Published on January 23, 2024 by Isaac B.
In a move that fuses the precision of 3D printing with the precision-driven sport of Golf, PGA TOUR superstar Rickie Fowler is helping to showcase golf equipment innovation by debuting his new, 3D printed RF Cobra lob wedge at The American Express 2024 golf tournament. While 3D printing has found application in sports, its utilization in golf, particularly with Fowler’s wedge, offers unprecedented accuracy and customization to the game.
The club’s manufacturer, Cobra Golf, has been a trailblazer in the realm of 3D printed golf clubs since its partnership with Hewlett Packard (HP) and Parmatech in 2018. Having established itself at the forefront of this innovation, the company continues to lead as the primary manufacturer of 3D printed clubs, including the latest addition designed for Rickie Fowler.
Pro golfer Rickie Fowler assesses the golf course (Photo Credit: PGA Tour)
Straying from conventional methods of casting, forging, or milling typically used in crafting golf clubs, Fowler’s new wedge is exclusively produced through 3D printing technology. Unlike its initial collection of 3D printed putters, which employed HP’s Multi Jet Fusion printing, Fowler’s latest club is produced from HP’s MetalJet 3D printing technology.
This approach involves converting powdered metal into the club head, a departure from the use of polymer powder more involved with Cobra Golf’s original lineup. While Cobra Golf’s initial 3D printed clubs utilized Material Jetting to optimize weight and improve stability and roll performance, Fowler’s latest club takes advantage of metal binder jetting. This approach not only enhances strength and durability but also provides additional opportunities for customizable weight distribution.
Fowler’s venture with 3D printed wedges began after seeking to enhance the performance of his original club. This involved refining both the sole, the critical bottom portion influencing its interaction with the ground, and the bounce, a crucial factor in preventing the leading edge from digging too deeply into the turf. According to Ben Schomin, Cobra Golf’s Tour Operations Manager, the 3D printing technology allowed Fowler to fine-tune the wedge’s design to his exact specifications.
Shomin explained this process, stating, *“*The hard grind lines he used to use have been softened so much, and they kept getting softer and softer. If you have hard lines, you can see them and measure them more easily. Now, (with 3D printing), it’s easier to replicate and duplicate. His wedge grind kept getting rounder because he wanted more camber, so finally it’s like, let’s just 3D scan it, and print it, so it’s perfect.”
Rickie Fowler’s new Cobra “RF” wedge at address. (Photo Credit: GolfWRX)
As Fowler perfected his ideal wedge design, the advantages of 3D printing became apparent. Cobra 3D scanned the prototype to create duplicate versions, ensuring consistency and replicability. With access to his wedge tailored precisely to his preferences, Fowler can receive identical replacements whenever needed. Through the utilization of this custom wedge, Fowler not only enhances his own game but also contributes to advancing design and innovation within the broader realm of golf equipment, thanks to the progress enabled by 3D printing.
*Cover Photo Credit: PGA Tour