Wednesday, February 7, 2018

2018 PGA Merchandise Show - Demo Day Recap Part 4 of 4: Cobra Golf, Cleveland Golf, and Vertical Groove Golf

As Demo Day starts drawing to a close I always wish it was a two day event.  Orange County Convention Center has spots indoor to hit new clubs as well, but it's nothing like the full circle, mammoth driving range at the Golf Center.  To hit all the new clubs I want to test, I have to take fewer pictures at this point because there's so little time left.  But I'll still have loads of pictures of clubs from this recap, as well as more pics from other Demo Day recaps you've already read coming up in my PGA Show recaps from the floor. 


In my Demo Day Recap Part 3 we took a look at new wares from FootJoy, Titleist, Miura, and Lynx Golf.  In this final Demo Day recap I'm covering new clubs from Cobra, Cleveland, and Vertical Groove.  When all my recaps and Best of Show are done, if you're interested in a particular company or club(s), head on over to the search bar and type in the name to see the multiple articles where I covered them throughout the week. 

Cobra Golf 
The new Cobra KING F8 driver was a club I was particularly excited to check out because last year's F7 was one of my favorite drivers of the year, and probably the one I played most often.  Would the F8 be an improvement on the F7? 


Here's what I can tell you for sure.  The F8 was one of the longest drivers for me at Demo Day.  It's hard to say if and how much longer it is compared to my F7 since obviously I couldn't compare the two head-to-head.  Knowing how I hit the F7 overall last year however, I can definitively say the F8 is a more accurate and forgiving driver.  If you struggle hitting fairways, this can transform your game. 

The F8 CNC milled forged face is thinner, lighter, and made to Cobra's highest tolerances.  That should result in better distance on shots that miss the sweet spot - and it does.  Cobra also redesigned the face curvature, and instead of talking about bulge and axes pretending like I have an engineering degree, I'll just tell you on both toe and heel mishits the F8 was ridiculously accurate


I hit some good shots that had me head-bobbing in approval, and then when I looked at the face and saw the impact marks were actually mediocre, I silently thought "wow - this is serious improvement." 


The F8 is bit more pear-shaped than the F7, which will appeal to traditionalists, and while I'm not sure about launch angles, the flight looked to peak higher than the F7 drives I hit last year.  Like I told you during Demo Day, the F8 truly does it all. 


The F8+ is a lower spinning version of the F8 featuring a smaller 440cc head and is adjustable from 8* to 11* (as opposed to 9* to 12* in the standard F8). 

Whether or not you like hybrids, if you've ever hit them you know they feel more explosive than corresponding irons of the same loft.  I only mention that because the craziest thing about Cobra's new F8 irons was that they had that same kind of hybrid explosion, but still felt like an iron. 


If you're a golfer who's losing distance as you get older, or seem to always be coming up short on your approach shots, the F8 deserves your attention.  The 5-irons I hit took off like rockets and landed like they were hitting pillows. 


Soles on the long irons are wider than I usually play, but I didn't mind after a while seeing how consistent they were even when I missed the sweet spot.  The 9-irons I hit felt softer and flew even more on-line, but they also still had forgiveness across a wide area of the face which was pretty damn impressive. 

Cleveland Golf 
Cleveland Golf's new Launcher HB driver isn't adjustable.  It doesn't have moveable weights.  In fact it's pretty much as no-nonse as you can get.  Sometimes however, the simpler the better, and the Launcher HB is as simple as ABC. Accurate.  Booming.  Consistent. 

The Launcher HB sets up in a slightly closed position at address, but that shouldn't be surprising since it targets the average golfer who tends to slice off the tee.  When I caught a few shots out towards the toe, it still gave me a nice, high draw.  Launcher HB is a very lightweight driver as well, which makes it ideal for slow to mid swing speeds.  Many lightweight drivers on the market can be uncontrollable, but I felt the shaft release into the ball with power, and the overall feel is very smooth and stable. 


There's a step on the Launcher HB crown (or another way of putting it - the crown sets down from the top edge) to give it a more forgiving CG.  The sole is extended low and deep in the rear to position greater mass there for even more forgiveness.  I'll admit I wasn't a fan or the stepped crown or extended sole from an appearance perspective, but there's no denying it does what it says it does.  Launcher HB is a high launching, stable, and consistently forgiving driver that produces powerful flex across the entire face.  Ironically, even without any adjustability, this is a driver that might fit you perfectly off the rack. 

Cleveland's new CBX wedges are basically semi-identical twins to the extraordinary RTX-3 wedges I reviewed last year.  The CBX feature the same Rotex face for incredible spin and greenside control.  They feature the same Dual V-Sole for outstanding playability from a variety of lies.  And the shapes are nearly identical.  Where the CBX differ from the RTX-3 however is in head design and ultimately in forgiveness. 


The CBX are cavity back designs and even easier to hit than the RTX-3.  They're larger than the RTX-3, with wider soles and more weight around the perimeter to make them extremely resistant to twisting.  They're almost impossible to chunk.  Despite having wider soles, the heel section has been narrowed enough that you can still lay the wedge open if you desire. 


Control felt just as good as the RTX-3 wedges I played this year, and flight seemed to be slightly higher.  The CBX don't feel as soft as the RTX, but they're still unusually smooth.  The sweet spot is larger and closer to the center where a majority of golfers prefer it.  If your short game is usually an unfortunate misadventure, just call the CBX "problem solved." I was extremely impressed with these wedges.  

Vertical Groove Golf 
I never paid much attention to Vertical Groove prior to this year's Demo Day.  I just chalked up the vertical grooves on the face as another gimmick in a competitive market that sometimes distinguishes itself more by novel propaganda messages than legitimate advantages.  So it came as a huge surprise when I hit some of my straightest drives of the day with the Vertical Groove. 

The grooves are supposed to reduce side spin on impact, but I had to believe there was more than vertical grooves at work in keeping my shots on line.  Someone would have already thought about doing this a long time ago if it worked, right?  I didn't have time to talk to anyone at VG, but there was no denying it was one of the most accurate drivers I hit all day.  Most people I heard in the Vertical Groove area were raving about how straight it was for them as well, and the driver name I heard come up most in other OEM areas, believe it or not - was Vertical Groove. 


The appearance is unusual to say the least, and some of you already told me it looks like a driver you might see in a late night infomercial on Golf Channel.  Intriguing aesthetics aside, if straighter ball-flight is one of the most important things you need in a driver, you should absolutely check out Vertical Groove.