Callaway has been creating stronger lofted fairway woods for a while, with the most famous being the 3 Deep that Phil Mickelson used to great effect when winning the 2013 Open at Muirfield.
Most of these models have been for elite players, but now Callaway brings us the Bertha Mini 1.5 Driver that claims to offer the distance of drivers with the playability of fairways.
As the name suggests the 235cc head is larger than a normal fairway wood, but smaller than a driver. Compared to the Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 815 Driver it is significantly smaller and closer in size to the 14° Callaway XR 3 Deep fairway.
Compare to the XR 3 Deep, the Mini has a larger more rounded profile at address and a shallower face that gives it a little bit more forgiveness.
The face on the Mini sits neutral but is in fact 1° open, which is much less than the XR 3 Deep which is 3° open to ensure it is an 'anti-left' club.
The Mini 1.5 comes in two head lofts of 12° and 14° that can then be adjusted up 2° or down 1° with a neutral or a draw setting using the standard Callaway Optifit hosel.
The head is a multi-material construction with a 17-4 Stainless Steel body and Callaway's proprietory Forged Composite material in the crown. This weighs only 9 grams and is three times lighter than titanium whilst also being stronger, so it enables Callaway to play around with the saved weight to move the Centre of Gravity (CG) low and back.
The face design is the tried and trusted 455 Carpenter Steel Face Cup that is wrappped around the front of the head to ensure the weld lines are not on the front of the club and this maximises the ball speed.
Like most Callaway woods, the Bertha Mini 1.5 sat very nicely behind the ball at address and had a more of a fairway style to it than a driver.
The stock shaft is the 65g Mitsubishi Kuro Kage Silver TiNi that is 44 inches long as standard, so that is a nice combination of length for distance and control for accuracy, even if the white top half of the shaft made it look longer than it actually was.
The sole features a slight camber, which is a little nod to the classic Warbird sole and the red graphics remind me of the Callaway Optiforce fairway colour scheme.
At impact the sound and feel from the Mini 1.5 was excellent and similar to the feedback you get from an XR fairway, or indeed any of the recent Callaway fairways. Indeed you can almost take it for granted that this is a quality club and from that point of view there is nothing to fault with the Bertha Mini 1.5 driver.
However the issue with this category of club is whether it fits into your set make up and what will be the advantages for you using the Bertha Mini 1.5 over a similar lofted driver or fairway. To illustrate this point I went along to the Callaway Perforamance Centre in Chessington, London to compare the Mini with the other woods in their range on Trackman.
Firstly I got some benchmark figures with both the 12° and 14° Mini heads. As you would expect the 12° carried another 3.5 yards over the 14° and ran out to an additional 7 yards with less spin due to the lower loft.
Given the different lofts on the face I preferred the look of the 12° at address as it seemed to sit a little better for me. Both lofts were good from the tee, but bizarrely I found it easier to hit the 12° from the deck. This is counter-intuitive, but it could be due to the fact the 12° face is 1° more open and also the lie is 1° flatter and that suited me better.
I then compared it to the best spec of Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 815 driver for me of 9° loft and this only out-carried the Mini by 8 yards giving 10 yards more total distance.
With the Speeder 565 shaft in the Alpha Driver 815, I was a lot more accurate and of course the 460cc head size gives me a lot more forgiveness, although the Mini is obviously easier to hit from the fairway.
Staying in the same family, the Big Bertha Alpha 815 Fairway was next up. Set at 14° this carried 12 yards less than the 14° Mini and span a lot more.
This is to be expected as it is a much smaller head with a shorter shaft and really is an elite player club, for those who might want to shape the ball more. The sound and feel is great, but I think we all need the forgiveness of a bigger head than this.
Now we were onto the main contender in the XR 3 Deep fairway that Phil used to such good effect in a previous incarnation. The matte black head shape did not look as good at address compared to the Mini, as it seemed a little pointy, but the extra 2° open face still sat pretty square.
Distance wise the 3 Deep carried the same as the 14° Mini, but it had a lower launch with less spin so it ran out an extra 5 yards. It was probably easier to hit from the deck than the 12° Mini for me and was only a couple of yards behind. This is because the smaller head and face gave me a little more spin from lower strikes on the face.
Given the anti-left nature of the club I did hit it straight or with a slight fade, when I would probably prefer it to go the other way, so you can see here that the flight characteristics of the 3 Deep are what differentiate it from the Mini, rather than any performance gains.
Callaway expect half of golfers who buy the Mini to be driver dodgers who need a longer, fairway style club from the tee and the other half to be fairway fanatics who want more distance from the short stuff. So what am I?
Well, based on this test I am not sure. I like my driver and the forgiveness it brings so I would probably keep that in the bag as I am pretty accurate with it. However it is a little unnerving knowing that a 12° head with a 2 inch shorter shaft is almost going as far.
And that is probably the reason why I would not go for it from the tee because if I am hitting a fairway to lay up then I want to be more than 10 yards back from my driver .
From the fairway it could be a contender, but most of my fairway wood shots are from the tee, so it may depend on the course I am playing. A links course in the wind is the most likely option where extra run would be easily achieveable, as Phil demonstrated at Muirfield.
So there you have it, after much analysis and thought, my considered opinion on the Callaway Bertha Mini 1.5 driver is...maybe.
Maybe for certain courses that are not too long or firm links courses then I could see the 12° mini replacing the driver and complementing a 16° or 18° fairway and a 19° or 21° hybrid in the woods. However do you have the budget to buy an extra two woods and then the ability to make the right choice on the right day?
Maybe for others the benefits from the tee or from the fairway will see the Callaway Bertha Mini 1.5 driver replacing the driver or fairway in their bag, but watching the distance gaps to the next club in the bag is crucial.
However, performance wise it is a great club, so if you would like to find out if either of these options are for you, then you maybe you should go to a Callaway Performance Centre too.