Having re-introduced the famous Big Bertha brand in the last 12 months to drivers and fairway woods, Callaway has now given the Big Bertha treatment to irons.
Distance has been at the heart of the re-birth of Big Bertha and the irons follow that trend with Callaway claiming these irons can make you up to 2 clubs longer. At first glance that looks like a bold claim but they are confident that the leap forward in technology represented by the 360 Face Cup technology has brought distance never before seen in an iron.
The designers at Callaway were challenged to produce a breakthrough iron so realised they needed to think outside the box. Previous iron constructions for generating ball speed, such as thinner faces and undercuts, didn't push the boundaries in a single piece cast iron. Therefore they turned to a different technology they had used in fairway woods and hybrids called the Face Cup.
The Face Cup allows the face of the striking surface to be more flexible by paying close attention to the area immediately adjacent to the face so that it takes part in the impact and therefore adds distance. This is achieved by controlling the thickness of the radius between the face and the rest of the body and the the thickness of the area immediately behind the face.
The question was could this be applied to irons which differ drastically in shape to fairway woods and hybrids? The answer was a resounding 'yes'. By creating a two piece iron of hollow construction, with both pieces cast from 17-4 stainless steel, the same technique could be applied.
The first piece consists of a closed back body and hosel whilst the second piece is the Face Cup that is then welded around the perimeter of the head to give it a 360 degree annulus. This allows Callaway to control the radius and thickness of the area immediately adjacent to the face all the way around.
Through making this area thinner the designers have succeeded in creating extra ball speed as a result of the extra flexibility of the club as a whole. Key to the Big Bertha iron is harnessing this extra ball speed across the whole face rather than increasing ball speed erratically.
By marrying the Face Cup design with a new Variable Face Thickness (VFT) pattern Callaway has increased ball speed from the centre of the face by 3mph and the rest of the face on average is 2.5mph faster.
These gains for the basis of the bold two club claim improvement, which is based on robot testing where the Big Bertha 6 iron performs the same as the 4 iron as the Callaway Razr X HL, a club known for distance and of recent technological vintage.
Notably for distance irons, where gains and design has traditionally been focused on the longer irons, the Face Cup technology is utilised throughout the set from 4-SW. This means that substantial gains in distance can also been seen in the mid and short irons to help golfers on all shots.
The Big Bertha irons also benefit from another technology taken from fairway woods and hybrids with the Standing Wave internal weight positioning. A low and forward centre of gravity uses the Standing Wave concept whereby the weight is built from the back of the sole of the iron and leans forward into the space behind the face without touching the face. This gives an optimal combination of ball speed and trajectory so Callaway has not had to produce unusual lofts in order to create the distance effects of the Big Bertha iron.
Although the Big Bertha is clearly aimed at the game improvement market with playability characteristics tuned to take advantage of the higher ball speed, Callaway were keen to attract as large a part of the playing population as possible. To this end they have kept the club workable with a noticeable sole progression from the wider longer irons to a much narrower width in the shorter clubs. Although the offsets are in line with a game improvement iron they blade sizes have been kept small enough to attract player of all abilities.
Alan Hocknell, Head of Research and Development at Callaway:
Overall the Big Bertha Iron is a very strong package in terms of the technology that is in the iron, the performance of hte iron and the overall appeal of the iron to a broad number of players.