Cobra AMP Driver
(Written By: @GolfSpy T) Knock Knock! Who’s there you say? Orange. Orange who? Knock Knock!…ah hell, I think we can all see where this is going. We’ve associated Cobra-PUMA with the color orange ever since Rickie Fowler’s Sunday digs replaced Tiger’s Sunday red as the most talked about apparel topic on tour. Granted Rickie’s star on the course hasn’t always been as bright as his Sunday best (I’ve always wondered if he spent his cut-missed Sundays lounging on his couch dressed like a cumquat), but his talent has never been in question, and over the last couple of weeks, Rickie (and his whimsical mustache) have been nothing short of the hottest thing in golf.
Now sure, Rickie didn’t actually win “The Players Championship”, but T2 isn’t bad (especially coming off the heels of his first Tour victory), and one could make a rational and believable argument that if not for one pushed putt and a horrific lie at the edge of a bunker, we’d have seen Rickie, orange and all, in a playoff. Point is, if the last couple of weeks are any indication, orange is the new red, and while the networks and the golf media as a whole might lament such things (they’ve become so spoiled by the Tiger era they’ve forgotten how to write about most anything else), Rickie with his orange pants and monoline cap have the best chance to attract young golfers and grow the game. Embrace it, hell, celebrate it people. Begun the Rickie Fowler era has…maybe.
All of this is of course just a hopefully clever segue into our review of Rickie’s driver (and an excuse for me to use the word “cumquat”). Well technically it’s not actually Rickie’s driver. His has a real whiteboard shaft, our review samples have SpeedTuned Aldila RIPs, but mostly it’s the same. Given our mostly outstanding history with Cobra drivers we weren’t going to let a couple of questionable things (like orange grips and silver heads) prevent us from checking out what, as it turns out, could very well be the best Cobra driver we’ve ever had in for review. So let’s get on with it, shall we?
The Marketing Angle
Because we’re not big on rehashing press releases, here is the abbreviated version of what Cobra wants you to know about the AMP Driver:
- E9 FACE TECHNOLOGY WITH DUAL ROLL A 30% Larger Sweet Zone and a new approach to bulge and roll design delivers distance and accuracy.
- ADJUSTABLE FLIGHT TECHNOLOGY™ Three simple face-angle settings (Open, Neutral and Closed) optimize ball flight for increased distance and improved accuracy.
- ADVANCED MATERIAL PLACEMENT Sophisticated computer modelling and simulation allow designers to thin walls to save weight and re-distribute up to 15 grams of mass deep and back in the clubhead, to maximize distance through optimized launch conditions.
Cobra AMP Specifications
Head Material: Titanium 6-4 head with semi-forged, milled titanium face.
How We Tested
For our test of the Cobra AMP driver we collected detailed performance data from 4 testers who were asked to hit a series of shots on our 3Track Equipped simulators from aboutGolf. As usual, testing was done at Tark’s Indoor Golf, a state of the art indoor golf facility located in Saratoga Springs, NY. Detailed data for each and every shot for which we collected data is viewable just below the performance section of this review. This data serves as the foundation for our final performance score. Our testers were also asked to rate the Cobra AMP Driver and provide feedback in our subjective categories (looks, sound & feel, perceived forgiveness, and LOP (likelihood of purchase). This information is used as the foundation for our total subjective score. Testing was done using 9.5°, 10.5°, and 11.5° drivers in Light (senior), regular, and Stiff flex. Drivers were outfitted with Aldila Speed Tuned (Cobra) shafts – 50g (A), and 55g (R,S).
Some quick notes before we get into the data: 1) We have two new testers taking part in this review. Brian is our new high HCP golfer. His ball flight can be a little bit unpredictable, but as you’ll see by the numbers, he hits the damn ball so hard it sheds tears. Sid replaces Dan on the low end of the HCP scale. He doesn’t hit it quite as far as Dan, but he’s as steady as they come. 2) Yours truly has been working on some swing changes with the driver (actually, the swing hasn’t changed much, just the setup). So far, so good. As you’ll see launch numbers are WAY up, and those 4000K+ spin numbers might just be a thing of the past.
Our 6 testers combined to average 254.66 yards of total distance. Of that, 244.26 was carry. Just so you get familiar with what we’re dealing with, our new high HCP tester averaged 290 yards total and posted 3 drives of over 300 yards. Quite honestly, we weren’t equipped to handle him, and I’m as certain as I can be that he’d be better off in an 8.5°, X-flex driver.
When we remove our shortest hitter from the equation averages improve to 262.54 yards of total distance with carry accounting for 254.08 yards of it.
When I posted our original pics of the AMP driver in our forum we had a reader basically go off about the lousy “weak” stock shaft in the Cobra AMP. Like the majority of stock shaft offerings, the Speed Tuned RIP certainly falls on the high launch, high spin end of the spectrum (the majority of golfers need help getting the ball in the air…and they need help keeping it there, which is why “stock” is what it so often is).
Looking at the launch numbers, however; I’d be inclined to suggest that Cobra’s “watered down” and “weak” made for RIP is actually a fairly strong performer.
Let’s toss out Brian for a moment (from a driver launch perspective, he’s as close to Bubba Watson as we’ve ever had test for us), as we simply didn’t have the right head for him. For the rest of our testers, the combo actually produced launch angles close to the ideal range. That rarely happens with stock shafts we test, and it’s rarer still that our testers miss to the high end of things.
I won’t tell you that the stock shaft is a great fit for everyone, and I do wish that Cobra did a better job advertising zero cost low and mid launch/spin options, but the numbers suggest the stock RIP doesn’t play nearly as weak as some may think, and all things considered is probably going to be a better fit for more golfers than a healthy percentage of the stock offerings we see.
As a group our Cobra AMP testers missed the center line by an average of 17.22 yards (that’s pretty good). That number includes our least accurate tester who missed by an astounding 31.74 yards on average (that’s not good, actually it totally sucks). When we remove him from the equation group accuracy improves to 14.32 yards (that’s excellent). What’s worth mentioning is that the solid accuracy number isn’t skewed by a single tester who posted a redonkulous number. Each of the remaining 5 testes averaged between 13.16 and 15.80 yards offline. That’s as universally consistent as it gets.
Getting back to the issue of the shaft…it’s safe to say that a stock Cobra AMP isn’t going to cut spin like a Bridgestone J40 or a PING i20. Those are both drivers targeted at better players, while the AMP is very much an every man’s club. The reasonable expectation is that it will produce more spin. That said, given my history, I figured 4000 RPM might actually happen. Instead I averaged 3303.72 (one of my lowest totals to date). And while some of that can definitely be attributed to the changes I’m working on, having two of our testers post sub-3000K averages, and everyone else posting below 3500K suggests that the AMP driver along with its stock SpeedTuned RIP might not be the runaway spin machine that some have suggested it could be.
I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone should go buy a Cobra AMP off-the-rack. None of you should be buying much of anything off-the-rack. However, I’m not naive enough to believe that some of you aren’t going to do just that. So…if you are inclined to blindly buy without getting properly fit, then our numbers suggest you could do a lot worse than the Cobra AMP. And if you are one of the increasing number of golfers who understands that custom fitting is one of the best ways to improve your game, well…the Cobra AMP isn’t a half-bad place to start either.
The Interactive Data
The charts below show the individual and group averages (black dotted line) for each shot our golfers took during our test of the Cobra AMP Driver. If you click on the “Cobra AMP – Test Range tab, you can see where each shot came to rest on our virtual driving range. Hovering over any point will give you all the details of that particular shot. You can use the filters on the right-hand side to show and hide individual golfer based on handicap and clubhead speed. Clicking on the “Cobra AMP – Raw Data” tab will show you the individual numbers and group averages for our testers.
While saying that Cobra-PUMA is making a strong marketing push towards younger golfers is a fact only slightly less obvious than my bold assertion that Rickie Fowler is never going to win a mustache fight (not so long as Johnson Wagner and Andres Gonzales have Tour cards), we…and we’ve said this before…wonder what impact all this orange is going to have on a legion of senior golfers who have sworn by the Cobra brand since before their grandkids could walk. Fortunately we’ve enlisted one of those “old guys” to test for us. Actually, we didn’t enlist him so much as we found him wandering aimlessly through the isles at Piggly Wiggly, and so we brought him back to our test center to hit some balls. So far nobody has reported him missing. None of that is true (except the part about having a senior tester)…I don’t know why I said that. We don’t even have Piggly Wiggly where I live. We have Price Choppers and Hannafords. I really wish we had a Wegmans. I digress.
Let’s start with the good. I actually really like the bright orange grip (same Lamkin REL 3-GEL that come stock on the AMP irons). Side note…this appears to be a custom color made exclusively for Cobra. The off-the-shelf Orange Lamkins aren’t nearly as vivid (bummer). Cobra also did an outstanding job with the shaft graphics, which provide a visually appealing transition from the orange grip to the silver crown.
That’s right, in case you somehow missed it, the crown is silver. More specifically it’s a brushed silver with a glossy overcoat. And as you might expect, not everyone loved it. Somewhat surprisingly, not a single one of our testers absolutely panned the design. My expectation was that a couple of testers might actually circle 4, or 3, or perhaps even 2 (gasp!) on their surveys. Instead, not a single tester rated it less than 7 (average).
Truth be told, I don’t hate…don’t love it either (though I will say the brushed finish works pretty well considering), so 7 actually sounds about right to me. Quite frankly, I think our lowest handicap golfer summed it up best:
“Silver head is questionable” – Sid C.
Of course Sid and I aren’t the only ones who get a vote in the matter, and as it turns out, not only did our highest handicap golfer really like it, but so did Lou (senior tester of Piggly Wiggly fame):
“From the pictures I had seen of the club I didn’t think I would like the looks, but seeing the real thing, I found it to look fine – better than those white head drivers” – Lou Y.
When we crunched the numbers, depending on your perspective, the low guys either dragged down the high, or the highs elevated the lows. As a group our testers basically said, “it looks ok”.
MGS Looks Score: 83.85
As you may or may not know the AMP series basically replaced 3 generations worth of S-Series drivers from Cobra. My perception of things is that the S2 was (and remains) one of the best sounding and feeling drivers we’ve ever had in for testing. The S3 was perhaps a modest step backwards in that respect, while the new AMP is (in just one guy’s opinion) the best of the bunch.
While the notion of feel is about as subjective as it gets, I found the AMP to have the slightly soft feel of the S2, but with more of a tingy pop to it. Perhaps its the byproduct of the old school-ish silver head, but something about the AMP looks like it should be harsh on the hands and unpleasant on the ears (like one of those old and busted range clubs), but it’s absolute neither. It’s one of those rare drivers that I could hit all day and never stop enjoying.
MGS Sound & Feel Score: 94.60
Not too shocking, with the AMP driver our highest handicap golfer struggled more than Rickie Fowler in a mustache fight (yeah…I used that one again, and I might not be done yet). Considering he (our tester, not Rickie Fowler) missed the fairway by more than 30 yards on average, it’s fairly easy to understand why he might not find the AMP to be the most forgiving driver on the market today. Of course, he’s just one guy. What did the other’s think?
On the negative end of things our 2nd to lowest handicap golfer told us that while he actually liked the driver, he just couldn’t find a loft/flex combination that gave him any sort of consistency. He’s a little bit of a weird fit anyway, and though we tried several combinations, we couldn’t find anything that really worked for him.
On a more positive note, our lowest handicap tester, while a consistently hitter struggles with moving the ball left to right more than he’d like (push hooks instead of tight draws). On the day we tested, he hit several different drivers, but only the AMP was able to consistently produce the kind of ball flight he’s looking for. That’s not to say he didn’t put a few more left than he would have liked, but comparatively speaking, things look pretty damn good.
Tester Perceived Forgiveness Score: 92.45
Of our 6 testers, 2 told us they would absolutely consider purchasing the Cobra AMP Driver (perfect 10s). To put some context around that, one of those two is a bit of what you might call a Cobra guy (S2 driver in his bag, until very recently played S2 forged irons). The other, however, prior to becoming a tester, told me that he “hates Cobra clubs”. Now when I pinned him down and tried to flush out why he admitted that he hadn’t actually hit a Cobra club in over 10 years.
You can draw two conclusions from that…the 1st is that the Cobra AMP is a rock solid driver; good enough to make a convert out of a confessed snake-hater. The 2nd (and this is more for the OEMs out there), golfers form opinions, and hold on to them like Tiger Woods clings to his belief that his latest swing change is actually working. Once a golfer forms his opinion about a brand, changing that perception can be next to impossible.
Back to LOP…so yeah…we had a couple of perfect scores, and a couple of other really solid ratings. Toss out the low, and the consensus says the Cobra AMP is a driver you should be looking at (assuming you don’t mind looking at silver…and orange).
Tester LOP Score: 94.60
I’ve said all along that I like the Orange. And from grip to sole, Cobra did a solid job of making the entire package look good (nothing rhymes with orange, and nothing much goes with it either). And yeah…if I’m being honest, this was a club I honestly thought I was going to hate…and maybe I wanted to hate it (as much as my wife hate’s Rickie Fowler’s mustache – ok…I’m done), but truth be told, like most of my testers, without regard for the actual numbers (that’s why we have a performance section), I really like the Cobra AMP driver. And again…silver paint (and for some of you orange highlights) notwithstanding, I think it’s a driver most of you will really like as well.
While I might be wrong, I suspect that the Cobra AMP driver is going to be one of those polarizing clubs. Golfers are either going to love it, or they’re going to hate it (mostly because of the orange/silver combo). Either way, you’re probably not going to find much in the way of ambivalence out there. And while I might be wrong again, my suspicion is Cobra is just fine with that.
Look, you don’t pop on orange grips, and paint orange accents on the sole of a silver crowned driver and expect to win over the middle When you do that, you’re basically picking a side, or in Cobra’s case, targeting a very specific demographic (the Rickie Fowler crowd), and going all-in.
I love the marketing strategy (I’d basically love a root canal if it involves Blair O’Neal), and I love the youth movement; even if I am perhaps well-past the wrong side of 30 to fit squarely in Cobra’s wheelhouse, I know it’s good for the game. Of course, that’s the thing about what Cobra’s doing. It’s invigorating. If you’re young, it’s you. If you’re getting older, but still feel young at heart you’re not excluded (I’m not afraid to rock the PUMA warez). Hell, even the old guys can get on-board. My senior tester it trying hard to grow a silvery Rickie-stache (and having less success with it than Rickie), but at least he’s trying (I made that up too).
What I didn’t make up (another seamless segue) is that the Cobra AMP driver is perhaps the biggest surprise of the season for me. My fear was that Cobra had gotten so wrapped up in this whole orange movement that they might have lost a little bit of focus on the equipment side of things. Maybe some of that comes from an anti-silver bias I never knew I had, but whatever, I’m over it now – as are most of my testers, some of whom would tell you that Cobra’s AMP driver, which was good enough to Win the Wells Fargo, and finish 2nd at The Players, is among their favorite new drivers of 2012. Think what you will about the new distinctive style of Cobra-PUMA, I promise you their R&D and Engineering is as strong as it has ever been.
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