|GolfWRX Top Rated|
Highly recommended. Great Big Bertha and Alpha 816 are leading performers in every area, whether golfers need more distance, forgiveness or the adjustability to fine tune their ideal ball flight.
5 out of 5
Pros: The Great Big Bertha is Callaway’s most forgiving fairway wood, and the Alpha 816 can be configured with two different CG positions (forward and back), giving better players the ability to alter launch conditions independent of loft. Both fairway woods offer some of the fastest ball speeds we’ve seen in testing.
Cons: Unlike Callaway’s Great Big Bertha and Alpha 816 drivers, the fairway woods don’t allow golfers to move CG more toward the toe or heel.
Who’s It For?: The Alpha 816 is designed for better players, especially those in search of a flatter trajectory. The Great Big Bertha targets golfers who need more forgiveness or want to hit their fairway woods higher.
Fairway woods or “metals,” as the old timers at my club like to call them, are packed with just as much technology and performance as their larger brethren. And for all the attention drivers garner, fairway woods occupy a crucial space in the bag of any any golfer.
To fill that crucial space, however, different golfers need different solutions. “What kind of fairway wood do I need and what do I need it to do?” If you’re interested in a new fairway wood, that’s the question you should be asking yourself. And Callaway has two new answers for golfers to consider.
Big Bertha Alpha 816 ($299.99)
When it comes to packing as much technology as possible in a fairway woods, few models can match Callaway’s Big Bertha Alpha 816. It’s the first Callaway fairway wood to use the company’s Forged Composite Crown, which helps lower the center of gravity (CG) to reduce spin. It has two adjustable weights (16 grams and 3 grams), allowing golfers to adjust the CG location to alter spin and launch conditions independent of loft.
If you want to hit the Alpha 816 lower, position the 16-gram weight in the forward weight port and the 3-gram weight in the rear weight port. If you want to maximize forgiveness or need a higher ball flight to improve carry distance, swap the weights. Positioning the heavier weight in the rearward position will also add a bit of draw bias to the club, while moving it forward makes the clubs slightly more fade biased.
Great Big Bertha Alpha 816 ($249.99)
The next option is the Great Big Bertha. Like the 816 Alpha, it comes with the 8-way Optfit hosel adjustable hosel. While there are no moveable weights on its sole, the hosel provides a 3-degree range of adjustability, and each of the three possible loft settings can be paired with a unique lie setting — neutral or draw.
The Great Big Bertha lacks the CG adjustability of the Alpha 816, but its target audience won’t be interested in that. It’s for golfers who can be helped by a slightly higher-spinning fairway wood, those who prefer a fairway wood with maximum forgiveness, or both.
Now that pretty much every OEM offers some type of fast-face technology, being the “longest” fairway wood doesn’t carry the same weight that it used to carry, but the Great Big Bertha and Alpha 816 are extra long. They’re likely two of the longest, if not the longest fairway woods currently available in their classes.
Through testing, both the Great Big Bertha and Alpha 816 exhibited excellent feel and responsiveness, especially on shots hit slightly toward the toe or heel. Give credit to Callaway’s extremely thin and light Forged Hyper Speed Face Cup, which improves ball speed on shots hit across the face.
It’s no coincidence that Callaway’s XR (2015) and X2 Hot fairway woods (2014), which also used Face Cup technology, were the top-ranked fairway woods in our Gear Trials Club Test in their respective years. The technology continues to churn out some of the fastest ball speeds we see in our fairway woods tests.
When it comes to looks, the fairway woods don’t appear all that different from one another at address, but there is a size difference — the Alpha 816 is 165 cubic centimeters, while the Great Big Bertha is 182 cubic centimeters. The Great Big Bertha uses Callaway’s Chevron logo as an alignment aid while the Alpha 816 has no alignment aid, but both fairway woods are all-business at address thanks to their matte black crowns.
I reviewed Callaway’s Alpha 815 fairway woods last year, and in the review I made mention of just how much of a change in ball flight I saw when the orientation of the 30-gram and 3-gram weights were switched. Apparently, being able to reposition 27 grams of weight proved to be too much, as Callaway received feedback that many golfers preferred weight configurations that were less severe. So with the Alpha 816, there’s a little less than half (13 grams) of weight to move back and forth. That’s enough for a noticeable change in ball flight, but it’s less than than it was with the Alpha 815.
It’s my hunch is the vast majority of players who bag the Alpha 816 will find the rearward weight setting to work best, as it’s still a low-spinning fairway wood in that configuration, and offers extra forgiveness, too. As you might have noticed in the testing data, I generated an average of 1 mph more ball speed with the Alpha 816 moving the weight rearward, creating the longest overall shots.
Distance and accuracy are generally the most important factors when it comes to fairway woods, but for some players it’s more important to be able to use a fairway wood confidently from the tee, fairway and short rough. Both the Alpha 816 and Great Big Bertha are good performers from the tee and the ground, but I was particularly impressed with the turf interaction and playability of the Great Big Bertha. Credit its nimble and forgiving Warbird sole for that.
On the launch monitor, and more importantly on the course, the Great Big Bertha was tenacious and had a penchant for high-flying bombs. It’s so easy to catch the ball a bit heavy or thin with a fairway wood, especially when they lie isn’t perfect, but the more I hit the Big Bertha the more certain I was I could hit any shot required.
If you’re a better golfer, or one who generates high amounts of spin, you’ll want to see what Callaway’s Big Bertha Alpha 816 can do for you. It’s offered in three lofts (14, 16 and 18), which is plenty because of the dual-CG and loft adjustability. It’s a top choice for golfers who want to maximizing the distance they hit their fairway wood or fine tune the perfect ball flight.
The majority of golfers will see as good if not better results from the Great Big Bertha, however, which is offers one of the categories best blends of distance and forgiveness — along with a highly playable sole design that makes shots from the turf a breeze. It’s offered in a variety of lofts as well (15, 18 and a 20-degree Heavenwood that has the length of a 4 wood). Callaway also offers non-adjustable 21- and 24-degree models for slower swing-speed golfers.
Last but not least, each of the fairway woods can be equipped with a variety of premium shafts — many offered at no upcharge — that can seal the deal for shaft-conscious consumers and helps justify the premium price of the Great Big Bertha ($249.99) and Alpha 816 ($299.99).