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Ball Test: Callaway Tour i and ix

What They Say:

  • A softer core formulation provides unparalleled tour feel and the softer urethane cover generates more short-game spin for precision control and aggressive shot-making.
  • The balls high-density outer core moves weight away from the center of the ball for increased moment of inertia (MOI), resulting in reduced driver spin for increased distance and accuracy.
  • The balls dual-core construction allows for great distance off the tee while still offering spin around the green. The lower compression inner core provides low spin off the driver for great distance while the higher compression outer core provides high chip-shot spin around the green.

What We Say:

Good ball? Youd better believe it.

Callaway has been such a colossal presence in golf through the years that it can sometimes become easy to overlook. Since even before the days when Arnold Palmer was defending Chairman Elys rule-busting ERC II driver, the colossus of Carlsbad was so prominent on the world golf scene that it sometimes felt like part of the background, like Raes Creek or tight pins on Sunday.

Its been eight years since the cornball Rule 35 (the rule in question being Enjoy the game, part of the gospel of Ely Callaway) made its brazen debut in 2000 at the height of the hype surrounding Titleists newly introduced Pro V1.

Since then, golf ball design has been all about catching up to Titleist, architects of the single most important and divisive new benchmark in golf since TaylorMade founder Gary Adams started producing metal woods in the late 1970s.

Well, guess who just caught up.

The four-piece Tour i and Tour ix represent a significant improvement over earlier incarnations of Callaways premium ball offering, the HX Tour. Both balls offer significantly improved distance and spin characteristics, with the only knock being the issue of durability _ always a challenge for the soft, high-spinning set.

At the heart of the Tour i and Tour ix is something called dual-core technology: a dense, firm outer core surrounding a soft, less dense inner core that acts as a brake on spin when engaged by the sheer might of a full-speed blow from a driver.

When struck with a wedge, the slower swing speed and glancing blow of a lofted clubface means the force of impact is largely absorbed by the firm, tungsten-infused outer core, resulting in more spin off lofted irons _ spin thats accentuated by the impressive traction between the club’s grooves and the fingernail-soft urethane cover, which retains Callaway’s now-familiar hexagonal dimple pattern.

Adding to the spin factor is the thin, dense mantle layer just inside the cover, which brings weight and density to the outer perimeter of the ball and also makes additional room for a larger outer core.

In many respects, this concept is simple physics: you have a lightweight core at the heart of two heavier, denser outer layers, which gives the ball a greater tendency to spin.

Its like those mod-looking Frisbee discs you see on the beach these days, only theyre not Frisbees _ theyre rings, weighted around the perimeter with nothing in the centre. Theyll fly the length of a football field with a single throw, simply because they generate so much more rotational force than their old-school predecessors.

All of which is to say that these balls spin _ a lot. Even the ix _ the firmer, more distance-oriented version of the two _ provides a remarkable degree of grab when squarely struck, even with the middle irons.

In my recent tests, on a day with that offered fairly receptive greens, it was comparatively easy to put enough spin on either ball with a wedge from the fairway to back it off the green entirely. Indeed, you can even spin the Tour series balls out of the rough, provided you can apply enough of the clubface to the ball; for most players who are able to get the most out of a premium ball, it will be a matter of weighing the advantages against the drawbacks.

Off the driver, the Tour series produces a dramatically high, soaring trajectory with substantial distance. The old HX Tour never felt much like a distance titan, so when Callaway claims the Tour ix is the longest ball its ever made, its a fairly easy claim to believe. Well put it up against some of its contemporaries in a future distance test.

The Tour series balls also feel terrific off the putter _ so much so, in fact, that a player who putts with a softer insert might need to take some time to get used to the tender feel, or step up to a firmer-faced flat stick.

Callaway claims the patented hex dimple pattern gives the ball exceptional control in the wind, which well have to take their word on for the moment as it hasnt been windy enough of late to put their theory to the test.

The company also sings the praises of its Reaction Injection Molding technology, which injects a mold with the two principal chemical components of the cover, creating a chemical reaction that forms a seamless, uniform covering.

Be that as it may, the endgame will always be how well a ball performs coming off the face of your clubs. If youre a premium-ball player, you owe yourself the chance to give these balls a try.

Major golf ball manufacturers have been sweating over the drawing board for years to measure up to the Pro V juggernaut, but not everyone has been up to the challenge. 2008, however, is looking like a banner year for variety on the tee _ and Callaways latest orb offerings are at the head of the pack.

Quibbles? A couple.

Callaway has for some years now insisted on reversing the logos on either side of the ball, a production quirk that pushes my OCD buttons a little because it means the logo on one side is always upside down. I like my golf balls to have a top and a bottom.

It would also be nice if there was a more substantial alignment line, since its tough to get a perfectly straight, symmetrical line on a ball that has no discernible seam.

Yeah, yeah. Quit rolling your eyes. Im getting help.

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James McCarten

When James McCarten isn't at the Ottawa offices of The Canadian Press, where he works as parliamentary news editor, he's either on the golf course or putting off his latest freelance golf-writing gig to spend time with wife Lisa and school-age kids Claire and Lucas. With 20 years of experience in Canadian journalism, James also suffers from a financially crippling addiction to all things Scotty Cameron.

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