Last year I met with Dave Bartels, Senior Director of Golf Ball Research & Development for Callaway to discuss their Chrome Soft golf ball. One year on I caught up with him again at the 2017 PGA Merchandise show for the launch of the X version of the ball.
Hi Dave. How does the Chrome Soft X differ from the Chrome Soft?
The Chrome Soft golf ball has been a huge success for us. It has been very well received on Tour and particularly amongst amateur golfers and probably the reason why is because it has a very low spin profile. So through the bag, especially with the irons it generates low spin, you can compress the ball and get long distance.
When we started to do more testing with our Tour players one of the things we found was that a lot of the guys were dialled in and had pretty ideal launch conditions, so having the Chrome Soft with lower launch conditions really didn’t benefit some of the players that much.
So we identified a need for the sort of golfer who already had good launch conditions, but maybe wanted to work the ball a bit more so Chrome Soft X was invented through that process.
The main benefits is that it has more spin through the bag. So the player who wants a little more workable ball flight is going to be able to put more spin on Chrome Soft X. It is obviously a long golf ball and the other thing we designed into it is was a very flat trajectory, so lower piercing trajectories, and we did that through some manipulation of the aerodynamics.
Is it a lower trajectory through the bag or is it just with certain clubs?
Through the bag. With the irons, and especially the shorter irons, it is more about spin that will change the flight and not so much about the aerodynamics, but it is with the driver and the woods where the design flattens out the trajectory.
If it is going lower does that affect the ability to stop the ball on the greens?
The way this ball differs is that the Chrome Soft flies a little higher and it has a little higher apex and it comes in a little steeper. The Chrome Soft X flies a little lower and it generates more lift past apex so it lands shallower.
Does it therefore spin more to stop if it is coming in at a shallower angle?
If you are talking about off the tee with the driver we are looking for more roll so we are not necessarily looking to get it to stop. The Chrome Soft X is a little bit firmer and has a larger core, but it is still a softer version of other X type products out there, so the normal X balls would be about 105 compression and this is about 90 compression. So this is similar to Chrome Soft which is 75 compression versus some of the other leading competitors whose balls are around the 90 compression mark.
How many Tour players are moving to the X version from the Chrome Soft?
Our Tour players have had access to the Chrome Soft X for the majority of 2016 as a prototype version and we have got quite a good conversion so far. We had five wins on Tour in 2016 with this ball and at the 2017 Sony Open 11 of the 12 Callaway players were playing the Chrome Soft X plus Adam Hadwin shot a 59 with the ball, so the conversion has been going very well.
Is the X version designed more for performance or for feel? I imagine if it is firmer you are going to get more sound feedback from it?
The sound will be a little bit louder from it. The guys that didn’t play the Chrome Soft because they thought it was too soft think that the X is a good option for them. It is definitely a higher performing golf ball for the better golfers, for the guys who already have good control of their launch conditions, especially the higher swing speed players who will see more ball speed and will be able to work the ball better and have the more piercing trajectory.
What type of amateur player would suit this ball?
The type of amateur doesn’t have to be one with high swing speed, it will suit ones that are in control of their launch conditions, and who wants more spin to be able to work the ball. Or the guy who thinks that the Chrome Soft is too soft, which some people out there do, so that is an individual feel thing.
OK so you get more roll and distance on the longer clubs than the Chrome Soft, but it will spin more with the irons?
What in the construction allows that to happen?
It is a little counter intuitive but with Chrome Soft the reason that we can get low spin is that you can compress the ball more, and as you compress the ball more you can’t generate as much torque from it, and so it keeps the spin low.
So on this ball we have firmed up the inner core and the outer core so it adds a little bit more of a solid feel and allows you to generate more torque and therefore more spin.
Looking at the market, what proportion of sales do you think will be Chrome Soft X as opposed to Chrome Soft.
I think that’s a good question. We are not trying to convert anybody from Chrome Soft into Chrome Soft X. We feel there are two different types of golfers. We think that maybe the 20 to 25% of golfers out there who didn’t find Chrome Soft to be to their liking, either because they felt it was too soft or that it spun too little, Chrome Soft X will be a great alternative for them and a great choice. So between the two balls we feel like we can now offer the right ball for 100% of golfers.
You mentioned earlier about using the Hex dimples to create the lift, so what aspects of those have changed to create the trajectory for this ball?
The Hex pattern itself has the same number of with 320 hexagons and 12 pentagons so our general Hex shape at least in the appearance of the golf ball to the consumer hasn’t changed. But what has changed are very small details on the design of that. So it is a little bit more of an aggressive pattern, with steeper sides to the Hex shapes.
Callaway golf balls don’t have dimples in the sense of spheres cut out of the surface. Instead they have the recognisable tubular lattice network overlaid the top of the sphere which means that we have 100% coverage of the surface area.
For this ball we made those tubular lattice structures with a little bit sharper edge and what that does is that it creates more lift post apex and it also increases drag a bit more, and both those things over the course of the whole ball flight make it fly lower and roll farther.
More drag causes the lift in the first half of the flight to be a little bit lower so the ball will tend to not get up very quickly meaning it flies lower on the first half of the flight and as the ball starts slowing down past apex it gives more lift to maintain flight so it comes in at a shallower angle.
When we spoke last year about the Chrome Soft you said that maybe a 90-95 mph swing speed would be ideal. Does the Chrome Soft X ball suit faster swing speeds?
We really don’t focus much on head speed because we have seen Chrome Soft played on Tour and those are high swing speed players and there are benefits for them that outweigh the ball speed number on Trackman.
What we found was there are a segment of golfers for whom spin is much more critical for them, especially the guys on Tour who are dialled into 2400 rpm and they hit it a little high on the face. They don’t want a ball that is going to then drop below 2000 rpm and fall out of the sky, so they want to keep more spin and the higher spin of Chrome Soft X helps this.
And it is the same with the amateur golfers who have dialled in their launch conditions with the driver but want more spin available on the ball so that they can work the ball easier on the approach shots.
Thank you Dave.
Callaway Chrome Soft X golf Ball review