- Callaway is introducing three new Chrome Soft models featuring Precision Technology
- Chrome Soft, Chrome Soft X and Chrome Soft X LS have all been refreshed
- Retail price is $49.99/dz
Callaway Chrome Soft golf balls with precision technology.
If you’re an avid MyGolfSpy reader, that’s perhaps not the first thing you think of when it comes to the Callaway Chrome Soft family of golf balls but Callaway is so confident in its increasing ability to produce consistent, defect-free golf balls that it’s stamping a “Precision Technology” logo on every box of 2022 Chrome Soft, Chrome Soft X and Chrome Soft X LS golf balls.
Turning the Tables
Under Chip Brewer’s leadership, Callaway has embraced the idea of the Mongolian reversal. If you’re unfamiliar with the phrase, think of it as flipping the script or turning weakness into strength and, in the process, one-upping competitors. With that in mind, it’s fitting that Callaway, the company whose golf balls are basically the reason why off-center cores are a part of the golf ball conversation, now is leading the charge to quantify the impact of what it calls “COs” or concentricity offsets.
I’ll be honest. I didn’t see that coming.
Since our first robot ball test, we’ve been telling you that not all golf balls are created, or at least manufactured, equal. Ball Lab has confirmed that inconsistencies are quantifiable and now Callaway is helping us put some numbers on the real-world performance implications.
Let’s start with some of the data Callaway shared.
In robot testing of a ball with a known concentricity offset problem across six different impact points, Callaway found that, with a 7-iron, ball speed can differ by 2.7 mph.
We’re only getting started.
Launch angles differ by as much as 2.1 degrees, backspin by 1,200 rpm, side angles by 2.6 degrees and sidespin by 1,204 rpm.
Callaway’s data suggests that when cores are off-center or layers are offset and non-concentric, it can be like having six different golf balls in one.
Wedge guys love versatility. Ball guys, not so much … at least not like this.
When all those numbers come together, the result is a nearly five-yard increase in carry distance and upwards of 17 yards of left-right dispersion. Callaway says that’s the difference between hitting or missing a green. That’s definitely true. I’d also add that, from what we’ve seen with robots hitting driver, it’s also the difference between the middle of the fairway and the wrong side of the white stakes.
At least if you love your off-center golf balls, you get to hit them more often.
As always, there is some nuance here. The actual implication of COs depends on a few factors: how much mass has shifted, how far it shifted and where in the ball did the shift take place (near the center versus towards the perimeter).
It’s Center of Gravity 101 type stuff but the larger point is that off-center cores, concentricity offsets … whatever you want to call it … it absolutely matters and it’s no longer just us saying it.
The data is coming from Callaway.
Callaway also acknowledges the same roadblocks we’ve hit in trying to convey the message. Given the variability we bring to the table as golfers, you may not notice the impact of screwed-up layers on a shot-for-shot basis and you probably aren’t likely to blame the ball, either. That doesn’t mean it didn’t happen nor does it mean the ball isn’t to blame (sometimes).
As Callaway moves towards the launch of its 2022 Chrome Soft lineup, the $50 million spent on factory upgrades are fully realized. Not a single piece of core machinery is more than a handful of years old and, with the addition of technologies like 3D X-ray, Callaway has one of the most modern (if not the most modern) golf ball factories on the planet.
At the core (sorry) of Callaway’s improvements is the addition of 3D X-ray technology. The first deployment of the technology gave Callaway the ability to look at the core of every ball it made and presumably pluck the off-center cores (while spinning up new machines to more precisely center cores).
With the new generation of Chrome Soft, Callaway has expanded its X-ray capabilities beyond the core. It can now see (and measure) concentricity at every layer of the golf ball, all in digital high definition.
In a perfect world, nobody would make a bad ball. The next best thing is to make sure bad balls never end up in our golf bags. Callaway’s X-ray technology helps to snag bad balls before they make it out of the factory while tighter tolerances and improvements to its manufacturing capabilities have significantly reduced the number of manufacturing defects.
It remains to be seen the extent to which Callaway has addressed quality control in other areas (weight, diameter and compression consistency) but Callaway says it is continuing to improve in all areas, so it’s worth making a couple of additional points.
First, concentricity offsets almost certainly have more of an impact on performance—at least on a shot-by-shot basis—than inconsistencies in weight, compression, etc.
Second, the various aspects of golf ball quality don’t exist in a vacuum. Typically, when one aspect of manufacturing quality improves, others improve as a result. We’ll sort that out in Ball Lab early this year but it sure seems like Callaway is doing (certainly saying) the right things to position itself as a serious player in quality discussion.
Again, I didn’t see that coming.
Making Noise on the PGA TOUR
To be sure, Callaway’s ball division is riding a bit of a hot streak. Xander Schauffele won Olympic gold, Jon Rahm moved to Chrome Soft X from TaylorMade and won the U.S. Open and Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship.
Along the way, the company claimed its highest share ever in the ball category and, while that particular bullet point probably warrants an asterisk given industry-wide supply chain issues, it’s not unreasonable to say Callaway’s ball division has some momentum rolling into 2022 with a lineup of new balls that are just different enough from the prior generation to make things interesting.
2022 Callaway Chrome Soft
For 2022, the standard Callaway Chrome Soft will feature three-piece construction (the last two generations were four-piece models). Callaway is claiming the new ball is faster (and longer) but that it didn’t have to boost compression to gain speed.
Callaway says the additional speed comes from a new Hyper-Elastic SoftFast Core. I’d be remiss not to point out that while it is possible to get a bit more speed out of softer materials, in the golf ball world, “soft” and “fast” are diametrically opposed. Soft is … you know the rest. That said, a larger core is typically a faster core and, by eliminating one of the mantle layers in the 2022 Chrome Soft, Callaway was able to make the core bigger.
In what you’ll see is a theme with the new Chrome Soft lineup, Callaway has softened the new model. On our gauges, the 2020 model measured 75 compression on average. Our preliminary measurement of the 2022 Chrome Soft suggests the new ball is +/- 70 compression. Those numbers suggest Chrome Soft will be just fine (maybe even enjoyable) for moderate swing-speed players. However, faster players risk over-compressing the ball and losing speed. It’s why standard Chrome Soft play on the PGA TOUR is effectively zero.
Other changes relative to the 2020 Chrome Soft include lower spin (~150 rpm) on full shots and a new, low-drag dimple design that provides a more penetrating flight.
The result here will be entirely golfer-dependent but, if penetrating is code for lower flight, paired with lower spin on an already low-spin ball, there’s a risk that Callaway may be trading away some playability for additional distance.
As part of its performance evaluation, Callaway uses a “par-4 metric” which basically puts a number to the distance gained over your driver and approach shots on a typical par-4. With the new Chrome Soft, Callaway says you can expect a little over five yards of additional distance over those two shots.
It doesn’t sound like a massive number but, in a world where gains are almost always minimal, five yards, even if it takes two shots to realize it, isn’t inconsequential.
It’s no secret that I’m not a Chrome Soft guy but if you’re already a Chrome Soft fan, chances are you’re going to love the new ball.
2022 Chrome Soft X
The Chrome Soft X is Callaway’s most played ball on Tour. Despite that, it habitually underperforms at retail. With the new ball, Callaway is hoping that will change.
On a comparative basis, if we say the changes to Chrome Soft are significant, updates to the Chrome Soft X qualify as minor tweaks. That’s not unusual when you’re working on a product used by Tour players. The standard wish list typically is something like “make it better, but don’t change anything.”
Good luck with that.
With that in mind, Callaway is still leveraging four-piece construction. The company says it was able to leverage its new core formulation to eke out an extra .7 mph of ball speed while making the ball spin neutral. That’s notable given that our preliminary measurements suggest the 2022 Chrome Soft X is softer, though by just a few points. Otherwise, it’s largely the same as the previous generation which is almost certainly what the Tour staff wanted.
My disclaimer with the Chrome Soft X is twofold. First, as I’ve noted a time or few, it’s not soft. With compression in the mid-90s, it’s similar to the Titleist Pro V1x. That is to say it’s firm.
My second point addresses Callaway’s suggestion that Chrome Soft X is a mid-spin ball. There are certainly higher spinning balls—Kirkland Performance Plus and Mizuno RB Tour series spring to mind—but as far as balls actually played on Tour go, it’s on higher-spinning end. That’s not a knock on the ball; it’s just what it is.
Golfers looking for a true mid-spin ball may be better served by the Chrome Soft X LS.
Chrome Soft X LS
Speaking of …
The Chrome Soft X LS was added to the Chrome Soft line last year. The original will have a less than a one-year run and that’s fine as it makes sense to bring everything up to the same technology and launch fresh at the same time.
While Callaway bills the four-piece Chrome Soft X LS as a low-spin ball (it’s definitively lower-spinning than the standard Chrome Soft X), our test results suggest the original was more accurately characterized as a mid-spin ball relative to the market as a whole. Again, that’s not bad. I just want you to know what to expect.
With the new version, Callaway has made a few tweaks that may boost the appeal. First, the 2022 Chrome Soft X LS is softer than the previous version. On our gauges, the original hovered around 100 compression. The new model is much closer to the stock Chrome Soft X (94-96 on our gauges). As with the other new Chrome Soft balls, the new core design has provided a speed boost. Callaway puts the number at .8 mph.
Chrome Soft X LS was already one of the fastest balls on the market. If Callaway was able to soften it a bit and still add some additional oomph it’s going to be an intriguing option for guys who need help shaving spin and don’t mind more distance.
As with the standard Chrome Soft, Callaway has reduced spin on the Chome Soft X LS by roughly 120-130 rpm depending on the club. As much as I don’t like a spin reduction on Chrome Soft, I absolutely love it here. It should bring Chrome Soft X LS closer to a true low-spin performance spec.
Perhaps the most intriguing upgrade to the 2022 Chrome Soft X LS is a new softer cover. That should produce more greenside spin. That’s typically the biggest gripe among users of what I call low-spin bomber balls. Left Dash users will often say it doesn’t spin as much around the green as they’d like. For its part, TaylorMade softened TP5x in part to add some spin around the green. Callaway may have done the same but if it has added greenside spin without trading away speed, it could have something special.
My hunch is that the standard Chrome Soft will continue to perform well at retail and lead the market in the low-compression urethane space.
I’m less certain about Chrome Soft X and Chrome Soft X LS.
To date, better players haven’t been drawn to the Chrome Soft X product lines in any meaningful numbers. Callaway’s refusal to drop “soft” from the name probably isn’t helping. I could get behind a CS Tour but this insistence on explicitly spelling out “soft” on mid-90s compression balls is, at best, silly and, at worst, intentionally misleading.
That said, retail fortunes could change if Callaway continues to rack up Tour wins. Positioning itself as the leader in precision golf ball technology may resonate as well though, in my experience, golfers have long memories and the mistakes of the past are still visible in the rearview mirror.
And while it’s just one guy’s opinion, given that Callaway fully understands the realities of fitting golfers (for both balls and clubs) and that its ball options are still somewhat limited (Callaway still doesn’t have a true Pro V1 competitor in the lineup), the new Chrome Soft tagline “Better for the Best, Better for Everyone” sits about as well with me as a robust dinner at Taco Bell chased with 32 ounces of day-old gas station coffee.
That said, the improvements to the factory are real and that should manifest itself by way of steadily improving product.
I think we can safely say Callaway isn’t going to eclipse Titleist sales this season but, with a newfound emphasis on quality and precision, it may just capture the attention of golfers and its competitors.
The 2022 Callaway Chrome soft is available in white, white/red Truvis, yellow/black Truvis, white Triple Track and yellow Triple Track. The Chrome Soft X and Chrome Soft X LS are available in white, white Triple Track and yellow Triple Track.
The retail price for the 2022 Chrome Soft family is $49.99 a dozen. Retail availability begins Jan. 28.
For more information, visit Callawaygolf.com.