Just less than a year ago Bryson de Chambeau, at the age of 22, crowned a stellar amateur career by finishing 21st in the Masters, best of the non-professional players in the field. He joined the PGA tour following that success, having captured the attention of the golfing public not just on account of his playing ability but because of his quirky science-based approach to the sport, a key aspect of which is his use of irons which have a standard shaft length of 37.5 inches through the set. Now his sponsors Cobra have brought to market a single-length set of irons in the shape of the Cobra King F7 One, which have attracted quite a bit of attention in the golfing press and online media.
I had the chance to try out the F7 Ones a couple of days ago when the club pro thrust a 5, a 7 and a 9 iron into my hands and suggested I give them a go on the range. Which I duly did, with a flask of coffee to fuel my reflections and my trusty Callaway FTs to provide points of comparison. I won’t repeat the philosophy, science and history behind the single-length concept (you can read that on the Cobra site) but the key concept is that all irons are the length of a normal 7 iron (in this case 37.25 inches) with varying lofts, head design and weighting ensuring that they perform in line with our expectations of ‘normal’ variable length irons.
I started, as I usually do at the range, with the 9 iron. I admit it did feel slightly odd knowing I had in my hands a 9 iron but one which had the shaft, and therefore required the stance and setup, of a 7 iron. But a 9 iron it certainly was in terms of the distance and ball flight that it produced. Which felt, as I said, slightly odd and, well, rather entertaining. The 7 iron that followed behaved, as you might have guessed, exactly like a 7 iron should, so nothing exceptional to report about that. Now I have never had much of an issue with irons stamped with the number seven or higher, so the big test for these single length irons was yet to come. If the theory was to prove its worth, the 5 iron had to be a much easier proposition to hit than its variable length equivalent.
Again it felt a bit against the grain setting up as for a 7 iron with a club that would behave like a club normally an inch longer in the shaft. But yes, once again it performed as promised and there was the 5 iron distance and 5 iron ball flight. Switching to my own FT 5 iron (which incidentally sports a loft of 27 degrees as opposed to the much stronger 23 degrees of the Cobra King) I played the same shot. Was it harder? More demanding? Not really, was my final conclusion.
After my admittedly fairly brief and certainly unscientific session with the Cobra King F7 Ones, I remained fundamentally unconvinced by them. If the mid to high handicapper has an issue with their irons, it tends to be with the true long irons, ie the 3 and the 4 irons. And most of us don’t carry them in our bags, having chosen to replace them, with easier to hit hybrids (I carry 18, 22 and 25 degree hybrids, for example). My feeling is that the single length iron concept sets out to solve a problem that already has a solution and that, unless Bryson de Chambeau finds some form significantly better than he has shown in recent months, Cobra may struggle to sell the F7 Ones in commertcially rewarding numbers.
I personally found the look of the F7s rather clumsy: the heads looked big and had a very thick topline to them. In addition, with the 5 iron I could see the rear of the wide sole of the clubhead at address, which was a big turnoff. And, while the irons performed as they should, I felt, even on the better shots, like I was smacking the ball rather than experiencing that lovely soft contact I get with the FTs, that sensation of the ball just floating off the face of the club.
Maybe for some the F7 Ones will provide that eureka moment. For me, they came across as something of a novelty item. Fun to try out the concept, but I won’t give them serious consideration when I look to change my irons. Sorry, Cobra. Sorry, Bryson de Chambeau.