Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 816 Fairway Wood: The AmateurGolf.com Review
08 Sep 2015
by Rusty Cage

see also: Equipment Reviews

A modern design and high-tech features power<br> the new Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 816 fairway
A modern design and high-tech features power
the new Callaway Big Bertha Alpha 816 fairway

Callaway is billing their Big Bertha Alpha 816 fairway wood as a high performance club designed for more advanced players - providing extreme distance and adjustability for low- handicap golfers. They’re not kidding. For the casual player, the Alpha 816 might prove to be too much club. But for an avid golfer of reasonable skill, this fairway wood offers an excellent blend of speed and finesse.

Similar in design to the pre-existing Big Bertha Alpha 815, the new fairway wood reintroduces the same pair of adjustable sole weights that fine tunes the center of gravity location and the type of ball flight you’re willing to play.

Taking tour feedback into consideration, Callaway engineers made some improvements to tone down the trajectory disparities that occurred when players changed the CG orientation from low and forward to low and rear. Specifically, they made the head slightly larger which allowed more space between ports and introduced a new weight kit. The lighter 3- gram weight is now coupled with a 16-gram slug - nearly half as light as before.

With the heavier weight in the front port, the Alpha 816 launches the ball with a piercing trajectory - perfect for players who swing fast and need to cut down on spin. Conversely, putting the lighter 3-gram weight in the front with the heavier plug in the back improves the club’s forgiveness on mishits and launches the ball higher, though not as high or with as much spin as the Alpha 815 model.

By allowing the center of gravity to be adjusted on the fly with just a turn of a wrench, the Alpha 816 lineup of fairway woods can play for two types of golfers - those of us who require (and are able to handle) a long distance, low-spinning alternative to the driver, and the rest of us who need a more playable club off the tee and from the fairway.


I tested the Big Bertha Alpha 816 fairway wood (14 degrees) equipped with a stock Aldila Rogue I/O 70 shaft (stiff flex) both indoors and outdoors. For my first testing session I spent time measuring my launch numbers hitting off a mat to see how the club performs when the center of gravity is adjusted back and forth.

The ultra-hot Forged 
Hyper Speed Face Cup gets the ball out there
The ultra-hot Forged
Hyper Speed Face Cup

Based on the numbers I saw on a Foresight GC2 launch monitor, there was a significant difference in the way the ball reacted off the club face when the CG was low and forward as opposed to low and back. With the 16-gram weight slug positioned in the front port I was able to reduce the total spin on the ball by over 200 rpm. The club also launched the ball two degrees lower and with a much tighter dispersion on what I would most definitely label as mishits.

In terms of sheer distance I put up better numbers with the weight back. The high MOI orientation is better-suited for my playing style and the fact that I naturally hit the ball high on the face. I wasn’t totally blown away by the numbers put up by the Alpha 816 fairway wood but then I had to remind myself this was, after all, an off-the-rack test and the club did pretty well compared to my gamer which I’ve had over a year to groove.

Big Bertha Alpha 816 Fairway CG Low and Forward CG Low and Back
Club Head Speed 84 mph 87 mph
Ball Speed 122.4 mph 126.6 mph
Launch Angle 12.9 degrees 14.9 degrees
Total Spin 2913 RPM 3128 RPM
Carry Distance 194.54 yards 203.44 yards
Total Distance 220.42 yards 225.52 yards
Peak Height 24.04 yards 30.62 yards

I had a much better appreciation for this club when I took it outdoors and aimed at actual targets. A few things really stood out for me in more realistic conditions: the ball gets out there very, very quickly and it hangs in the air for a quite a long time with the heavier weight in the rear port. I struck a few golf shots with the weight forward and to be honest, I just wasn’t thrilled with the ball flight characteristics. Occasionally I was rewarded with a low-boring straight shot that ran out a ton, but some of my less desirable shots flew with all the grace of a wounded duck. While low-and-forward CG might be great for some players, it just isn’t right for me.

Look and Feel:

The Big Bertha Alpha 816 fairway wood possesses old school looks with a high-tech feel. Truly designed for better players, the compact-shaped, matte-black crown sits in a slightly open position at address. Purists will approve of the sleek lines and uncluttered look. Callaway did a great job disguising the fact that their new fairway wood actually has a little more cubic volume compared to its predecessor. The larger head design might not make a difference visually, but it does make the club more playable from a variety of lies.

The matte-black 
crown on the Alpha 816 will appeal to better 
players and traditionalists
The matte-black crown will appeal to
better players and traditionalists

The Alpha 816 comes with a Forged Hyper Speed Face Cup that helps retain ball speeds even on off-center shots. The feel and sound off the face are both excellent. The head is paired with the Aldila Rogue I/O 70 shaft which manages to feel stable and firm at impact. It’s a very good stock offering and my only complaint is that the shaft feels a little light even at 70 grams. Fortunately, Callaway has extensive list of aftermarket shaft offerings (many of which can be installed at no additional charge) so it behooves anyone considering purchasing this club to get properly fitted.


For a club that’s designed for highly- skilled golfers, the Alpha 816 fairway wood is surprisingly playable. For comparison’s sake, I encourage golfers to compare this model against Callaway’s brand-new Great Big Bertha fairway which is a more straightforward product intended to benefit players of all levels. However, if you crave a more penetrating ball flight or require cutting-edge adjustability, the Alpha 816 fairway wood is bound to be your new favorite toy this season.

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