• Callaway has announced its second-generation ERC Soft golf ball with Triple Track.
  • Callaway bills it as the company’s “longest ball with soft feel.”
  • Retail price is $34.99 a dozen.

a closeup of the Callaway ERC Soft Golf Ball

With the second generation of the Callaway ERC Soft golf ball, it’s reasonable to expect some changes. Just don’t expect a dialing back of Triple Track to be among them. If you hate Triple Track, Callaway has a ball for you but it’s not the ERC Soft.

Callaway ERC Soft – High Energy Core

Callaway bills the ERC Soft as “our longest ball with soft feel.” I’m not sure what that says about Chrome Soft but let’s not dwell on it.

As is typical for golf ball stories, the Callaway ERC Soft golf ball features a high-energy core. “High energy” is always going to be relative based on the point of comparison so the simple takeaway is that golfers like soft so creating faster (high-energy) soft materials is something everyone across the golf ball industry is trying to do.

This is especially true for Callaway who, with the exception of Chrome Soft X and Warbird, lives in the low-compression space.

an image showing the construction of the new Callaway ERC Soft Golf Ball

High-Speed Mantle

To some extent, a core is only as fast as the material that surrounds it so it makes sense that the ERC Soft would feature a high-speed mantle layer. Tradenames vary but you’ll hear a version of this story with nearly every ball release.

The mantle layer (high-speed or otherwise) is especially important in three-piece low-compression balls. Wrapping a softer core material in a firmer mantle helps generate speed on longer shots and give the cover a firmer underlayer to play against for more spin around the green.

PARALOID™ Hybrid 2.0 Cover

The ERC Soft is an ionomer-cover ball – technically it’s an ionomer blend but we’ll get there. There are two basic comparisons to be drawn between ionomer/Surlyn and urethane (the cover material used on multi-layer Tour balls).

The first, everyone understands. Ionomer is cheaper.

The other is that ionomer is typically firmer and thicker so it’s less durable and spins less than urethane. It also doesn’t feel quite as soft as. With the emergence of the premium ionomer segment of the market, brands are looking to more sophisticated ionomer blends to keep costs low while engineering a bit more spin and better feel into the cover.

Callaway’s answer is a new cover that features what it calls a PARALOID™ Impact Modifier. Callaway says the material produced by DOW Chemical provides more spin and softer feel around the green. Ultimately, it boils down to trying to make something that isn’t urethane behave more like urethane.

The new Callaway Golf ERC Soft Golf Ball

Callaway ERC Soft Versus the Competition

Callaway’s marketing material says the ERC Soft golf ball compares favorably to the Titleist AVX and TaylorMade Tour Response.  Compared to those balls (and the original ERC Soft), says Callaway, the ERC Soft golf ball launched higher, spun less and was 3.9 yards longer than AVX and just a bit more than three yards longer than Tour Response.

To be sure, the point of comparison is questionable. Both of those competitor balls have urethane covers. They’re going to spin more and AVX in particular is an outlier in the soft(ish) space. It’s low-launch by design.

It can be argued that Callaway did a bit of cherry-picking here. This, too, is typical when you’re playing by the home team’s rules. That said, I’m old enough to remember when Callaway objected when Titleist took a similar approach in drawing favorable comparisons between its ionomer-covered Tour Soft and the Callaway Chrome Soft.

Whether you want to frame it as a goose/gander situation or put in the “pot meets kettle” category likely doesn’t matter much. Though I will add that I believe the most reasonable comparison is with the Titleist Tour Soft but I didn’t get a vote.

Ball Wars

As a footnote in recent golf ball history, this is all part of an ongoing tit-for-tat between Callaway and Titleist. Chrome Soft took a nibble out of Titleist’s market share. AVX was launched as the answer to Chrome Soft. ERC Soft was the answer to AVX followed by Tour Soft, the answer to ERC Soft. And so here we are.

With all the back-and-forth glove-slapping it’s fair to wonder if just maybe both companies became a bit too concerned about the other. That’s perhaps part of the story behind the new ERC Soft as Callaway says that, this time around, it has put more effort into thinking about golfers and ultimately delivering what they want.

That sounds like the sort of thing that should be obvious enough but when you start trying to one-up the competition or get lost in your own minutiae, it’s not hard to lose track of the consumer. I doubt any manufacturer would quibble with the notion that sometimes what the golfer wants isn’t the best-performing product they can make.

It’s a simpler proposition in the driver category where everybody wants distance (even if they say they don’t). With golf balls, however, the conversation is a bit more nuanced. The list of what golfers want includes soft feel, bright colors (or no colors), more spin (or less spin), distance, cool patterns, fancy logos, dirt-cheap prices and, every so often, some real performance.

 

Callaway ERC Soft – Is Perception Reality?

The larger point is that perception and preference often matter every bit as much, if not more, than performance.

With that in mind, there’s a not-so-insignificant detail that was gleaned from testing the new Callaway ERC golf ball against the competition using everyday golfers.

With the standard disclaimer about home-field advantage, Callaway’s test group liked ERC Soft better than AVX, specifically noting the higher launch.

I could provide an explanation of why I think that is (ERC is appreciably softer and AVX launches exceptionally low for a soft-ish ball) but ultimately those reasons—whether they be driven by perception or reality, performance or preference—don’t matter a bit.

They liked ERC Soft better. It’s that simple.

Callaway is hoping you will, too.

Callaway ERC Soft Golf Ball – Pricing and Availability

The new Callaway ERC Soft will retail for $34.99. It’s available in Triple Track White and Triple Track Yellow only.

For more information, visit CallawayGolf.com.