Ball tested: Callaway HEX Black Tour
Specs: Construction – Five-piece; Cover – Urethane; Core – Polybutadiene; Dimples / Pattern – 332 in HEX (hexagonal) design
Some manufacturers do not reveal or emphasize the compression ratings of new golf balls. Some models are now designed and marketed to fit and appeal to a golfers preferences for price, distance, spin, feel and control.
Price as tested (new): $39.99 per dozen
Ball notes: Callaway clearly poured a lot of R&D into its newest top-line “tour” model. Just ask them.
The company proclaims the HEX Black Tour “our most highly engineered Tour ball. Ever,” adding that it “strikes the perfect balance of Tour performance for both the distance-seeker and the control freak.”
No doubt, the HEX Black Tour is loaded with technology. Its five layers include two cores – one soft, one firm – to create “high spin separation” between long shots (minimal spin) and short ones (maximum spin). There’s also the hexagonal dimples and 100% surface covering pattern, both unique to Callaway and its HEX lineup.
Pros including Ernie Els, Jim Furyk and Phil Mickelson have put the HEX Black Tour in play (though Mickelson had switched to Callaway’s HEX Chrome+ as of this writing). And Golf Digest thought highly enough of the ball to give it a gold medal in 2013 Hot List testing.
Sound and feel: The HEX Black Tour is slightly firmer than most tour balls, especially as you get closer to the cup. Unless you use a putter with a soft insert, this is most noticeable on the greens. While it was plenty soft for our personal taste, beauty in this department is usually in the ear (and hand) of the beholder.
Off the tee: We’ve been impressed with the trajectory and stability of other HEX models tested, including the HEX Chrome, HEX Chrome+ and HEX Diablo. The HEX Black Tour displayed a similar penetrating flight and deep down-range carry. Undeniably long, accurate and workable enough to please highly skilled golfers.
From the fairway / rough: That piercing ball flight comes in especially handy on approach shots, even more so when the wind is blowing. While no ball can completely negate the effects of a strong headwind or crosswind, the HEX Black Tour held its line as well as any ball we’ve played. As for spin and stopping power, it was just right for our purposes. The ball landed, bounced and sat promptly with mid-irons, with a short hop, check and little if any backup on crisp wedges.
Around the green: While it’s just a touch on the “clicky” side to suit us, the HEX Black Tour performed brilliantly on a variety of greenside shots. Of course, that’s what you expect in a tour ball. Short game savants will delight in this model’s controllability, evident on sharply biting pitches, chip-and-run attempts and bunker shots. Putts rolled with line-hugging purity.
Bottom line: The only objection we can imagine anyone having with Callaway’s HEX Black Tour would be its mildly firm feel. Our advice: Get over it. This ball is a first-rate performer that can match competitors blow for blow, tee to green.
Value/Recreational/Distance – Designed for mid- to high-handicap golfers with swing speeds below 90 mph; typically feature two-piece construction and firm covers; promote greater distance over high spin rates. Examples: Pinnacle Gold, Slazenger RAW Distance
Premium – Designed for low- to mid-handicap golfers with swing speeds of 90-99 mph; typically feature multi-layer construction and medium-soft covers; happy medium between Value/Recreational and Tour categories for distance and spin qualities. Examples: Titleist NXT Tour, Callaway HEX Diablo
Tour/Advanced/Performance – Designed for low-handicap and professional golfers with swing speeds in excess of 100 mph; typically feature multi-layer construction and soft covers; promote greater spin rates and enhanced feel over distance. Examples: Titleist ProV1, Bridgestone Tour B330