The 20 Second Intro
Callaway puts the emphasis on control by using next generation multi-material construction and aggressive shaping to create its most forgiving driver ever.
Available Lofts: 9.0°, 10.5°, 13.5°
Stock Shafts: UST Recoil Driver, Mitsubishi Diamana Red
Stock Length: 44.5” or 45.5”
Retail Price: $399
Availability: Pre-Sale beginning 9/9. Full retail 9/30
It’s been a while since I quoted myself, but, hey, that was absolutely my first thought when I laid eyes on Callaway’s new Big Bertha Fusion Driver. And not for anything, I’m pretty damn sure I’m right.
We’ll get to why that is (beyond the obvious it looks like the FT-iZ) in a moment, but first let’s talk about what Big Bertha Fusion isn’t.
Big Bertha Fusion is not a replacement for the Great Big Bertha. Yeah, it’s true, we’re about 1 year into GBB, but this isn’t that. If you take me at my word, that leaves XR16 and Fusion as the current models in the Callaway lineup. That leaves an obvious hole where Great Big Bertha used to be, and while I don’t know exactly how Callaway will fill it, if you want/like/need a highly adjustable driver, my recommendation is patience.
What makes me so sure? While you were grumbling about accelerated product cycles, Callaway has quietly increased the shelf life of its products. 18-24 months… that’s the new normal.
For the last few years, Callaway has been on a run of nostalgia with its product names. It’s a win-win. Consumers flock to the familiar while the marketing guys don’t have to worry about dreaming up the next iconic identity maker.
It’s worked exceptionally well for Callaway thus far, but between us, when RAZR and JAWS make their comebacks, I’ll know it’s time to walk away.
The whole Bertha’s Back thing was about rebirth; both for the franchise and the company.
The recent trend is more evolutionary. It’s about using the lessons of the past to create modern, and hopefully better products, with elements that remain true to the original designs.
The new steelhead irons… they actually resemble the original steelheads.
Bertha Fusion represents Callaway’s most significant breakthrough in multi-material construction since Callaway’s original multi-material driver, the 2004 ERC Fusion. And that pretty much makes this the ideal time to revive the franchise, while giving a not-so-subtle nod to the FT-iZ.
To understand what that actually means, we need to take a closer look at the technologies baked into Callaway’s newest offering.
EXO-CAGE is Callaway speak for the titanium skeleton – more accurately the Exo skeleton – that supports the various bits of the Big Bertha Fusion. It’s the structure that makes the rest of the cool stuff baked into Big Bertha Fusion possible.
The real story here is Callaway’s new Triaxial carbon. It’s what provides the justification for bringing the Fusion name back. Callaway has previously used what it called Forged Composite in its multi-material designs. It sounds really impressive, and it’s definitely better than the alternative layers of chopped graphite fibers glued together. Forged Composite was once described as the particle board of carbon fibers. That’s not particularly kind, but it paints a vivid, and not wholly inaccurate picture of what Forged Composite is.
Triaxial is different. Instead of layering carbon fibers together, in the new material the fibers are woven or braided together. Similar structures are already in use in many high-end shaft lines. The benefit of weaving the material is that it preserves the strength of the material, while reducing overall thickness (by 35%), and with it, the total weight.
Callaway claim that Fusion’s Trixial Carbon weights a total of 15.1 grams. 10.5 of which is in the crown. That’s a 65% savings over the 100 titanium XR16.
Let’s look at this in context. We put the actual weight of Callaway’s previous Bertha composite driver crown at approximately 16 grams, so really we’re talking about a savings of a bit more than 5 grams over the most recent member of the Big Bertha family.
With consideration for Fusion’s elongated design (greater crown surface area), the apples to apples savings are almost certainly even greater.
We should also mention that the Triaxial Carbon crown features Callaway’s aerodynamic-enhancing Speed Step ribs, which I’m practically obligated to remind you was developed in partnership with Boeing.
Speed Step helps reduce drag during the downswing, which in theory, helps boost head speed.
In addition to the crown, Callaway has replaced a portion of what would otherwise be titanium in the sole with two chunks of additional Triaxial material. Design credit where it’s due, this is similar to the Carbon Zones Cobra introduced with the FLY-Z+. For what it’s worth, Callaway appears to be using even more carbon fiber in Fusion’s sole.
Replacing areas of titanium where they’re not explicitly needed also frees up mass.
Saving as much weight as possible is especially critical when the goal is the push the center of gravity down and back, which is exactly what Callaway says it has done with the Bertha Fusion.
This is where things start to get interesting.
Why would Callaway move away from adjustable weights and towards a non-traditional shape reminiscent of the FT-IZ? Two words: Forgiveness and Control.
I’ve been told that the Callaway Bertha Fusion is the most forgiving driver the company has ever made (the company is claiming a 17% increase in total MOI compared with XR16), and while we don’t have a heel/toe MOI number we can use to put that into context, everything about the design – the weight saving chassis, the lighter crown material, and the elongated FT-IZ shape – suggests all the elements are there for a legitimate low/back CG driver.
Refactoring some of the data provided by Callaway, I believe we’re talking about a center of gravity location that’s roughly 1.25mm lower than the XR16, and lower than what we’d typically find in a high MOI design.
That information along with an educated guess about an actual heel/toe MOI number, along with Callaway’s assertion that Fusion’s sweet zone* is the largest of any Callaway driver ever, suggests a driver that should hold its own alongside the PING G30/G and Cobra FLY-Z/F6.
*The area of the face where impact produces no less than 3 MPH of the peak ball speed.
Distance is king, so within the confines of that reality we’ve often joked that anyone trying to market accuracy would find themselves out of business quickly.
I suppose we can consider the Bertha Fusion a well-hedged test case.
When FT-iZ launched it was billed as the “straightest driver Callaway has ever developed”. One would hope that Callaway would seek to carry on that tradition with Bertha Fusion.
How do you do that? All of that forgiveness and MOI stuff notwithstanding, Callaway did it the easy way.
It shortened the shaft.
With the Big Bertha Fusion, Callaway is actively marketing a 44.5” shaft. Think of this as your control option.
Sure, you could choose the alternative (45.5”) distance option, but we think most of you will find that shorter is better. In Callaway tests, 30% of golfers actually hit the shorter shaft farther. We believe that out in the wild, across the whole of the golfing population, that percentage will prove to be higher, and that’s before accuracy becomes part of the discussion.
Control over distance isn’t the sort of thing you hear with a new driver release, but Callaway’s position is that, in the grand scheme of things, straighter is longer.
Whether you choose distance or control, the Big Bertha Fusion driver offers two stock shaft options. Not a whole lot is known about the first ever UST Recoil driver shaft. Callaway says it’s “designed to load energy on the downswing and unload with an extraordinary combination of power and precision through impact.”
The second option is Mitsubishi’s Diamana Red. Generally, the Red generally works well for golfers looking for a little extra help getting the ball airborne.
To refresh the important point: both shafts are available in stock lengths of either 44.5” or 45.5”.
Let’s See What Happens Next
I suspect that Callaway’s competitors will be watching closely to see how the Big Bertha Fusion performs with actual golfers. Manufacturers moved away from so-called radical geometry (squares and triangles) years ago because the consumer never embraced the non-traditional designs in any meaningful numbers.
With currently available materials, unconventional is the only way to raise MOI to the USGA Limit. We don’t yet know how far (if at all) Callaway has pushed the boundaries, but it will be interesting to see if consumers are more willing to embrace non-traditional designs than they’ve been in the past.
Finally, we should all be watching closely to see if the distance obsessed golfer is ready to get on-board with this shorter shaft thing. If that happens it might start the sort of trend that actually leads to better golf.
Specs, Pricing, and Availability
The Callaway Big Bertha Fusion driver will be available in lofts of 9°, 10.5°, and 13.5° (HT). Presales begin September 9th, with full retail availability starting 9/30. Retail price for the Callaway Big Bertha Fusion is $399.