is lost. That’s just how it works.
To Cobra’s credit, it’s not trying to convince anyone the F8 offers the softness of a muscleback, but it is claiming that the new iron offers best in class feel. That class being the sub-$1000 game-improvement iron category.
Refined Shaping & TECHFLO Construction
Cobra has been using what it calls TECHFLO construction for several product generations. TECHFLO is Cobra-speak to describe a progressive head construction that leverages hollow-body long irons to create distance, cavityback scoring clubs (mid and short irons) for more accuracy, and now a specialty set wedge to provide greater versatility and improved feel.
In addition to altering cavity designs, the F8 leverages progressive hosel lengths to help optimize the CG location for each type of iron in the set. Shorter hosels in the long iron help keep weight low, while longer hosels in the wedges help raise the CG up for more spin.
To further optimize launch conditions, Cobra has shortened the overall height of the F8 (compared to F7), while keeping blade lengths nearly identical. This helps keep the CG low, producing higher launch and a more controllable ball flight.
Cobra has placed specific emphasis on the design of its F8 wedges. We’ve had this conversation before – roughly 75% of the wedges in our (amateur golfers) bags are specialty wedges. We’re talking about your Vokeys, Clevelands, Mack Daddies, etc.. It wouldn’t make much sense considering most golfers play game-improvement irons, but the reality is that the majority of set wedges are garbage. They don’t look like wedges, they’re not particularly versatile, and since most don’t have wedge-specific grooves, they create less spin than the aftermarket alternatives.
Is it any wonder we don’t play them?
With the F8, Cobra did something a bit different – it took it’s KING wedge technology and adapted it for a set wedge you might keep in your bag. Wedge shaping, wedge versatility, wedge grooves – all there, albeit in a package that fits perfectly within the F8 set.
Distance Gains by the Numbers
So what does all of this F8 refinement get you?
As you would expect from nearly any iron in the category, the F8 comes with a fresh set of distance claims. While I cannot emphasize enough my belief that distance is just about the last thing you should be looking at when evaluating new irons, I’d be remiss not to share Cobra’s story.
In player testing at long iron lengths, Cobra found the F8 to be 4 yards longer than both the Callaway Steelhead and TaylorMade M2 and 8 yards longer than the PING G400.
My 2 cents: when you’re demoing irons, focus on height, landing angle, spin rates and dispersion, and be confident that the F8 will hold its own against any iron in the category.
Women’s models are also available.
F8 ONE Length
Cobra’s initial ONE Length offering was well received – especially among golfers who struggle with consistent ball-striking. Return rates have been low, and while it would be overstating things to suggest there’s been widespread adoption, there remains genuine curiosity. My inbox is proof of that.
As you might expect, the majority of ONE Length buyers are 35 or older and have handicaps from 11 to 30+. As you might also expect, a significant majority (87%) said they bought ONE Length to improve consistency, while 45% also sighted improved accuracy.
The point is that while single length irons are still considered to be niche offerings, the reasons why golfers have made the switch are relevant to the majority of amateur golfers.
Maybe it’s time for you to give ONE Length a second look.
To date, Cobra is the only mainstream OEM to enter the single length space, and every indication is that its commitment to the category is growing. By its own admission, it still has plenty to learn about ONE length irons, so I’d expect to see rapid innovation that significantly outpaces anything happening in the variable length space. In an industry starved for actual innovation, that’s an exciting prospect, especially for guys like me who remain intrigued by the potential benefits of ONE Length.
About Those Benefits
Before we dig into what’s new and improved, let’s take a moment to refresh our memories on the benefits of single length iron. The advantage is, in one word, consistency.
Single length irons promote a consistent setup, a consistent swing, and a consistent impact location. The result is, in theory, consistent distance and tighter dispersion – and that’s before we throw in whatever confidence benefits come from more consistent ball-striking.
The Downside of Single Length
That’s all well, good and exciting, but single length irons aren’t without their issues. As we saw in our testing of Cobra’s initial ONE offerings, for some golfers, long irons fly too low and don’t produce enough distance. Short irons often flew too high and too far.
Beyond less than ideal ballflight, the distance issues on both ends of the set often produced inconsistent gaps – though it should be noted that tests of variable length irons have revealed that golfers have anything but consistent gaps with their traditional sets.
On top of all of that, mental issues sometimes come into play. Some golfers habitually overswing the long irons and underswing the short irons. The struggle is real.
Sufficed to say, there is room for improvement.
A Better ONE
Cobra has been working diligently to improve its ONE Length offerings, and while it remains to be seen if anything can be done about the mental stuff, what the company is doing on the technology front is promising.
Cobra has implemented four significant changes to F8 ONE that have the potential to improve performance and attract more golfers to single length category.
Wider Soles in the Long Irons – The soles on the F8 ONE long irons (4-6) have been widened. This change pushes the center of gravity lower and deeper without resorting to messing with the lofts (and aggravating the gapping issues). This should help resolve the low launch issues experienced by some, and in those situations where it doesn’t, the new ONE Length hybrid may prove to be an ideal solution.
Higher CG Short Irons – In the F8 ONE Short irons, Cobra has raised the CG locations. Golfers can expect to see a lower ball flight, higher spin rates, and a bit less distance. This is the rare case where all of that makes for a good thing. Not only should the CG shift help with the too long wedge problem, but it will also increase stopping power on approach shots, giving you more freedom to fire at pins.
ONE Length Specific Shafts – One of the early discoveries following the release of F7 ONE was that many golfers saw better performance in their short irons and wedges when using heavier stiffer shafts to help control trajectory. For F8 ONE, Cobra worked with True Temper (Steel) and Aldila (Graphite) to create shafts specifically for use in ONE Length irons. The new shafts leverage a variable tipping strategy that makes the long irons play softer and launch higher, while the short irons play stiffer and launch lower.
Non-Standard Lie Angles – One of the things Cobra discovered while working with Bryson DeChambeau (and we discovered during our testing) is that despite identical lengths and weights, golfers still swing ONE Length long irons faster than ONE Length short irons. You can probably chalk it up to that mental stuff I touched on earlier, but whatever the cause, it’s real, it’s repeatable, and it absolutely has implications where lie angles are concerned.
As noted above, Cobra is already using the shaft to tune launch conditions. The consequence of that is that long iron shafts will bend a bit differently than middle iron shafts and short iron shafts. The way the dynamics of shaft work, we already see progressively less toe down (more upright impact lie) as shafts get shorter and clubhead speed slows. It’s the reason why many coaches and fitters advocate for flatter lie angles in wedges.
To account for differing amounts of toe down, Cobra has implemented a lie angle progression with F8 ONE. The short irons have flatter lie angles than the mid irons, and the mid irons are flatter than the long irons. That may sound strange, but keep in mind that static measurements don’t often match their dynamic equivalents. What you need to take away from this is that Cobra is tuning lie angles such that when the dynamic forces (the bending and twisting of the shaft during the swing) are applied, the lie angles at impact are more consistent through the F8 ONE set.
The Rest of the Tech Story
The rest of the F8 ONE Length mirrors that of the variable length version. You get the ONE Length version of TECHFLO. You get the updated PWRSHELL Face. You still get Carbon Fiber inserts (feel) and progressive hosel lengths (part of the CG story) too. As with the variable length, you have the option of purchasing a combo set, in this case, one that includes a ONE Length hybrid.
F8 Family – Cobra Connect Arccos Integration
Finally, and this could prove to be a major selling point for the entire Cobra lineup, F8 and F8 ONE Irons include 14-club Cobra Connect; a co-branded, fully functional version of Arccos 360. Billed as the first set of Smart Clubs, Cobra’s F8 offerings have Arccos sensors integrated into the grips.
According to Arccos, 86% of users measurably improve their handicap and improve 36.4 times faster than non-Arccos users.
Now I know what some of you are thinking. “Great, I have Arccos sensors on my irons, but I’m not giving up my TaylorMade driver, Callaway fairway woods, or Vokey wedges.” Look, I have no doubt Cobra would love to assume ownership over 13 spots in your bag; hell, it might even mill you a putter if you ask nicely, but it understands that you may have other equipment that you’re perfectly happy with. It still wants you to be able to leverage the Arccos platform. To that end, when you buy an iron set, Cobra will give you Arccos sensors for the rest of your clubs. If that’s not clear, the short version goes like this: Buy F8 irons, get 100% of what you need to use the Arccos system at no additional cost.
Guys, speaking as a devout Arccos user, this is freaking awesome.
Pricing and Availability
Men’s Steel Irons ($799) – 7-piece set that utilizes a Lamkin REL 360 (Tour Taper, CONNECT) grip; True Temper XP 90 steel shaft; includes 5-PW, GW and is available in both RH and LH versions in regular and stiff flexes.
Men’s Graphite Combo Set ($999) – 7-piece set includes 5H, 6-PW, GW available in RH only in Regular and Lite flexes. Utilizes a Lamkin REL (Tour Taper, CONNECT) grip and Aldila Rogue Pro 65 Graphite shaft.
Women’s Graphite Combo Set ($999) – 7-piece set includes 5H, 6H, 7-PW, SW – features the same innovative technologies found in the men’s irons including COBRA CONNECT. The ladies stock combo set in RH only, (LH through custom) features COBRA Lamkin REL 360 (COBRA CONNECT silver/pink or black/blue grips) and Aldila Rogue 60-gram graphite shafts.
KING F8 ONE ($799 steel; $899 graphite through custom) – 5-PW, GW standard set make-up. F8 ONE comes stock with Lamkin Crossline 360 (Tour Taper; COBRA CONNECT Blue/Red) grips and in either Aldila One Rogue 65 (graphite – stiff, regular, lite) or True Temper ONE Flighted (steel – stiff and regular) shaft options. Available in both RH and LH.
Complementing the F8 ONE LENGTH Irons, COBRA is introducing the industry’s first-ever ONE LENGTH Hybrid. The KING F8 ONE LENGTH Hybrid features revised weighting and CG, an upright lie angle, and increased head weight to match the ONE Length irons.
KING F8 ONE Graphite 7-piece Combo Set ($999) – 5H, 6-GW, available in RH only n Reg/Lite flex. Features a Graphite Aldila Rogue Pro ONE Length 65 shaft and Lamkin REL 360 (Tour Taper/CONNECT Blue/Red) grip.
The entire family of Cobra Connect/Arccos integrated KING F8 Irons will be available at retail beginning February 2, 2018.
For more information, visit Cobragolf.com.