TWIN TEST: Cobra's F9 vs Titleist's TS drivers

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Speed is the most heavily researched area of driver design right now. The idea is simple – by improving aerodynamics, you swing at the same speed but the clubhead travels quicker, equalling more yards.

Some brands claim aerodynamics and drag reduction can improve clubhead speed by 2.5mph, whereas others say gains are closer to 1.5mph. But what you have to realise is that whatever the gains, they come with absolutely no trade-offs in performance elsewhere.

Two of the newest launches for 2019 both claim to have maximised this speed ingredient.

Cobra has designed the new King F9 Speedback like a plane’s wing and taken inspiration from some of the world’s fastest objects, while Titleist says its engineers took two years to develop the “speed chassis” inside the new TS2/TS3 drivers.

With the Cobra going on sale early next year – having already won on Tour – and the Titlest on sale now, we thought it was the ideal time to see how fast they really are.

TESTED: Titleist Pro V1 vs Mail Order golf balls

 

Cobra F9 Speedback

Titleist TS

Website:

www.cobragolf.co.uk

www.titleist.co.uk

Price:

£349

£499

Lofts:

9° / 10.5° / 12°

8.5° / 9.5° / 10.5° / 11.5°

Shafts:

Helium 50 (high launch/mid spin);

Atmos Tour Spec Blue 6 (mid launch/mid spin);

Project X HZRDUS Smoke 60 (mid launch/low spin);

Fujikura Atmos Tour Spec Black 7 (mid launch low spin).

Kuro Kage Black 50 (high launch/moderate spin); 

Tensei AV Blue 55 (mid launch/mid spin); 

Project X HZRDUS Smoke Black 60 (low to mid launch and spin);  

Even Flow T1100 White 65 (low launch and spin).

Adjustable hosel:

+/-1.5°

-0.75°/+1.5°

You need to know:

Cobra F9 Speedback

Cobra says the F9 Speedback is the first driver to combine a highly aerodynamic head shape and low centre of gravity. Rounded edges, a raised skirt, PWR ridges on the crown and aero trips create a truly “aeroficient” driver. It also says CNC milling allows for the face to be thinner and hotter, which offers gains of up to 1.5mph in ball speed over non-milled models. A carbon wrap crown saves 10g of weight compared to titanium crowns.

Titleist TS2 / TS3

“A peerless pursuit of speed, where every micron and milligram matters,” according to Titleist. A new speed chassis has an ultra-thin titanium crown, a streamlined shape (which reduces drag by 20%) and a thinner, faster face, all to maximise club and ball speed. Titleist says the TS2 model delivers straight speed, whereas TS3 offers specialised speed.

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Looks and sound:

Cobra F9 and Titleist TS2 drivers

Cobra F9 Speedback - 9/10

Our test pro’s face as he pulled the headcover from the F9 was a picture. Let’s just say the yellow paint job didn’t make the best first impression. But, as Rickie Fowler said, it’s “business up top and party down below” and when sat behind the ball, with the crown ridges and leading edge aero trips framing the ball, it’s a seriously good-looking club. It took our test pro all of one shot to fall for the F9, saying: “It’s every bit as good as my personal driver of choice (Ping’s G400 LST); it’s given me immediate confidence in being able to hit my soft fade.”  

Titleist TS2 / TS3 - 8/10

Our test pro gravitated towards the TS3 because of its more traditional head shape, rather than the stretched, wide TS2. Both have simple plain black heads with alignment aids above the centre of the face. Our pro typically looks for extra launch, without increasing backspin. He likes seeing loft on a face, thinking it gives the impression of being forgiving, and he noted both Titleist models gave the impression of being harder to hit than the Cobra. Sound and feel from these all-titanium drivers were excellent.

Speed:

Cobra F9 Speedback - 9/10

Cobra promises speed and the King F9 Speedback doesn’t disappoint. Using the stock mid-launch/mid-spin shaft (Fujikura Atmos Tour Spec Blue 6) against our pro’s most suitable stock-shafted Titleist TS, the Cobra reigned supreme (see the data below right).

Just to make sure we gave the whole picture, we switched the F9’s 14g backweight to the front port, too. That delivered a gain of 2mph of ball speed, and a drop of 500rpm in backspin (as well as a tiny 0.2 reduction in launch angle and one-yard shot height decrease) – just as Cobra promised.  

Titleist TS2 / TS3 - 8/10

Data doesn’t lie. While our test pro did say both TS drivers blew the previous 917 model out of the water for speed, neither kept up with the Cobra. Comparing the TS2 (with a mid launch/mid spin stock shaft most suited to Neil’s game), against his best Cobra set-up (stock mid-launch/mid-spin shaft), the TS2  gave up 5mph of club and 8mph of ball speed.

Switching out the stock shaft for Neil’s personal choice shaft (a Graphite Design Tour AD, which comes with an £180 upcharge) the gap narrowed to 3mph of club and 4mph of ball speed. Using the Graphite Design Tour AD shaft in Neil’s preferred TS3 head, club and ball speed closed to within 2mph of the Cobra.  

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Technology:

Cobra F9 and Titleist TS2 drivers

Cobra F9 Speedback - 9/10

In sport nowadays there’s lots of chat about “incremental gains” and the F9 is bursting with them. The CNC milled face, wrapped carbon crown, an aero set-up that’s arguably more complete than any other and weight positioned where it makes the biggest difference, all add up to one hugely impressive tech package. And that’s before you throw in the Cobra Connect shot-tracking sensor in the grip, which comes as standard. That’s an awful lot of tour-proven technology for your money.

Titleist TS2 / TS3 - 8/10

With Titleist working on two-year product cycles it’s easy for its models (in particular drivers) to feel a bit old hat very quickly, as every other brand (apart from Ping) have a new driver every 12 months. Titleist would argue it doesn't need carbon crowns or movable weights (on the TS2) to compete on performance. But the fact is that by not having much visible tech on the outside, it takes a huge buy-in from the buyer to believe there’s plenty of tech on the inside that will really help their game.

Price and options:

Cobra F9 Speedback - 9/10

Cobra equipment, in particular the drivers, represents the best value-for-money big dogs on the market. And the F9 reinforces our point; £349 for a brand new PGA Tour winning driver is excellent value. But throw in an Arccos shot-tracker in the grip (which has a £49.99 RRP itself), along with premium real deal stock shafts, and you’ve got a high-quality winning package.

Titleist TS2 / TS3 - 8/10

As the most expensive mass-market drivers in the UK right now (based on RRP), both TS drivers are asking golfers a serious question about how much they’re willing to pay for a new club; £499 is a huge sum, particularly when there are other great options out there (like the Cobra) for a lot less. We marked the TS down for price, but back up again because of the two driver line up and loft options, which give any serious golfer the choices necessary to tailor a new driver to their game.

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The numbers:

 

Club Speed

Ball Speed

Launch

Backspin

Carry distance

Total distance

Cobra King F9 (14g weight back)

110 MPH

159 MPH

11.4°

3515 RPM

252 YDS

274 YDS

Cobra King F9 (14g weight forward)

111 MPH

161 MPH

11.2°

3042 RPM

261 YDS

285 YDS

Titleist TS2 (mid-spin/mid launch stock shaft)

106 MPH

153 MPH

12.5°

3375 RPM

245 YDS

266 YDS

Titleist TS2 (upgrade GD Tour AD shaft)

108 MPH

157 MPH

11°

3001 RPM

251 YDS

275 YDS

Titleist TS3 (upgrade GD Tour AD shaft)

109 MPH

159 MPH

10.3°

3239 RPM

257 YDS

279 YDS

Cobra F9 and Titleist TS2 drivers

Verdict:

Cobra F9 Speedback - 36/40

Seriously impressive. Our test pro was gushing over the looks, feel, sound and performance of the F9… and that was before we told him its RRP is £150 less than the Titleist. He felt like it generated a bit more ball speed than the Titleist, before seeing the data, which has to say the F9 is lively. Sales shows us many golfers looking for a new driver focus attention on the three biggest brands (Ping, TaylorMade and Callaway). We’d suggest you now add Cobra to that list, too.

Titleist TS2 / TS3 - 32/40

Pound for pound – and mph for mph – neither TS driver beats the Cobra in the hands of our test pro, despite its hefty price hike (and another £180 for an aftermarket shaft that gave our pro’s best numbers). The key selling point for serious golfers is Titleist’s excellent fitting service. The fact neither model will be out of date through 2019 and most of 2020 will be an attraction to some, too.