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.

The Review

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

chrome-soft-x-12-ball-box-2017

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.

2017ChromeSoftBalls_spinrate

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.”

chrome-soft-x-cutaway-2017The Chrome Soft X ($39.99) will be in stores February 3 in White and Yellow.

Performance

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

2017ChromeSoft_Wedge Main differences we expect to see: Not many. If anything, the Chrome Soft X might generate slightly higher ball speeds.

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.

6-iron shots

2017ChromeSoft_6Iron2Main differences we expect to see: The Chrome Soft X should generate faster ball speeds and more spin than the Chrome Soft.

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.

Driver shots

2017ChromeSoft_Driver

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

Chrome Soft X around the GreenThere 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

Chrome Soft on the GreenPutting 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.

Durability

Chrome Soft X Durability

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 Takeaway

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.

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When he is not obsessing about his golf game, Kane heads up an innovation lab responsible for driving innovative digital product development for Fortune 500 companies. He is also the co-founder of RoundShout and creator of Ranger GPS, the free iOS GPS app for the driving range.

On a quest to become a scratch golfer, Kane writes about his progress (for better or worse) at kanecochran.com and contributes golf technology-focused articles on GolfWRX.com.

15 COMMENTS

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  1. This is a great ball, might be as good as the Pro V1x. Holds it line very well in the wind, nice feel to it, a little firmer than the Chrome Soft. Callaway really has something here for the harder swinger!

    • Glad you like the data! I can’t say whether it is normal or not for others. But for me, I’m not quite as efficient with the driver as I am with the irons. I’m working on it, so the 255 carry hopefully has some room for improvement. Your numbers sound pretty good to me though!

    • Kane’s Angle of Attack is prob negative 1-2*(hitting slightly down at impact) vs the 3-5* positive (swinging up) AoA of ppl like Justin Thomas. Because of that, his drives spin too much, robbing him of distance. His negative AoA and likely hands forward at impact help him deloft his wedges and irons, leading to lower launch with high spin. Based on Trackman data, with a clubhead speed of around 105 with the driver, assuming a perfect smash factor of 1.53, the ideal launch angle is about 14* with a dynamic loft of around 15* and perfect spin rates of btwn 1700-2000 RPMs. Combine those numbers with swinging up 3-5* will yield a carry of around 270 and a total distance around 305. I have done a ton of Trackman testing and those were the numbers that consistently yielded the best results.

  2. without reading this article i would’ve assumed this ball was intended to spin less. next ball i presume will be the chrome ‘extra’ soft meaning its a harder, higher compression ball.

  3. It’s such a joke. The Chrome Soft was such a sloppy sponge ball for the Tour that they create a X version. Why not call it Chrome Hard? It doesn’t require the Soft in the name. How about Chrome Tour?

  4. I am somewhat amused that this will spin more than Chrome Soft. With the short irons, there is no ball I spin more than CS from 90-125 yrds. How would this new version compare with B330-RX?

  5. Kane! What ball do you play? I’m fascinated by Bridgestone but trackman has me right at that 105 cutoff as well. I know a lot goes into it in terms of spin and loft and all that, but just curious what you’ve found to work for you. I’m always wondering if I should be playing B330 vs B330rx, Pro V1 vs Pro V1x, or even just throw it all out and play an e6 speed.

    Thanks for the article!

    • I’ve actually had the Chrome Soft in the bag for most of the last two seasons. Its just such a well-rounded ball I haven’t seen a reason to switch, except when I’m testing new ones. Before that I played the B330 with Pro V1x mixed in. We’ve been testing the new Bridgestone line for some upcoming reviews (which will include the e6). They have been making really quality balls for years. But you’re right, it is all about your own launch conditions. If you start switching it up, let me know how it goes.

  6. I’m glad I read this article based on your swing data. At first I thought I would need the X more than the normal ball that I have been using. I just got a custom fitting and had to get heavier shafts that would knock my spin numbers down because I launched a 7 iron like a PW. Maybe the Chrome Soft X would be a good option if the new clubs dial my spin back too far, but from what I am reading I should stick with the Chrome Softs.

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