If you slice the golf ball, the Callaway Big Bertha B-21 driver is designed for you. I don’t slice so it probably isn’t for me but I’m not any less enthused about this release. It’s just one guy’s opinion but I think Callaway does some of its best work with its niche-focused, off-cycle fall releases. There’s no reason to think B-21 will be an exception.
In early spring, when nearly everyone is pumping out new product, the target audience for a new driver is basically every golfer. Sure, there’s some segmentation (there’s a reason why Callaway offers three Mavrik drivers), but playing to the fattest part of the Bell curve means coloring within the lines and, to no small degree, not taking chances.
Fall releases present an alternative for those bold enough to try something different. With the mainstream market already properly serviced, in recent history, Callaway has used the second half of the season as an opportunity to launch a stream of often unexpected products. As the buying season is starting to slow, why not shake things up and reinvigorate the business with something a little bit different?
That’s exactly what Callaway is doing with the Big Bertha B-21 Driver.
How We Got to the Callaway Big Bertha B-21 Driver
To understand the history that got us to the Big Bertha B-21 Driver, let’s stroll down memory lane.
The year was 2013. MyGolfSpy was watermarking its photos when Callaway released the FT Optiforce; a “damn the torpedoes” light and long driver designed for speed and nothing but. Sure, there was some “pray and spray” in the design but when those prayers were answered, it was magically long. I still have the photos of some of the drives I hit. We’re talking uncharted territory … in all directions. Maybe not the best driver ever for hitting fairways but few clubs have ever been more fun to hit.
2016 brought us Big Bertha Fusion. I’d describe it as a bit of an FT-iZ reboot. Stock configurations included 45.5- and 44.5-inch shaft options. At the time, Callaway billed it as its most forgiving driver ever. Between the short shaft option and a semi-triangular shape, Fusion got pigeon-holed a bit as a game-improvement driver but, for my money, it’s Callaway’s most underrated effort in recent memory and one of the most sneaky good drivers we’ve ever tested.
2017 gave us Epic Star. Frankly, I’m decidedly meh on that one (I’d put it more in the Money Grab category), but it wasn’t without utility for the target audience (slow swing speed golfers with money to burn).
As far as Callaway off-cycle launches go, the Big Bertha B-21 may be the best of the lot, if only for its sensible yet oddly unique approach to filling what’s arguably the driver market’s greatest need.
The Callaway Big Bertha B-21 Driver Target Golfer
With any new golf club, it’s fair to ask, Who is it for?.
If your swing involves some combination of hitting down and across the ball with an impact pattern scattered across an open face, Big Bertha B-21 warrants your attention.
If you’re an “all of the above, dependable slice” kind of golfer, get your credit card out now. Hank, buddy, I’m talking to you.
Big Bertha B-21 Technical Details
While Callaway’s marketing department will likely position the B-21 Driver as the ultimate slice killer, Callaway’s VP of R&D, Dr. Alan Hocknell, says, “B-21 is more spin reducer than slice killer. It’s a very forgiving, draw-biased spin reducer.”
Doc Hock’s simple description gives us plenty to talk about.
There’s an interesting paradox in the anti-slice driver market. In most designs, a good bit of the anti-slice benefit comes by way of heel-dominant weighting and upright lie angles. The majority of these drivers tend to be rear and often mid to high center of gravity designs.
The former is great for shot shape correction while the latter is a recipe for increased spin. There’s an argument to be made that a good bit of anti-slice design is focused on correcting for excessive spin with minimal effort dedicated to preventing it.
With Big Bertha B-21, Callaway seeks to treat the problem a bit closer to the source.
It’s true that with the Big Bertha B-21, Callaway pulls a couple of the standard anti-slice levers – it’s draw biased and a bit upright – but the overarching premise behind the design is to reduce your slice by cutting spin significantly.
The Big Bertha B-21 Formula
To kill spin, Callaway is relying on a low and forward center of gravity location. By way of comparison, we’re not talking Mavrik forward but it’s significantly more forward than Mavrik Max and lower than both. In some respects, you can think of it as a higher launching, more forgiving, anti-slice version of the Sub Zero.
There is some Callaway voodoo in the forgiveness claim. Callaway concedes that, on an MOI gauge, the Big Bertha B-21 won’t be in the ballpark of a PING G400 MAX or PXG 0811 XF. As was the case with Mavrik, Callaway says that a good bit of the ball speed preservation (a key ingredient in any forgiveness equation) comes from the AI-driven SS21 titanium face specifically designed for B-21.
Because its face retains more off-center speed than conventional designs, Callaway is able to pull the center of gravity forward and push it lower to create low and more consistent spin and, ultimately, a totally different kind of anti-slice/anti-spin driver.
Low Spin Works
That’s the Callaway story and while we haven’t verified it, years of Most Wanted testing shows clear evidence that low spin drivers can provide benefit to golfers generally regarded as outside of the target demographic. Often, we find they’re both longer and straighter for a healthy percentage of our testers.
Add in design elements that pile shot shape correction technology on top of those low spin benefits and Callaway just might have something here.
The rest of the tech story involves Jailbreak, AI-Driven Flash Face technology and Triaxial carbon crown construction. It’s boilerplate Callaway stuff but you get all of it with Big Bertha B-21.
The Big Bertha B-21 Aesthetic
It’s fair to say that the Big Bertha B-21 looks a bit unconventional. It’s slightly elongated and unapologetically triangular. If you want to describe it as the love child of Rogue and BB Fusion with a sprinkle of Mavrik MAX DNA, I’m good with that. The intent of the shape is to steal back a bit of conventional MOI and give the target player something that looks a bit larger at address than a typical low spin design.
While not technically offset, the Big Bertha B-21 driver features what Callaway calls a reduced face progression. One could say it’s less onset than a typical driver.
Cosmetically, Callaway didn’t cut any corners. On paint alone, Big Bertha B-21 is more aesthetically pleasing than anything in the Mavrik line (faint praise) and, if nothing else, it’s a detail that could make B-21 the slice killer you’re proud to have in your bag.
Big Bertha B-21 Testing
With the requisite disclaimer that a club manufacturer has yet to provide us with test results that don’t show clear benefits to their products, the Callaway data is intriguing.
In testing the Big Bertha B-21 driver, Callaway focused on golfers with handicaps of 17 or higher. The typical test participant had backspin numbers between 3,000 and 4,000 RPM. To put that in context, the PGA TOUR average is around 2,600 RPM. For moderate to high swing speed amateurs looking to maximize distance, 2,100 RPM paired with adequate launch is a damned good number.
When you get into the 3,000 and 4,000 RPM range, you’re very often talking about a ball that’s curving significantly more than you want it to.
When using the B-21 driver, Callaway says its testers saw a significant reduction in spin. On the high side, B-21 dropped spin by 600 to 700 RPM.
More significantly, because of that spin reduction, golfers were able to aim at (or at least closer) to the intended target instead of aiming left to offset their slice.
For the target golfer, the results are simple to explain: The Callaway Big Bertha B-21 driver is straighter and because distance isn’t lost to a high-spin, curving shot, it’s longer, too.
It should go without saying that your actual mileage may vary but Callaway believes it has created a unique product for a dramatically under-served part of the market.
Big Bertha B-21 Driver Stock Shaft – RCH is Back
Callaway is using the Big Bertha B-21 family as an opportunity to bring back its classic RCH series of shafts. It’s a bit of a nostalgia play and technically means the shaft is made for, but I’d much rather a company brand its non-aftermarket-equivalent shafts rather than play the same name, different shaft game we’ve seen over the last several years. With RCH, nobody is going to think they’re getting something they’re not. That’s what’s important.
PING co-develops its own shafts and puts its logo on them and it’s not an issue. That’s the same recipe Callaway is following – and I’m fine with it – although PING might recommend toning down the bright white Callaway shaft label which risks grabbing attention at a time when it isn’t desirable.
A major shaft manufacturer produces the RCH shafts. They’re Ion-plated, which adds to the cost and provides some suggestion that Callaway isn’t looking to cut corners.
Hocknell describes the shaft as stable with an active tip section. The intent of the design is to add dynamic loft to make it easy to launch without getting overpowered by faster swing speed players.
As long as there have been golfers, there has been a need for slice-correcting drivers. That’s perhaps even more true in 2020. With COVID limiting opportunities to do other things, golf is booming as new golfers hit the course for the first time, and others return for the first time in years. Both of those groups figure to be ripe with slicers. Throw in the rest of the golfing population and it’s entirely possible Callaway’s Big Bertha B-21 could prove to be the perfect product at the perfect time.
That’s not to say it’s going to challenge the Mavrik for market supremacy but as a fresh take on a typically niche product, I suspect it’s going to over-perform Callaway’s pre-COVID expectations.
Big Bertha B-21 Driver Specs, Availability, and Pricing
The Callaway Big Bertha B-21 Driver is available in nine, 10.5 and 12.5 degrees. It’s loft/lie adjustable via Callaway’s Opti-Fit hosel. The stock shaft is a Callaway RCH 40. The stock grip is a Golf Pride Tour Velvet Soft.
The retail price is $499.99. Retail availability begins Sept. 10.
Big Bertha B-21 Fairway Woods
As you would reasonably expect, Callaway has created a companion fairway wood. It seeks to reach the same target golfer as the driver. Again, we’re talking about a golfer who hits down, across and all over an open face.
That’s not so great with a driver but with a fairway wood, those issues can be amplified as the ground gets in the way.
B-21 Fairway Design Elements
The story here isn’t as focused on spin reduction. That’s a bit more challenging in a fairway wood where getting the ball off the ground is often the larger concern.
The critical design elements of the B-21 Fairway are an oversized head and a lower leading edge. The intent is to help get the face below the ball without digging which, in turn, helps the golfer get the ball in the air. That’s a common problem among high-handicap golfers and some mid-handicappers.
Easy, high launch is the objective.
The B-21 Fairway’s profile is shallow. It’s visibly offset as well – a first for Callaway. The offset should help correct for a slice while the shallower profile (it’s shallow AF) should give the golfer a bit more confidence standing over the ball. It looks a little bit like somebody stepped on a normal fairway wood and flattened out a bit but it’s not over the top. The same is true of the offset which is subtle enough that I could put pride aside and consider playing it if it helped my game.
Unique, Purpose-Driven Faces
As with most of Callaway’s AI-assisted faces, the designs are unique to each loft. With the 3-wood, the primary goal is to help increase launch. As lofts get higher, that’s less of a concern so ball speed preservation becomes the key objective.
Stock lengths for the Big Bertha B-21 Fairways are slightly shorter than Callaway’s traditional build. On paper, that’s a recipe for lost distance but, in the real world, the shorter length should translate to more centered contact which will more than make up for what you give up with the shaft.
B-21 or something else entirely, if you struggle at all with your fairway woods, a shorter shaft could be the key to significant improvement.
As you’d expect, Jailbreak technology and Triaxial carbon crowns complete the package.
Specs, Pricing, and Availability
The Callaway Big Bertha B-21 Driver is available in 3-, 5-, 7- and 9-wood lofts. It is not adjustable.
The stock shaft is a Callaway RCH. The stock grip is a Golf Pride Tour Velvet Soft.
The retail price is $299.99. Retail availability begins Sept. 10.
For more information, visit CallawayGolf.com.