Cobra's Long Tom Raw driver built for distance

Cobra Golf's Long Tom Raw

At the risk of exercising another football analogy, I would like to propose that the new Long Tom Raw driver from Cobra Golf is golf’s version of the Oakland Raiders.

This black-and-silver driver is tough. It is lean and mean. It is designed to deliver a knockout blow. It has a very simple philosophy behind it – drive the ball longer, hit it past your buddies, experience what it’s like to be a big hitter.

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Cobra Golf's black Long Tom Raw

The clubhead is the silver part. To be precise, the color should be called unfinished or unpainted. That’s because the titanium clubhead is raw. It has no paint. There has been no effort to cover face and clubhead markings from testing.

This is an unusual looking driver. It will cause numerous conversations. Long Tom Raw, available at retailers on Oct. 14, is four feet long. That’s 48 inches, the longest driver length permissible under U.S. Golf Association rules.

Furthermore, Long Tom Raw weighs 275 grams, which is exceptionally light. This reflects a growing trend toward lighter drivers, which in 2012 will be seen from several manufacturers.

The idea here, of course, is to create more clubhead speed. The extra length, which is three inches longer than a standard driver, will do that. The light weight will do that as well.

Thus one question remains: Can a golfer make impact in the middle of the face with a longer, lighter driver?

If the answer is yes, then Long Tom Raw is a driver to consider.

Long Tom Raw will be followed by Long Tom (at retail Nov. 25). Long Tom will have basically the same specs as Long Tom Raw, although the Long Tom clubhead will be painted black. The overall weight actually will be 269 grams, six grams lighter than the Raw version.

Both drivers will be sold with the 50-gram Blackbird shaft from Grafalloy. This shaft is labeled a “stealth” shaft by Grafalloy and is named after the superfast SR-71 Blackbird jet. It comes with a matte black finish.

The name Long Tom has been used previously by Cobra. In the 1970s, Cobra founder Tom Crow sold a 46-inch driver (like the new Long Tom, three inches over standard, which was then 43 inches) with a wooden head. The driver was named Long Tom in honor of a cannon used during World War II and the Korean War.

The reincarnated Long Tom has some interesting modern touches. The face is made of a Ti 8-1-1 material that is associated with faster ball speeds. A lightweight grip is shorter than normal, weighs about 25 grams, and comes in two versions.

A Lamkin prototype grip will be used for Long Tom Raw, while a Winn Ultra Light “Shorty” grip will be the standard grip for Long Tom.

Long Tom Raw will be available in one loft – 9 degrees – with R, S or X shaft flexes.

At a test session on the range, it was clear that most testers felt the Blackbird shaft was very strong. The general conclusion: A golfer stuck between a R and S flex probably should go for the R flex. The same goes for S and X, the more flexible shaft being the prudent choice.

Long Tom will be sold in three lofts – 8, 9 and 10 – and shaft flexes depend on the loft. The 10-degree driver comes in S, R and Lite flexes, the 9-degree in S and R, the 8-degree is X and S.

Because Long Tom Raw is a limited edition driver, just 500 numbered drivers will be sold at $499. Long Tom will cost $349. The 2012 model year will be the first in which Cobra and lead golf club designer Tom Preece have produced an entire line of clubs under new Puma ownership.

Thoughts on using Long Tom Raw and Long Tom drivers:

• Practicing on the range with these clubs can provide unforeseen benefits. The 48-inch length forces a golfer to concentrate on stability, rhythm and timing.

• The drivers allow a player to develop a keen sense of clubhead feel. Releasing the club properly produces a very satisfying feel at impact.

• It is possible to carry two drivers among the 14 clubs in the bag. A long driver and a short driver form a workable combination, the long driver just waiting for the opportunity to attack a wide-open par 4 or par 5.

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