Around two years ago, in January 2015, I reckoned that my search for the perfect golf ball had finally concluded with the release by Callaway of the Chrome Soft, the ball that, in the words of their marketing team, changed the ball. From that point on the ball compartment on my golf bag has been populated pretty much exclusively by Chrome Softs, following my positive experience with on Callaway’s newbie on the first day of its release in the UK.
Twelve months ago my enthuiasm was made to waver, at least temporarily, when the Chrome Soft was subjected to an off-season makeover and a new ‘improved’ iteration hit the shelves for 2016. The key changes were an increase in compression from 65 to 75, this intially surprising modification being offset by a softer urethane cover, and a new four-piece construction. All of this intended to increase spin and feel around the green. Strangely, Callaway asserted that the average amateur golfer would not detect any discernible difference between the new improved version and its predecessor.
I begged to differ, though the differences are indeed finely graduated. The feel off the tee is a tad less soft with the 2016 model, but it does check and hold noticeably better around and on the green. Distance wise, there’s nothing in it, and, although I would maintain that the new ball feels a little clickier off the face of the putter, it’s something you can quickly adapt to. So, after a period of mild sulking during which I clung on to as many remaining original versions as I could before they inevitably found their way into assorted ponds and patches of impenetrable rough, I learned to love the improved Chrome Soft and its continuing place in my bag was assured.
However, the notional improvements brought with them a very real hike in price of around 20%. In 2015 you could, with a little shopping around, pick up a dozen Chrome Softs for about £25; for the new version you will have to fork out another fiver. On the plus side, however, the Truvis version, which used to carry an additional premium, is now available at the same price as the standard ball. As it should be, if truth be told, as the soccer ball styling, distinctive and pretty as it is, hardly warrants an extra expenditure. The idea is that the patterning makes the ball look bigger than it is, thus helping at address, and I agree with this to some extent, though I personally feel that the blocks of colour are more important in sharpening focus and, in my case at least, helping prevent lateral movement of the head in the backswing. Other than that, the advantages are largely cosmetic: the spin on a wedge shot is made clearly visible thanks to the patterning, as is the straightness or otherwise of the roll on the green.
So, given the cost of dumping a new Chromie in the water or in some other unfindable place, I started to look for a cheaper alternative, particularly for the winter months, when parting company with a golf ball seems to be just that bit easier. Conveniently I stumbled across two suitable candidates when playing my home course, picking up undamaged examples (apologies to their previous owners) of the Srixon UltiSoft and the Titleist DT Trusoft, both recent introductions to the market which made the usual promises of soft feel combined with good short game performance. Over the past few weeks I have put them both into play both individually and against each other (playing a form of Texas Scramble when out on my own) and came away quite impressed with the pair of them.
The Srixon is certainly very very soft – not as soft, perhaps, as the Callaway Supersoft, which is a good thing, as it makes it playable on the greens, unlike the Supersoft, about which I expressed my views some time ago here. The Titleist feels pretty much the same off the face of the club – very tactile and buttery – but is a shade firmer off the putter. I couldn’t detect any difference in length off the tee or on approach shots, though when I added a Chrome Soft to my Texas Scramble circus for a few holes, I felt it outdid the other two in terms of ball flight and carry. But – here’s the rub – the Srixon and the Titleist balls may be obtained (online, at least) for a mere £18.99, which represents quite a saving over the penny short of thirty quid that you will need to hand over for the same number of Chrome Softs.
My conclusion? The Chrome Soft is undoubtedly the best ball of those discussed here, and in the summer and when it counts, it’s the one I would choose to play. But in the depths of winter, when the ball sticks to a wet green anyway without much spin being required and it’s all to easy to lose one in the shrubbery, I’d be tempted to downgrade to one of the others, with the Titleist probably just shading it over the Srixon, largely because of a marginally better feel on the green.
Stop press – Callaway have just announced the Chrome Soft X, which, confusingly, at 90 compression is not really that soft anymore …..