The new Callaway Hex Black Tour ball hits all the marks to compete with the other premium balls on the market.
The premium ball market has been dominated by a certain company for - what seems like - an eternity. I was one of the many who followed along and used the newest ball that came out every year. That was, until last year.
I picked up a new ball (cough, Penta, cough) that felt just a bit better in nearly every aspect. What this did was open my eyes a bit more to the other balls on the market. One of those I tried was the Callaway Tour i(s). I hadn't hit a Callaway ball in years and didn't expect much. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. This is coming from a bit of a ball snob.
So when the new Hex Black Tours came on the market I eagerly wanted to give them a try and see what they had to offer. How did they compare to the #1 ball on tour and my current favored ball? Read on to find out.
Design and Technology
The Hex Black Tour has quite a bit of technology, and marketing, that goes into every ball. Continuing with previous generations and adhering to the "Hex" moniker, the dimple pattern has remained in the HEX pattern and is the only ball on the market using this pattern. Callaway says it allows for full dimple coverage where traditional designs cover less than 90%.
Those dimples are part of a new DuraSpin cover. The thermoplastic urethane cover significantly improves durability over previous Callaway balls to better prevent marks and scratches. Even with a more durable cover a soft feeling and short-game spin that players seek in a high performance ball remains.
In addition to a new cover, the dual mantle underneath has been changed as well. Both the inner and outer mantles are comprised of different ionomers that are mixed in different ratios to affect the hardness and resilience of the mantle layers. The soft inner and firm outer mantles combine to protect the core while also producing powerful ball speeds.
At the heart of the five-piece ball that won this year at Pebble Beach is Callaway's I-Core technology. The dual core is designed with one goal in mind: spin separation. What exactly is "spin separation" you ask? Basically it is the ability of the ball to spin much less off the tee and increasing distance but at the same time spinning with shorter around the green and giving the player much more control. The soft inner core allows for the driver to spin less and the outer core has a higher compression and gives the player the spin he seeks for around the green.
Feel and Spin
As you may have read in my other reviews, how a ball feels off the face of the club is more important to me than any other aspect, feature, or measurement. After years of golfing, I know that the ability to control the ball the way I want in a consistent manner in the scoring area (80 yards and in) shapes my scoring more than many other factors.
Years ago, I remember Callaway premium balls being too soft for my liking. Last year I tried the Tour i(s) balls and was pleasantly surprised. They were more in line with other premium balls on the market. My first impression of the Hex Black Tour ball is the same. It is very close to the Pro V1x and the Penta. If anything, the Hex Black actually feels a bit firmer than the others!
While putting, the firmness was barely detectable. I threw down three different balls and had a hard time discerning between any of them. In fact, I had my son put a ball in front of me while I closed my eyes and I tried to guess which ball was which. I was wrong much more than I was right. This, in my opinion, would make the Hex Black much more right than wrong.
When evaluating the spin, the first thing I wanted to evaluate was the claim of "spin separation" by Callaway. Off of the driver face, the ball did exactly what I would expect. The ball flight was much more of a boring, penetrating flight. Not once did I ever have a ball flutter up high and drop straight down. At some points during the round I would even forget I was playing the Hex Black Tour.
On iron and approach shots, the claim held true as well. Even though I thought the ball felt a bit firmer it still spun plenty into the green. Now, I wasn't drawing a wedge back 20 feet like Phil does, but the Hex Black Tour will give you the control over the ball you seek. I actually prefer a ball that doesn't over-spin but rather hit and stop quickly. If you do as well, then you shouldn't have any worries about this ball.
Around the green I felt very comfortable with the Hex Black Tour. Chips felt soft off of the face and I was able to produce the one-hop-and-stop type of chips that I have been used to. I'm not able to flop the ball like Phil but, again, those types of shots can all be produced just as well as any premium ball.
Distance and Durability
Distance isn't nearly as a factor for me as it is for others. As long as I'm not getting outdriven 40-50 yards by someone not named Bubba, I'm OK. That being said, I'm not the longest guy out there so I don't want any ball giving up much distance.
From the tee, after the first few holes I could tell that distance wouldn't be an issue. I was routinely hitting it in the same spots I hit other premium balls. The trajectory was nearly the same too. I play a little lower and penetrating ball flight and the Black Hex Tour produced the same result.
With my irons it was more of the same. I kept the same distances and ball flight that my other balls produced. It seems, at least to me, that the Black Hex Tour is going to give you similar spin and distance that a Pro V1x and a Penta would give you… which is a good thing.
The durability of the Hex Black Tour is probably the only slight negative during my review. The cover of the Hex Black Tour frayed a bit to easily with full wedge shots. Much more than the other balls I've used in the past few years. After nine holes I almost felt like I had to replace the ball. Now, I usually start a round with a new ball anyway, so I'm not looking to keep playing a ball for more than 18 holes. For others, this might be a bigger decision point but, for me, it is only minor.
At around $45 a dozen, the price point of the Hex Black Tour is just slightly below that of the Pro V1 and in line with the Penta. The question is then "Is the Hex Black Tour worth in?" I believe so.
In my opinion, this is Callaway's best ball to date. I've played with their other premium ball offerings and, for one reason or another, just didn't like them as much. The Hex Black Tour is definitely a ball that is worth a try. Don't just get a sleeve. Get a dozen and give it a serious shot.
Take it from a ball snob.