Fans of the blockbuster movie franchise “Transformers” will no doubt remember how a cell phone transforms into a robot. (I can’t remember if it was a good robot or bad robot, but you get the idea.) If a golf club were ever going to have a bit part in the next Transformers movie, I nominate the Big Bertha Alpha.
The Alpha is the most adjustable driver ever, and not just for looks sake. And you don’t need movie magic to make the Big Bertha Alpha dramatically alter your ball flight – you just need the standard Callaway hex wrench, a little bit of trial and error (hopefully with a pro) and some time.
INSIDE THE NEW BIG BERTHA FAMILY
I’ve tested both the Big Bertha Alpha ($499) and her sister the Big Bertha ($399). At first glance, the price difference might imply that one is better than the other, or one is the pro version and the other an entry level club for higher handicappers.
The difference between the two, and the decision on which one fits your game, is a bit more complicated. This review will focus on the Big Bertha Alpha, but after hitting the Big Bertha I can tell you that it’s also an extremely solid club with the ability to change loft and lie via the hosel and the ability to tune fade and draw bias by the sliding weight on the back. If you like to make minor tweaks to bias your drives toward a fade or draw, Big Bertha could be perfect for you.
On the other hand, if you are mainly concerned with maximizing the launch angle and spin of your drives to achieve the elusive “perfect” combination that gives you the most distance possible, Big Bertha Alpha offers something extremely unique in that regard, the Gravity Core. Let’s dig in to the technology – it sounds complicated but it couldn’t be simpler to understand or test out where it counts, on the golf course.
THE CORE OF GRAVITY
I have worked on clubs since the persimmon days, and I still remember pouring molten lead into a hole drilled under the sole plate of one of my drivers. (We didn’t know how dangerous lead was back then!) I knew I was adding weight, but didn’t realize that I was changing the center of gravity as well.
The ads for the Big Bertha focus on the fact that “you can’t argue with physics” and feature Sir Isaac Newton with an apple falling on his head. That’s where the “core” comes in. Every golf club has a center of gravity, and manufacturers have done a great job of improving performance by moving the center of gravity to your favor. A lower center of gravity makes it easier to get the ball airborne and provides more forgiveness on off center hits, especially those hit low on the clubface.
Callaway is the first to offer a club with an adjustable center of gravity. In the Big Bertha Alpha, a “Gravity Chamber” is drilled up from the sole and covered with a small disc that can easily be loosened to reveal the “Gravity Core” – a device I describe as a small dumbbell with weight on only one end. By moving the Gravity Core from the “weight down” to the “up” position, Callaway has given you the opportunity to alter ball flight and spin without changing the face angle. Do it once, and you’ll feel it immediately.
Playing with the Gravity Core at a practice facility with reduced flight or rock hard range balls (as I did the first time) doesn’t do the Big Bertha Alpha justice. On the range I was at first dismayed with the different feel I got with the Gravity Core in the up position but when I tried it on the course, with real balls, I realized that there is almost no difference in feel. But there is a significant difference in ball flight and workability. I could see a really strong player wanting the core in the up position, but I settled on down for my game. Either way, the Big Bertha Alpha starts out as a mid-low spin driver anyway so it’s not like it throws up high-spin balloons in either position.
APPEARANCE, FEEL, AND SOUND
Even if you don’t plan on moving the Gravity Core around, the Big Bertha Alpha is packed with features you would expect from a company calling themselves “the kings of distance.” We’ve often said that you need to be comfortable with how your driver looks at address, and Big Bertha Alpha – with its traditional pear shape and deep blue finish – certainly has “tee appeal.” The sound is a slightly dampened tone that, when combined with Big Bertha Alpha’s solid feel, imparts confidence.
IN THE BOX
Big Bertha Alpha comes in 9.0, and 10.5 lofts with a stock Mitsubishi Fubuki Zeta Tour white graphite shaft (stiff is 62 grams) and a number of different shaft options. If you’re investing in a Big Bertha Alpha, take the time to hit it with a number of shafts so you give yourself the best chance of a good long-term fit. (For example, I tried the new Project X LZ Handcrafted and found it easier to control for my swing type.) The hosel can be adjusted to neutral, or draw bias and plus or minus 2 degrees of loft. I found that I hit the 9.0 degree model better by adding 1 or 2 degrees of loft and look forward to trying a 10.5 as soon as I get my hands on one (ship date on those is April 1).
There are also adjustable weights in the heel and toe areas – allowing you to change Big Bertha Alpha’s swing weight and draw or fade bias, simply by putting the heavier of the two weights in the heel for draw or switching that order for a fade. In the package with the hex tool (used for all adjustments) you’ll find a couple of extra weights which can be particularly handy if you are changing shafts and want to adjust the head’s weight to keep a swing weight in your preferred range. (You should always think of swing weight when regripping or reshafting your clubs.)
Like today’s new cars, which are starting to look alike, most top drawer drivers share have a number of the same features such as an adjustable hosel, forgiving faces, and upgraded stock shafts. Callaway has added a truly innovative feature to the mix with the Gravity Core. I don’t ever think you should buy a club because it’s being used on the Tour, but we all know it influences us at some level. On that note, the recent success of Patrick Reed with a full compliment of Callaway clubs (including a BB Alpha driver that he averages over 300 yards with) is worth noticing. In March he became the youngest player in history to win a WGC Championship and at this pace he might be joining fellow Callaway staffer and Ryder Cup regular Phil Mickelson this year at Gleneagles in Scotland. As Callaway VP of Marketing Harry Arnett told me recently, Callaway has one of their youngest “Team Callaway” Tour staffs ever, and they really seem to come on board because they want to play the equipment.