SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Cobra ambassadors Rickie Fowler, Gary Woodland and Justin Suh played a version of speed-dating on Wednesday evening with members of the media at Continental Golf Club before taking part in some after-hours glow golf.
All three players have transitioned into the club maker’s newest driver, the Darkspeed, which comes in three models (X, LS and MAX) and features a forged titanium face with carbon fiber crown and sole panels, moveable weights and adjustable hosel. Golfweek’s equipment expert David Dusek says, “it’s designed for golfers who want an aerodynamic driver that delivers more ball speed and trajectory control.” The pros all have opted for the LS, which stands for low spin, but according to Cobra’s Ben Schomin, former major winner and gearhead Jason Dufner is looking to use the Darkspeed Max.
Not surprisingly, all three players at the Cobra media event gushed about the new club but they were refreshingly honest about the process to find the right specs and shaft combination to maximize performance. And to hear them tell it, that search isn’t necessarily over. Here’s what we learned about how Fowler, Woodland and Suh made the move to Cobra Darkspeed LS.
Fowler is switching out from an Aero Jet driver that really fit his game last year and played a role in his comeback season. Changing drivers isn’t always as simple as plug-n-play at the Tour level. Fowler said he began testing Darkspeed in the fall, used it at the Hero World Challenge in December and didn’t feel comfortable with it and said he made some uncommitted swings. That led to another round of testing and played a different head when he played at the American Express, did some more texting at Virginia Country Club, where Patrick Cantlay is a member and his swing coach Jamie Mulligan is the general manager.
Fowler upped the loft one degree to 9.5 and tweaked the internal weight around. He also added laser-etched lines to help him for alignment and to see face angle.
“He’s a player who wants to see the loft,” said Ben Schomin.
“The benefit for me of going to more loft is more control – less left, right dispersion – but at the same time I didn’t sacrifice any speed or spin. I’m getting all the same characteristics of AeroJet,” Fowler explained. “If I went to 8.5 (degrees) I’d probably get some more speed but I like to know where the ball is going.”
Gary Woodland has his speed back. While that is likely more health-related after undergoing brain surgery than due to the Cobra Darkspeed driver, Woodland isn’t complaining.
“Darkspeed is in the bag and I’m playing more loft than I’ve ever played and that’s just the way the head has worked,” he said. “I’ve always been a low loft guy around 7 degrees. I’m at 8.5 now.”
Woodland did a lot of tinkering with different shafts with his driver last year but is switching back to his old standby, the Accra RGB, which he used to win the 2018 WM Phoenix Open and the 2019 U.S. Open. He hasn’t used it the last few years because his speed had decreased and it became a little too stiff for him.
“The shaft was a little too soft and I needed something stiffer. My clubhead speed had dropped to 120-121 mph last year but I hit 126-127 mph and I’m doing things I haven’t done in a couple of years. I don’t know if that is because I’m feeling better again and training again.”
Woodland’s other equipment change is interesting too. He inserted a lob wedge designed by Fowler, which he tried when they were practicing together at Grove XXIII, Michael Jordan’s hangout in Florida, late last year.
“Messed with it and I was like I need that,” Woodland recalled. “He grinded off the heel and put some heel relief in there. It’s been consistent more than anything, less digging and get through the turf better. I like to get fresh grooves once a month. I use a backup at home so I don’t ruin the grooves. I’m big on fresh grooves.”
Woodland played with a model with ‘RF ‘ stamped on it at the Sony Open in Hawaii but at the American Express got his own version with ‘GW.’
“Rickie’s grind is very unique and hard to replicate,” said Schomin.
Justin Suh originally was fitted for his Darkspeed LS driver during the RSM Classic at Sea Island Resort in November. Schomin said he struggled off the tee in his first two rounds but kept it in the bag for the weekend and the stats backed up that he was hitting it better than his previous gamer.
“I like the look a lot. It’s what I’ve always wanted,” Suh said. “It’s a clean look, it’s more of a traditional shape, not a big head and symmetrical, and the face is hot. Trying to match it to the right shaft has been a challenge.”