2003: Cobra out to maintain its ’02 momentum

By John Steinbreder

Cobra won’t be at this week’s PGA Merchandise Show, but that doesn’t mean the Carlsbad, Calif., clubmaker isn’t looking to build on the revival it enjoyed in 2002. The company has enhanced both its driver and iron lines with extensions that begin shipping Feb. 1.

Cobra general manager Jeff Harmet said the company is adding the SS 380 cc driver – complementing its 350 cc and 427 cc models – and will phase out its 310 cc model.

“The demand for the 310 just wasn’t there any more because of its small head size, and the 380 has some great new features,” said Harmet.

The 380 is the first Cobra driver to utilize the plasma welding process, which allows the clubmaker to bond the Beta Titanium insert more cleanly and uniformly to the driver face.

According to Harmet, the result is more distance, great forgiveness and a “sweet, solid feel and sound.”

In addition, Cobra is bringing out a Tour version of its SS 350 driver, designed for lower-handicap players who prefer a squarer face angle for greater workability. It, too, has the plasma weld technology, and like the 380, will carry a suggested retail price of $369.

In irons, the King Cobra SS line has been upgraded with the use of a softer 431 alloy construction, as opposed to 17-4 steel, allowing for more custom-fitting options. Also new is a urethane insert in the back of the clubs to help absorb vibrations, a cavity “muscle arch” that provides for a larger sweet spot and slightly stronger lofts.

A set of eight irons will have a suggested retail price of $599 for men’s steel and $684 for men’s, senior and women’s graphite.

Cobra officials hope the new products will maintain the sales momentum the company enjoyed in 2002. Company executives said the brand, according to Golf Datatech, garnered nearly 11 percent of the on- and off-course metalwoods market last year and 6.8 percent of the iron market. In on-course shops, Cobra irons accounted for 11.9 percent of sales, the company said.

Retailers appear pleased with Cobra’s product plans for 2003.

“Cobra didn’t change the price points, yet they made some nice improvements,” said John Clouse, divisional merchandise manager for the Golf Galaxy retail chain. “I think they could generate some excitement with these, because they are good products that have gotten a little bit better. And we were very successful with them last year.”

Added Kerry Kabase, sales director for Edwin Watts Golf Shops: “There’s not that much difference in the design of the irons, but we will now be able to offer lie alternatives and custom-fitting options with them, which is good. And adding the 380 cc driver makes a lot of sense, as does the introduction of a Tour driver. It won’t be its biggest seller, but it will round out the line nicely. And it could help make 2003 even better than last year with that brand.”

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