10 Rounds with Callaway Chrome Soft

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Back last year when I first heard of Callaway Golf’s Chrome Soft golf ball it didn’t strike me as anything special but as more information became available my interest grew. It really got my attention when Callaway people explained the technology behind the new ball saying this will be a “game-changer for them.”

We are used to thinking low compression golf balls while having a softer feel didn’t go as far as those with a firmer feel. Ladies and seniors played the lower compression models since they couldn’t get the distance benefits of high compression golf balls due to their slower swing speeds. Since the introduction of multi-layer solid core balls like the Titleist ProV1 the spread of performance has widened but everyone acknowledged it would be nice to add the softer feel of low compression golf balls to the distance gains of solid core construction.

Building a ball with a very soft core meant, especially with longer clubs, though the spin rate was lower the core didn’t react fast enough to produce distance.

According to Callaway that was true until now. Hex_Control_2pk_LID_rev_FRENCH-ENG_v3

The 3-piece Chrome Soft is billed to have a soft feel and still produce the distance, high ball speed and low spin with their aptly named “SoftFast Core” and a urethane cover.

During February and March I took them to the course for an extended trial and as it turned out, though my northern friends were envious, played them in four southern states for a total 16 rounds.

The questions everyone immediately asks are, “How long were they? Did they go as far as a Pro V1?”

The answer is the Chrome Softs were long, certainly comparable to every other golf ball model including the Titleist’s Pro V1 we have reviewed and certainly within the variability inherent in my very average swing. Coincidentally, we received unsolicited samples from another manufacturer of a “distance and feel” ball and took them along with the Callaway’s on a trip to Georgia.

No contest, the “distance and feel” ball didn’t have anywhere near the “distance” of the Chrome Soft and the “feel” around the greens was like a rock while the Chrome Soft showed control properties we really appreciated. The comments from friends to whom I gave sample sleeves (usually two sleeves so they would have an extended opportunity to make their evaluation) were positive and two of them said they liked the Chrome Soft so much in comparison to their usual brand they would be switching.

Negatives. On some downwind shots, particularly with a driver, it seemed as though the Chrome Soft though hit well, fell out of the air very quickly. Admittedly this is a subjective impression but it happened on more than one occasion. Unfortunately in each case when that happened circumstances were such it wasn’t possible to hit additional tee shots so this remains an impression only worth mentioning in passing.

Secondly some may object to the price but at $38 dozen the Chrome Soft are $10 less than market leader ProV1 and $7 less than the Bridgestone B330-RX series.

Recommendation. The Callaway Chrome Soft is really worth trying and I believe you will be happy with the results.

Callaway Returns to Profitability

CALLAWAY GOLF COMPANY

Callaway Golf Company (NYSE: ELY) announced yesterday sales and profit increases for the 2014 fiscal year ending December 31 compared to the previous year making 2014 the first profitable year since 2008.

Sales for 2014 were up 5% to $887 million compared to $843 million in 2013 and net income increased to $16 million versus a loss of $9 million in 2013. Significantly, the result of cost control put in place, gross profit as a percentage of sales rose 3% while operating expenses rose only $1 million to $327 million.

Chip Brewer

Callaway President and CEO Chip Brewer

“We are pleased with our results for 2014,” said President and Chief Executive Officer Chip Brewer in a prepared statement. “Notwithstanding challenging market conditions for the golf industry as a whole, we were able to grow sales, increase our market share and return to profitability for the first time since 2008 – a significant milestone for us in our turnaround.”

Reported product category sales increases: woods +8%; irons +12%; golf balls +4%; accessories +2% as well as growth in every geographic segment: United States +5%; Japan +3%; Europe +11%; Rest of Asia +7%; Other foreign countries +1%.

Analysts note the competitive nature of the golf equipment business with club sales dominated by TaylorMade-adidas Golf a division of German-based holding company adidas AG (OTC: ADDY) and ball sales by privately-held Acushnet Company’s Titleist brand. The Callaway product line in the previous golf season did make inroads into the TMaG lead and for 2015 there is a highly touted version of the popular Big Bertha model driver receiving attention from the media and golfers.

“Given the strength of our product line for 2015, which was well received at the recent PGA show in Orlando, and anticipated additional improvements in our operations, we expect for 2015 on a constant currency basis not only sales growth and market share gains, but also further improvements in gross margins and profitability. Golf is a momentum business and fortunately momentum is now on our side.”

According to the company for the next fiscal year, “On a constant currency basis, net sales are estimated to increase by approximately 1% – 4%.  This growth is being driven by an estimated 5% – 6% growth in the Company’s core channel business, partially offset by a change in product launch timing and a reduction in closeout sales compared to 2014.”

Images courtesy of Callaway Golf