By Mike Stachura
The Callaway Chrome Soft golf ball franchise grew out of a stated mission to think about the performance requirements and ultimately the design of a golf ball in a different way than other companies thought of golf ball technology. That different thinking again takes prominence with the Chrome Soft’s 2020 collection, as the two main balls, Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X, are more different from each other than they’ve ever been.
That’s because the players these two balls are now designed for are demanding fundamentally different things and those demands require fundamentally different solutions.
While it’s still the case that both types of players want ball speed and distance and short game spin, and both balls deliver that performance through a multilayer core and mantle and urethane cover construction, the guts of Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X seem as different from each other as two balls from two different brands. While the Chrome Soft features a dual core where two kinds of rubber formulations of differing firmness comprise an inner and outer core that are then wrapped by an ionomer mantle layer followed by the urethane cover, the Chrome Soft X features a significantly larger single core and two mantle layers followed by the urethane cover. It’s the latter that is the significant departure from the past versions focused on higher swing speed, elite-skilled players.
“We really focused this year more on the demographic of this type of golfer more than in any other year that we have with Chrome Soft X,” said Callaway’s Dave Bartels, senior director of golf ball research and development. “We really felt like we were missing something that was critical to the success of this product. Through testing with tour players and a lot of the elite amateurs we discovered that we really need to focus on absolute raw ball speed. A lot of the better golfers have different needs, but they all do want more speed when they hit the ball in the center of the face. That was the genesis of a solid piece core with a dual mantle system.”
Both balls are a four-piece construction, but Chrome Soft uses a dual core, a single mantle and a urethane cover, while Chrome Soft X uses a large core, two mantles and a urethane cover. Similarly, both balls look to boost distance through a thinner urethane cover that allows for a larger core structure. By thinning the cover (10 percent on Chrome Soft and 22 percent on Chrome Soft X), more of the ball’s volume is devoted to distance-enhancing components in the core and mantle pieces. The inner core is 34 percent larger on the Chrome Soft to help fuel more ball speed, but it is again supported by an outer core infused with microscopic strengthening compound of graphene, the Nobel Prize-winning element that was introduced for the first time on the 2018 Chrome Soft balls.
On the new Chrome Soft X for 2020, the single core construction is fundamentally different than the previous version’s dual core construction. Compared to the distance-generating inner core of the 2018 Chrome Soft X, the 2020 Chrome Soft X uses a core that’s 117 percent bigger and is constructed from a high molecular weight neodymium rubber.
But for all the talk of the larger, faster material in the core of the new Chrome Soft X, it’s the role of the mantles that is unique for a Callaway design. The firmer outer mantle is both helpful to distance but also serves as the foundation for the thin urethane cover, allowing it to pinch more effectively between clubface and that mantle for better short game spin.
“We’re trying to look holistically at the core and mantle system to see how we can we best achieve fast ball speed,” Bartels said. “We looked at dozens if not hundreds of designs for the mantle layers and we found that together the mantle layers provide a system that kind of encapsulates the core.”
Both Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X feature enhanced versions of the company’s trademark hexagonal dimple pattern for more precisely tuned aerodynamic requirements based on each ball’s expected audience and ball flight. “This new pattern on a very microscopic scale allow the ball to fly higher and by flying higher it’s going to reach its apex farther downrange for longer distance,” Bartels said.
The Chrome Soft and Chrome Soft X will be offered in white and optic yellow, as well as in both the Truvis “soccer ball” pattern and the three-lined alignment markings known as Triple Track.