Ball tested: Callaway HEX Warbird
Tested for golfers with average driving distance of: 125 yards or less (carry + roll) / 126 to 195 yards (carry + roll) / 196 to 245 (carry + roll)
Specs: Construction – Two-piece; Cover – Surlyn; Core – Polybutadiene; Dimples / Pattern – 332 in 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): $16.99 per dozen
Ball notes: “This bird will fly,” goes Callaway’s tag line for the HEX Warbird, mincing no words about this ball’s raison d’etre: distance, and lots of it.
When Callaway touts the HEX Warbird’s softer core, thinner cover and enhanced feel, it seems almost gratuitous. These days, soft and thin are “in,” even among so-called “distance” balls. Callaway’s not making things up, of course. The HEX Warbird does indeed feature a large center (1.585” in diameter) and thin casing (0.049” thick). It’s also got Callaway’s unique geometric dimple shape and pattern, just like its mates the HEX Black Tour, HEX Chrome and Chrome +, HEX Hot and Hot Pro and the HEX Diablo.
Warbird carries the lowest price tag of the bunch and is aimed at higher-handicap golfers who want – and need – more distance from tee to green. For golfers who tend to stray from the fairway, or just like to stand out from the crowd, the HEX Warbird is offered in optic yellow in addition to traditional white.
We tested the conventional version; here’s what we turned up.
On the clubface: Don’t expect a lot of “give” or “smush” when the HEX Warbird meets driver, iron or putter. This ball wants to jump off the clubface as quickly as possible, and if it leaves your hands and arms feeling a little jolted, so be it. Still, we’ve hit harder balls before and lived to tell about it. In the value category, genuine feel is usually just a rumor (or marketing half-truth).
Off the tee: This is where a distance ball must deliver the goods. The HEX Warbird’s got ’em, all right, sailing high with rock-steady down-range carry. So it passes the distance test – what about accuracy? We’d rate it outstanding, as the Warbird demonstrated a will to fly very straight. The absence of curvature makes it that much longer, as does the ball’s considerable bounce and roll after landing.
From the fairway / rough: Expectations of any value ball shrink once you’re off the tee, so we harbored no illusions of wedge shots sucking back or dancing around the flagstick. As anticipated, the HEX Warbird launched high off the irons, a definite plus given the predictable lack of spin. Yes, this ball is going to run a bit once it hits the green. But given its excellent accuracy, most golfers will be happy to account for that and adjust accordingly.
Around the green: If you’ve got advanced greenside skills, you’re probably not shopping for distance balls. For those whose short games are a work in progress, the Warbird will do just fine on straightforward chips and pitch shots. Just remember to plan for plenty of roll, and focus on hitting it solidly.
Bottom line: The Callaway HEX Warbird is about as close to an old-school distance ball as it gets these days. We mean that as a compliment. Sure, the company pays lip service to softness and all-around playability, but this is a ball to bomb, pure and simple. Tee it high and let the HEX Warbird fly.
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