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August 29, 2018

Bryson DeChambeau - His unique approach to golf

Bryson DeChambeau has now won three PGA events before the age of 25, which puts him in a very select group of golfers. Of the fifteen golfers to accomplish this feat, all but two have gone on to win a major championship. Bryson also has won an individual NCAA and a USGA Amateur title. His accomplishments cannot be overlooked. Will he win a major? My guess is probably at least two.

Bryson is unique is appearance and approach to the game. He is the only player that wears the old fashion "Hogan" cap or flat cap. His approach to the game is very technical. All players use video cameras, launch monitors, club fitting tools, and statistical analysis to improve their games, but Bryson carries it even further. He views the game as a science experiment. Everything has a reason and a scientific formula for what happens to the golf ball. His research has led him to reduce the variables in the swing to make it as simple and repeatable as possible for him.

The two most obvious differences in his swing and the method used by everyone else on the PGA Tour are his same length irons and his "no wrist" straight line single plane swing. A standard length set of irons begins at 39 inches for a 3 iron and goes down ½ inch per club until you get to the wedges. A regular sand wedge is usually 35 inches. All of Bryson's irons are 37 ½ inches in length. That is the equivalent of a modern 6 iron! His grips are extra oversized to reduce hand action rolling or breaking. When he sets up to any golf shot, you immediately notice how straight his left arm and the shaft of his club are. He maintains that relationship throughout his swing. Because there is no hinge in the wrists, the power must be generated by the arc and turning motion of his body. The average amateur golfer isn't physically able to make the athletic move that Bryson is able to do.

Old hickory shafted iron clubs from nearly hundred years ago were much shorter than today's golf clubs. Also there wasn't the a big difference in length between a cleek (2 iron) and a niblick (9 iron). There were even sets of clubs made to the same length in that era. However they were much shorter than the 37 ½ inch length used by Bryson. Is this the sign of the future? I don't think so. Not because the method doesn't work, but few are physically able to generate the power necessary to be competitive or be able to deftly handle short delicate pitch and chip shots with a club 2 ½ inches longer than standard. The theory is sound. Set the body and club so that a turning motion of the body and hips will produce the club swinging on a singular plane. Regulate the distance based on length of backswing and speed of body turn and clubhead speed. Sounds simple, but is hard to do especially if you started with conventional golf instruction. (which I still think is best)

Golf instruction is designed to give the student the proper tools to be able to play the game to the best of their ability. Instructors have used advancements in technology to better help their students understand and get the most out of their swings. Will we see a shift to an over analytic Bryson DeChambeau approach? I don't think so. There are many ways to get a golf ball around a golf course. What works for one person isn't necessarily right for another person. Bubba Watson and Bryson DeChambeau are polar opposites in their approach to the game, but most would love their results.

The golf swing is a tool that is used to play golf. The better the tool, the great your potential. Once you have a sharp tool, it is up to you to use it properly. Bryson has a tool (golf swing and equipment) that fits his intellect and personality, but he still has to judge distance, regulate flight trajectory, spin rate, and curvature. Playing golf is an art form. Feel for the distance, speed of a putt, touch for a pitch shot are visual and kinesthetic sense judgements. Bryson wants to reduce those judgements to a scientific equation. He has done a very good job based on his accomplishments. His pre-shot routine and setup are stiff and mechanical, but his swinging motion is definitely not. He will continue to perform consistently and be in the right place at the right time and have his share of success. However, if he is battling head to head with a Jordan Spieth, a Justin Thomas, or another world ranked player of that caliber, my money would be on the player (artist) and not the scientist. I really like Bryson and his commitment to his theory. He is unique and a welcome change to what some view as the dull "cookie cutter" PGA Tour player.

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