Callaway has rediscovered itself in the past few years. First, they took on the giant of the golf industry, TaylorMade, and introduced a new marketing campaign and quality clubs to challenge TM’s very successful driver and woods market. How is Callaway doing? They’re currently #2 in that arena, restored confidence in their brand and are gaining market share every year.
What’s a golf company to do next? How about taking on the #2 golf ball company? Why not take on #1? Well, let’s be realistic here, Titleist ProV1 is the king of golf balls and there is almost no chance someone can usurp their brand and reputation anytime in the near future.
Bridgestone Golf has gained the number two spot in the golf ball business, due in large part, by their creative golf ball fitting process. In short, they created a team of professionals who provide a FREE golf ball fitting process that fits a golfer’s swing speed to a specific ball. That information, coupled with a players preferred characteristics (low/med/high flight preferences, spin, feel) and produce statistics that back up the data ‘proving’ this is the ball for you.
Callaway has jumped on the swing speed to ball preference bandwagon. They have introduced the ‘Speed Regime’ series. The balls are designed to benefit players in three categories. The SR-1 is for players with swing speeds lower than 90mph, then the SR-2 is for speeds ranging between 90 and 105mph, and finally the SR-3, is engineered for the 105+mph players.
So….do they live up to the hype? I set out to find out for myself. For starters, a little bit about myself. I’m an avid golfer, playing more than 120 rounds a year, single-digit handicapper with a swing speed that ranges between 102 and 105mph. I have been playing golf for more than 25 years now and would say that I’m pretty comfortable with my knowledge of the game and abilities to assess performance factors of a golf ball.
Based upon my swing speed, Callaway recommends I play the SR-2, or even perhaps the SR-3. But before jumping into a new ball, priced at $47.99 a dozen, let’s see what makes each ball unique to the player. I had the unique opportunity to try a sleeve of each series of the Speed Regime golf ball and the findings are chronicled below.
My testing method was a little unusual, in that, I wanted to try each ball at different points in my game. I played the balls for three days in a row, rotating the balls throughout my game.
Day One: SR-1 for holes 1-6, SR-2 for 7-12 and SR-3 for 13-18
Day Two: SR-2 for holes 1-6, SR-3 for 7-12 and SR-1 for 13-18
Day Three: SR-3 for holes 1-6, SR-1 for 7-12 and SR-3 for 13-18
By splitting up the sequence of when/where I play them, it gave me a better opportunity to test the conditions, without focusing on a day where I was playing better or worse than average. Also, mixing up the sequencing helped me find out if playing a model was tied to whether I was sufficiently warmed up. I kept track of average driving distances, distance off of long and short irons, along with spin with iron shots into the green, based upon release after hitting the greens.
SR1 – swings less than 90mph swing speeds, Moderate Swing Speed
This is a very soft ball, but it maintained a firm feel when struck. The distance off the tee was very respectable for me, with my average driving distance at 268 yards. Off the irons, the feel was very consistent with a soft, but solid feel to it as well. My longest drive with the SR-1 ball was pretty impressive with 291 yards. For distance off the irons, it’s exactly as I expected. At no point did I feel like I needed to club up or down, to keep the distance where I wanted. Spin off the driver and woods were decent, but there were some balloon effects on full, high speed swings. According to Callaway’s Senior Director of Golf Ball R&D, he stated they “didn’t have to put the same level of drag reduction into this golf ball, instead they could concentrate on the low speed lift so the ball flies farther”.
For approach shots into the green, I was able to get the ball to check and even spin back. However, off the irons, the ball seemed to overspin for me. I think this may be a result of a club head speed above what they recommend. The SR-1 ball held well into the green on approach shots, with the average distance for my 9-iron and pitching wedge, from ball mark to ball, was less than 18 inches.
My favorite thing about the SR-1 golf ball was how it felt off the putter. It had a nice soft feel to it, without that spongy feel that some of the softer balls have. I did learn something about the SR-1, that’s that it was a great ball to start off my round with on an early weekend round. Perhaps it was because my clubhead speed wasn’t at full capability for the first few holes and this ball helped me maximize the distance when I had smoother tempo.
Durability on this ball was better than expected for a soft ball. It has some marks on it from normal play, no trees or cart paths, and while you could see it had been played, the wear didn’t seem excessive, but it had more than I’d see with a comparable ProV1x ball I usually play. No surprise here, as it’s a different type of ball. I’ve played the Bridgestone 330-RX and RXS and felt like this ball had better spin around the greens than those two comparable balls.
SR2 – swings 90 – 105mph, Athletic Swing Speed
This ball seems to be the model that will appeal to the majority of golfers today. Again, a quote from Callaway’s Ball R&D Senior Director, Dave Bartels states that Callaway “focused more on low speed lift a little bit more without having to worry too much about the high speed drag, but it’s really a balance of the two”. That was very apparent in the ball flight and I didn’t see the balloon effect off the woods or irons, like I experienced with the SR-1 balls. Spin off the irons and woods were as expected for a ball in this category of ball – a premium ball designed with performance in mind.
Distance off the driver was notable and consistent, my average drive with this ball was 276 (8 yards farther than the SR-1), with the longest drive being 292 yards. This drive was unusual in that the fairway had a pretty significant slope up the hill. This translates to a nice ball flight that didn’t need to roll-out much to obtain that distance. I had some difficulty with controlling the spin from iron shots, seeing some exaggerated draws or hooks, and on pured shots the spin into the green was excessive. On several occasions I backed the ball up more than 25’. Unfortunately, I hadn’t hit that type of shot on purpose. As expected, this ball performed really well around the greens. My inconsistency with the iron shots caused me to miss the greens, but presented some wonderful opportunities to see how it did on short bump and run shots and flop shots. The chips were very responsive and after hitting the green, you could see the ball grab the green and spin, then smoothly release towards the hole. Flop shots release as well, but this was probably more a result of hitting out of the rough, than the ball itself.
Similar to the SR-1, durability was pretty good for a softer ball. Even after my initial testing, I was able to play two full rounds with the same ball, with only minimal marking to indicate that amount of play. When putting with this ball, you could feel a slightly firmer sensation, but still soft. Overall, this was the longest ball off the tee for me, but for my game, it was too spinny off the irons.
SR3 – swings over 105mph, Tour-Level Swing Speed
The SR-3 is the ‘tour level’ ball from Callaway, they “designed aerodynamics that minimized high speed drag and the low speed lift” that professional players and those with higher swing speeds seek. I found this ball to be comparable to the ProV1x is almost every aspect. The ball trajectory was on the lower side to the point of being noticeable, but not so much that you felt you were losing distance. In fact, once it hit the fairway, it had a nice release to it. Interestingly enough, the ball performed better than I expected with approach shots. While it didn’t one hop and stop, it certainly had some check to it and released.
As you would expect, this ball had the firmest feel of the Speed Regime series. As with the others, it wasn’t a hard feel, but in comparison to the SR-1 and SR-2, you’ll get a different sensation off the putter. Of all the balls, this one was my favorite, though it wasn’t the longest for me. The average distance was 274 yards (2 yards less than SR-2), but had the longest single distance of the three with this ball topping out at 294 yards.
As far as spin goes, this ball had a very good balance between spin when you want it, on approach and chip shots, and when you typically don’t, like off the driver or long irons. In fact, I typically hit a nice draw with my woods and irons and found that when I thought it would draw, it didn’t. I’d usually think my swing was slightly off, but seeing how I played this ball on three different days, and mixed in with the SR-1 and SR-2’s, where it did shape the shots, as I expected and am used to – I can say with confidence that it wasn’t my swing on these days. This ball didn’t give me a lot of side-spin, which I think I would like, but it would take some getting used to.
In the end, the Callaway Speed Regime balls are legit contenders for a tour-level ball for all types of players. I’d be happy to play any of them, but think the SR-3 would be my ball of choice. Distance was spot-on, feel was exceptional, and performance into and around the green are very good.
Without going through a professional golf ball fitting, the concept of matching your driver club head speed to a ball works very well, for the most part. Callaway Ball R&D director says the Regime series are “all tour level golf balls, all golfers need to do is to know what their head speed is”. For those of you who don’t know your club head speed, it’s pretty easy to figure out these days. If you’re fortunate enough to have a golf store nearby, such as GolfSmith, Golf Galaxy or PGA Superstore – they all have hitting bays that typically have computers hooked up to them to determine your club head speed.
The only real problem I have with the Callaway SR series is the price. They’re currently priced at the exact same cost as Titleist ProV1’s at $47.99 a dozen. My thought is this…if you want people to try your balls, give them some incentive to leave a trusted and proven ball. Lower the price, steal market share and develop some loyalty to the brand. I’m afraid that only Callaway purist will try these new balls, as most won’t ‘experiment’ for $47.99 a dozen.
Do they perform? Yes! Are they better than Titleist ProV1’s? They are comparable. Are they better than the Bridgestone 330 series? Yes, I believe they have better feel and spin. Would I buy them? Yes…but only when I see them on sale. Under $40, I’d consider it, under $35 and it’s a no-brainer!!
-- P.J. Evans