BallsDecember 16, 2014

Callaway going soft on ball technology

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For years, softer compression golf balls were the signature of slower swingers and better players consistently gravitated toward high-compression models. That's been especially true since the advent of multilayer, urethane-covered models in 2000. While the preceding generation of players had favored the soft feel of wound, balata-covered balls, they eventually gravitated away from that feel preference for the obvious low-spin, high-speed distance advantages of solid-core construction balls.

According to Dave Bartels, Callaway's senior director of golf ball research and development, the company's latest golf ball, the multilayer, urethane-covered Chrome Soft, is a shift from that paradigm.

"The firmer feeling golf balls have become the benchmark for distance and all-around tour-level performance," Bartels says. "But most golfers would agree that soft balls feel better. In the past it's always come at a penalty to performance."

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Chrome Soft is a three-piece construction that features an intermediate mantle layer surrounded by what Bartels calls the softest formulation of Callaway's urethane cover ever. The core is the key development. Its roots lie in Callaway's two-piece Supersoft ball, the company's top-selling model since it was introduced in January.

"Golf ball designers have realized that you can create low-compression balls to reduce spin with the longer clubs," Bartels says. "With SuperSoft, the soft core compresses yet still retains its energy and restores its energy as it regains its shape to generate fast ballspeed. It doesn't lose its energy."

In simple terms, think of a foam ball with racquetball-like resiliency. Bartels says that unlike most tour balls, which can have a compression in the 80s and 90s, Chrome Soft is at 65. Other companies are exploring a similar area of lower compression, multilayer urethane-covered balls, including Bridgestone with its B330-RX and RXS balls and Wilson with the FG Tour.

"In general, as you make the materials softer inside a golf ball, they get slower," Bartels says. "We've been able to buck that trend with this." In fact, Bartels suggested that Chrome Soft without the urethane cover would be similar to Supersoft. The urethane cover is designed to increase spin and control for shorter shots into and around the green. He says the Chrome Soft's cover is "the most durable golf ball cover we've brought to market."

Chrome Soft features Callaway's hexagonal dimple structure to enhance surface coverage for consistent aerodynamic performance. Unlike the company's Speed Regime line of golf balls, whose three versions are geared to specific swing speed levels, Bartels says Chrome Soft's aerodynamic profile "is designed for golfers of all swing speeds and are optimized in particular for the lower spin conditions."

Bartels did not indicate whether any of Callaway's staff of tour players would be using Chrome Soft, but the company already has begun using Phil Mickelson, who recently renewed his endorsement with the company, to promote the ball in videos and commercials.

Follow @MikeStachura

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