Cobra Golf, SIK Golf use 3D-printer technology to create 1st-of-kind, limited-edition putter that quickly sells out, but opens door for future equipment innovation
There is only one problem with golf’s newest, coolest, high tech-iest putter.
It is sold out.
Cobra Golf’s King Supersport-35 putter, an innovative club whose head is made by a 3-D printer, was produced in a limited edition run of about 1,000. The models cost $395 apiece and were scooped up on Cobra’s website in approximately 36 hours.
That makes the Supersport-35 golf’s equivalent of Beanie Babies or Tickle Me Elmo dolls, once-scarce toys that customers sometimes fought over.
The good news, sort of, is that you can still land a Cobra Supersport-35 for the right price. A glance at the internet suggests that price now hovers between $599 and $700.
This putter is not a sellout because it is a collector’s item. It is a sellout because it features technology that heralds the future of golf equipment manufacturing and may lead to another wave of unimagined club innovation. And, oh yeah, it’s also a really good putter.
Cobra partnered with Hewlett Packard, the printer giant that used its metal-jet technology, and SIK Golf, a techno-savvy putter company, to produce the rare-but-coveted Supersport-35.
Eight years ago, industry observers figured 3-D printing was realistically 15 years away from coming to golf. Technology raced ahead, as usual, and it happened in half that time.
“It’s still an expensive way to make a club,” said Mike Yagley, Cobra’s vice president of innovation and AI (artificial intelligence). “The technology is starting to converge. We can make components and heads. There are just things you can’t do with conventional casting and forging that we can do with 3-D printing. And we’ll do more.”
Just because this club was made by a 3-D printer — a new and totally cool process — doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a better putter.
However, it’s a virtual Double Whopper burger of innovation.
The 3-D printing process allowed Cobra to create a lattice truss inside the putter head and the lattice-work can be seen on the back of the blade. That lattice enabled Cobra to move weight from the clubhead’s center to its perimeter, the Holy Grail of clubmaking.
“You typically want to do that with drivers and irons, too,” Yagley said. “If you do that with a putter, it’ll ring like a cowbell unless you add some elements to connect the upper and lower surfaces to make it feel more solid.”
A metal casting could connect the parts with the parent metal. But to get a lattice truss inside the putter head isn’t possible with traditional forging or machining. Only 3-D printing can do it.
The end result of that bigger-than-usual perimeter weighting is bigger-than-usual MOI — Moment Of Inertia, which measures how much resistance a clubhead has to twisting. A higher MOI means a club resists twisting better and is therefore more forgiving to use.
Yagley says the Supersport-35’s MOI is 20 to 25 percent higher than other similar shaped putters. While golf’s governing bodies have established MOI limits for drivers, putters have no MOI limit.
“That MOI gives the Supersport-35 an immense amount of forgiveness,” Yagley said. “We done strokes-gained testing with it, we’ve done proximity to the hole testing and we’ve tested it against lower MOI putters. The Supersport-35 gives the ball a more consistent roll. It’s just physics.”
The next piece of technology was provided by SIK Golf. The Supersport-35’s face is an insert made by SIK. It’s pretty clever, too.
The face is an odd almost trapezoidal shape. The toe has a sharp corner like a LeMans racetrack while the heel is rounded. The black insert face is covered with barely visible micro-grooves, the better to impart roll.
The face is also divided into four sections. SIK calls this DLT — Descending Loft Technology. The top section has four degrees of loft. The area below it has three degrees. The one below it, two degrees, and the bottom layer has one degree.
This helps average hacks like us. Those who strike putts with a descending blow will make contact with the highest part of the face insert and thus get a boost in loft to help make up for that sharp angle of descent. Players who hit putts with an upward path will meet the ball with the bottom part of the face, which has the lowest loft, and again will offset for our user error.
“It’s an elegant solution to a complex problem,” Yagley said. “It makes sense. We’ve tested it and it works. It’s really forgiving no matter how you deliver the clubhead.”
The most intriguing part may be how the heck a 3-D printer can produce a putter. Well, it’s complicated. The printer is 6-feet wide, 3- deep and stands chest high, Yagley said, and looks like just another inkjet printer, but a huge one.
Metal powder is deposited in the chamber. Then the inkjet heads run over it but instead of spraying ink, they spray a latex polymer that solidifies and captures the metal powder on the chamber bed. Then, the process repeats until the head is finished.
At that point, it is put into an oven that melts the polymer out and solidifies the metal.
“This is one of those magical things of science,” Yagley said. “It’s a pretty amazing process.”
All most of us really need to know is that this putter performs. The Supersport-35’s head has the thick look of a mallet but it’s a blade. It’s got heft, feels solid and the ball comes off its face smartly but softly.
I used it for two nine-hole rounds on what proved to be Pittsburgh’s last two days of the realistic golf season at the end of November.
The Supersport is 34 inches and came with a mid-sized big grip. The head’s weight made the putter feel as if the club swung itself and even on off-center hits the putts ran out just as far as a flush-in-the-middle hit. Or, ahem, so I heard. It’s forgiving, just as Yagley said.
The Supersport-35 immediately bumped my regular putter from the starting lineup. And don’t call me, the club is not for sale.
This phenomenon leaves Cobra with a dilemma. Does it produce more of what was supposed to be a limited edition? Or does it ignore the voracious demand for a new technology and a hot new putter?
This week, Cobra Golf and SIK announced they would collaborate on more product that is scheduled to launch later this summer.
It’s a nice problem to have if you’re Cobra. It’s not so nice if you wanted a Supersport-35 and couldn’t get one.
Next time, whenever that is, you’ll just have to be quicker.
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