Pros: The Great Big Bertha is impressively low spinning for its high level of forgiveness. Its adjustability system is also effective, and simple to use. The 816 Alpha Double Black Diamond remains one of the lowest spinning drivers in golf, and is more forgiving than previous DBD models. It also has four different CG settings that allow better players to fine tune spin and trajectory.

Cons: Even in its draw settings, the 816 Alpha DBD will have too much fade bias for many golfers.

Who’s It For?: Any golfer can play the Great Big Bertha. Accomplished golfers who need to reduce spin or need more fade bias will gravitate to the 816 Alpha Double Black Diamond.

The Review

It doesn’t have to be revolutionary to change your game. That sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s becoming more of a reality in an environment where golf equipment manufacturers continue to push engineering possibilities, inching closer to giving consumers a driver that does exactly what they want it to do — whatever that may be.

The Great Big Bertha and 816 Alpha Double Black Diamond from Callaway are notable in that they make effective improvements to concepts introduced in previous generations without issuing a complete overhaul.

BigBerthaDBDAddress
Double Black Diamond (left) vs. Great Big Bertha.

Both the Great Big Bertha and Double Black Diamond drivers don’t look or feel markedly different from their predecessors, Callaway’s Alpha 815 and Alpha 815 DBD. At address, the flat black crown and round profile don’t necessarily distinguish one model from the other — hold the chevron alignment aid on the Big Bertha. The face of the DBD is slightly deeper than the Big Bertha, leading to about 300 rpm less spin and a more penetrating trajectory. Both drivers measure 460cc, although neither appears too weighty or bulky behind the ball.

The Double Black Diamond may have the slight edge in sound if you prefer a compressed, thwack sensation at impact. That said, the Great Big Bertha is vibrant, and a bit more solid than the XR and XR Pro. Consumers are becoming more conscious of feel and acoustics with metal woods, and it’s clear Callaway is making a strong effort to place its product at the head of this class.

Great_Big_Bertha_Overview
The Great Big Bertha boasts one of the most intuitive adjustability systems on the market.

Taken critically, Callaway’s “No yard left behind” campaign leads consumers to at least consider whether they’re leaving yards on the proverbial table, and if so, how many? And where exactly are these additional yards coming from?

The most talked about reasons include increased ball speed on off-center hits, as well as a combination of a higher launch angle and lower spin rate. Those improvements are the result of Callaway’s ability to produce drivers with an extremely lightweight frame, and then used the “saved” weight for other purposes.

For example, both drivers use an improved R*Moto face that is not only lighter, but more flexible to create faster ball speeds across the entire club face. Then there’s Callaway’s Forged Composite Crown, which helps locate weight lower and deeper in the head for improved forgiveness and more efficient launch conditions.

The most important yards — at least to a golfer’s score — will be the ones that result from a golfer’s ability to consistently square the club face at impact, which is helped by the drivers’ two distinct and wide-ranging adjustability system. They’re better than ever, again, because of the aforementioned saved weight.

Callaway_Big_Bertha_Alpha_816_Double_Black_Diamond-1021x580
Just flip the Gravity Core around to drastically affect CG location.

The Alpha 816 Double Black Diamond has two “Distance Chambers,” along with a single Gravity Core — a stick with a heavy side and a light side that is designed to rest inside one of the chambers. Together they offer golfers four distinct setting, which can sound complex. But in GolfWRX’s testing, the best results are found simply. Just locate the heavy side of the Gravity Core in the position where you most often contact your drives.

Here’s everything the four positions do:

  1. Gravity Core in Heel, Heavy Side Down: Increases draw bias, decreases spin, raises launch, increases ball speed if you tend to contact the ball on the low heel of the driver.
  2. Gravity Core in Heel, Heavy Side Up: Increases draw bias, raises spin, lowers launch, increases ball speed if you tend to contact the ball on the high heel of the driver.
  3. Gravity Core in Toe, Heavy Side Down: Increases fade bias, decreases spin, raises launch, increases ball speed if you tend to contact the ball on the low toe of the driver.
  4. Gravity Core in Toe, Heavy Side Up: Increases fade bias, raises spin, lowers launch, more ball speed if you tend to contact the ball on the high toe of the driver.
BigBerthaAdjustable
The sliding weight gives you precise control over amount of fade/draw.

If you don’t hit your drives on the screws with great regularity, the Great Big Bertha is the driver that you’re likely going to hit longer. It has a 10-gram sliding weight in a track around its perimeter to give golfers virtually unlimited fade and draw options, while retaining maximum forgiveness.

Moreover, it’s one of the more user-friendly technologies which is as simple as “loosen, slide, tighten.”

The Numbers

CallyDBDvsGBB
Clubs were all tested on a Flightscope X2 Monitor. Results show the average of 15 shots each, tossing out the two best and two worst with each club. Both drivers were tested with the same shaft at 9.5 degrees.

Because the chart above represents averages, it doesn’t show just how forgiving the Great Big Bertha is. Although I kept the 10 best shots, I could have kept all 15 and the data wouldn’t have changed much at all.

That said, the “anti-optimal” numbers below — in which I placed the Gravity Core in the worst position for my swing — serve to display that while more forgiving than the 815 version, the Double Black Diamond is a bit more touchy than the Great Big Bertha. Simply by moving the weight from the high toe (my worst-performing setting) to the low heel (my preferred setting) I gained 37 yards of total distance and 24 yards of carry distance!

CallyDBD
The “optimal” setting had the gravity core in the heel with its heavy side down. The “anti-optimal” had the gravity core in the toe with the heavy side up.

If you buy a driver with adjustability offerings, you must optimize those settings for your swing. As you can see, they can make a tremendous difference.

Recapping my results

  • The Double Black Diamond offered 2 mph more ball speed than the Great Big Bertha. This is not typical, but can occur with golfers who consistently strike the center of the club face.
  • The Double Black Diamond’s spin rate was 300 rpm lower, supporting its case as one of the lowest spinning drivers in golf.
  • The Double Black Diamond launched 0.5 degrees lower, carried 3 yards shorter but had a total distance that was 2 yards longer total.

Final Thoughts

BigBerthaDBDFaces
Great Big Bertha (top) vs. Double Black Diamond.

The 816 Alpha Double Black Diamond — as its name indicates — is for highly skilled golfers, and for that reason it will fit a small percentage of players. The Great Big Bertha, on the other hand, is an exceptional option for any golfer. It may be the first club I could bag as easily as my 68 year-old father.

We’ve grown accustomed to sacrificing a bit of extra spin for added forgiveness, and the converse is equally true. With the Alpha 816 Double Black Diamond and the Great Big Bertha, however, golfers are offered two first-rate low spin drivers: one with more forgiveness and moderate adjustability and the other with less forgiveness and extreme adjustability.

There’s no doubt that the price of both drivers can offer a bit of sticker shock (the Great Big Bertha is $449, the Double Black Diamond is $499), but the upside is you can order each driver with any of 19 premium shafts. For those interested, Callaway has sorted them into different weight classes. If you’re going to spend a significant amount of money, it’s nice to know that you can get the right shaft for your swing.

Design your own Great Big Bertha here. Design your own Double Black Diamond here.

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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!

21 COMMENTS

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  1. I’m in the market for an upgrade so I tested both last week and found that they are indeed very low spinning, even the GBB was launching too low with too little spin for me. Callaway isn’t kidding when they say the DBD is for only the most highly skilled. It feels amazing when hit on the spot but anything less than a perfect strike is punishing. I’ll be looking to other drivers as neither of these worked well for me.

    • Did you try a 13.5 loft and the Bassara Shaft?

      Cut the shaft to 45 inches for center hit consistency?

      If you can’t launch that, go down in flex.

      My SS is 92-98, I use the 9 degree GBB at +1, and with a 55-65g shaft and get a high launch. You’ve got to know how to get a high launch. Tee up, hit up.

  2. Could you not have links to buy it in Amazon? Not only does that advocate for one retailer over the others, but we should be encouraging people to patronize their local golf shops.

  3. I’ve gamed a GBB for over a month. Sound/Feel are excellent on a golf course, but it’s retention of ballspeed on off center hits that gets your attention. The driver is uncannily consistently good even on poor swings. The perimeter weighting is more than fade and draw. If your miss is toe, adjust to fade and the toe twists go away and flight is straight to a slight draw. That sealed the deal for me as well as its consistency. Its angle of descent is more shallow for me, meaning I will get more roll … and distance. After dialing it in, I sold my other drivers. No need for them. Used the money to buy a few shafts.

  4. i was getting a shaft tip replaced and demoed one of these from the golf shop. pretty nice stick. i felt it was as long as my g30 ls but i felt off center hits werent as forgiving as the the g30, but i wouldnt hesitate to game this. i didnt care for the sound, a little more thuddy than i like

  5. Sounds like it might be quite difficult to dial in the DBD. I also hate the matt grey crowns everywhere now. I think they look cheap and make forking out large sums of money for a driver impossible. They look so crap!

    • I’d certainly suggest spending some time with a qualified fitter if you decide to go with the DBD….That said, I’d spend a good deal of time with a quality fitter any time you purchase a new club…and good news, the matte grey is really a matte black!

  6. Hmmm… i found both drivers to be VERY draw bias – even the DBD. I got ride of my DBD because it drew WAY too much. Not fade bias at all like the review says. You want fade bias to an extreme? G30 LS.

    • This wasn’t my experience at all. I can certainly understand how the same driver won’t necessarily give the same ball flight to different players, but I’d wager quite a bit that most players will find the DBD to be naturally fade-bias. That said, given how much you can adjust a club, you can really tinker quite a bit to get the ball flight you want.

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