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.
[wrx_buy_now oemlink=”http://www.callawaygolf.com/golf-balls/balls-2014-speed-regime-1.html” oemtext=”Learn more from Callaway” amazonlink=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GLL70GO/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00GLL70GO&linkCode=as2&tag=golfwrxcom-20&linkId=2NKPSS5MRSBE5NGL”]
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.
[wrx_buy_now oemlink=”http://www.callawaygolf.com/golf-balls/balls-2014-speed-regime-2.html” oemtext=”Learn more from Callaway” amazonlink=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GLL6ZOW/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00GLL6ZOW&linkCode=as2&tag=golfwrxcom-20&linkId=4BOKA4W3KHNXBT2U”]
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.
[wrx_buy_now oemlink=”http://www.callawaygolf.com/golf-balls/balls-2014-speed-regime-3.html” oemtext=”Learn more from Callaway” amazonlink=”http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00GLL6XVW/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B00GLL6XVW&linkCode=as2&tag=golfwrxcom-20&linkId=QQOADANNKVSLQ46A”]
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.
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.
A lob wedge is the most dangerous club in your bag—and not in a good way
Best irons 2020: GolfWRX Members Choice (best irons overall)
Wunder: The longest irons I’ve hit this year
GolfWRX Spotted: New TaylorMade “P7MB” and “P7MC” irons (Updated)
One-length wedges are holding Bryson DeChambeau back
GolfWRX Spotted: Costco Kirkland Signature wedges on USGA Conforming List
Irons used by PGA Tour’s Top 10 in Strokes Gained: Approach
Bryson DeChambeau’s winning WITB: 2020 Rocket Mortgage Classic
Greatest forged combo iron sets of all time
GolfWRX Spotted: Mizuno JPX 921 Forged (Update: JPX 921 Tour, too)
WITB GolfWRX Members Edition: Pgarob
Recently we put out the call for our members to submit their WITBs in our forum to be featured on...
Dustin Johnson WITB 2020 (August)
Dustin Johnson WITB accurate as of the PGA Championship. Driver: TaylorMade SIM (10.5 degrees) Shaft: Fujikura Speeder 661 X (45.75...
Collin Morikawa’s winning WITB: 2020 PGA Championship
Equipment accurate as of the PGA Championship. Driver: TaylorMade SIM (8 degrees @ 8.5) Shaft: Mitsubishi Diamana D+ Limited 70 TX...
Jason Day WITB 2020 (August)
Equipment accurate as of the PGA Championship. Driver: TaylorMade SIM Max (10.5 degrees) Shaft: Mitsubishi Kuro Kage XTS 70 X 3-wood: TaylorMade...
Equipment3 weeks ago
Wunder: The longest irons I’ve hit this year
Equipment2 weeks ago
GolfWRX Spotted: New TaylorMade “P7MB” and “P7MC” irons (Updated)
Equipment2 weeks ago
GolfWRX Spotted: Costco Kirkland Signature wedges on USGA Conforming List
Equipment2 weeks ago
GolfWRX Spotted: Mizuno JPX 921 Forged (Update: JPX 921 Tour, too)
Opinion & Analysis3 weeks ago
The Wedge Guy: Maybe it’s time to rethink your short irons
Equipment2 weeks ago
GolfWRX Spotted: Mizuno JPX 921 Tour irons (thanks to Bo Hoag)
Equipment2 weeks ago
How to play golf: Building a bag for your skill level
Equipment2 days ago
2020 TaylorMade P770 irons: Distance and precision redefined