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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.”
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!
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.
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.
- Our front page tech story on Callaway new GBB and DBD drivers.
- See what GolfWRX Members are saying about the Great Big Bertha driver in our forum.
- See what GolfWRX Members are saying about the Alpha 816 DBD driver in our forum.