Ball tested: Callaway HEX Chrome
Specs: Construction – Three-piece; Cover – Urethane; Core – Polybutadiene; Dimples / Pattern – 332 in HEX (hexagonal) design and pattern
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): $35.99 per dozen
Ball notes: Callaway has jumped on the bifurcation bandwagon with its HEX Chrome and HEX Chrome+ golf ball models. Put another way, the company offers similar performance in two slightly different balls – one for golfers with pro-level swing speeds (105-plus mph), one for those with moderate swing speeds (85 – 104 mph).
The HEX Chrome fits into the latter category. A Golf Digest Hot List gold medalist in 2013, it features a lower-compression core than its sibling to boost driving distance for those who need a little lift. Both balls are built to deliver soft feel, plenty of greenside spin and a penetrating ball flight via the hexangular dimple arrangement.
Callaway follows another trend by offering the HEX Chrome in high-visibility yellow.
Sound and feel: If you prefer a muted “thump” to a clattery “click,” you’ll love the HEX Chrome. It feels as soft as it sounds and ranks among the softest of all “tour” models, a group which includes the Titleist ProV1 and Wilson Staff FG Tour. This is especially noticeable on chips and longer pitch shots.
Off the tee: With the HEX Chrome, Callaway seems to have found a happy medium between high-spin tour balls, which can be difficult to control, and low-spin “premium” models, which are harder to work left and right. The Chrome rarely spun wildly off line, but obeyed fairly well when we commanded a fade or draw.
Oh yeah, it’s also nice and long. Out tester, whose average driver swing is around 103 mph, felt he got slightly better yardage than with balls made for pro-level speeds.
From the fairway / rough: Skilled golfers who suffer from excess backspin on the greens – we should all be so lucky, right? – may find their problem solved by the HEX Chrome. On full swings with wedges, it hopped once and stopped dead, with minimal if any backup. It also proved workable with the mid-irons and provided an effective mid-range trajectory.
Around the green: As soft as it is, we expected the HEX Chrome to deliver lots of greenside spin. Instead, chip shots tended to roll out a good bit after the first hop or two. Adjusting was easy enough, however. On bunker shots and pitches from tight lies, where you want as much spin as possible, the ball performed well.
Bottom line: Looks like Callaway has hit the sweet spot. The HEX Chrome provides the promised distance boost to sub-105 mph swingers while maintaining the feel, workability and control of a tour model. It’s also an excellent value at the retail price.
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