PALM CITY, Fla. — "You'll find that it's different," Bryson DeChambeau said. "But don't freak out if something happens that's bad. You're trying something new."
It was my first crack at Cobra's new signature single-length F8 One irons, which will hit stores Feb. 2 but were available at a media preview day at The Floridian on Tuesday. The single-length irons have become increasingly popular — accounting for around 60 percent of Cobra's iron sales in the latter part of 2017 — and I was intrigued to give them a whirl myself.
It was DeChambeau's first crack at the new set, too, which meant that he was basically giddy on the driving range. After watching him hit, I got to take out the set — which ran from a 4-hybrid to a gap wedge, all with shafts at 7-iron length — for 18 myself. He hit them, yes, much better than I did. But here's what I learned about the new gear:
1. If you're trying them, start with a high-low warmup to get your brain on the right track
DeChambeau told me this before the round. "The first thing you should do is hit the pitching wedge and the 5-iron," he said. "When you do that, you'll see that it should simplify things."
I've never been a particularly strong irons player, so I was psyched at how easy it was to launch the 5-iron and even the 4-hybrid (once I got over the fact that a hybrid at 7-iron length looks a bit like a kid's club). The King F8 One irons, wider soles on the 4- through 6-iron are designed to increase launch on the long irons, while longer hosels on the shorter irons provide increased spin.
However they'd done it, launching the 5-iron felt simple and easy, and after thinning the first couple shots, I settled in. It took me about 10 swings to wonder if shorter long irons will be a long-term move to help my game.
2. These irons fly...
Rickie Fowler and DeChambeau each flew a 7-iron about 190 yards into a stiff wind on the driving range, which would have been something closer to 215 yards with no wind — significantly further than the irons they currently have in play. DeChambeau immediately began talking about dialing the yardage back a little bit; he doesn't necessarily want to be hitting a 7-iron 220 yards. But there's no doubt: the F8s can really go.
3. ...and so do the wedges
Once I got on the course, I committed to playing like DeChambeau all the way around, which meant I didn't let myself "cheat" the single-length game by choking down on my wedges. The laws of physics suggest that a longer wedge would fly, well, further, so I shouldn't have been surprised when a longer pitching wedge flew significantly further than my normal variable-length wedge. But, for good measure, I airmailed a couple of greens. Slow learner.
4. DeChambeau could convince me of just about anything
Most professional athletes possess quite a bit of self-assuredness, but DeChambeau says everything with a next-level feeling of certainty. He was a positive, excitable presence on the range; he was readily engaging and eager to explain when he thought something might be interesting — or even to make sure we were properly impressed by one of his or Fowler's shots.
"That was really good, guys," he told us multiple times after a favorable range swing.
He certainly seems to know more about the finer points of physics and body mechanics than your average pro athlete, too, which contributed to my overall feeling that I'd have a hard time disagreeing with him on anything.
So when he told me that given the developments in technology, single-length irons are likely the future for all rising golfers, it felt credible.
5. I'm all in on the single-length — but I'll keep my short wedges
I got used to the 5- and 6-iron in no time. I really loved the look and feel of the milled driver, which kept leaving me with wedges in my hand. But inside about 120 yards, I was completely lost.
"Pretend they're just all 7-irons," DeChambeau had told me before the round. It was a relatively easy adjustment to make on the range, but standing over a 100-yard shot with a club at 7-iron length felt strange on the course, and I chunked enough gap wedges to make me yearn for a choke-down shot. DeChambeau, I'm not.
6. Cobra Connect gave me more information than I've ever had on a round of golf
Cobra's new partnership with the Arccos golf app combines sensors embedded in the club's grips with GPS data to provide stats and analysis, including metrics like strokes gained, to give accurate feedback on your round and compile a profile of you as a player. It also serves as an effective rangefinder, providing yardages to every feature of a hole as well as to the front, center, and back of the green. Each King F8 iron grip has a sensor embedded, and additional sensors will come with each set that can be attached to the rest of your clubs in the bag — all the way down to the putter.
I left the round wanting to try the clubs again, albeit after tinkering with the shorter irons.
Are they here to stay? I think so. One thing DeChambeau said stuck with me: "When we put these in kids' hands, they stripe 'em, I mean one after another after another. And then we'll give them a longer 4-iron, and they're like, 'What's up with this one? Why is it longer?'"