Sunday, April 17, 2005

Callaway Big Bertha 454 review: Revisited

Review: Callaway Big Bertha 454
Price: US$300 or $379 CDN


A few months ago, the fine folks at Callaway Canada decided they wanted me to tour through their facilities and get a chance to go through their fitting process. Essentially it was an attempt to show that, following the acquisition of Hogan, Callaway is no longer just a mass market company, but a clubmaker offering goods for better players as well.
Interesting then, that Callaway spent most of my tour pushing Callaway, and not Hogan.

Example

The aim, apparently, was to get the Callaway Big Bertha 454 in my hands and prove to me that it wasn't just another Callaway driver. As far as I can tell through my first outing with it, they were right. And my daughter, Sydney, aged eight months, thinks it is pretty hot as well.
In Canada, Callaway has spent a lot of time pushing its ability to offer customized fitting through a simulator that measures ball rotation, launch angle, distance and accuracy. It was an interesting process -- I found that given the distance I hit the ball with a driver (I carry the ball in the air 265-270), I would benefit from a driver with lower loft.
So after being fitted, I waited for the driver to arrive, and finally, after a couple of weeks of waiting, I took the driver to an indoor range. I came away impressed. Unlike many of the earlier Callaway models I hit, the 454 has a flat face, not toed-in like many of the company's earlier drivers, which seem to be trying to keep their slice happy clientele from hitting it into the trees on the right side. That meant I could work the ball and still hit the fade that I've spent the last few years perfecting.
The club also felt powerful, with a hot face that offered strong trajectory.
That said, I can't really comment on distance yet, having only hit the 454 in an indoor range (too much snow in Canada). Early reviews seem to suggest the club is giving up some distance for accuracy, but I'm wondering whether the combination Graffaloy Blue shaft and 9 degrees of loft on my 454 will compensate for it.

Problems: I am always surprised when a company comes out with a $300 or up driver and puts the cheapest grip available on it. If one can customize the shaft, why not the grip? There's nothing more annoying than getting your new driver and having to immediately take it to the shop to get the grip changed. I'm still not thrilled with the sound the 454 makes, but it isn't as bad as some of the earlier Callaways or as distinctive as Ping.

Overall: Callaway says the Big Bertha 454 "delivers the kind of scorching power usually measured in horses." Well, last week I had my first chance to take it out and work it on an outdoor range. The results were impressive.
For one thing, the 454 doesn't have the closed face that is so common to Callaway clubs. Rather, the clubface is square, making it easy to work the ball. As a fader of the ball, I've always found Callaway clubs make it too easy to draw the ball, which turns into a snap hook for many good players.
In the case of the 454, given the square clubface, I was able to get the high fade I desire on a regular basis. It is a very consistent club and even a mishit went over 270 yards.
Interestingly, this does appear to be a club that allows you to hit it a long way. In nine holes, I managed three 300+ drives, including two tee shots on the ninth hole at Angus Glen's North course that went just over 300 yards with a high fade and landed within feet of each other. That led to the first birdies of the year!
My basement continues to be littered with drivers -- including my two Swing Sync models (I still dearly love my old prototype), a Titleist 975J, a couple of Pings and an R7 which is expected soon.
But I must admit that I've been very pleasantly surprised at the 454 -- and happy enough to keep it in my bag.
.

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