Callaway’s lineup of new balls for 2019 are a reminder that as compelling as tour-played golf balls might be, there are a lot more golfers who aren’t tour players and those golfers just might need a different kind of ball.
That’s why the company is debuting three new balls aimed at players who will never get closer to being in a tour event than the gallery ropes. The lineup includes the next generation of Supersoft, the popular two-piece low-compression ball; an oversized ball aimed at making launching shots easier, Supersoft Magna; and the ERC Soft, a new kind of ball that Callaway golf ball R&D boss Dave Bartels calls “a distance ball that isn’t your conventional distance ball.”
ERC Soft is easily the most ambitious of the new offerings, Bartels said: “What if we could take all the innovations we’ve developed thus far and combine that with what we’re currently working on— how different could we make a ball at this price point?”
The difference in the ERC Soft comes from bringing to the distance category the two-piece core introduced last year in the company’s tour-proven Chrome Soft balls. That core uses graphene, a one-atom thick nanoparticle in the outer core layer to increase the difference in compression between the outer core and the inner core to help full shots launch higher with less spin. On the ERC Soft, the graphene-infused dual core is larger, including a larger inner core.
“That helped us achieve soft compression with low spin without sacrificing ball speed,” Bartels said. “In parallel to that we’ve been working on a new cover material that’s kind of a hybrid between the conventional surlyn and our tour premium urethane material. It’s kind of a base Surlyn foundational recipe where we add two unique proprietary ingredients to that to increase ballspeed and increase durability.
“Those together really increase the ball speed and allow us to achieve some level of spin around the green that isn’t really seen in distance golf balls.”
Bartels said the new “hybrid cover” is aimed at satisfying the needs of most golfers, even on shots around the green where typically balls with a urethane cover have a spin advantage.
“This ball will provide a certain level of spin that satisfies the majority of golfers out there,” he said. “It really does perform better around the green than many urethane balls on the market.”
Completing the ERC Soft’s features is a three-line alignment graphic that is based on hyperacuity science and how the eyes focus on the relative position of an object. “It’s scientifically proven that it helps your eyes align the product better when you have three lines in parallel with a certain spacing and a certain color configuration that we’ve put on this golf ball,” Bartels said.
The latest generation of Callaway’s low-compression two-piece ball was built on the concept of “do no harm.” The popular ball’s soft feel has been its calling card along with its low-spin distance, and Bartels said the golf ball R&D team’s only challenge was “to make it longer without changing the overall playability.”
The new Supersoft features redesigned hexagonal dimple pattern for improved low-spin aerodynamics. The Supersoft’s feel was maintained through a new softer cover that Bartels said “improves spin around the green and makes the overall compression a little softer.”
In addition to its standard white and yellow offerings, the new Supersoft line also will incorporate four new matte finish colors (red, pink, green and orange).
Perhaps the most interesting of the three new balls is the new Supersoft Magna, an oversized golf ball aimed at everyday players looking for a ball that might improve launch and solid contact. The oversized Magna franchise was introduced a quarter century ago with the idea of straighter flight and forgiveness, and this iteration brings the soft feel, low-spin, low-compression benefits of Supersoft with the visual benefits of a larger ball. The original Magna was 1.72 inches in diameter, vs. most standard golf balls which are 1.68 inches in diameter. (There is no rule on the maximum size of a golf ball; it simply cannot be smaller than 1.68 inches.) The Supersoft Magna is 1.732 inches in diameter.
A larger ball means the ball's center of gravity would be higher than a standard ball, approximately .0TK inches in the case of a Magna. The more the center of gravity of the club at impact is below the center of gravity of the ball, the more backspin will be reduced. Less backspin means more of the ball's energy is directed toward moving forward than spinning. In a word, more distance. A lower center of gravity also can help the ball launch higher. Of course, it also means there are different aerodynamic challenges for Callaway's patented hexagonal-shaped dimples in terms of size and pattern, Bartels said.
"Cross-sectional area being bigger it creates more drag so on the technical side we really spent some time developing the HEX aerodynamics to really mitigate and reduce as much as possible that extra drag," he said.
The Supersoft Magna is designed to be average-golfer, slower-swinger friendly with its soft compression.
“It’s built on the same chassis as Supersoft, with extremely low compression,” Bartels said. “The cover is a little bit thicker on Magna to make up for the extra size and what both of those things do in combination is they help the ball launch higher and with very low spin.”
Bartels said the appeal is that the oversized ball looks almost like it’s teed up in the fairway, which inspires confidence in average golfers.
“We were seeing the quality of the shot was better,” he said. “Some golfers who don’t generally have solid contact are gaining the ball speed and better launch conditions by making better contact off the center of the club face.”
Supersoft ($23), Supersoft Magna ($23) and ERC Soft ($40) will be in stores Feb. 8.