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Balls: Callaway HX Pearl Balls Review


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By Donald MacKenzie via TheSandTrap.com

The HX Pearl is Callaway Golf's first ball designed for women, though it may end up being a favorite among distance-minded men as well.





callaway_hx_pearl_ball.jpg"Strong enough for a man. But made for a woman." The classic slogan for Secret deodorant may also apply to the new HX Pearl golf balls from Callaway Golf. The company has a long history of making clubs for women under the Ladies' Gems umbrella, and recently marketed the ultra-game improvement GES set toward women.



Now Callaway is turning their design attention toward what women want in a golf ball. I'm certainly no expert on what women want (I still can't believe my wife didn't like the table saw I bought her for Mother's Day), but I'm pretty sure they're looking for more distance off the tee just like us fellas are. Is the HX Pearl going to be a gem for ladies who dig the longball?



In the mid-90s, a curious phenomenon started. The word spread that a man had won a state golf tournament using a ladies' golf ball. Not a pink "Flying Lady," but Precept's MC Lady golf ball. That ball was a two-piece distance ball with a low-compression core meant to feel softer than the typical distance rock. What male golfers discovered, however, was that the low-compression core compressed quite a bit when hit with a higher swing speed. The extra compression meant more distance off the driver and more spin off irons - and a grassroots movement that culminated in a Precept ad asking, "Are you man enough to play a Lady?" (For those who weren't, Precept re-labled the ball as the "Laddie" in some packaging.) The trend toward low-compression distance balls, like the Maxfli Noodle and Titleist DT So/Lo, was born.



callaway_hx_pearl_logo.jpg

A HX Tour (left) and a HX Pearl (right). The HX Pearl is slightly less white and has small bits of glitter mixed into its "pearlized" cover.



The HX Pearl could be a ball that follows in the footsteps of the MC Lady. The design and look of the ball are clearly intended for a more feminine golfer, but many male golfers will appreciate the fact that the HX Pearl is really a softer, modified version of the successful HX Hot distance ball that premiered last year. I heard plenty of good things about the HX Pearl ball earlier this year - and all of it came from men. I recently decided to get in touch with my feminine side and give the HX Pearl a trial run.



Design and Technology

Like the HX Hot, the HX Pearl is a three-piece distance ball. It is similar to tour-level balls like Callaway's HX Tour and the Titleist Pro V1 in that the design consists of a large core, a mantle layer (or inner cover) and the outer cover. Both types of balls have synthetic rubber cores. But where a tour ball has a firm ionomer mantle layer and a soft urethane cover, the HX Pearl uses a different material mix. The mantle layer is made of DuPont HPF material - a resilient compound engineered to feel and act like rubber. Meanwhile, the ionomer (a soft type of plastic) cover is firm and designed to increase distance off the driver and provide durability on iron shots.



The cover of the HX Pearl sports some interesting twists. Of course, the ball has Callaway's distinctive HEX aerodynamics - a virtually seamless network of hexagon-shaped indentations. The HEX pattern is designed to reduce drag compared with conventional round dimples, and in my experience it performs very well in windy conditions. The HX Pearl does not have the newer version of the HEX pattern that's used on this year's "Improved" versions of the HX Tour and HX Tour 56 balls with the six deeper indentations that help center the core during the production process.



callaway_hx_pearl_teed.jpgThis cutaway shows the three layers of the HX Pearl, including the ionomer cover, DuPont HPF mantle layer and synthetic rubber core.



The cover also has what Callaway calls a "lustrous pearlized finish." At first glance, the HX Pearl simply looks a little less white than the HX Hot. But in sunlight, you can see abundant little bits of glitter in the cover of the ball. The effect is pretty cool looking, and it is much more subtle than the bright colors of the "crystal balls" companies like Volvik and Maxfli have this year. While the glittery cover won't help you find the ball any easier when it's hiding in the rough, it does give the HX Pearl a singular look.



Aesthetically, the HX Pearl follows the design of all other Callaway balls currently on the market. The Callaway golf logo is on both poles of the ball in black, with a number (1-4) and the Callaway chevron logo in a slate blue. The simple side stamp reads <HX PEARL>. The packaging carries the same slate blue/off-white color scheme, and the HX Pearl is available in 3-ball sleeves and 12-ball boxes.



Feel and Spin

The only performance difference I could discern between the HX Hot and the HX Pearl is in the feel category. Thanks to a different core chemistry and the soft boundary layer, the HX Pearl feels and sounds notably softer than the HX Hot. You're not going to confuse it with an old Tour Balata, but the HX Pearl feels every bit as soft as a Noodle or any other soft two-piece distance ball. It felt and sounded particularly good off the putter, even when I was using a steel putter.



callaway_hx_pearl_stamp.jpgThe HX Pearl sidestamp follows the style used on other Callaway balls, which can be used as an alignment aid when putting.



The softer sound led me to expect a bit more spin, but the HX Pearl was essentially identical to the HX Hot in this regard. I find that both spin more for me off irons and wedges than two-piece distance balls, but considerably less than urethane-covered balls. Full 9-irons released an average of seven feet after they hit the green in my experience with the HX Pearl and HX Hot. Hardly the stop-and-drop performance you expect from a urethane ball, but certainly a manageable amount. I also thought the HX Pearl was very good for hitting chip shots that you want to run out instead of checking up. I found myself playing to leave the ball just short of the hole on short-game shots, and the HX Pearl would hit and release nicely.



Distance and Durability

As for spin off the driver, the HX Pearl must be very low. I found myself a bit longer and straighter with the HX Pearl than I usually am with my regular ball, the HX Tour. I'd say the extra distance is attributable to less backspin, and the accuracy comes from generating less sidespin. The HX Pearl ball flight off the driver was very strong and a little lower than I get with the HX Tour. While I think I lost a bit of carry distance, I definitely picked up roll after the ball landed. This was especially obvious on my less-successful swings, as the ball rolled out farther than I was used to seeing the HX Tour going.



On my best swings, the HX Pearl (and HX Hot) gave me nearly the same overall distance as the HX Tour. But the HX Pearl was more forgiving both distance- and direction-wise than the HX Tour or any other premium golf ball I've played. That makes it an excellent choice for golfers who struggle with hitting the ball well on a consistent basis.



callaway_hx_pearl_box.jpg

The HX Pearl packaging matches the slate blue and off-white color scheme of the balls themselves, playing up the HEX aerodynamics.



In terms of durability, the HX Pearl was very good. They did shear a little on full shots with my X-Tour lob wedge (with the aggressive "Mack Daddy" grooves), but not on regular wedge shots. I hit a couple of cart paths with the balls (strictly for testing purposes, I swear) and the HX Pearl survived with only slight scuffs and was still very playable.



Conclusion

The HX Pearl was a solid performer for me from tee to green. Its playing characteristics - high launch, low spin - are ideal for players looking for more distance and forgiveness off the tee, and I would think there are a lot of women who fall into that group. I can't say that the HX Pearl performs better for women than other golf balls, but I hit plenty of man-sized drives with it. And the pleasing sound and feel of the HX Pearl around the greens give it an advantage over the HX Hot in my book. The HX Hot has been my early/late season and bad-weather ball since last year, but I think the HX Pearl has just taken its place. If that makes me any less of a man, so be it.



The HX Pearl has a suggested retail price of $32 for a box of 12 (four three-ball sleeves), but expect to pay a street price of $24.99 at most golf shops.

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