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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.