Callaway had a big drop in popularity as other companies swept through the golf ranks with their low centers of gravity and rock-solid performance. Many better golfers began to find the Big Berthas to be vague and unsubstantial in comparison. The Callaway crew from Carlsbad, California responded to the challenge with comprehensive thoroughness. The Big Berthas got a total revamping. The much vaunted Warbirds were out and the Steelheads (stainless steel) and Hawk Eyes (titanium) were born.
The Hawk Eyes, in particular, were recipients of cutting edge design technology. A lightweight crown tops a titanium face and shell and a circular weight plug of heavy tungsten (called a “Gravity Screw”) is inserted in the sole to better position a large percentage of mass below the equator of the face. On drivers it is positioned towards the heel to aid in correcting ball flight.
These innovations are geared to create a piercing ball flight that launches the ball at a more desirable angle. Additionally, considerable work was done to fine tune the intangibles of the club such as aural and subliminal feedback factors. Callaway, more than any other manufacturer, understands and engineers to the sensory aspects of a golf club. No Callaway goes into production without being able to produce that pleasing, ringing sound that Bertha fans have grown so accustomed to over the years.
When the first couple of Hawkeye woods arrived at our range early in the season, the initial, general reaction of testers was, “Yeah, right! Like I’m going to pay $400 for a golf club.” The look on their faces was always – “I’m too smart to fall for that.”
For most testers this attitude changed the first time they made solid contact with the Hawk Eye. A loud crack of titanium rang out and a look of exhilaration filled their faces. Several commented that they had never experienced a better feel at impact than they had with these new, premium Callaways. Even golfers not generally enamored with Callaway woods were impressed by the sensual feedback created by the Hawk Eyes. The feel was as solid and rich as any most of our testers had ever experienced. Even the popular Steelheads from Callaway lost much of their luster in comparison. The Orlimar TriMetals felt solid and true – the Hawk Eyes felt solid and rich.
It took a considerable period of time before the Hawk Eyes could be judged objectively. These are the Mercedes-Benz of golf clubs. It’s tough for some to come to grips with the fact that Dodges or Fords suit them better, but after a while the Callaway Steelheads, Orlimar TriMetals and other woods came back into the fore.
The Hawk Eyes do their jobs exceedingly well and are worth the hefty price tag. Few golf clubs launch the ball with more exhilarating authority than does a Hawk Eye. Distances are excellent and trajectories are everything that could be hoped for. The design of this head incorporates something called “Draw Bias” technology that aids in working the ball to the left. This is most pronounced in the drivers. It helps to launch the ball “hot”. With the seven degree driver the ball left too hot, too low and too left for most of our testers to handle it securely.
Even our pros had trouble gaining consistency with it. Part of this doubtlessly was due to the light weight of the driver – noticeably lighter than those most hitters were used to. If you can’t test-hit a seven degree model before buying you might be better off buying one with a loftier face. Nine degree has proved to be a much more serviceable loft. It still keeps a reasonably low trajectory.
The big surprise to all was that the duller sounding, less attractive and less expensive Steelheads proved to be the Callaways of choice as time went by. The Hawk Eyes were excellent, but the gentler Steelheads were generally preferred and remain the all-around, most favored woods. The Steelheads and older Berthas have a more mellow feel. The more aggressive feel of the HawkEyes inspired some testers to overswing and mishits were more common.
One tester, Rusty, a middle-aged, mid-handicapper who has a short, abrupt swing and dislikes drivers in general was particularly fond of the strong 3-wood and chose to carry one on a full-time basis. He uses it as a driver and realizes little penalty in distance for its use from the tee. Technically, this would qualify the Hawk Eye 3-wood for a Tester’s Choice Award, but Rusty has a propensity to only opt for very expensive, “top-drawer” equipment. He hit this club long and straight in our presence both on the range and at the course, but comparison hits were made only with other high-end equipment, so we can’t say that a $150 3-wood might not have suited him better.
By and large, everyone got very good results from the 3-wood and horrible results from the 7 degree driver. Trajectories with the strong 3 were optimum displaying a slight leaning to the left with a good, boring trajectory that did not balloon for anyone. In almost every case, however, each tester scored better with some other wood. The Steelheads, Quadpros, or Orlimars were favored in the long-run. For consistency, the Steelhead 2 easily outpaced the Hawk Eye strong 3 – overall. As with the Steelheads, balls were easily lifted from most lies. The basic head shapes are very similar and, if anything, the tungsten weight screw in the Hawk Eye helps get the ball up better.
The driver was briefly used on course by a number of testers. So far, they’ve all brought it back shaking their heads. This includes two very low-handicapped, PGA pros. It’s a sexy, alluring driver that is suited to very few. The draw-bias weighting does seem to work, however – lots of low, mean, duck hooks all-around. Minimal hitting with higher lofted versions have revealed them to be much more consistent and user-friendly.
Consensus, national opinion has the Hawk Eye line routinely less favored than the Steelheads, Titleists 975F’s, Cleveland Quadpros and Orlimars amongst serious golfers. For a rich, sensual feel, however, none can top the Hawk Eyes.