Tee time with Big Bertha golf clubs



    Big heads mean big drives and big drives make happy golfers. Both amateur and professional golfers alike owe their happiness to a BYU professor’s work with Big Bertha golf clubs.

    The Callaway Golf Company introduced its oversize-head driver, Big Bertha, in 1991. When clubs were returned with cracked or broken shafts, Callaway Golf looked to Bill Pitt, a professor of chemical engineering with expertise in stress analysis, for help.

    “At that time I was with a group on campus, the Advanced Composite Manufacturing and Engineering Center,” Pitt said. “Companies around the nation would call us if they had problems with composite materials.”

    From previous work, ACME had made a name for itself and was consequently contacted by Callaway, Pitt said.

    Using an electron microscope, Pitt discovered a bad composite in the shaft of the club. Callaway fixed the problem but later returned to find out why their shafts broke in a certain way, Pitt said.

    “That’s when we built the machine that would stress the shafts (of the clubs) alone like it would if you were golfing,” he said.

    Pitt designed the machine with Nathan Lee. Then, a graduate student had to simulate the power and stress on the shaft of a club needed to crush a golf ball.

    When a driver makes contact with a golf ball, the acceleration on the ball is around 5000G’s, Pitt said. That’s 5000 times the pull of gravity. An average roller coaster barely pulls one G, he said.

    A big spring which propelled a weight at the end of the shaft at about 40 mph effectively recreated the experience of hitting a ball with the club, Pitt said.

    Callaway promptly corrected Big Bertha’s problems with the help of Pitt’s machine. It continues to use the machine to perform stress analysis on different types of shafts.

    “I would see quite a few come back broken and now I haven’t seen any,” said Joe Morris, owner of Morris Golf in Orem.

    Since their broken beginnings, the Big Bertha clubs have become so popular that Morris said, “Everybody buys them. It has been the number one driver for the past four years.”

    Even big time golfers like John Daily and Paul Azinger of the professional tour use the Big Bertha clubs. Daily currently holds the record for the longest driving average in professional golf history — 302 yards in 1997.

    “I had my longest hit with the club. No question that it is the club most used or bought at the Club,” said Ryan Childs, a starter at the Riverside Country Club. “There is no club that comes close.”

    BYU holds a patent on the machine which means that no one else can make or produce it. The machine is licensed only to Callaway Golf, Pitt said.

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