The Back Story: Cobra's CNC-milled King F8 driver face

Cobra King F8 driver Cobra Golf

The Back Story: Cobra's CNC-milled King F8 driver face

Equipment

The Back Story: Cobra's CNC-milled King F8 driver face

The new Cobra King F8, F8 Draw and F8+ drivers have a face design that looks like nothing else in the pro shop, and that’s because they are made using a technique normally associated with high-end putters. Instead of the faces being forged, then welded into place before being ground and polished into final form, a computer-controlled milling tool whirls over each titanium face, shaving off tiny ribbons of material with each pass. The milling process leaves a tiny line in its path, and Cobra said it produces a manufacturing tolerance that was not previously possible.

Golfweek senior writer David Dusek recently talked with Tom Olsavsky, Cobra’s vice president of research and development, to get the backstory on the milled face and learn how it went from a concept to Rickie Fowler’s golf bag.

David Dusek: When did Cobra start to explore the idea of milling a driver’s face?

Tom Olsavsky: We have innovation summit meetings on a regular basis, where our innovation team gives us an update on all the projects that they are working. That helps us decide what we are going to do. In fact, our next meeting is coming up and we’re going to be deciding what we’re going to work on in 2020. They are at least two years in front of us, but usually, it’s closer to three or four.

Typically these things start when someone sees something on a new technology or a product on the Internet made from a new metal, like this new thing called phantom black, which is a perfectly black coating. In the innovation summit meetings, we learn about what that team is working on and what is done that we can put in a product.

We probably had the concept of the milled face done, as a concept, in 2014. In the innovation summit meeting, we discussed milled faces and talked about the benefits it could give us.

Cobra King F8 drivers

The circular pattern in the King F8 driver face is created during the milling process. (Cobra Golf)

DD: What were your first thoughts when you heard the innovation team talking about milled faces?

TO: Seems interesting, and expensive, and challenging. I also wondered if we had the capacity and the manufacturing partners in Asia that could be set up to machine driver faces and cover the full production volumes that we need around the globe.

So the idea seemed interesting right away, but we didn’t have a good feeling about how much it was going to cost and if we could make them in quantity. The industry gets excited about the napkin sketch, and that happened over three years ago on this.

DD: When you talked about making milled faces, what benefits did you think you could get that you could not achieve with other face-manufacturing techniques?

TO: Tighter tolerances. We have made drivers with multiple face radii and curvatures since the first e9 faces were launched about seven years ago, but we had been looking at how we could take that to the next level and make that better. We already thought we had the best face geometry, but we could not always produce it based on the variations we see in production.

There is a lot of variation in the way heads are made and polished. The CT (characteristic time, a measure of a face’s springiness) measurement has some variation, and so a way that we thought we could handle that was to make the product more consistently.

Cobra King F8 driver

Milling the Cobra King F8 driver’s face allows the company to create a more precise hitting surface for enhanced performance. (Cobra Golf)

DD: Tell me about the first prototypes.

TO: The first prototypes we saw were faces made for prototype LTD drivers, because we thought this would be expensive and LTD. That revealed that there are even inconsistencies in the way we put the faces in the heads.

Normally they tack-weld the face into the head to get everything lined up right, then you do the full laser-robotic welding. There is not a lot of hand-welding on drivers anymore. But even in that process, the tacking is usually manually done, but then you start to question just how consistent is the tack-welding process and look to make it better. We wound up re-evaluating that whole system.

We spent a lot of time looking at the whole process, looking at how well we made the parts, how we measure the heads. Let me tell you, measuring heads that don’t have a face is pretty hard to do. All of the things that we do help us to maximize the speed of the face without getting into the red zone with the USGA and going afoul with them.

DD: How many different versions of the milled face did Cobra create before you settled on the face that is in the King F8 drivers?

TO: That’s a good question and I don’t know the exact number, but it was probably in the hundreds. A lot of that is not really the machining, because once you get the tack-welding done, it’s really easy to go in and machine the face. That part is pretty easy.

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