Introduction

(Written By: GolfSpy Matt) Callaway introduced their 2012 golf ball line up with a bang: Phil Mickelson credited the Hex Black Tour’s performance as a major part of his victory at Pebble Beach.  Will the Callaway Hex Black Tour or the Callaway Hex Chrome lead your game to the winner’s circle this year?  Read on to find out…

* Note: We’ve enhanced our ball review system to include feedback from multiple players.  What you’ll see in most sections are my thoughts followed by the thoughts of our test group.  When it comes to the performance elements, I will share my data then the test group’s impressions based on their experience playing these balls.

Feel

I always start my “Feel” testing with the putter.  In this case, that led to a very long process as I really struggled to find a tangible difference between the two balls.  Both are, in my opinion, medium soft.  I was finally able to discern a clear difference after trying a number of different putters: I found the Hex Black Tour to have a deeper pitch off the putter, the Hex Chrome was more of a click.  Depending on what putter you use, you may find a small difference between the two or you may find them to be interchangeable.

Off of wedges and other clubs, the difference between these two balls is more pronounced: the Callaway Hex Black Tour is decidedly firmer and more “click-y,” the Callaway Hex Chrome is a bit softer.  I think that this can be attributed to the Hex Chrome being a lower compression ball.

// TEST GROUP: Generally speaking, it seems that the test group saw eye-to-eye with me on the feel of these two balls.  In every category (putter, irons, wedges, driver), the test group rated the Chrome and the Black very close on feel.  There was one exception: one tester felt that the Chrome was significantly softer in every facet of the game compared to the Black.

Durability

Durability on both balls was excellent: I was once again able to use one sleeve of balls for all the test shots.    The only thing that I noticed was that the Callaway Hex Black Tour got “fuzzy” after the final round of half wedges.  It wasn’t cut, and there weren’t chunks taken out of the cover, but it was as if the ball was covered very lightly in cover shavings.  The Callaway Hex Chrome was totally unscathed.

// TEST GROUP: The test group was also impressed with the durability of both the Chrome and Black.  With one exception (same guy…makes me wonder), everyone rated the durability of these balls at an 8 out of 10 or higher.

Performance

Once again, I found that launch angle did not change in any significant way between balls.  Also, with one exception, ball speed was identical.  The only real performance difference (and it was slight) was spin.

Driver Performance

Both balls offered low driver spin.  The one difference between the two was the ballspeed: the Callaway Hex Black Tour consistently gave me 3MPH more than the The Callaway Hex Chrome. This makes sense since the Chrome is advertised as being for players with “moderate swing speed.”  While I certainly don’t have overwhelming clubhead speed, I did get better returns from the Hex Black Tour.

// TEST GROUP: Our test group seemed to have similar findings: two testers rated the Chrome and Black exactly the same for driver performance.  Another felt that the Chrome was longer, which may be a reflection on it being a better fit for his swing speed.

4 Iron & 7I Performance

Performance with a 4 Iron and 7 Iron was identical for the Hex Chrome and Hex Black Tour.  I’m starting to see a pattern of balls behaving more similarly with the clubs in the middle of the set whether they are hard, soft, tour, distance, etc.  It will be interesting to see if this trend continues.

// TEST GROUP: Our test group did seem to differ with me on this point.  Everyone in the group found that both balls offered above-average distance, but, to a man, they said that the Black spun more than the Chrome.  While I’m not downplaying their perceptions, it is important to note that their ratings are based on their perceptions, not launch monitor data.  My hunch is that since the Black is the “tour” ball in the line-up, there were some preconceived notions that it would spin more.

Pitching Wedge Performance

Nearly identical launch monitor performance again.  The Hex Black Tour averaged 200 RPMs more spin than the Hex Chrome, which is hardly significant.

// TEST GROUP: Our test group, however, felt that the Black spun more than the Chrome.

60* Performance – Half Swing

Again, the two balls were very very close.  The Hex Black Tour averaged 425 RPMs more backspin than the Hex Chrome. While I know there are some who want every last bit of spin, I don’t expect that this will be the difference between backing a ball up and watching it run through the back of the green.

// TEST GROUP: The test group, once again, had different findings.  While the gap was not large (1 to 2 points), everyone rated the Black as having more wedge spin than the Chrome.

Value

The Callaway Hex Black Tour retails for $45.99/dozen and the The Callaway Hex Chrome retails for $35.99Given that they perform so similarly, it’s hard to argue against the value of the Hex Chrome.  The only caveat is that players with higher swing speeds will probably get more ballspeed from the Hex Black Tour, so, for them, it might be worth the extra $10.

// TEST GROUP: Our testers were generally in agreement: the Black was frequently rated a 5 out of 10, an average value since it’s priced the same as other tour balls.  The Chrome was seen as being a 7 since it delivered solid performance for less money.

Player Profile

As you can see from the Performance section, I found these balls to be nearly identical.  They both offer tour-level performance throughout the bag.  The only substantial difference I was able to discern was the ballspeed with the driver.  If you are a higher swing speed player (100MPH+), you will probably get more ballspeed out of the Hex Black Tour.  Players with slower swing speeds might get more distance from the Hex Chrome.

// TEST GROUP: Our test group did perceive that the Black also offered more spin with the irons and wedges, so if you are looking for every bit of spin, you may want to test a sleeve of each and see which performs better around the greens for you.

Final Thoughts

For 2012, Callaway has introduced two excellent tour-level golf balls.  While I applaud the move to offer a tour-level ball at a sub-$40 price point, I am left curious as to why the players with higher swing speeds are left to pay a premium for a ball that will give them maximum ballspeed.  Regardless, with both the Callaway Hex Chrome and the Callaway Hex Black Tour, Callaway has rolled low driver spin and high wedge spin into one excellent golf ball.

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