The Cobra S3 irons, new in 2011, marry the company's trademarked "E9 Face Technology" with multi-material construction and a "Stepped Crescent Sole" to improve the overall performance of each individual iron in the set. Designed for golfers who want more than just additional distance, these are game-improvement irons that are intended to deliver not just greater distance, but also increased forgiveness and better feel.
Appointed to the Golf Digest Gold Hot List for 2011, the Cobra S3 irons are the successor to the popular Cobra S2 irons. A standard set of men's Cobra S3 irons consists of the 4 through 9 iron along with a pitching wedge and gap wedge. Recognizing that players with slower swing speeds often find it difficult to hit long irons, the senior's set dispenses with the 4 iron and substitutes a sand wedge in its place.
These clubs feature a multi-material design, utilizing thermoplastic urethane inserts to help optimize weight distribution and dampen unwanted vibrations. The irons up through the 7 have 17-4 "Hyper Steel" heads, while the shorter irons (8 through the lob wedge) use 17-4 stainless steel.
The E9 Face Technology used in the Cobra S3 irons (and in the Cobra S3 driver, fairway woods and hybrids) creates a larger-than-average sweet spot in each club in the set. Naturally, the expanded sweet spot enhances both distance and accuracy. The Stepped Crescent Sole design utilizes a mid-width sole which narrows at the toe and heel to provide improved turf interaction and keep the club from twisting in the rough. This design feature, like the multi-material construction and the E9 Face Technology, also promotes accuracy and distance.
I tested the men's set of these clubs, which come with either Nippon NS Pro 1030H steel shafts or Aldila NV-3 graphite shafts (as always, I tried the graphite shafts). In addition to the Cobra S3 irons, there is also a wide-soled, mixed hybrid/iron version called the Cobra S3 Max. It replaces the long irons with a couple of Baffler-style hybrids and furnishes a higher launch and even more forgiveness for those who need the help. The company does not leave out lady golfers, either, offering Cobra S3 irons and Cobra S3 Max irons for women. The final offering in the Cobra S3 irons line is the Cobra S3 Pro, intended for highly accomplished golfers. The men's clubs are available for both lefties and righties, but the women's clubs are only made in right-handed versions.
This is a spiffy-looking set, with black cavity backs and bright yellow accents. For reasons unknown, Cobra decided to put the club numbers on the toe of the clubs instead of at the traditional location on the sole, but it doesn't hurt the clubs' appearance. Although appearance isn't the most important thing when you're choosing clubs, being easy to look at can boost your confidence and therefore indirectly help you hit the ball better.
The high-strength "Hyper Steel" face on the long and mid-irons (through the 7 iron) seems hot and the ball comes off the face well. To improve distance, forgiveness and feel, the sweet spot of each club in the set is designed to match up with the typical impact patterns of amateur golfers - elliptical areas on the longer irons which transition to more circular areas on the short irons.
On the average, I hit these irons a couple of yards longer than my own clubs, with a nice high launch and decent accuracy. Clean hits felt great, while the shock of a mishit was cushioned, presumably by the thermoplastic urethane inserts. I could tell when I mishit the club, but the feedback wasn't jarring and the loss in distance wasn't excessive. The "Stepped Crescent Sole" seemed to work too, because I didn't experience much twisting of the club head when I hit these clubs from the rough.
The Bottom Line: I didn't notice any glaring weaknesses in the Cobra S3 irons I tried. In fact, I thought they were solid, dependable clubs that I would be happy using myself. I do think putting the club number on the toe instead of the sole is an odd decision by Cobra. Although the numbers look okay there, it can become annoying because it makes it difficult to find the club you want quickly. However, the fact that these clubs are long, high-launching and forgiving makes me inclined to ignore that minor annoyance.