Pros: Callaway’s Speed Regime line includes three tour-level golf balls (the SR-1, SR-2, and SR-3) matched to three segments of swing speeds: Moderate, Athletic, and Tour-Level. Each ball delivers distance, plenty of short game spin and the softest feel of any Callaway tour ball to date.
Cons: All three Speed Regime balls, but especially the very soft SR-1, are not as durable as some other balls at the premium price point ($47.99 per dozen).
Bottom Line: Playing a ball fit for your game is as important as playing equipment fit for your game. The Speed Regime line gives every golfer, regardless of swing speed, the option to put a true tour-level golf ball into play optimized to deliver performance where it matters most.
I love where the golf equipment market is at right now. It seems like every new piece of equipment brings the word “fit” into their product description. While it might seem like pure marketing, there is no denying that playing equipment fit for your game — from golf clubs to golf balls — will generate better performance.
With the 2014 Speed Regime SR-1, SR-2 and SR-3 golf balls, Callaway stepped up its game from offering two versions of its tour-level golf balls in 2013 to three in 2014, all designed with customized aerodynamics for different swing speeds. The result is that golfers can now easily match their swing speed to a specific golf ball to maximize performance with every club in the bag.
The dual-core, four-piece SR-1 is designed for golfers with swing speeds of less than 90 mph or what Callaway refers to as a “moderate swing speed.” By looking at launch monitor data of golfers with moderate swing speeds, they realized that those golfers won’t see the fast ball speeds of a tour pro and would benefit more with an aerodynamic profile that focuses on increasing the lift of the golf ball to maximize carry distance.
The SR-1 has a thin mantle layer that allows the ball to launch with less spin off the driver, but more spin off the shorter clubs. It also has the softest urethane cover of all of the Speed Regime golf balls.
The five-piece SR-2 will likely be the sweet spot for a majority of golfers with an “athletic” swing speed between 90 and 105 mph. Callaway engineers focused on creating a balanced golf ball that seeks to reduce drag during the high-speed portion of a ball’s flight and at the same time, increase lift during the last third of a ball’s flight.
The SR-2 has an additional mantle layer that boosts ball speeds and also reduces spin off the longer clubs. Like the SR-1, the SR-2 has a thermoplastic urethane cover with a softer feel than the SR-3, but not quite as soft as the SR-1. The SR-2 has been the ball of choice for many of Callaway’s LPGA and Champion’s Tour staff players.
The SR-3, also a five-piece ball, is designed for tour-level swing speeds of 105 mph or more. This golf ball has been the ball of choice for the company’s PGA Tour and European Tour staff players, as well as better amateurs. For the SR-3, the HEX aerodynamic pattern is designed specifically to reduce drag at high ball speeds, increasing distance and accuracy. While a soft feel has not been a hallmark of Callaway tour balls in the past, the soft urethane cover of the SR-3 is as soft as last year’s Chrome +, producing a noticeably softer feel than the company’s other tour balls.
All three Speed Regime golf balls are currently available and carry an MSRP of $47.99 per dozen.
My playing swing speed with a driver is 107 mph right now. If I was choosing a ball off the shelf based purely on Callaway’s recommendations, I would put a box of SR-3 golf balls in the cart. But heading into this test I was curious to see if a swing speed of only 2 mph over the minimum printed on the box would actually be enough to make the SR-3 the best performing ball for my swing. Would having a slightly lower compression ball with tweaked aerodynamics help me launch shots a little higher and generate a bit more carry distance?
Instead of waiting until the end of the review to answer that question, I’ll just give the answer now… Yes. While my swing speed falls within the SR-3 range, I saw better overall performance out of the SR-2 for my swing speed. This reminds me of the current debate better players are having over the merits of playing slightly larger, more forgiving irons like the new Taylormade SLDR or Callaway Apex, versus playing traditional blades. While golfers might fit the “profile,” it doesn’t automatically translate into the best performance, and that is definitely true for my swing with the Speed Regime balls.
Like other balls I’ve reviewed, I wanted to get a true sense of performance, so I tested all three balls on a launch monitor and on the course. To get the data, I hit the balls on a launch monitor with a 60-degree wedge, 6 iron and a driver. While I prefer testing outdoors, I needed to retrieve the balls for multiple tests and headed to Golfsmith Extreme in Smyrna, Ga., where they let me take over a private fitting bay for a few hours.
60-Degree Full Wedge Shots
My two main data points in a full wedge test are spin rate and peak height. The others are important, too, but I want to see a healthy amount of spin and a peak height that allows me to go into greens high, soft and spin back if I need it. Controllability is critical, and I expected to be able to flight these balls low as well. My expectation heading into the wedge test was that all three would perform similarly, but I expected a little less spin and more peak height out of the softer compression SR-1.
Ball speed and carry distance were identical across the board and launch angle was within two degrees. But the SR-3 proved to generate the most spin in the group. The numbers were close and statistically too similar to separate the SR-3 from the SR-2, but the SR-3 did generate a little more than 200 rpm more spin on average.
Interestingly, when testing the other balls in Callaway’s 2014 lineup, I was surprised to see the X2 Hot and X2 Hot+ generate very similar spin, launch and peak height numbers. For distance balls, they actually generated a shocking amount of spin with a full wedge. That will turn out to be the one of the only times those balls performed similarly to the Speed Regime line, but very important because it means golfers looking for a distance ball will actually be able to get some stopping power with the short irons.
The SR-2 had a peak height of 1 yard higher than the SR-3 and 1 yard lower than the SR-1. At this point, the SR-2 and SR-3 would both be good balls to put in the bag. Even the other balls in the 2014 product line generated good spin, launch and carry numbers. As is the case with all golf ball testing, as we move away from the green the differences will become more stark and important.
6 Iron Shots
The three Speed Regime balls continued to perform similar to each other during the 6-iron testing. In fact, the SR-1 matched the SR-2 with identical averages in half the categories. The SR-3, not surprisingly, had a slightly lower launch and peak height while spinning almost 200 rpm more. When looking at carry distance, the SR-2 was the longest in the group of Speed Regime balls, but not the longest overall. The X2 Hot and X2 Hot+ both averaged 3 more yards of carry, but they also generated less spin and a shallower angle of descent, which will make it harder to hold greens on longer shots.
As I move down into the longer irons, I want a ball that is going to help me launch shots a little higher, hitting a nice peak height with a good amount of spin to help me hold greens, but not too much where the ball will balloon. The SR-2 fits those requirements with a 6-iron.
I’ve been working hard this year to bring the spin down with my driver. Like many other golfers, I tend to generate a little too much spin, so the golf ball I put in play needs to generate less spin relative to the other options. I also have a tendency to launch the ball lower with my driver, so choosing a ball that will give me a little lift will help as well. My expectation prior to the test was the SR-2, with a balance between lift and drag, would give me the characteristics I’m looking for.
The results were very interesting. The SR-3 launched slightly higher on average with less spin, which made me want to lean in that direction. But the SR-3 also generated 2 mph less ball speed than the SR-2. This resulted in the SR-2 carrying an average of 5 yards longer than the SR-3, creating 4 yards more in total distance. With the exception of the X2 Hot, the SR-2 was the longest ball for me. With my swing speed, I knew the softer compression SR-1 didn’t stand a chance. The balance of compression and aerodynamics in the SR-2, even with a swing speed fitting the SR-3 profile, generated the best numbers.
While the spin numbers between the Speed Regime balls were fairly tight, there was a much wider dispersion between the spin rates of the entire 2014 lineup. The X2 Hot generated substantially less spin than the other balls as did the X2 Hot+ and Supersoft. For golfers looking for maximum distance, the X2 Hot and X2 Hot+, which we will review in the future, would be really good options to consider.
Compared the Chrome+
I played the Chrome+ last year and really liked having a tour-level ball with a nice feel and plenty of spin around the greens. Like many golfers, I was curious if the Speed Regime would provide enough performance enhancement to make it worth switching, especially now that the Chrome+ can be found for less than $30. That’s why I wanted test the Chrome+ during the same launch monitor testing as the Speed Regime line.
The numbers were not surprising because I expect major manufacturers like Callaway to be improving with each new product launch. The SR-2, overall, generated 2 mph more ball speed, 1-degree more launch, slightly more spin with each club and a higher peak height. Also, the carry distance with the driver and 6-iron was 4 yards longer with the SR-2 and 1 yard longer with the wedge than the Chrome+. I still believe the Chrome+ is a great ball for many golfers, but Callaway did manage to increase performance with the Speed Regime golf balls.
With the launch monitor data collected and analyzed, it was time to hit the golf course. I started the round with the SR-2 — the ball that on paper appears to be the best ball for me — but I put all the balls in play as the round continued.
I was impressed with the performance right from the first tee. The launch and carry off a driver was exactly what I was seeing in the fitting bay and there wasn’t any sense that the ball was going to balloon up or get out of control. The flight was stable and I was able to control the trajectory nicely. Spin off the shorter irons delivered impressive hit-and-check power and I could spin back any club from pitching wedge up. Spin control became important starting with my 52-degree wedge. The same was true for the SR-3, although I wasn’t seeing as much carry distance with any club. Spin and trajectory all seemed very similar. The SR-1, however, did have a tendency to get up in the air a bit more than I would like to see. But again, it is not optimized as well for my particular swing speed. I hit a few longer hybrid and iron shots into the greens and while I definitely got some run out, the Speed Regime balls came in softly with nice spin to hold the green.
Around the greens, they performed like a tour ball. I had all the control I needed and the confidence to go after more aggressive shots. I had a good day with the putter, too, and the SR-2 was a nice balance of softness between the SR-1 and SR-3.
Half Wedge Shots
I did have a chance to hit half wedge shots during my on-course rounds, but wanted to spend a lot more time hitting a variety of shots. Thanks to head pro Cobie Lunsford, I had a chance to get out on the back nine at Bentwater Golf Club in Acworth, Ga., one morning before the early wave made the turn. The 15th hole at Bentwater has a nice, relatively level front portion of the green, which is what I wanted to find for the test.
All three balls performed exactly as I hoped they would. The flattest part of the green also happened to be where the pin was cut, but going 10 feet long meant hitting a slope and rolling about 40 feet to the back of the green. It created an on-course feel for the test and I was able to fire at the pin with low spinners that checked nicely. I could also hit high, soft pitch shots that landed softly. All three balls have the stickiness and controllability I expect to find in a tour ball.
Around the Green
My expectation around the green is that all three golf balls would perform very similarly to each other and that was the case for me. Within 40 yards or so, the urethane cover really does drive performance and the only difference between the three Speed Regime balls is the slightly softer feel of the SR-1 compared to the SR-3.
As expected, I was able to hit any shot I wanted to from bump-and-run shots to quick-spinning chips that hit once and check up. I could open the face and hit soft shots, and out of the bunker I was able to hit a variety of shots from tight spinning shots to chunk and runs.
The feel of each ball was similar, but with touch shots around the green it was becoming a little easier to distinguish the softer feel of the SR-1 from the slightly firmer feel of the SR-3.
For me, the feel of these three golf balls separated themselves on the green with a putter in hand. All three felt as soft or softer than the Chrome+ and rolled smooth and true, but they didn’t all feel the same. There was a distinct difference in the softness from the SR-1 to the SR-3. I really liked how the SR-1 felt off the face. It was super soft and felt like it almost melted off the putter while still producing the speed I expected. For a Callaway ball, this was a unique and new feel. The SR-2 was firmer, but not too much firmer. The SR-3 was the firmest and when it came to sound, it had the highest pitched impact off the putter face.
Looks and Feel
It’s official, Callaway’s “click” problem is dead. One of the loudest criticisms of Callaway golf balls in the past was the firm feel, even as recently as the 2013 Hex Black Tour. The Chrome+ was the first ball to really provide a noticeably softer feel and with the Speed Regime line, Callaway has managed to compose all three golf balls with a feel as soft or softer than the Chrome+. Callaway claims that the SR-3 feels about as soft as the Chrome+ and the SR-2 and SR-1 are softer. I agree. The balls felt softer on all shots and especially around the green. They aren’t the softest feeling tour balls on the market, but if feel was a reason people dismissed Callaway balls in the past, now is a good time to try them again.
When it comes to looks, golf balls are separated by the finer details. All three balls look like premium golf balls. The alignment mark on the side has a more streamlined and aggressive look than last year’s Chrome+ or HEX Black and it gives the ball a sense of motion and speed even at rest, which ties in nicely with the name. The biggest improvement, especially from Callaway’s perspective, is that the logo on each side of the ball is facing the same direction. Other manufacturers have been doing this for a long time, but if you’ve held a Callaway ball with the logo right side up and then turned it over, you would notice that the other logo is upside down. That is not the case any longer. Like I said, it is the finer details that separate a good looking tour ball from an average looking tour ball.
I attempted to complete all my testing, both on the launch monitor and on the course, using only three of each type of ball. I was only able to complete the test with the SR-3. The firmer thermoplastic urethane cover of the SR-3 held up nicely after being subjected to a variety of different shots. There are scratches and marks for sure, and I don’t feel the ball held up quite as nicely as the 2014 Titleist Pro V1 and Pro V1X, but I could keep the same ball in play for an entire round.
The SR-2 and SR-1 however, both with softer covers than the SR-3, didn’t hold up as well. During on-course testing, I took a slice out of the SR-2 that was bad enough that it wasn’t going back in play after I finished the hole, but not quite as bad as the SR-1. With the SR-1, I took a substantial chunk out of the ball during indoor wedge testing. While it can be argued that my swing speed doesn’t match the composition of the SR-1 and those with more moderate swing speeds likely won’t have the same issue, I’m a little disappointed to see that I can slice into the SR-2 as easily as I did.
The aerodynamics and construction of each of the 2014 Speed Regime golf balls work together to create three different tour-level balls with distinctly different profiles and performance, all matched to three segments of swing speeds. The clear and simple segments of swing speed ranges — which include moderate, athletic, and tour — make it very easy for golfers to select the best Speed Regime ball for their swing.
With solid performance and the softest feel of any Callaway ball to date, the Speed Regime golf balls deserve to be on the list of any golfer getting fit for a new golf ball.