Pros: These are Titleist golf balls and that means consistent, reliable quality and performance. The new cover formulation have made the Pro V1 and Pro V1x more durable while still maintaining exceptional spin on iron shots and delivering great feel through the bag.
Cons: Tour balls like the Pro V1 and Pro V1x command tour ball price tags and are rarely found deeply discounted.
Bottom Line: The Pro V1 and Pro V1X are two of the most recognizable and most played golf balls in the world. If you ask non-golfers and golfers alike to name one or two golf ball brands, they likely will say Pro V1. Over 3,000 professional tour players have Pro V1 or Pro V1x in their bags. With even more distance, a softer feel and longer lasting durability, golfers of all skill levels cannot go wrong putting a Titleist Pro V1 or Pro V1x into play.
Titleist generally releases new Pro V1 and Pro V1x golf balls on a two-year cycle. The most recent Pro V1 and Pro V1x were launched in 2013, which means the only change for 2014 is updated packaging. However, with Titleist launching other new golf balls this year — including the NXT Tour, NXT Tour S, Velocity, and DT SoLo — it’s a good time to compare the performance of the Pro V1 and Pro V1x against each other, and also stack them up against the other golf balls in Titleist’s 2014 lineup.
Thanks to a softer ZG process core technology, the three-piece Pro V1 is the softest Pro V1 Titleist has released to date and the most notable enhancement from previous years. The softer core also helps generate less spin off the driver, which leads to more distance. An improved urethane elastomer cover resists scuffing better than previous models and generally holds its out-of-the-box appearance for longer during a round.
The Pro V1x, a four-piece tour ball, has a dual core. The extremely soft inner core allows the ball to maintain lower driver spin, but at the same time, the outer core and inner mantle actually increase spin on approach shots. The same improved Urethane Elastomer cover found in the Pro V1 also is found on the Pro V1x.
The Pro V1 and Pro V1x are available now and carry a minimum advertised price of $47.99. Both are available in standard and custom play numbers. Standard numbers come in low (1-4) and high (5-8). Double-digit play numbers, 00 and 11-99, are available for custom order.
Chances are, if you found a Pro V1 or Pro V1x in the woods or the edge of a water hazard, you would put it in your bag regardless of what version the ball happened to be. The performance characteristics of these two balls are very similar. They both offer great feel, distance and a crazy amount of short game spin. That said, if you are planning to play one of these balls and are going through the fitting process, there are important differences.
The Pro V1, with super soft core, will feel softer with any club and will have a tendency to spin more with the driver. The Pro V1X, with the dual core, is said to spin less with the driver but more with short irons.
I wanted to get a true sense of performance so I tested both balls in a variety of ways both with a launch monitor and on the course. To get the data, I hit both balls on a launch monitor with a 60-degree wedge, 6 iron and a driver. I prefer testing outdoors on FlightScope or Trackman, but in this case, I wanted to hit many shots with each club so I needed to be able to retrieve the balls. I headed to Golfsmith Extreme in Smyrna, Ga., where they let me take over a private fitting bay for a few hours. As a point of reference, my playing swing speed with a driver is around 105 mph. Following Titleist’s fitting process, we’ll start near the green and work back.
60-degree Full Wedge Shots
Based on Titleist’s claims, my expectation heading into the wedge test was that the spin on the Pro V1X would be slightly higher than on the Pro V1 and the launch angle would be slightly lower. I didn’t expect any difference in ball speed between these two balls. However, I was expecting to see slower ball speeds compared to the other 2014 Titleist lineup, but ball speed with a wedge is not my primary concern.
The Pro V1X instantly proved to be the spinnier of the two balls around the green. While the spin numbers were close, the Pro V1X generated almost 300 rpm more spin on average than the Pro V1. Interestingly, the Pro V1 generated a similar amount of spin compared to the NXT Tour and NXT Tour S, which we will review in the future. Both of the balls, with spin numbers that high, will be grabbing the greens allowing golfers to get aggressive and attack pins.
The Pro V1 launched 0.6-degrees lower and had a peak height of 1 yard lower than the Pro V1x. Those numbers are basically identical and the primary difference between the two balls at this point is the spin rate and the Pro V1X generated more spin. An interesting note is that I did see a more significant difference in spin between the Pro V1X and the Velocity and DT SoLo, especially with the Velocity, which generated about as much spin with the wedge as I would generate with an 8-iron and the Pro V1X.
6 Iron Shots
The similarities between the balls continued during the 6-iron testing. My expectation was that the Pro V1 would continue to spin less with the iron launch lower and fly lower than the Pro V1x. Surprisingly, the Pro V1 generated 1-yard higher peak ball height, 115 rpm more spin and launched 0.4-degrees higher. Ball speed was identical.
These numbers are all within a statistical margin for error, and since I’m not a robot and my swing varies, this data basically presents an almost identical picture with each ball. Having a slightly higher launch, more spin and a marginally higher peak height with the Pro V1 wouldn’t be a bad thing, but my numbers with the Pro V1X were all very close to the numbers I would want to see. Compared to the other balls in the 2014 lineup, both balls perform better for me with a 6 iron. That said, as we move away from the green, the spin numbers across the lineup are starting to tighten up and the launch angle, ball speed and peak height become more important differentiators.
When it comes to the driver, I do not need or want additional spin for my game. I already generate a little too much spin off the driver, so I need a ball that generates less spin. I also have a tendency to launch the ball a bit low. Based on Titleist’s claims, that sets up perfectly for the Pro V1X, which launches a bit higher with less spin, and I was excited to see the data.
Looking at the results, the Pro V1X lives up to the expectation, especially when compared directly to the Pro V1. On average, I generated the same ball speed, but it launched 0.3-degrees higher with 120 rpm less spin than the Pro V1. Interestingly, when looking across the 2014 models, there were other balls, such as the NXT Tour and the NXT Tour S, which generated lower spin, but also generated slower ball speeds and a lower peak height. Distance with each ball in the lineup fell within Titleist’s range of 4-to-6 yards between each ball. Additionally, all the models were within +/-500 rpm of spin with the driver, another claim from Titleist.
The lower spin and higher launch of the Pro V1X continues to suit my game best and should serve a wide range of golfers very well. In fact, looking at the makeup of players on the PGA Tour listed on the Titleist website, 169 of 200 players put the Pro V1X into play each week.
Launch monitor data confirmed and backed up most of Titleist’s claims about the expected performance of both golf balls. The next test was performed on the course. I played the balls in numerous rounds over the course of one week at River Strand Golf & Country Club in Bradenton, Fla. River Strand also has a great short game area with greens kept at course speeds. The head pro, Corey Pion, set the area up for me to test the balls around the green and also hit half wedge shots from 45 yards.
I’m starting to sound like a broken record, but as expected these balls were stunning on the course. Off the tee, both launched at very similar angles and neither ball ballooned in the air. It was windy for a few rounds during the week, and compared to a couple of the other balls in the 2014 lineup, which did have a tendency to launch too high, the lower ball flight of the Pro V1 and Pro V1X helped cut through the wind.
Starting with the hybrids, I was able to get some nice stopping power into the greens. The longer irons had a nice bounce-bounce-check, quality to them. As I moved into the shorter irons, I started seeing real stopping power, especially with the Pro V1X. I was able to back up a couple shots starting with the 8-iron and with the wedge, I routinely expected to spin the ball back. In fact, I needed to start thinking about controlling the spin better to keep the ball on the right level of the greens.
Half Wedge Shots
I had a chance to hit some half wedge shots during the natural course of play, but wanted to dedicate numerous shots in a row from half wedge distance hitting a variety of shots. With both balls, I was able to hit low spinners that hit the green and checked immediately. One ball didn’t outperform the other from this distance. Both provided seriously sticky grip on the green. I also hit some high, soft pitch shots that landed softly. If I backed off the shot, I was able to get the balls to run a little bit, but for the most part, these are meant to hit the green and hold on tight! The bottom line around the greens is I was able to make the ball do whatever I wanted it to do.
Around the Green
Within about 40 yards, the performance of both balls is very similar. At this point, the urethane cover is in the driver’s seat. I hit a variety of different chip shots as I would on the course. Starting with chips from just off the green, I hit some bump and run shots with a 9 iron, which reacted with a skip and a rollout. When I switched to a more lofted 60-degree wedge, I was able to hit a variety of shots, from quick-spinning low chips that hit once and checked up to open face shots with spin and some more lofted, softer shots.
Out of the bunker, the balls continued to perform. I was most interested in how much spin I could put on these balls from a variety of lies in the sand. As expected, spin wasn’t an issue. Also, with varied technique, I could pop the balls up and get them running on long bunker shots.
I can’t say I noticed any real difference between the two balls around the green, not in performance or even feel. Yes, the Pro V1 felt softer across all clubs, but to me, I had to really concentrate to notice a difference. Shots struck pure felt smooth and fluffy with both balls.
The feel of both Pro V1 balls off the putter face is like nothing else. While I haven’t always played Pro V1 or Pro V1X golf balls, the last few years, I have kept a sleeve of Pro V1s in my bag to use on the putting green before a round. Using one ball to warm up and one on the course might not be the best idea, but for me, the practice green is a chance to get the stroke working and see a few putts drop in the cup to get the confidence up. The softness of the Pro V1 helps provide the smooth, flush sensations I’m looking for prior to the round.
That soft feel is even more apparent in this year’s Pro V1 and also in the Pro V1X. I’ll be honest, in a blind test, I’m not sure I could identify the Pro V1 from the Pro V1x every single time I hit a putt, but the Pro V1 does feel slightly softer than the Pro V1X. Putts roll smooth and true, just as you expect with these balls.
Looks and Feel
I love the look of a Pro V1 and Pro V1X. The Titleist script is one of the coolest looking logos in my opinion, and on the Pro V1 and Pro V1X, the logo has a nice thin quality, unlike the slightly thicker and even darker black script of the other balls in the 2014 lineup. The white cover has always looked more off-white compared to the stark white color of other Titleist balls, or even competitor balls. The grey alignment mark on the side is a nice change from the solid color of previous generations. Each of these subtle design characteristics blend together to create a golf ball that is instantly recognizable and one of the classiest looking balls on the market.
Feel is so subjective in golf, especially with golf balls. As I mention above, the Pro V1 feels softer off the putter. It is not dramatically different from the Pro V1X, but it is noticeable. It becomes even more noticeable how soft these balls are when compared to say, the 2014 Velocity, which is a pure distance ball. Every club in the bag has a nice, smooth, almost spongy feel when struck off the sweet spot while still generating powerful acceleration off the club. I would definitely lean toward the Pro V1 feeling softer, but I would suggest hitting a variety of shots so you can be the judge.
All my testing, both on the launch monitor and on the course, was completed using only three of each type of ball and both of these balls held up extremely well. Not surprisingly, since both the Pro V1 and Pro V1x have the same cover, they show similar wear. That said, the Pro V1X actually shows slightly more scuffs, but I’m splitting hairs here. A few of the balls show some wedge marks, but nothing that would make me bring a new ball into play.
The durability of the reformulated Urethane Elastomer cover and paint system seem to deliver the lasting durability that Titleist claims. Once cleaned off with a wet towel, the balls look almost brand new, with the exception of a few minor scratches and marks. Tour players are also remarking on how durable the balls are, with some claiming instead of switching balls every 2-to-3 holes, they might only use two balls an entire round or even go a full round if they wanted.
The Pro V1 and Pro V1x have earned their spot on top of the golf ball world by continuing to deliver a golf ball with exceptional feel and short game performance.
My father-in-law would say he isn’t good enough to play the Pro V1 or Pro V1x and has a whole bag full of them that he refuses to play. There is a stigma that only the best players should play a Pro V1 or Pro V1X. Sure, if you are a golfer who seems to play out of the woods and in darkness more than on the fairway, the price per dozen might seem high. However, every golfer, from scratch to higher handicap players like my father-in-law, can benefit from the performance of these balls, especially around the greens.
I would recommend players of all swing speeds and ability consider both the Pro V1 and Pro V1X when getting fit.
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Is the Future of Golf Balls Lower Spin?
For years now, TaylorMade has been preaching lower spin to create more distance, especially in its drivers. Its original SLDR driver was actually so low spinning that TaylorMade encouraged golfers to try higher-lofted club heads, or to “loft up,” so golf balls wouldn’t dive out of the air. Now, when you look around at the popular drivers in the industry, most of them are designed to lower spin. TaylorMade was ahead of the curve.
With its new TP5 and TP5x golf balls, TaylorMade is pushing a similar initiative: lower spin on all full shots.
“This ball is different. You can make the argument this is too hot a golf ball for people who don’t spin it (enough). But that’s not the large percentage of golfers.”
For driver shots, it’s easy to understand the benefit of lower spin as long as the golfer launches it high enough. Low spin plus high launch equals more distance; that’s just a math equation. But with golf balls, as opposed to drivers, their jobs are also to get close to the hole, not just go as far and straight possible. With that in mind, is lower spin necessarily beneficial on ALL full shots, including the irons?
For Jon Rahm and Rory McIlroy, who both switched to TaylorMade TP5x golf ball this season — the lower-spinning and slightly firmer-feeling golf ball in the TP5 line — the answer is clearly “yes.” Rahm saw an 800 rpm drop in iron spin with a 4-iron compared to his Titleist’s Pro V1x golf ball and a 400 rpm drop in driver spin, according to TaylorMade. McIlroy saw up to 10 yards in extra distance with a 5-iron, and he picked up distance with the driver, as well. According to Eric Loper, Director of Golf Ball R&D at TaylorMade, McIlroy was hitting his 7 iron at 16.1 degrees of launch with 6350 rpm, and his 4 iron at 11.1 degrees of launch with 3800 rpm during his initial Trackman testing at The Bear’s Club.
“(With a 7 iron) you have to hit it about 7000 (rpm) or less, and he was hitting (his previous ball) up to 7500 (rpm),” Loper said. “That’s too high… (With the TaylorMade TP5x) he didn’t express any concern with (spin being too low). It was launching high, getting to its apex and landing soft.”
Hoyt McGarity, President of True Spec Golf, an internationally renowned custom club fitter with more than a dozen locations, has seen similar performance gains with TaylorMade’s TP5x golf ball through his personal testing and his testing with Tour players. He said he’s seeing 2-3 mph more ball speed compared to other golf balls. Just as importantly, he’s seeing those gains with a higher ball flight in what he called “straight up” club tests.
“Some of the Tour players — straight up, same loft, same lie, same golf club, same everything — they would launch this golf ball almost a degree higher, which is amazing,” McGarity said. “I was seeing almost 2-3 mph more ball speed for these Tour players, not that they need more distance, but I’m like, ‘You’re launching higher and it’s going further and it’s still coming in soft; it’s not coming in low and hot. It’s coming in high and still soft, so what’s the disadvantage?’ If you’re a low-ball hitter with low spin, you might have some issues. Your half shots might be tough to control the distance on it, that’s all.”
So while TaylorMade’s TP5 and TP5x golf balls are designed to go farther and with less spin on full shots, the company says their steeper landing angles will help them stop nearly as fast as higher-spinning balls. TaylorMade’s belief is based on the company’s scientific bounce-and-roll calculations, which factor in green conditions and landing characteristics. Yes, the lower spin of its golf balls in relation to competitors leads to minimally more roll out, but the amount is insignificant according to TaylorMade: an additional 1-1.5 feet. The company also points out that with a longer-flying golf ball, golfers will be hitting shorter clubs into greens, leading to more control. An 8 iron will yield greater stopping power and accuracy than a 7 iron, right?
Expert fitter Scott Felix of Felix Clubworks agrees with TaylorMade in theory. He said that as long as the golf ball is coming into a green at a steep enough angle, low spin is not a problem for approach shots.
“Most golfers spin the ball too much with their irons, costing them distance,” Felix said, “…but for golfers who already have a flat trajectory (with their irons), lowering spin won’t help them hold the green.”
McGarity added that about 80 percent of golfers who come to him for a fitting spin the ball too much, and for Tour players, the drop in spin won’t have a detrimental effect.
“Lets say the average spin on Tour is 6,000 (rpm with a 6 iron); it’s not like [TaylorMade’s TP5x golf ball is spinning] around 4,000 (rpm),” McGarity said. “If your average land angle is 49 degrees, they’re hitting these balls at say 5800 spin, which I think is great, and with a 50-degree land angle, so what’s the harm? It’s not like it’s coming in at 44 degrees; that’d be probably a one hop over the back and get into a little trouble.”
On the other hand, Felix notes that some Tour players simply want maximum control from a golf ball due to firmer fairway and green conditions, so lowering spin isn’t always the best option for them. But for average golfers, the distance gains will be beneficial.
“Most golfers aren’t playing in Tour conditions and will simply benefit from hitting the ball farther and having shorter irons into the green,” Felix said.
McGarity also warns golfers who already play low-spinning irons and drivers, and who spin the ball below 2,000 rpm with the driver, that the TP5 and TP5x golf balls may not be for them.
“This ball is different,” McGarity said. “You can make the argument this is too hot a golf ball for people who don’t spin it (enough). But that’s not that large percentage of golfers.”
After announcing an equipment contract with TaylorMade at The Players Championship, Rory McIlroy called TaylorMade’s TP5x golf ball the most important factor in his decision to sign with the company. With the new ball, he said he not only picked up distance, but consistency and control in the wind.
“I wasn’t really happy with the golf ball I was playing, and I needed to do something,” McIlroy said. “I felt like I struggled in the wind. So I sort of went back to the drawing board and tested for about 10 days pretty extensively after Augusta … I worked with the TaylorMade guys one day and started just on Trackman on the range and saw stuff with the golf ball … I thought, ‘Wow, this is what I need.’ This is exactly the thing that I’ve been struggling with.”
McGarity’s experiences confirmed McIlroy’s sentiments.
“I picked up a half club and I sit around and hit balls all the time on Trackman, so for me to pick up a half a club, it’s not the club it has to be the ball,” McGarity said. “And into the wind I can definitely see it’s more penetrating. I’m not a super high-spin player, so some shots I’ll hit the ball farther than I expected, but I’d rather have that issue than (to hit it) short.”
So there’s agreement that the ball spins less, goes farther and performs better in the wind with irons. But when fitting a golf ball, is iron play even the best place to start? Golf is about more than just iron shots, after all.
For Felix, a ball fitting begins by having a client hit “a bunch” of different golf balls on the putting green to narrow it down to a few based on feel preferences. Then he has the golfer take those golf balls to the chipping green and bunker. He then works back to 40-yard shots, narrowing down the options throughout the process based on feel and performance. After that, golfers will progress to the driver, and then to the irons.
“Usually you want to get a few balls you really like on and around the greens, then work backwards from there,” Felix said.
Initial testing for McIlroy started on the golf course, and not on Trackman, according to TaylorMade representatives. Once he became comfortable with performance and feel, he then took to Trackman to get dialed in with spin and match the golf ball to his equipment.
Despite the low-spinning qualities of the golf balls on full shots, TaylorMade believes it’s giving up nothing to the competition in terms of short game performance. “There’s no golf ball that spins more around the greens,” a TaylorMade representative told me. That’s a legal way of saying no other golf ball company can prove, with confidence, that its golf ball spins more around the greens.
By producing extremely low spin on full shots, but without giving up performance and feel around the greens, TaylorMade says it’s providing the best qualities from each end of the spectrum with its TP5 and TP5x golf balls. But… how? TaylorMade engineers accomplished the feat by using larger and softer-compression cores. TaylorMade says the cores “activate” at 70 mph of swing speed inside of the five-piece constructions, which also have firm mantle layers and soft, urethane covers. The result is low spin on full shots, and high spin on shorter shots.
“It’s the real first golf ball (TaylorMade has) made that’s a game changer,” McGarity said.
TaylorMade does admit, however, that golfers may be sacrificing a bit of “workability” with the irons. That’s to say hitting hooks and slices with its golf balls becomes more difficult due to the lower spin. While the TP5 will offer a bit more of that control than the TP5x, it’s definitely something to keep in mind for those who prefer to play a Bubba Watson-style of golf.
Looking to the future
So does all of this mean that lower-spinning golf balls on full shots are the future of golf? Will we see golf equipment companies striving for drastically lower spin over the next few years?
TaylorMade representatives say they continue to chase lower spin in their prototyping, and until the golf ball is diving out of the air to the golfer’s detriment, lower spin is the future of golf balls. Obviously, TaylorMade is fully committed to a lower-spinning golf ball, and lower spin in general throughout its product lines.
For other premium golf ball manufacturers, bringing lower-spinning options to the market seems likely, given the performance benefits and Tour validation of TaylorMade’s new golf balls. But there’s a reason there are so many variations of golf balls on the market; every golfer is different. Some need more spin with the driver and want more workability with the irons, some want a super firm feel and others just want the cheapest ball possible.
Golfers should view TaylorMade’s TP5 and TP5x golf balls as options in the vast marketplace of golf balls, and perform thorough testing to figure out if this is the right line of golf balls for their game. And remember, lower spin and more distance will require recalibrating your iron distances, and possibly adjusting your equipment, so a mid-season switch is recommended only to those who are willing to put in the necessary work.
Review: Callaway Chrome Soft X Golf Balls
Pros: Incredibly soft feel like the Chrome Soft, but the Chrome Soft X increases spin through the bag to give better players more control.
Cons: Golfers who struggle with too much slice or hook won’t find it any easier to keep shots close to the target with the Chrome Soft X.
Who They’re For: Better players with higher swing speeds looking for a soft-feeling ball that checks up faster with iron shots than Chrome Soft.
Callaway says the Chrome Soft is “the ball that changed the ball,” and in many ways that’s true. It’s a tour-level golf ball with a softer feel, less spin through the bag and even a lower price point ($39.99) than some other tour balls in its category.
The Chrome Soft is Callaway’s best ball option for the vast majority of golfers (and received a 5-star rating by GolfWRX), but it isn’t for everyone. Callaway’s solution for them is its new Chrome Soft X golf ball.
What’s New in the Chrome Soft X
The original Chrome Soft golf ball, launched in 2015 had the very soft compression of 65. When Callaway released the 2016 version of Chrome Soft, it gave the ball a slightly higher compression (75), which improved its consistency on short-iron shots. The compression of its new Chrome Soft X is 90.
The reason for the higher compression has to do with the low-spin profile of the Chrome Soft, a blessing to most golfers as it helps their shots fly straighter and farther. It’s not ideal for some tour pros and better golfers, however. We’re talking about the kind of golfers who have great mechanics and strike shots consistently on the center of the club face. They often have a ball flight that is so dialed in that the lower-spinning performance of the Chrome Soft makes their shots harder to control. To address that small but important segment of the golfing population, Callaway created the higher-spinning Chrome Soft X.
Under the hood, Callaway used a slightly thinner urethane cover, increased the size and hardened the compression of the Dual SoftFast core, and enhanced the HEX Aerodynamics. As a result, the Chrome Soft X should generate more ball speed and spin through the entire bag.
Dave Bartels, Callaway’s Senior Director of Golf Ball R&D, says golfers will be able will notice the differences and have a clear favorite. “We expect that golfers who like the Chrome Soft X probably won’t like the Chrome Soft very much, and vice versa.”
Since the Chrome Soft X is meant to be a complimentary golf ball to the Chrome Soft, we tested them head-to-head.
Compared to the Chrome Soft the Chrome Soft X should:
- Feel almost as soft as the Chrome Soft with the same durability.
- Generate more spin where better golfers need it.
- Generate faster ball speeds.
Like previous reviews, I tested these on the course and on a launch monitor with a 60-degree wedge, 6-iron and a driver. To allow me to re-hit each ball numerous times, I completed the testing indoors on a camera-based SkyTrak launch monitor. To keep the numbers as consistent as possible between the balls, I threw out and re-hit any shots that were not struck on the center and did not land within a designated target zone for each club (Wedge: +/- 3yards, 6 Iron: +/- 8 yards, Driver: Target width of 40 yards).
But I’m not a robot, so take that into account.
60-degree full wedge shots
What the data actually shows: Pretty much as expected. Overall, the Chrome Soft X clocked 1 mph more ball speed, 136 rpm more spin and carried 2 yards farther. These are very subtle differences, and for an amateur like me I would not expect to notice a difference on the course.
The larger Dual SoftFast core and higher compression could account for the additional ball speed and carry distance. For me, 2 yards won’t require much of an adjustment. If you are a better player completely dialed in with your distances, you might need to make a minor adjustment.
What I saw on the course: When I’m testing golf balls, I like to drop one down without looking at the label and hit a shot. This allows me to remain unbiased in my expectation and just watch what the ball does. When I did this test with the Chrome Soft X on a full wedge shot, I was instantly impressed. The feel was incredible and the distance was spot on. After the wedge testing, I would’ve put this ball straight in the bag.
What the data actually shows: The Chrome Soft X is continuing to spin more through the bag. Ball speeds were slightly higher by about 0.8 mph. The Chrome Soft X generated a considerable amount of additional spin, but also flew slightly higher and had a steeper descent angle.
Just like you’ll see with the driver below, the additional spin decreased my distance (the Chrome Soft X averaged 3 yards less carry and 4 yards less total distance), but increased my stopping power.
What I saw on the course: Just like previous Chrome Soft balls, the feel off the club face with mid irons was very soft. I really noticed the additional spin on the course, as my draw shot shape started to get a little more curve to it and my shots stopped faster on the greens. I felt like I was able to attack greens with longer irons, flying shots all the way to the hole instead of playing a little short and letting the ball release more.
Main differences we expect to see: The Chrome Soft X should spin more slightly more and deliver higher ball speeds than the Chrome Soft.
What the data actually shows: I am not a high swing-speed player. My average playing swing speed is around 105 mph, which is generally considered the cut-off before you have a “high swing speed.” Also, I am not a low-spin player, so having a ball that can spin a little more might not be the best for my specific game. Based solely on that, I would not expect to see the full benefits of the Chrome Soft X
The testing backs this up. The Chrome Soft X delivered the same ball speed, but with 432 rpm more spin. Bartels says Callaway’s testing has shown golfers either spinning the Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X the same off the tee, or an increase of 100-200 rpm with the Chrome Soft X. He called 400 rpm “within the ballpark,” but not typical.
Just to be clear, we’re talking about a change in performance that resulted in just 1 yard less carry distance and 3 yards less total distance; basically nothing.
What I saw on the course: As my launch monitor data showed, the Chrome Soft X appeared to fly higher and not roll as much when it hit the ground.
The one place I saw a benefit to the Chrome Soft X was when I contacted a drive high off the club face. With the Chrome Soft, these drives fell out of the sky more quickly, costing me carry distance. With the Chrome Soft X, they stayed in the air a little longer. It’s clear for low-spin players, or those with already optimal launch conditions, the Chrome Soft X can provide as good, if not better performance.
Around the Green
There is nothing this ball can’t do around the greens. I don’t have a tour pro’s arsenal of short game shots, but I do know the difference between a ball that can do anything and a ball that can do only some things.
I put the Chrome Soft X through the paces of low spinners, high flop shots, bump and runs, and bunker shots. As expected, it performed identically to the Chrome Soft.
Putting one right after the other, if you are really paying attention, the Chrome Soft X feels slightly firmer off the putter face with a slightly higher-pitched sound than the Chrome Soft. But this ball is soft, smooth and rolls beautifully. I have always loved the way the Chrome Soft feels off the putter, going back to the 2015 ball. Even though it’s slightly firmer, the feel off the putter of the new Chrome Soft X continues to impress me (through the entire bag really).
Feel is subjective, but I found the Chrome Soft X to be one of the softest tour balls on the market today.
I completed all my testing with only one ball, so it saw a considerable amount of shots. Like previous Chrome Soft balls, the Chrome Soft X is very durable. It took a beating with the 60-degree and showed only light scuff marks. Both the Chrome Soft X and the Chrome Soft perform very similarly in terms of durability.
The Chrome Soft X isn’t for everyone and that is why Callaway is marketing the “X” as a complimentary ball to the Chrome Soft and not a replacement.
With the changes Callaway has made, the Chrome Soft X checks off all the criteria for a high-performance premium golf ball. If you thought the 2016 Chrome Soft was a little too soft with too little spin through the bag, the Callaway Chrome Soft X might just be the ball you’re looking for.
Review: Callaway Chrome Soft golf balls
Pros: The Chrome Soft has an incredibly soft feel, but doesn’t skimp on performance. It will create maximum distance off the tee for 99 percent of golfers, yet offers short-game spin that rivals more expensive models.
Cons: Golfers with high swing speeds (105+ mph) — a.k.a. the 1 percent — may lose a few yards off the tee due to the Chrome Soft’s low-compression design.
Who They’re For: Any golfer can play the Chrome Soft.
Last year, Callaway released the Speed Regime golf ball line, which offered three different golf balls designed for different swing speeds, all with slightly different levels of compression and design. While this gave golfers the ability to really “fit” a golf ball to their game, more choices doesn’t always translate into better decision-making.
With its new Chrome Soft golf balls, Callaway has released just one ball, with one set of specifications, designed to provide a benefit to all golfers regardless of their swing speed.
The three-piece Chrome Soft, with a low-compression Soft Fast core and extremely soft DuraSpin cover, generates lower spin off the driver and long irons for more distance, while generating tour-level spin with shorter irons and shots around the green.
Let’s Talk Core
Thanks to a brand new SoftFast core, as Callaway calls it, the ball has a compression rating of 65. By comparison, last year’s Callaway SR-3 had a compression of around 105. Typically, the softer the core, the more the ball deforms at impact. This is great for slower swing speed players who need the ball to deform more so it can spring back into shape and generate more distance. But faster swing speed players can actually lose distance if the ball is too soft. After experimenting with 39 different prototypes, however, Callaway was able to create the right combination of the core and mantle layer so the Chrome Soft retains the energy from impact and keeps ball speed high — even at faster swing speeds.
We put the new Chrome Soft to the test against the Callaway Speed Regime SR-3, which I tested last year.
Compared to the Speed Regime line the Chrome Soft should:
- Feel softer off every club, with slightly better durability.
- Generate less spin off the driver.
- Create more spin off shorter irons.
Like all reviews, I tested these on the range, on the course, and on a launch monitor with a 60-degree wedge, 6-iron and a driver. I headed to BridgeMill Golf Academy and worked with head pro Tom Losinger to get the data using a Trackman in his indoor studio.
60-degree full wedge shots
What the data actually shows: Exactly what we expected to see. The Chrome Soft generated 200 rpm more spin than the SR-3, while launching lower and hitting a slightly lower peak height. I did, however, see a big difference in ball speed and carry distance, with the Chrome Soft flying three more yards on average.
Increased ball speed or carry distance with the shorter irons is not typically on the list of requests from better players. In this case, it’s a by-product of the new SoftFast core and three more yards of carry with a 60-degree wedge is fairly significant. That 10-foot putt for birdie is now almost 20. These types of gains will require an adjustment.
What I saw on the course: This ball was perfect inside 100 yards. If it was flying farther than other balls I’ve played, I didn’t notice. The trajectory on full wedge shots was nice and low compared to other balls, and I was already able to notice a difference in feel between the Chrome Soft and the SR-3. A difference of 200 rpm of spin wasn’t noticeable on the course, as both balls performed very similarly when they hit the green.
What the data actually shows: The data backed up the expectations when it came to ball speed. However, I actually saw more spin on my 6-iron compared to the SR-3 and even other tour balls. This could be due to a variety of factors concerning my individual swing, and other golfers might see less spin off their mid irons. Compared to the SR-3, the Chrome Soft launched a little higher, with more spin and ball speed, allowing it to carry a little more than one yard farther. It also hit a higher peak height with a steeper descent angle.
What I saw on the course: I was probably most impressed with the Chrome Soft with the mid to long irons. Yes, the ball performed great off the driver, but the softer feel was very apparent with an iron in my hands. Launching shots with mid to long irons had a more effortless feel. I was also able to get some nice height and spin on my longer irons without sacrificing distance, so I could land shots on the green and see them stick, instead of hitting and running off the back.
Main differences we expect to see: The Chrome Soft should spin less, but still generate more ball speed than the SR-3.
What the data actually shows: I’m a borderline high-speed guy with the driver. My average swing speed is around 106 mph — right on the borderline where golfers can start to “over-compress” the Chrome and possibly lose distance.
You may have read editor Zak Kozuchowski’s reviews on GolfWRX, who can generate more than 115 mph of swing speed with his driver. In his on-course testing, he said he hit the Chrome Soft about the same distance as other tour balls.
“If they liked everything else about the ball, I can’t imagine a golfer who swings 105+ mph wouldn’t play the Chrome Soft just because it was a few yards shorter than a higher-compression tour ball off the tee,” he said. “If a soft feel is important to them, that’s going to take precedence over a few yards of extra distance. And they’ll get those few yards back with their long irons, anyways.”
In my testing, the Chrome Soft generated slightly faster ball speeds, and a lot less spin — almost 300 rpm less spin than the SR-3. This translated into an extra 1.5 yards of carry, and more than 5 extra yards of total distance.
What I saw on the course: The distance gains and lower spin appeared to translate to the course. I wasn’t having any issues getting the ball to run out once it hit the fairway. And the distance appeared to be spot on, if not slightly longer.
Around the green
It is always fun to have that moment in a round where you hit the low, checking chip that freaks out your playing partners. I had that moment from about 55 yards away to a back pin, with out of bounds directly behind the green. With a 56-degree wedge, I hit the low shot and right before the ball hit the green, my playing partners were yelling “get down!” But I knew I hit it well and the ball bounced, checked, and then just lipped the cup.
Could I have executed that shot with other tour balls? Yes. But, it is important to know I can execute it with the Chrome Soft. I’m not a short-game wizard like one of Callaway’s more well-known tour pros, but these balls allow me to hit any kind of shot around the green without hesitation.
The Chrome Soft feels much softer than the SR-3, which was noticeably softer than previous generation Callaway tour balls. The sound profile has a lower, less “clicky” sound that translates into improved feel. The engineers really have brought the incredible feel of the SuperSoft to the tour-level Chrome Soft.
I’ve rolled some beautifully smooth putts with these balls. They are predictable and roll true when you strike them well. While I won’t go so far as to say they are the best feeling golf ball on the market (although they are close), they are the best feeling Callaway golf ball I’ve tested.
When most people hear “softer cover,” they instantly assume it will be less durable — and for good reason. It is counter intuitive to believe that soft equals durable. I’m not going to pretend to know the science behind it, but the DuraSpin cover is made from Thermoplastic Urethane, which actually becomes more durable the softer it gets.
I’ve played numerous rounds with the same ball, and also completed all the testing with only three Chrome Soft golf balls, so I can back up Callaway’s claims. These balls are definitely durable and can last numerous rounds if you don’t lose them. With fresh wedge grooves, I was getting all the spin benefits and little to no scuffing. I did see some minor scuffs after finding some rocky rough off the tee, but the ball was still playable and I shouldn’t have been over there in the first place!
If you’ve avoided Callaway balls in the past because of the “clicky” stigma that has followed them around, it might be time to try a sleeve of the Chrome Soft. Many golfers, myself included, really love the feel of the Callaway SuperSoft, but not the overall performance. The Chrome Soft is a marriage of the soft feel of the SuperSoft with the tour-level performance of the Callaway SR-3. With low spin off the driver and the most spin on short irons of the tour balls I’ve tested this year, the Chrome Soft is one of the best golf balls on the market today.
We gave the Chrome Soft 5 stars, but one of our editors made the case that on a scale of 1-10, the Chrome Soft is an “11.” If you’ve seen the movie Spinal Tap, you know what he means.
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