The Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 815 driver is not only a tongue twister, but the next in line of the latest range of drivers to bear the rejuvenated Big Bertha name.
The original Big Bertha Alpha driver that was launched earlier in 2014 is principally a low spin driver aimed at high swing speed players.
So what is the difference between the Alpha 815 and the previous Alpha? Well, basically it spins a little more and is more forgiving.
With the original Alpha you really needed a swing speed of over 100 mph to get the real benefit from it and also needed to hit it out of the middle of the compact looking head.
The head on the 815 Alpha is the same 460cc, but it has a shallower face that enables the head to be a bit deeper front to back, but it still looks compact at address, especially at the end of a long 45.75 inch shaft.
The stock shaft is the Fujikura Speeder 565 shaft in white, which during my Callaway fitting session came out as the best one for me as it was the most consistent for accuracy.
There is also a new face design called the RMOTO which removes a little weight from around the face to enable it to increase the ball speed on off centre hits. Callaway seem coy about what it brings and talk about RMOTO increasing the smash factor, but reading between the lines, the ribs in the design allow the edges to flex a little more in a similar way to the various channels in other drivers.
The RMOTO ribs also allow 3 grams of weight that would have been in the sole to be moved elsewhere to the edges of the head to increase the MOI and the forgiveness of the club.
Like the original version, the Alpha 815 driver also features the Gravity Core weight that moves the Centre of Gravity (CG) vertically. The only difference is that you can now see through the sole screw to view the silver or dark end of the Gravity Core, so you know which way it is up without having to unscrew it.
I could also go on about the lighter Forged Composite crown that you know and love from past Callaway drivers, but the gist of all this is that the classy looking head sound and feels great with that unique combination of titanium and graphite sound that makes Callaway drivers stand out.
Like the original there is an adjustable hosel and two sole weights of 1 and 7 grams that can be swapped between heel and toe locations to further optimise the CG location.
I was fitted with the heavier 7 gram weight in the standard position in the heel of the sole and into a 9 degree head adjusted up 1 degree using the Callaway Optifit adjustable hosel.
This only moves in 1° increments, so the choice of initial head loft is key as if you need 9.5° then you need to come down 1° from the 10.5° head as you can't get there by going up from the 9° head. When you change face loft you also change the face angle, so trying all the various combinations with a professional fitter is a must.
The other change I found during the fitting was that I had to tee the ball up higher than I would normally do to ensure I hit it on the up in order to get the best performance from the Alpha 815.
This is the way with low spin drivers and is not really a problem, it just requires the knowledge to try it out and of course the swing to do it. With my 100mph swing I was getting a low level of 2000 rpm ball spin, but with a good launch angle and using that upward strike the distance was very good.
However, it was the flight and dispersion that really stood out and in this configuration was one of the most consistently straight drivers I have tested recently, which backs up the forgiveness story.
And this really sums up what the Alpha 815 is all about. It is a premium piece of equipment with a choice of 3 adjustable variables in sole weight, hosel and gravity core that will enable moderate to high swing speed players to fine tune it to suit their needs. The big benefit over the previous Alpha is that it is more forgiving, so it will suit more amateurs.
However it is pricey and, similar to a luxury sports car, you should be the type of person who either needs the performance or appreciates that for a premium piece of equipment, it will need a little more effort to fine tune it in order to get the maximum benefit. You either see the value in opening your wallet further or you don't, but you won't be disappointed if you do.
Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond Driver Review
If you are a really high swing speed player then there is also a, wait for it, Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 815 Double Black Diamond driver, which is unofficially the longest driver in golf...by characters.
If you are an accomplished skier then you will recognise Double Black Diamond (DBD) as the name of the hardest ski runs that are for experts only. Hence why Callaway has named this version of the 815 driver, because it is an even lower spinning version of the Alpha in a 460cc head.
The head is also a little taller to move that CG closer to the face to reduce the spin and certainly when I tried it, the spin was less. There is also a bit more variance through the gravity core which is longer in the DBD and adds another 100 rpm to the range of spin between it being in the up and down positions.
There is no alignment aid on the DBD crown, but it does look very classy with the glossy finish to the head.
The original Alpha sits in between the 815 and the 815 DBD for spin, hence why the Alpha is being discontinued, but the higher spinning standard blue headed Big Bertha is maintained in the range for 2015.
Like a Double Black Diamond ski run, this driver should only be considered by elite or very high swing speed players who can regularly hit the centre of the face as the forgiveness is less too. As this excludes me and probably most of you too, I would just pretend it doesn't exist unless you need a big scrabble score.