Pros: Industry-leading adjustability, ample forgiveness and impressive ball speeds give both the Big Bertha Alpha 815 fairway woods and hybrids all the features better players are looking for and then some.

Cons: Price. The fairway wood sells for $299.99, while the hybrid sells for $249.99. The smaller size of the fairway woods could scare some golfers away.

Who’s it for: Golfers looking for a top-performing fairway wood that can adapt to a wide range of launch and course conditions. The hybrid is for players who prefer a larger chassis and want adjustability to dial in their launch conditions. 

The Review

Everyone would prefer to order off the top shelf. It’s where premium stuff lives. The Callaway 815 Alpha fairway woods and hybrids come from such a place. For the better player, both clubs are likely to be on pretty much everyone’s “best of” list by the end of the year. 

Callaway used a ski reference, Double Black Diamond, on its lower-spinning Big Bertha 815 Alpha driver to indicate a club best used by “experts.” The 815 Alpha fairway woods and hybrids are cut from the same cloth, as both are targeted at better golfers, or at least those who aspire to be better. 

That said, the 815 Alpha fairway woods (available in lofts of 14, 16 and 18 degrees) offer enough forgiveness to satisfy mid-handicappers, while retaining the aesthetics and performance demanded by the best players in the world. They has Callaway’s Forged Hyper Speed Cup Face, which is incredibly thin, lightweight and strong to improve ball speed on shots hit across the face — particularly those hit low on the face.

I’m not good enough to hit shots thin on command. Fortunately, I was able to work in a couple thin ones without much effort. Sure enough, distance loss was minimal and in most cases less than 10 yards total. Shots struck slightly to the heel or toe fared remarkably well considering that impact often left me feeling a bit blase.

Results with the hybrid (available in lofts of 18, 20 and 23 degrees) weren’t quite as good for shots hit low on the face, but heel and toe shots were punished appropriately. If you struggle to find the center of the club face or need a higher-spinning hybrid, the XR (standard) models from Callaway are likely a better choice.

Related: Callaway’s XR and XR pro Drivers, Fairway Woods and Hybrids

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Both the 815 Alpha fairway woods and hybrids use Callaway’s OptiFit adjustable hosel system, which allows loft to be adjusted up 2 degrees or down 1 degree from the printed loft. The lie angle can be adjusted independently to promote either a neutral or draw-biased ball flight.

Regrettably, there isn’t a setting specific for a more open face to produce a fade, or a more closed face angle to help golfers hit a draw. Reducing the loft of the club will help create a slightly more open face angle, however, while adding loft will slightly close the face. It should be noted that the neutral setting in both clubs produces a very straight ball flight with proper contact, with no noticeable draw or fade bias. 

Related: Our tech story on the Big Bertha 815 fairway woods and hybrids. 

The 815 Alpha fairway woods are like that reversible jacket where you really do get two for the price of one. With the adjustable weights (30 grams and 3 grams) a player can significantly manipulate launch and spin of the club.

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With the 30-gram weight set forward, the 815 Alpha fairway wood becomes very low spinning. In lower lofts, I can see it working as a second driver. It will, however, reduce the moment of inertia (MOI) of the club, a measure of ball speed retention on off-center hits, and add a bit of fade bias. With the 30-gram weight in the rear of the club, however, the club becomes higher-spinning, more forgiving, and adds a bit of draw bias.

What really stood out in my testing was just how much the launch and spin changed as a result of changes to the weight configurations, as well as the loft/lie settings. The 815 Alpha fairway wood wears more hats than ladies at the Kentucky Derby. As such, the provided data is really a snapshot of one possible loft/lie configuration.

The Numbers

Head: Callaway Big Bertha 815 Alpha hybrid (20 degrees)
Shaft: Fujikura Speeder 865 Stiff (Stock)

  • Average Ball Speed: 143.8 mph
  • Average Backspin: 4975 rpm
  • Average Launch Angle 19 degrees
  • Average Carry Distance (at 5000 feet): 238 yards

Head: Callaway Big Bertha 815 Alpha fairway wood (14 degrees, weight back)
Shaft: Fujikura Speeder 665 Stiff (Stock)

  • Average Ball Speed: 152.4 mph
  • Average Swing Speed: 105 mph
  • Average Backspin: 3450 rpm
  • Average Launch Angle 16.1 degrees
  • Average Carry Distance (at 5000 feet): 263 yards

Gamer Head: Cobra Bio Cell+ (14.5 degrees)
Gamer Shaft: Aldila ATX Blue 75X

  • Average Ball Speed 153 MPH
  • Average Swing Speed 105 MPH
  • Average Backspin 3250 RPM
  • Average Launch Angle 15.9 degrees
  • Average Carry Distance (at 5000 feet): 260 yards

The Takeaway

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The Big Bertha 815 Alpha is Callaway’s “better player” fairway wood, and its lone adjustable, better-player hybrid model for 2015. The list of features reads like a roll call of the greatest hits from the Callaway engineering department.

The 33 grams of moveable weight in the fairway wood is a serious advancement and sets a new standard for the entire industry. The stock shafts will fit a majority of players, and a full docket of aftermarket shafts is available as necessary. We particularly like the 16-degree model, which because of its high-launch and low-spin characteristics (especially with the 30-gram weight forward), could be longer than the 14-degree model for many golfers.

We often associate the term Alpha with a leader who showcases dominant characteristics. For Callaway and the 815 Alpha series, there couldn’t be a more fitting name.

Specs

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Buy it from CallawayBuy Now on Amazon

 

Screen Shot 2015-03-11 at 5.52.16 PM Buy it from CallawayBuy Now on Amazon

 

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I didn't grow up playing golf. I wasn't that lucky. But somehow the game found me and I've been smitten ever since. Like many of you, I'm a bit enthusiastic for all things golf and have a spouse which finds this "enthusiasm" borderline ridiculous. I've been told golf requires someone who strives for perfection, but realizes the futility of this approach. You have to love the journey more than the result and relish in frustration and imperfection. As a teacher and coach, I spend my days working with amazing middle school and high school student athletes teaching them to think, dream and hope. And just when they start to feel really good about themselves, I hand them a golf club!

10 COMMENTS

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  1. One of the more useless reviews on this site, which is saying something. I doubt it could get any more generic. No comparison to the previous Big Bertha woods, or even the XR/XR Pro woods. That’s 5 min I’ll never get back. So thank you

  2. I’ve been playing a long time. A lot of people scream at the rising costs of drivers but it is my belief that the price of drivers has not gone up significantly in 20 years and data backs that up. Conversely the price of fairways and hybrids have soared exponentially as opposed to their driver counterparts. Now this probably doesn’t affect the type of golfer who posts here, but the average regular golfer tends to buy the same brand fairway/hybrid as the driver they play, and many replace them all at the same time. I guess my point is that Callaway may be discouraging a certain facet of the market by pricing their fairways at $300.

    • There are really two items to consider here – First, MSRP is really only valuable as a talking point given how many retailers often price products below this figure and/or how fluid some pricing can be – That said, your point is well taken regarding how prices have changed on fairway/hybrid clubs – and it’s not just Callaway – MSRP on the R15 TP fairway is $349.99 – MSRP on the 915 series from Titleist is $299 as well – If Callaway is discouraging this piece of the market, so is pretty much everyone else.

    • I did play around a lot with the weights, but didn’t post any data – Really the reason for this is to get people as much of an apples-apples comparison to provide some good baseline data/information – Honestly, that’s one of the challenges reviewing clubs which are more adjustable – In that certain settings and weight configurations are going to work much better for some players than others -

      • Understood, I was just hoping to see the change the weight made in ball flight with all other variables staying the same. The changeable weights seem like an interesting idea, especially in a club this small where it could have more of an impact vs. a 460cc driver.

        • Fair enough – I will say that changing the way did have a significant impact on the ball flight for me – I really feel that this club is a 2 for 1 in that by changing loft and weight configuration, you really can get 2 (or more!) very different ball flights -

    • Thanks for reading the review – What you’re suggesting is true across the entire industry – this isn’t something unique to Callaway – That said, their price point isn’t any different from the other OEM’s, so the pricing isn’t comparatively out of line at all, just perhaps toward the high end.

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