Soft Embrace: Our 2015 Golf-Ball Hot List is All About Feel.

When it comes to today’s golf balls, “soft” might be more ubiquitous than white. It doesn’t matter if they’re designed for the world’s best players or average choppers, soft is where it’s at. As one manufacturer told us: “We had to change all the balls on our range because no one wanted to hit a firm ball anymore.”

In a survey of avid golfers by Golf Datatech, “feel” was cited as the most important factor in golf-ball playability over spin, durability and distance. That’s good news because feel has always been a critical part of how we evaluate golf balls for our annual Hot List.

For 2015, this included extensive player testing at the Marriott Grande Vista in Orlando, Florida. (We black out all brand markings to keep it fair.)

The balls topping our list this year stand apart in how soft they feel for two reasons: low-compression cores and innovative cover formulas. What’s impressive is how “soft” no longer means distance-challenged. Today’s softer balls go farther because they spin less and launch higher. Turn the page to see our reviews of the best balls you can buy (those are the real cutaways). We’ve grouped them by Budget, Mid-Range and Premium prices. We also address five questions whose answers might change the way you think about your next golf-ball purchase.

Bridgestone Tour B330


BRIDGESTONE
Tour B330 Series (above)
Premium The B330/B330-S are for really fast swings. The RX/RXS offer performance at average swing speeds.

Performance 5 stars
Innovation 5 stars
Feel 4 stars
Demand 3 stars

Nike RZN Platinum / Black


NIKE RZN
Platinum / Black (above)
Premium Both use polymer resin in the core and heavier outer layers to keep shots holding steady in crosswinds.

Performance 4 ½ stars
Innovation 4 ½ stars
Feel 4 ½ stars
Demand 2 ½ stars

Titleist Pro V1/V1X


TITLEIST
Pro V1/V1X(above)
Premium The changes here – primarily a softer urethane cover on both models – are minimal, yet still significant.

Performance 5 ½ stars
Innovation stars
Feel 4 ½ stars
Demand stars

Bridgestone E6


BRIDGESTONE 
E6 (above)
Mid-Range This soft three-piece ball limits hook and slice spin. Web-like dimples flatten the descent for more roll.

Performance 4 ½ stars
Innovation 4 ½ stars
Feel 4 ½ stars
Demand 4 ½ stars

TaylorMade Aeroburner Pro


TAYLORMADE
Aeroburner Pro (above)
Mid-Range The mantle reacts with the core to generate speed and with the soft cover for higher wedge spin.

Performance 4 ½ stars
Innovation 4 ½ stars
Feel 5 stars
Demand ½ stars

Callaway Chrome Soft


CALLAWAY
Chrome Soft (above)
Premium A soft, low-compression ball for tour players and the everyman at an appealing price.

Performance 5 stars
Innovation 5 stars
Feel 5 stars
Demand 3 stars

Srixon Z-Star/XV


SRIXON
Z-Star/XV (above)
Premium A coating on the thin urethane cover increases friction for plenty of grab on short-game shots.

Performance 5 stars
Innovation 5 stars
Feel 4 ½ stars
Demand 2 ½ stars

Wilson FG Tour


WILSON
FG Tour (above)
Premium The soft inner core on this four-piece ball produces a soft feel and less spin off the driver.

Performance 4 ½ stars
Innovation 4 stars
Feel 4 ½ stars
Demand 1 ½ stars

Callaway Superhot


CALLAWAY
Superhot (above)
Mid-Range The focus here is distance, including low-drag aerodynamics, a resilient core and a slice-fighting mid-layer.

Performance 4 ½ stars
Innovation 4 ½ stars
Feel 4 stars
Demand 2 ½ stars

TaylorMade Project (A)


TAYLORMADE
Project (A) (above)
Mid-Range A “tour” ball construction built for an amateur. Its urethane cover adds spin to hold greens.

Performance 5 stars
Innovation 5 stars
Feel 4 stars
Demand ½ stars

Callaway Speed Regime 1/2/3


CALLAWAY
Speed Regime 1/2/3 (above)
Premium Each of the three models has an aerodynamic design for a specific swing-speed range.

Performance ½ stars
Innovation 5 stars
Feel ½ stars
Demand ½ stars

TaylorMade Tour Preferred/X


TAYLORMADE
Tour Preferred/X (above)
Premium Both are similar off the tee and around the green. The Tour Preferred has more spin on iron shots.

Performance ½ stars
Innovation ½ stars
Feel 4 stars
Demand ½ stars

Bridgestone E5


BRIDGESTONE
E5 (above)
Mid-Range It’s made for higher flight, but the unique urethane cover (for a two-piece ball) helps short-shot spin. 

Performance ½ stars
Innovation ½ stars
Feel 5 stars
Demand 4 stars

Nike RZN Red


NIKE
RZN Red (above)
Mid-Range The waffled inner core is made of a springy, light resin polymer. A Surlyn cover yields longer carry.

Performance ½ stars
Innovation ½ stars
Feel ½ stars
Demand ½ stars

Nike NXT Tour


TITLEIST
NXT Tour (above)
Mid-Range The dual core’s soft compression reduces spin on long clubs. A soft cover fuels short-game feel.

Performance ½ stars
Innovation ½ stars
Feel 5 stars
Demand ½ stars

Titleist NXT Tour S


TITLEIST
NXT Tour S (above)
Mid-Range The same polymer blend cover found on the NXT Tour helps this two-piece ball play and feel soft.

Performance ½ stars
Innovation stars
Feel ½ stars
Demand ½ stars

Wilson Duo Spin


WILSON
Duo Spin (above)
Mid-Range The ultra-low compression core (Wilson says minus 55) works with the mantle for approach-shot spin.

Performance ½ stars
Innovation ½ stars
Feel stars
Demand ½ stars

Nike RZN White


NIKE
RZN White (above)
Mid-Range A waffled exterior on the ball’s resin polymer core interlocks with the outer core for better energy transfer.

Performance stars
Innovation ½ stars
Feel 4 stars
Demand ½ stars

Titleist DT Solo


TITLEIST
DT Solo (above)
Budget It’s the softest DT ever, but a new dimple pattern also gives it a penetrating trajectory in the wind.

Performance ½ stars
Innovation ½ stars
Feel ½ stars
Demand 5 stars

Maxfli Softfli


MAXFLI
Softfli (above)
Budget Maxfli’s softest ball reduces spin for increased distance, and a softer cover offers more control.

Performance 4 stars
Innovation stars
Feel ½ stars
Demand stars

Titleist Velocity


TITLEIST
Velocity (above)
Mid-Range A firmer, resilient core adds distance throughout the bag. The dimples align for a penetrating flight.

Performance ½ stars
Innovation 4 stars
Feel stars
Demand stars

Bridgestone E7


BRIDGESTONE
E7 (above)
Mid-Range Hit it too high? The progressively firmer core and low-spin mantle help flatten your ball flight.

Performance stars
Innovation ½ stars
Feel ½ stars
Demand ½ stars

Callaway Supersoft


CALLAWAY 
Supersoft (above)
Budget Callaway’s lowest-compression ball ever means less spin on tee shots. A soft cover helps feel.

Performance stars
Innovation ½ stars
Feel stars
Demand stars

Top-Flite Gamer Soft


TOP-FLIE
Gamer Soft (above)
Budget You rarely find three-piece technology at this price. Its soft layers are designed for moderate club speeds.

Performance stars
Innovation stars
Feel stars
Demand ½ stars

Nike Power Distance


NIKE
Power Distance (above)
Budget The compression is now 20 per cent lower for less driver spin, higher launch and softer feel. 

Performance stars
Innovation stars
Feel ½ stars
Demand stars

Vice Pro/Pro Plus


VICE
Pro/Pro Plus (above)
Mid-Range Multiple layers with a urethane cover offer the tour-desired mix of low driver spin and high wedge spin.

Performance stars
Innovation ½ stars
Feel ½ stars
Demand star

I Need The Ball INTB 2.0


I NEED THE BALL
INTB 2.0 (above)
Mid-Range There’s still tungsten in the core for distance, but now a softer urethane cover aids stopping power.

Performance stars
Innovation ½ stars
Feel stars
Demand star

Srixon Q-Star


SRIXON
Q-Star (above)
Budget Unlike most two-piece balls that won’t grab on short shots, this cover’s coating creates friction.

Performance stars
Innovation ½ stars
Feel stars
Demand ½ stars

Wilson Duo


WILSON
Duo (above)
Budget The crazy low overall compression (Wilson says its 29) helps shots launch high and spin less.

Performance ½ stars
Innovation ½ stars
Feel stars
Demand stars

TaylorMade Aeroburner Soft


TAYLORMADE
Aeroburner Soft (above)
Budget The company’s softest two-piece ball benefits from a cover that produces speed and soft feel.

Performance stars
Innovation stars
Feel ½ stars
Demand 3½ stars