Like most people of my vintage I had one of the original Callaway Big Bertha drivers and when I heard that the name was coming back I hoped it would be as much of a game changer as the original was. That means it had a hard act to follow as the original re-defined drivers and whilst that is too much to expect in this day and age, the standard Big Bertha driver is certainly worthy of the name.
There are two models in this range and I went along to the Callaway National Fitting Centre in St Andrews with my colleague Jamie to go through the fitting process for the standard and the Alpha versions of the Big Bertha. I went with an open mind as to which model I would prefer and that is the correct way to approach it, as the key thing is that the right Callaway Big Bertha driver will choose you, not the other way around.
Even though Jamie and I are similar handicaps on either side of scratch, he was chosen by the Alpha version with the adjustable gravity core and you can read his Callaway Big Bertha Alpha Driver review here. I did try out the Alpha, but the face is suited to higher ball speed players and it was 10 yards or so behind the standard version for me.
My destiny was the standard Big Bertha due to my slightly lower ball speed than Jamie and I was happy with that choice. Even though the head size of both is the same at 460cc, the standard Big Bertha look a little bigger and has a bit more forgiveness from a shallower, wider body and I preferred that look.
The dark blue crown with white red flashes make the head feel quite patriotic, even though I know it is more from the land of Uncle Sam than Auntie Beeb. The silver face contrasts well with the dark crown and there is an alignment Callaway chevron on the crown of the standard version which is not on the Alpha, if you like that sort of thing.
The crown is made of Forged Composite which is extermely strong and light and enables Callaway to move 8 grams into a sliding red weight on the back of the club to adjust the Moment of Intertia (MOI). This Adjustable Perimeter Weighting was going to come into its own later with surprising results.
The first issue was getting the right shaft. The standard 59 gram Fubuki shaft and I have never really got on, as it is a bit on the firm side. So after a little trial and error I made friends with the slightly heavier 67 gram, 45.5 inch Aldila Tour Green shaft, which is standard in the X2 Hot Pro driver.
This shaft gave me consistently more carry, so from there it was a case of using the trackman to try and get the right launch conditions. Having started with a 9 degree head we adjusted the loft up one degree using the adjustable hosel to take some spin off and this did not seem to affect the lie too much.
This gave a better ball flight, but not enough distance, so we then moved the sliding weight round towards the heel to draw position 3 on the track. This was a bit of a suprise, however it was the optimum setting for me and gave the best results, with a launch angle of 10.7 degrees and 2300 RPM spin from 101 mph club head speed, for those who are interested.
There is also a 5 gram weight at the end of the sliding track that can be removed, but no other sliding or screw weight options are supplied with the driver, so you would need to speak to Callaway if that is an issue.
This is where both the Big Bertha drivers come into their own, because pretty much any golfer will be able to use one or other of the two models because the 2 different adjustability systems give the fitter more options. Get your wallet out for an extra £50 if the Alpha chooses you, but in the big scheme of things it is not much extra as both models are priced at the top end of the market.
Relative to other models in the Callaway range, the Big Bertha was a bit longer for me than the Callaway X2 Hot driver, even though the latter does offer the maximum forgiveness. As designer Alan Hocknell explained to us recently, the X2 Hot has the weighting and MOI effectively preset and is therefore cheaper, but will give a pretty similar performance if your swing suits that particular driver set up.
The distance performance was on a similar level to the Callaway FT Optiforce driver even though that has a fractionally longer 46 inch shaft, so if you are happy with your Optiforce then stick with that.
Given the choice I would probably go with the Big Bertha because the head is larger than the 440cc Optiforce and the shaft is a more manageable length. However a combination of the forgiveness and adjustability of the Big Bertha and the aerodynamic speed of the Optiforce would be perfect, so expect that next from Callaway.
I loved the sound of the Big Bertha which was a classic solid titanium thump and the feel across the hyperbolic face was very good too. This face design is tried and tested and offers a high level of forgiveness to maintain ball speeds even on off centre hits.
So I would have to say that Big Bertha is definitely back and either Callaway Big Bertha model is worthy of your serious consideration, even if they are both on the pricey side. What you must do is take advantage of a fitting service, as only then will you be the chosen owner of a Big Bertha.