Having spent more than $50 million on their golf ball plant in Chicopee over the last couple of years, it's pretty clear that Callaway mean business.
They are having a real go at the ball market in order to increase the share of Tour players and amateur golfers using their ball. But how do you compete against the juggernaut that is Titleist and the mighty Pro V1?
I think there's two keys here. Firstly, get some recognition on Tour, and secondly, come in at an attractive price point.
Add these two together and you get the new Chrome Soft X LS (low spin).
This ball is aimed at elite and low handicap golfers looking for a lower spinning ball to gain more distance off the tee with their higher swing speeds, whilst also producing enough short game spin to get a full wedge to stop to a tight pin.
What's It All About?
The Chrome Soft X LS features a 4-piece, SoftFast core construction which is larger than in previous Chrome Soft models, a development which Callaway says will increase both ball speed and distance off the tee.
This core also works alongside a High Speed Dual Mantle System, also designed to produce faster ball speed. The Soft Inner Mantle and resilient Firm Outer Mantle work together to generate these ball speeds along with adding more consistency to spin rates - a setup which is made to increase the total distance offered.
The thin Urethane Cover generates high spin levels and plenty of feel around the green, whilst the durable, resilient cover means that the spin stays down on longer shots. This produces the great combination of low spin bombs off the tee, with plenty of grip around the greens.
Finally a new Aerodynamic Design reduces drag whilst the ball is in the air to maximise distance on longer shots. It helps to produce a penetrating ball flight which is ideal for the ball's low spin characteristics.
Due to golf courses being closed in England I couldn’t take this ball outside, but I have tried my best to devise a testing process to trial this ball and get results right the way through the bag from driver down to the wedges.
I took my usual Titleist ProV1x balls down to LSH Auto, Mercedes Benz, Stockport to hit on Trackman 4 to compare against the Chrome Soft X LS. I also took the Chrome Soft X in order to compare the differences between Callaway's existing offering and their new low spin option.
The questions I was looking to answer were: Does the fast ball speed I want off my driver face hinder my short irons? Or can I have both? What is the difference between the three balls and who should play the Chrome Soft X LS?
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Callaway Chrome Soft X LS Golf Ball Review
Looks and Feel
The ball itself looks identical to the other balls in the Chrome Soft, and it comes in White, Yellow or Triple Track finishes as
with the rest of the range.
The packaging is light grey, making it easily recognisable when you dash into the Pro Shop to buy a sleeve before you head out to the first tee.
On the back it also says 'Tour Certified Performance', which is a clear nod to the type of golfer that this ball is aimed at.
The ball feels fast off the face, even on wedges shots, with a firmer feel than the standard Chrome Soft, but noticeably firmer than the Chrome Soft X LS or Titleist Pro V1x.
From my previous experience with the Chrome Soft ball I have found that it is super soft and spins a lot, which is fine, but Callaway clearly feel that there is a gap in their offering to players wanting less spin and a firmer feel.
I wanted to trial the Chrome Soft X LS up against the Titleist Pro V1 in a number of different scenarios:
Pitch Shots - The numbers were very similar between both the X LS and the Pro V1, with the height and carry distance within one yard of each other.
I would say that the X LS did produce slightly straighter shots (this was a theme for the ball throughout the whole test), and the spin rates were slightly higher. The consistency in spin rates for both balls was very impressive.
Pitching Wedge - The X LS showed marginal gains on the numbers produced by the Pro V1x, as the ball speed was a little faster, and it flew higher with more spin and a little more carry. With the wedge in hand, the Callaway ball just felt a touch hotter than the Pro V1x and the ball flight was straighter again.
I like this because I do have around a 15 yard gap between my wedge and 9 iron, so I'm always looking to squeeze a couple of extra yards out of my wedge if possible.
7 Iron -
Once again the numbers were very similar across the board, although I'd have to say the Pro V1x just came out on top thanks to a better dispersion on this test.
Driver - The important data for me with the driver is, of course, distance and accuracy. The Pro V1x averaged out at 216 yards carry, totalling 240 yards, whilst the X LS was one yard further at 217 yards, with a total distance of 242 yards.
The accuracy with both drivers was pretty similar, with a couple of slight outliers which were more down to me than anything the golf ball was doing.
Another thing to note is that Callaway want their golf ball to have a more penetrating ball flight with low spin, and compared to the Pro V1x in testing it was slightly lower and slightly lower spin on average.
I even hit one shot that dipped down to 1940rpm and peaked at just 71 feet, so if you're looking for that lower, penetrating flight that runs out a bit more then there is definitely some potential there.
I also threw in the Chrome Soft X for driver testing to make sure that the numbers were sufficiently different between that and the new X LS. The Chrome Soft X flew higher and had a higher spin rate, as well as being more varied in spin numbers from 4000rpm all the way down to below 2200rpm. Whilst my good shots were carrying over 220 yards and able to keep up with both the X LS and Pro V1 x, I also felt that my dispersion suffered a little compared to the straighter-flying X LS and Pro V1x.
Closest To The Pin - I hit three shots each with the Chrome Soft X and the X LS into the 16th hole at Le Golf National, to see how these balls would react coming into a green in more of a real 'game environment'.
The pin was tucked into the back left corner, requiring a draw, and the X LS came out on top as it was easier to control the shape. I found that the added spin on the Chrome Soft X meant that I was turning it too much, and I found myself missing the green left.
Callaway Chrome Soft X LS Golf Ball Verdict
The biggest compliment that I can give to this golf ball is that it performed almost exactly the same as the Titleist Pro V1x - widely known as the benchmark for top-end golf balls - during my testing, and it was arguably a little better in some areas.
It did exactly what Callaway said it would do, particularly in teams of the straighter, lower flight, compared to the Chrome Soft X.
Before testing I assumed that the X LS would go up against the Pro V1x Left Dash (Titleist's lowest spinning ball) but when I tested it, it was more comparable to the Pro V1x.
It did exactly what Callaway stated it would do on the box, flying straight with a lower spin rate in the long game and higher spin in the short game - so that dual mantle system really is giving you the best of both worlds.
Comparing the X LS to the Chrome Soft X, the LS produced a straighter, more forgiving ball flight which had less spin on my longer shots by around 300-400rpm as Callaway had claimed.
The Chrome Soft range needed a low spin golf ball, and when the players with high swing speeds get their hands on them I wouldn't be surprised to see it become the preferred option among all Callaway's players on Tour.
You do have to be a little bit careful when looking for golf balls nowadays though, just because it has an 'X' on the ball doesn't mean that it is the same for every brand. In my testing, I found the Chrome Soft X to be like the Pro V1, and the X LS to be like the Pro V1x.
Titleist have been the number one ball in golf for decade, so of course it's going take Callaway some time to catch them even with the big investments they have made in recent years.
But with a ball that is very comparable in performance, and at a much cheaper price, they are moving in the right direction both on Tour and for amateurs. If the likes of Rahm, Schauffele and Mickelson change to the X LS, you'll know that it's passed the test.
Who is it aimed at?
At the start of my test I thought I'd end up saying that this ball suits those golfers who swing in excess of 100 mph with the driver and who struggle with generating too much spin on the ball in the long game. However I really enjoyed using the ball and could see the benefits for my own game despite the fact that my swing speed is only 93 mph.
These balls are priced at £39.99 per dozen, which is almost 25% cheaper than the Pro V1x. It seems then that this should be a no-brainer for players wanting a firmer, lower spinning ball in their longest shots and who aren't opposed to looking down on another logo other than Titleist.
This ball is moving Callaway forward in the better golfer's ball market.
Would I use it?
Yes I definitely would. I already use the Titleist Pro V1x or TaylorMade TP5x and as I proved, the performance with the Chrome Soft X LS was just as good so I'd be more than happy to consider putting it into play.
- Cheaper than TaylorMade and Titleist options
- Does exactly what it says on the box
- Straighter ball flight than the Chrome Soft X
- Is it low spinning enough?
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