On May 29th, Callaway released the Bertha Mini 1.5, the company’s first entry into the alternative driver category. It is true that 2 woods and strong-lofted 3 woods have been available for a while, but these clubs are a little different. Alternative drivers, such as the Bertha Mini 1.5 and TaylorMade’s AeroBurner Mini Driver typically have much larger heads and longer shafts than similar options. It appears as though equipment manufacturers have determined there is a place in the game for these clubs. So, like many of our customers, we needed to find out where alternative drivers fit in the bag and for what type of player they are intended.
As with any new category, manufacturers will introduce products that represent their own interpretation, which can vary from one to the next. Much like the introduction of the modern day hybrid that teetered back and forth between something closer to a fairway wood versus something closer to an iron, manufacturers will likely release alternative drivers that are at times closer to a tradition driver and, at others, closer to a traditional fairway. Cobra’s Long Tom 2 wood had a shaft the length of a driver. Callaway’s Bertha Mini has the same adjustability of the company’s drivers that are on the market today. On the other hand, Ping’s Rapture has a shallower profile that lends itself to being struck right off the ground. Likewise, TaylorMade offers their Mini Driver in lofts that are greater than that of a typical three wood. Ultimately trial, error, and public opinion will dictate the design characteristics that endure.
Callaway’s Bertha Mini is 35% larger than the XR 3 wood, the company’s most popular fairway. It features their Forged Hyper Speed Face Cup, a Forged Composite crown, and OptiFit Hosel, much like the Big Bertha Alpha 815 drivers. We typically test a new introduction versus its predecessor. Since that was an option this time around, we decided to use a TrackMan to test the Bertha Mini versus one of the manufacturer’s current drivers and fairways to determine where it fits in the mix.
Our tester is a 3 handicap with an average distance off the tee and a driver club speed of 107 mph. The Bertha Mini being tested had 14 degree’s of loft with one of the stock shaft offerings, a Fujikura Speeder 565 in stiff flex. The driver we tested was the Big Bertha Alpha 815 in 9.5 degrees of loft with the same Fujikura Speeder 565 in stiff flex. Both the Bertha Mini and Alpha 815 had their loft and lie angles set in the neutral position. The fairway we tested was an XR 3 wood with the stock Project X LZ in stiff flex. All clubs where the manufacturer’s standard lengths and were struck off a tee.
In comparing carry distances of the three clubs it was clear that the loft of the club was still a big factor. As we’d expect, the driver by far carried the farthest. In fact, the driver carried over 17 yards farther than the Berth Mini and 30 yards farther than the XR 3 wood. More interesting was the comparison between the Mini and the 3 wood. It is true that the little longer shaft of the Mini did give our tester a little more club speed (1.6 mph on average to be exact). However, we believe it was the driver-like technology in the Mini that really made the difference. With just the minimal increase in club speed, our tester picked up almost 5.5 mph of ball speed. That faster flying ball was also launching over 2 degrees higher versus the fairway and happened to be at the exact same 14.3 degree launch as the driver. The increase in both speed and launch led to an average carry distance of 13 yards farther.
Our tester wasn’t able to carry the XR 3 wood near the other two clubs. However, in favorable conditions, the lower launching 3 wood was able to roll out near the Bertha Mini. During our test the Mini was just 7 yards farther than the 3 wood. The noticeable gap was between the driver and the Mini. The Alpha 815 driver was over 20 yards longer than the Mini for our tester.
Side Note: When looking at distance it’s important that we take into consideration how well the test clubs fit our test player. It’s clear in this case the test Bertha Mini 1.5 did not perfectly fit our player. Our tester’s average spin rate with the Mini was over 3200 RPM, which combined with a high launch, led to a descent angle of over 42 degrees. That is not ideal, if one is trying to maximize distance. In fact, we’d prefer to see that descent angle much closer to 35 degrees like the other two test clubs. With a neutral to positive attack angle and a club speed just over 100 mph, we would prefer to see the spin rate under 3000. Since our tester also launched this Bertha Mini quite high, we could likely achieve excellent launch conditions by lowering the loft of the Mini by utilizing the OptiFit Hosel or the 12-degree head. Doing so would certainly decrease the descent angle and lead to an increase in total distance.
Much to our surprise, the Bertha Mini was the most accurate of the three clubs tested. It appears the combination of a shaft shorter than the driver and a head that is larger and more forgiving than the three wood was an ideal combination for our tester. As you’ll see in the image below, he hit three very straight shots with the Mini, was pretty good with the driver, but struggled to find some consistency with the smaller-headed 3 wood.
As referenced early, our tester initially launched the Bertha Mini and Alpha 815 drivers very similarly and much higher than the XR 3 wood. This led to shots that, on average, flew much higher and carried much longer. Despite attaining the same loft as the Mini, our tester struggled to get the 3 wood high enough to maximize his distance with the club. Once again, this is very likely due to the smaller, more-difficult-to-hit 3 wood head.
Side Note: It is important to note that our tests were done off a tee. The smaller 3 wood would likely have an advantage off the ground as its center of gravity is most certainly lower than the larger and deeper Bertha Mini 1.5. The lower CG would make the 3 wood easier to launch without the aid of a tee.
The Callaway Bertha Mini 1.5 tested very nicely. As its name suggested, the Mini produced results much like a driver with distance gains and significant dispersion improvement versus a 3 wood. For a better player, it appears the Bertha Mini is a much better option off a tee, as the increased head size and incorporated driver technology proved to be much more consistent. Therefore we think the Bertha Mini is great for better players who tend to look for options other than a driver off the tee due to performance or course layout. However, the large head and long shaft would only work well off the ground for the strongest and most highly skilled players.
Although our test was with a 3-handicap, we did learn a lot about this club’s performance. We could see it nicely fitting in the bag of an average or higher handicap player who struggles with a driver, as once again, it’s an excellent option off a tee. That said, we’d recommend a player struggling with their driver to first spend some time with an experienced fitter before completely giving up on the club.
We had one last thought about whether or not to include a Bertha Mini 1.5 or other alternative drivers in your bag. It’s always important to consider how a new introduction could affect your set make-up and, most importantly, your distance gapping. Since we feel alternative drivers are best used off a tee for most players, replacing a 3 wood with an alternative driver would remove an off-the-ground long distance option. Therefore, players would need to make sure they have another option, such as a 5 wood or low-lofted hybrid, to fit that need. Once again, we’d recommend consulting an experienced fitter with an accurate distance measuring device, such as TrackMan, to ensure that fixing one issue doesn’t cause another.
If you are interested in testing the new Bertha Mini 1.5, please visit the Golf Exchange location nearest you.