Cobra S2 Forged Iron Review
We had originally planned to review the Cobra S2 forged as part of our Best Forged Cavity-back review, but as we got deeper into the review process we decided that the S2 (along with the Mizuno JPX-800 Pro, which we'll be reviewing very soon) didn't really fall into the same category. Yes, they're cavity-backs, and yes, they're forged, but because of certain design characteristics we felt the belong in a different category altogether.
So what exactly are the design characteristics that differentiate the S2 Forged from some of the other irons we reviewed? First, there's the length issue. While Cobra certainly isn't the only one introducing longer shafts into their clubs, it simply has to be pointed out that both the S2 and the Pro CB irons feature shafts that are on average ½" longer than many similarly placed products from other OEMs. Of course, length isn't the only non-standard characteristic of this set. The lofts throughout the set also trend towards the strong side. Consider the 5 and 7 irons. A 5 iron in a typical set of forged cavity-backs is usually 27° (±1°). The S2 Forged 5 iron is 25° (1° weaker than the average 4 iron). The 7 iron in a typical set of forged cavity-backs usually 34° (±1°). The S2 forged 7 iron is actually 31° (or 1° weaker than the average 6 iron). What we have is a situation where the 6 iron is basically what is more commonly a 5, and the 8 is closer to a traditional 7 and so on and so forth.
Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining and I'm not knocking Cobra. They're certainly not alone. Just about every OEM is achieving greater distance through stronger lofts and longer shafts, but I do think it's important that everyone reading this understands that the big distance score you'll see later in this review happens, at least in part, because of this increasingly common redefining of "standard" lofts.
Material Composition: 1025 Carbon Steel
Other differentiating characteristics (in comparison to traditional forged cavity-backs) include "Extreme perimeter weighting", a wider sole (Cobra calls it "mid-width"), and a thicker topline, all of which contribute to a larger overall head. Throw in some increased offset, and I think you can understand why we felt it wasn't fair for the S2 Forged to compete with the other cavity-backs we recently tested.
How We Tested
The 6 golfers for whom we collected detailed performance data 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 in Saratoga Springs, NY. Detailed data for each and every shot for which we collected data is now viewable in the interactive portion of this review. This data serves as the foundation for our final performance score. As a supplement to our 6 performance testers, a subset of additional golfers was asked to take some swings with the Cobra S2 and provide feedback in our subjective categories (looks, feel, perceived distance, perceived accuracy, and likelihood of purchase). This information, which we also collected from our performance testers, is used as the foundation for our total subjective score.
Longer shafts and strong lofts, as it turns out, don't matter much to the average tester. All anyone was talking about was the distance, and there was more than enough of it to go around. When I finished the math we use to determine the distance scores, I couldn't believe my eyes. I rechecked my formulas three times over before coming to terms with the fact that two of our testers had distance scores that exceeded what I thought was possible. There are plenty of irons for which distance is the key selling factor (or at least the most advertised), and while I'll never be one who personally concerns himself over distance with irons, IF distance is one of your primary concerns, the S2 Forged absolutely should be on your short list. If I were a betting man, I'd wager that it's going to be a while before we see these numbers eclipsed.
While I personally hit (or mishit) a few of my test shots, which most certainly decreased my raw averages, looking only at my top 5 shots...yeah, the distance is impressive.
MGS Distance Score: 97.69
To me, and probably many of you, accuracy is far and away the most important of all subjective categories. While the Cobra S2 Forged didn't score particularly well, it didn't score particularly bad either. Interestingly, our highest handicap golfer (Dave) posted the best accuracy numbers; missing the center line by a little over 7.5 yards on average. Contrast that with Brian, our least accurate tester. He doesn't keep a handicap, but we estimate him to be around a 13. Brian missed the centerline by an average of almost 13 yards. Our remaining testers missed by averages of between 10.8 and 11.8 yards. These aren't horrible numbers considering some of our testers were averaging over 190 with a 7-iron( I'd take 30 feet from 190 all day long).
I'd like to give Cobra a bit of a break here because the 7 iron we tested plays a lot more like a typical 6 iron, and you'd expect to be less accurate with a 6, but the thing is, it was the guys at Cobra who stamped the 7 on the bottom of the club. Even if for all intents and purposes it's a 6 iron, we still have to score it like it's a 7, so we'll go with what we got.
MGS Accuracy Score: 84.99
Last month we sent out some surveys that way more of you responded to then we expected. What was most surprising to us is that, almost universally, you told us that you really, really care about forgiveness. Of course, forgiveness is one of those ambiguous terms that some marketing guy dreamed up, and for better or worse, the industry has really run with it. Here at MGS we think of forgiveness as basically consistency; does the club produce the same result from swing to swing.
Manufacturers talk about distance loss (or lack thereof) on mis-hits. Humans aren't robots. Our swings aren't always the same from one to the next. Some are good, some are atrocious. We want to find a way to quantify the difference in the results between the best our testers give us and the worst. To that end we're experimenting with formulas to help us put a value on those differences. So far we like the early results, but we'll continue to tweak them as we learn more. Until then, consistency counts for only a small percentage of the performance score.
As with my distance scores, a couple of truly horrendous swings really impacted my consistency numbers (as well they should have). Likewise, Brian had a few swings, that while not as atrocious as mine, resulted in numbers very different from his typical shot. Our other testers, however; posted much tighter dispersion patters (with similar ball flight and launch characteristics), and as a result, posted might higher consistency scores. It's too soon to draw any conclusions about how the S2 forged ranks in comparison with other similar irons, but I've got a hunch that as we start scoring other clubs along similar lines, the S2 is going to stand up very nicely.
MGS Consistency Score: 93.94
You can take a look at the complete results of our performance tests on the Cobra S2 Forged Interactive Test Page. In addition to sorting by golfer, we've added the ability to filter by handicap and swing speed. We're continuously looking for ways to present even more data, so you can expect even more in the coming months.
On actual performance alone, the S2 Forged is impressive, especially when you consider that it seems to attract mid-high handicappers who are just starting to get serious about their game. Our tests, especially for those who fit that definition, suggest the S2 Forged is a very solid performer.
MGS OVERALL PERFORMANCE SCORE: 88.00
One of the things that continues to fascinate me as I work with our testers on these reviews is, at times, the complete disconnect between perception and reality. Golfers will tell me club X is longer, and more accurate, and heck, is the best whatever type of club it happens to be that they've ever hit. Then I look at their data, and it's not uncommon to discover that club A is longer, club B is more accurate, and when looking at the sum total of performance, not only is club Y a better fit, but club X (the best club they've ever hit) is at, or near the bottom in terms of actual performance. I see it nearly every day, and I see it from golfers of all ability levels.
So while we'll continue to look at those subjective things that most golfers care about (look, feel, etc.), we're also going to start including subjective scores, for distance, accuracy and forgiveness based on the perceptions (not necessarily the realities) of our golfers. Why would we do that if we know the numbers don't always match? Two reasons - very often, the numbers do match. Some golfers actually think in terms of averages instead of their very best or very worst, and those guys will invariably choose the clubs that performs best for them. The 2nd reason is that perception often matters more than reality. We think it's important to get a feel for what golfers think because it plays such a strong role in the buying decision. If a golfer thinks he hits one club better than another, even if he's wrong, he's still going to bag that club.
With respect to looks, the S2 Forged may very well find itself caught in the middle. It doesn't have the clean line of a traditional players cavity-back, nor does it have the bold, vivid, colors of the modern day game-improvement iron (we'll be covering ugly in a later review). It's certainly not a bad looking iron, but given that a healthy percentage of our golfers tested the S2 Forged while they were testing clubs like Cobra's own Pro CB, the Mizuno MP-53s, and Fourteen's TC-910. Those clubs all feature clean designs, thinner top-lines, and narrower soles. While those aren't the type of clubs everyone can hit, most golfers love the way they look, so in comparison it's not surprising that the S2 Forged posted a reasonably pedestrian score for looks.
MGS Looks Score: 90.61
While one testers absolutely loved the feel (scoring it a 10), most of our other testers hinted that they expect a bit better from a forged iron. I personally rated the S2 Forged on the lower end of average while several others rated it slightly below that. Those numbers were largely offset by testers who scored the feel an 8.
When compared to the average game improvement iron, the S2 probably wins on feel every time, but it's not really a game improvement iron. As I've already noted, it's also not a traditional players cavity-back, and the difference between it, and it's big brother the Pro CB is noticeable. They're not a harsh feeling club, but they don't feel great either. I'm inclined to use the word "dull" to describe them. Worth mentioning is that the S2 Forged isn't nearly as harsh as some others we've tested when you miss out towards the toe. Of course, the reality is that most of us equate feel to the feedback we get on our best shots, not on our worst. Some may not notice or care, but many will expect a bit more from a forged iron.
MGS Feel Score: 78.32
No real surprises here. Nearly everyone who hit the S2 Forged raved about the distance (even if they qualified it with "I don't care about distance, but..."). In fact, a majority of our testers, myself included, rated the S2 Forged as a perfect 10 for distance. The closest thing we saw to a detractor was an 8 (which would be above average for just about any other club). The remaining testers all scored the S2 Forged a 9 for distance, which tells me that strong lofts not withstanding, we're looking at an very hot face on these irons. While I can't with absolute certainty swear it's the longest iron I've ever hit, I definitely can't say that it isn't.
Tester Perceived Distance Score: 99.96
Based on past tests, the results here are a bit of an anomaly. Our testers actually rated the accuracy of the S2 Forged lower than our performance scores suggest they should have. Not a single tester rated the clubs better than an 8 out of 10. Several testers rated accuracy at 7 (which isn't terrible either), while still others rated the club at 6. If you're looking for a reason, look no farther than the longer shafts (you may recall Cobra's Pro CBs produced average at best accuracy numbers as well). As shaft lengths increase, accuracy almost invariably suffers. I'm sure the argument here is that these clubs are targeted towards better golfers who can overcome a little extra length.
If that is the argument, I'll agree to an extent, but the reality is, the S2 Forged were most appealing to our higher handicap golfers. They're the ones who fell in love with these irons (our lowest handicappers had other favorites), and they'll very likely be the ones who are hurt by the decreased accuracy.
Tester Perceived Accuracy Score: 81.39
Likelihood of Purchase
Likelihood of Purchase (or LOP as I like to call it) accounts for the smallest percentage of our subjective score. It's not dissimilar from "demand" or buzz", except for the fact that we don't put a value on it until after our testers have actually hit the club. Our LOP question is simply this: "If you were going to replace the irons in your bag today, how likely is it that you would purchase the irons you tested today"? Asking somebody if they like an iron is one thing. Getting them to spend their money on them is an entirely different proposition.
We've grown accustomed to seeing very high LOP (or the equivalent) scores for the Cobra products we test. The S2 Forged, however, didn't resonate quite as loudly with our testers as the other Cobra products we've reviewed recently. We did have two testers who indicated they were considering buying new irons, and if they did (if their wives would let them), the would absolutely purchase the S2 Forged. Several more told us that while the S2 Forged weren't what they were looking for, Cobra's Pro CBs were now on the top of their lists, so it's not all bad for Cobra.
Still, the LOP score is low. More than anything, I think that speaks to the market space these irons fill. Cobra can call it whatever they want, but our testers think (and I agree) that the S2 Forged is closer to a forged game-improvement iron that it is to a traditional forged cavity-back like the Pro CB. I'm guessing that once more golfers figure out they can have the best of both worlds, the interest level will grow.
Tester Likelihood of Purchase: 69.11
If we're being brutally honest, the Cobra S2 Forged produced one of the lower subjective scores we've seen to date. Testers love, love, love the distance, but weren't enamored with the accuracy results. While most like (although don't love) the looks, our testers almost to a man, told us they expect better feel from a forged cavity-back.
TOTAL SUBJECTIVE SCORE: 85.41
In the end we're inclined to call Cobra's S2 Forged a solid, though not exceptional offering in the forged cavity-back space. Positioned nicely between the company's S2 game-improvement iron, and their Pro CB Cavity back, the S2 Forged is a compelling offering for the golfer who's looking to step up his game, but not quite ready to jump to a traditional players iron. Sure, there are plenty of irons in this space, but few of them are forged. To some that's no small distinction.
I personally expect to see more OEMs entering the forged game-improvement fray over the next couple of years, which means things are only going to get better (and that trend may well start when the S3 Forged is released). While the S2 Forged doesn't make it on to my personal hot list, golfers looking for a forged iron that can offer a little bit extra forgiveness and ridiculous distance, the S2 Forged could be the ideal fit.
MGS TOTAL SCORE: 87.74