Callaway new v old driver: Distance Test

We throw the new Callaway Great Big Bertha driver up against the original Big Bertha driver of 1991

Andy Roberts's picture
Wed, 28 Oct 2015

Callaway new v old driver: Distance Test

How does a 24-year-old driver - now worth little more than a tenner - stack up against one of the hottest new drivers in town? 

We headed to Silvermere Golf Club armed with the original Callaway Big Bertha driver of 1991 and brand new Callaway Great Big Bertha driver of 2015, and pitted them against each other with a GC2 launch monitor

The original Big Bertha driver was tested in 10 degrees with a stock True Temper Memphis 10 steel shaft, while the new Great Big Bertha driver was tested in 10.5 degrees with a stock Fujikura Speeder 665 Evolution shaft.

After warming up with both drivers for 10 minutes, we then struck five balls off a small tee peg with the original Big Bertha and five balls off a large tee peg with the new Great Big Bertha.

About the drivers

Callaway Big Bertha (1991)

The original Big Bertha was a watershed moment in not just Callaway's history, but golf. 

Named after the most famous artillery piece used during World War I - a cannon - the original Big Bertha was called the "World’s Friendliest Driver" and it was the first widebody to be designed in stainless steel.

The club features perimeter weighting for increased forgiveness and uses Callaway's patented, world-renowned S2H2 bore-through hosel, a technology that has stood the test of time despite being introduced by Callaway in 1988.

The S2H2 system (Short, Straight, Hollow Hosel) - considered to be one of Callaway's true technological breakthroughs - shortens the length of the hosel and moves weight lower and to the perimeter of the clubhead.

Despite weighing in at 190cc, this was unthinkably regarded as an 'oversized' head back in the day.

Callaway Great Big Bertha (2015)

Callaway's latest reincarnation of the Big Bertha driver features next generation R-MOTO technology to provide the structure for a thinner face, leading to higher ball speeds on all strikes.

The new Great Big Bertha driver also features Adjustable Perimeter Weighting, via a 10g sliding weight that not only adds greater stability but also provides players with unlimited draw and fade bias options. 

A refined, shorter track promotes more draw bias than ever before, to give golfers maximum dispersion control, as well as exceptional forgiveness, to help keep shots on line more often - although we did not adjust this driver as to ensure a fair test. 

And as always with Callaway drivers these days, an Optifit hosel lets golfers choose from eight different configurations to further tune loft, lie and face angle.

Tested: Best Drivers 2015

Looks and feel

Placing both drivers next to each other on the turf, you can see the new Great Big Bertha driver is nearly two and half times the size of its older brother. The original Big Bertha has the look of a five-wood about it. 

The new driver weighs in at 460cc, while the old is a measly 190cc. The new Great Big Bertha driver is also a good inch and half longer in shaft length. 

The understated Callaway chevron remains in the front middle of both crowns and that aids terrific alignment over the ball - as always with Callaway drivers. 

While hardly surprising given the 24-year separation, the face of the new Great Big Bertha is a lot cleaner and thinner thanks to its new R-MOTO technology. You cannot feel any of the five scorelines on the face of the new Great Big Bertha, whereas you can feel all 10 on the rougher Big Bertha. 

Review: Callaway Great Big Bertha driver

Another improvement with the 2015 model is you can better differentiate between the face and crown with its darkened crown, silver face and cleaner scorelines, as opposed to the all metallic look of the original Big Bertha. 

In terms of feel, the stock Speeder shaft of today is much better balanced and easier to control than the stock True Temper Memphis steel shaft installed in the original Big Bertha.

And it's fair to say Golf Pride grips have dramatically improved 24 years on, too. 

The sound off the face was also much more pleasing with the new Great Big Bertha driver, as opposed to the rather 'dead' feel off the older driver.

Performance 

Looking at our GC2 stats above, you can see on average there were 44 additional yards of carry with the new Great Big Bertha driver, and 31 extra yards of total distance

Considering the original Big Bertha driver was launched in the early 90s, you are essentially receiving more than a yard of firepower every year when it comes to Callaway drivers.

Our spin rate was approximately 500 RPM lower with the original Big Bertha, but surprisingly its launch angle pipped the new Great Big Bertha by 0.8 degrees. 

While the differing stock shafts played their part, we received around 10mph extra clubhead and ball speed with the latest Callaway driver.

In terms of forgiveness, as you can see from the ball flight below, the original Big Bertha (red line) was far less easy to control off the tee. 

Verdict

The headline figures from our test state that Callaway's new Great Big Bertha driver gives you a total distance advantage of approximately 12% over Callaway's original Big Bertha driver (272 yards v 241 yards).

However, what our test can't scientifically measure is the feel, sound and appearance.

The new Great Big Bertha driver really excels when it comes to feel and playability, and its standard Speeder 665 Evolution shaft is particularly light but promotes much faster clubhead and ball speed while delivering greater feel throughout the swing.

Sound at impact is also much more appealing with the new Great Big Bertha driver, given you can feel the difference in strike and sound when hitting one out the sweetspot. With the older driver, strikes out the centre and heel or toe sound similar.

Video: Best drivers 2015

If you crave a forgiving, long and compact-looking premium driver, then you won't be disappointed with bagging the new Callaway Great Big Bertha driver, particularly with all the adjustability on offer at the touch of a wrench.

However, if you were to fit a new shaft and decent grip on the original Callaway Big Bertha, without breaking the bank, then you've certainly got yourself a driver that will still do the basics very well. 

But if you are looking to get back into golf after 25 years away from the sport, and are currently contemplating going back to your Big Bertha driver that still rests innocently next to the fishing rod in the garage, we believe you will boost your distance dramatically by splashing the cash on Callaway's latest and greatest. 

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