What about the Cobra S3 driver? Cobra has built a very solid reputation
as a club maker and has had plenty of success with its drivers
throughout the years. Although some of the drivers Cobra produced in the
past made an odd "tink" sound at impact which put some golfers off, the
Cobra S2, ZL, S9-1 and Speed LD drivers, all models released before the
2011 introduction of the Cobra S3 driver, have been very popular with
players of varying skill levels.
Those earlier drivers built a solid foundation upon which Cobra could build, and that is exactly what it looks like the company did with its two newest drivers - the Cobra S3 driver and the Cobra S3 Max driver. These two clubs represent a subtle evolution in design rather than a dramatic change. But even though one would never call the S3 driver or the S3 Max driver groundbreaking clubs, the improvements made in them are real and meaningful.
The driver is aimed at a different type of golfer than the Cobra S3 Max Designed with a traditionally-shaped club head, the 460 cc driver targets more accomplished, lower handicap golfers and its "Adjustable Face Technology" gives its owners the ability to adjust the face angle to neutral, open or closed positions so that it best complements their individual swings. The Cobra S3 Max driver, on the other hand, is not adjustable. Aimed at mid- to high-handicap golfers, it has a fixed, offset head to help correct a tendency to slice. Both clubs, however, are aimed at golfers who want to maximize their potential for distance. Cobra claims that the driver's tall, elliptical face and beveled perimeter (something Cobra dubs "E9 Face Technology") result in a sweet spot that is 30% larger than the previous Cobra S2 driver, and better reflects the actual club face locations where average golfers typically strike the ball. The result of this face design should be longer, straighter shots.
Both varieties of this driver come with a lightweight, 65-gram Fujikura Blur shaft. I found the graphics on the shaft busy and slightly distracting. The adjustable-face Cobra S3 driver comes in 8.5, 9.5, 10.5 and 11.5 degree lofts, while the fixed-face Cobra S3 Max driver is available in 9.5, 10.5 and 11.5 degree lofts.
I try to keep things as consistent as possible while I'm testing clubs, so whenever I can, I test the 10.5 degree graphite version of a driver. My pro shop had a demo club available in that configuration, but not an S3 Max, so I only tested the S3.
First of all, I loved the solid sound the S3 produced at impact. I used to have one of the earlier Cobra drivers that made the weird "ting" sound at impact, and I never did like it. The sound of the Cobra S3 driver is much more solid and fulfilling than my older model.
I played around with the adjustable club face, which provides a three-degree range between open, neutral and closed positions. Although my drives are typically straight or slight draws (meaning the neutral face angle would be appropriate for me), during my experiments I could see how the open and closed options did indeed affect ball flight.
My earlier-model Cobra driver always gave me good distance and the Cobra S3 driver did too, although it wasn't any longer than my current driver. I'm not sure exactly which design feature is responsible for the club's length, but it might be due to the lower spin rates that are produced by the club face's lack of traditional scoring lines. Not having scoring lines on the club face makes it look somewhat unusual, but who am I to argue with distance, especially when the ball also goes straight?
The Bottom Line: The Cobra S3 driver is consistently straight as long as you hit the ball near the sweet spot and you have the face adjusted to the proper angle (closed, open or neutral) for your swing. The adjustable face angle allows golfers to correct for a tendency to slice or pull the ball, but straight-hitters can split the fairway by using the neutral face setting. The club offers a fair amount of forgiveness and solid distance. Its launch angle seemed a bit lower to me than some other drivers, so if you need help getting the ball in the air, you might want a higher loft than you would use with a different driver. Finally, its sound is much more appealing than the tinny clank of some earlier Cobra drivers. List price is $299 for the Cobra S3 driver and $249 for the S3 Max.