The ball that changed the ball. That’s how Callaway has been billing their new introduction, the Chrome Soft, released yesterday, January 16th, following a major build up in the press and social media which included clips of Phil Mickelson, no less, getting so excited that he threatened to bin his Tour-spec balls in favour of this new wonder ball. Now I suspect that that is not likely to become a reality any time soon, but have Callaway discovered the holy grail of golf balls and reconciled the conflicting interests of distance off the tee, control around the greens and feel off the putter face? After 9 holes with the Chrome Soft yesterday afternoon, I’m thinking that they might well have done.
My first experience of the Chrome Soft was giving it a whack with a 9 iron on the short par 3 that opens the back 9 on my home course of Chilworth. I had forgotten what hitting a really soft ball could feel like. Not since my unsuccessful flirtation with the Callaway Supersoft 12 months ago had I hit a ball and wondered if I actually had. That’s what a compression ratio of 65 can do for you. But on looking up I found that indeed I had and there it was, on the green, having landed and spun back some 4 feet to leave a good chance of a birdie. Not that I converted it, of course.
So, ‘incredibly soft feel’ – check. And I like that in a golf ball. What about the ‘exceptional distance’ that Callaway are claiming for their new baby? Well, in the interests of fairness and at least some degree of objectivity, I played my nine holes double hitting most shots, using a Titleist NXT Tour S as the comparison ball, reckoning that it is of similar construction, is in the same price bracket and has the same claims made for it. The result? The Chrome Soft was longer every time and with every club, most notably with the 3 and 5 woods, where the difference was anything up to 20 yards. Even with a pitching wedge, the Chrome Soft was 8 yards longer.
And as for the ‘excellent control’ claimed as a result of the soft urethane cover, you can tick off that one too. I do like to play a tall shot into the green and have it check up, and the Chrome Soft is happy to oblige in that department. Fancy a bit of backspin? No problem. I had one wedge shot come back some 12 feet on a pretty soggy green and a number of other less dramatic instances that prove this ball is highly capable from 150 yards in.
But the final ace up the Chrome Soft’s sleeve is its performance on the green, the vital arena in which the Supersoft fell down by its tendency to mimic a dead hedgehog and become unresponsive to the point of unplayability (for me, at any rate). When yards become feet, the Chrome Soft retains its soft but nonetheless responsive feel, and I found I preferred it to both the NXT Tour S and my old favourite, the DT Solo.
I do think Callaway are on to something with the Chrome Soft and that for once, the reality lives up to the hype. I can’t see Phil and his peers bagging it, as they don’t need to. They’ve got what they need already, in the form of the Pro V1 and the other tour-spec balls they are supplied with. But we ordinary golfers can’t get the best out of a Pro V1: we can’t compress it sufficiently, for a start. But we can compress the Chrome Soft. And, because of its 3 piece construction and soft urethane cover, we can control it around the greens and stroke it nicely with the putter on them. This is a tour performance ball designed for the mid to high handicapper – and that’s a big market.
Personally, I love it. Having parred 5 of the 9 holes I played, gained a bit of distance and enjoyed the feel off the woods, irons and putter, I enjoyed my afternoon with the Chrome Soft. I feel I have found the ball I have been waiting for.