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Clark: Power golf is the new reality

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It’s not an exaggeration to say that professional golf may never be the same after “the Bryson DeChambeau revolution.” Before we get to how much he is changing the professional game, let’s give a big hats-off to Bryson. With the Tiger era coming to an end, professional golf needed a shot in the arm, and Bryson is poised to give it just that. If all is legal here, and we have no reason to believe it isn’t, we may be witnessing the biggest change we have seen in a long while on tour.

Saying that Bryson DeChambeau is long is like saying that water is wet. He is testing the limits of clubhead speed in professional golf. It is an experiment Bryson is willing to take on and use the PGA Tour as his laboratory. If he can continue to play at the highest level with clubhead speeds of 130 mph and ball speeds approaching 195-200 mph, a revolution in professional golf is clearly underway. There has always been a clear distinction between playing golf and long-driving golf. The speed the LDA guys generate is designed for one purpose: to hit the ball as far as possible—and hope to get one out of six in the grid. In other words, don’t worry about the foul balls. We thought these speeds could never be achieved in playing on tour. And although there is still a gap, Bryson is closing it.

DeChambeau is unique to say the least, but we cannot be so naive to think that he is the only professional who will test these waters. This is almost guaranteed to start a trend on tour. There are bigger, stronger athletes playing professional golf now (and every other sport), that much we know. But the fact that one man has stepped this far ahead 0f the field should and very likely will be a source of motivation for many others in the tournament game.

Muscle equals distance is the future of professional golf, and it is apparent that golf training is moving from the range to the gym. But even DeChambeau’s admirable discipline will not stay unique to him very long. There are and will be others ready to take up the gauntlet now that he has laid it down. The era of skinny flat-bellies may soon be a thing of the past. What effect will this have on the game itself? This is the current buzz in golf. There will soon be another.

One consideration sure to arise is how will golf course designs and/or renovations factor into this revolution? Let’s be clear: There is not a par 4 in golf where Bryson needs more than a driver/wedge or 9-iron to reach any green. A 5-degree driver followed by a 45-degree wedge to travel 500 yards is not something I ever thought I’d see-but it’s here and it’s not going away. Fans love the long ball and sponsors love fans. My question is, what do the governing bodies think of it, and what will they do about it. Is 20 under par OK with them? Knowing what the USGA does to their courses for the U.S. Open, it seems not. Will the PGA Tour begin to question current course designs? The R&A seems to think that the natural hazards and weather conditions are challenging enough, but even there when “hell bunker” and “beardies” are no longer in play, even the old boys might start re-thinking this whole thing.

Here are the Current USGA recommendations for something called “par” for men and women respectively.

Par 3 Up to 250 yards Up to 210 yards
Par 4 251 to 470 yards 211 to 400 yards
Par 5 471 to 690 yards 401 to 575 yards
Par 6 691 yards+ 576 yards+

These are great guidelines for most of us, but they are totally antiquated for tournament professionals. Based on what Bryson is doing now and others are soon to be, these guidelines could be at least 50 yards off for professionals. I’m not saying that lower scoring due to tremendous distance increases is a bad thing, in and of itself. Athletes (Bryson in particular) should be rewarded for all their hard work, but the general idea of golf courses being built to challenge players will soon need to reconsidered. Fairway bunker positioning is already obsolete on many tournament venues, and “rough” is less of an issue when the top players are plowing the ball out with 45-degree wedges and grooves that will spin the ball anyway.

Some say it’s still a game of getting the ball in the hole and it matters not how far they hit it or how low they go. I agree, but what I’m saying is that standing on the tee, players have always had two variables to consider:  distance to carry or avoid hazards and positioning. One of those is no longer a consideration, and the other is becoming less of a factor all the time.  It mattered when fairway bunkers were in play and the right angle to get at the hole locations when the guys were hitting middle irons into them. It matters much less so with 45-50 degree wedges and with the ball coming in from an outer space trajectory; In other words “shotmaking” is going the way of the mashie niblick. Take a few examples: Say, Augusta National…The bunker on the right side of #1 is not in play. The bunker on the right side of #8 is not in play. It’s not unlikely that the bunker on the left side of #18 is or soon will be out of play, and so on…This drastically changes the mentality of how to play those holes.

Often I hear, “Yeah, but the hoop is still 10 feet high in basketball, the football field is still 100 yards, and baseball parks still have a 400+ ft. centerfield fence”. But here is the difference:  Other sports are played against opposing players; the game of golf is played against the course. The field of play itself is the challenge, provides the defense, the other players be damned. And when the clubs, the golf ball and the bigger stronger players reach previously unheard of distances, we could easily lose what I call “the chess” aspect of the game; thinking about hazards, approach shot positions and so on.

Note: This is a professional tournament golfers only concern.  The rest of us have our hands full the way things are.

I am not objecting to lower scores due to better athletes and better equipment-hats off to Bryson for stepping up his game and starting the revolution. All I’m saying is golf has always been a challenge of how to manage a golf course—plan the entire course out from the first tee to the 18th green and that has long been its charm. Watching Hogan manage a golf course was watching a Van Gogh paint a masterpiece. I am concerned that the “bombs away” approach caused by power and equipment is changing that, and for the game to continue as we have always known it, golf courses will soon need to adapt to the changes. I, for one, would like strategy to stay part of tournament golf.

All of that said, it will be interesting to watch the ripple effect of the mad scientist of golf’s experiment.

 

 

 

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

30 Comments

30 Comments

  1. Ben

    Jul 13, 2020 at 8:48 am

    The interesting thing is you have guys like Gary Woodland, Tony Finau and such who have the ability to swing over 130+ and get 200+ ballspeeds but felt they needed to slow things down a bit to keep it on the planet and play at the highest level. Seeing videos of when Gary Woodland first came out or when Tony F was on Big break, they were as long as BDC is now. I saw a video recently of Tony Finau ramping up his speed and topped out at 206 mph. Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka are a couple more who may have that kind of potential. Just going out and practicing a harder swing. None of the guys I mentioned ever tried a 5 degree driver either. That will really be a difference (If you hit up with a 5 degree, you get a more efficient strike because you lower spin loft), Tony Finau goes out with a 5 degree driver, hitting way up at 206 mph? Bryson is showing these guys what is possible on tour.

  2. no thanks

    Jul 13, 2020 at 5:05 am

    I heard the same thing when Cam Champ showed up. The overreaction on this stuff is ghastly.

  3. dat

    Jul 12, 2020 at 10:51 pm

    Bring on the 10,000 yard courses. Should be fun. Do we need another planet to play on?

  4. Brandon

    Jul 11, 2020 at 11:44 pm

    We will see if the double chin and beer gut body will take a toll on his joints.

  5. Happy Gilmore

    Jul 11, 2020 at 11:27 pm

    How about they grow the rough out agian? If you have ever tried hitting any iron out of rough thats more than 4 inches thick its not easy. I dont know why people keep preaching longer courses. It isnt possible to lengthen 95 percent of the courses now days. Just look at the ryder cup in france. Shorter course but the top players knew the rough was not where they wanted to be!! Just grow out the rough!!

    • Dennis Clark

      Jul 12, 2020 at 10:29 am

      That is one way for sure, reconfigure bunkers is another

      • Chuck

        Jul 12, 2020 at 7:22 pm

        So change the golf courses, instead of the golf balls?
        That’s nuts.
        And an insult to the great historic championship golf courses and their architects.

        • dd

          Jul 13, 2020 at 4:11 am

          Are you saying Augusta national golf course is insulting themselves? Do you even know golf clubs close down few months prior to the tournament to “change the golf courses”

  6. Acemandrake

    Jul 11, 2020 at 8:24 pm

    1. Bryson was a good, complete golfer who added length. He was not a bomber who later got good at the overall game. This is important for young golfers to know. (NOTE TO SELF: IMPROVE SHORT GAME)

    2. Dry, firm conditions where balls run toward trouble & away from preferred positions may be the last line of defense for courses. (BRINGS BACK THE “CHESS” ELEMENT)

  7. Frank

    Jul 11, 2020 at 6:01 pm

    Who has the most sub-60 rounds in PGA Tour history? Jim Furyk at 110 MPH, sometimes even less than that. It should also be mentioned that although his 58 and 59 were on less than par 72 courses, his 59 at Conway Farms is the highest stroke differential to the field average in an individual round of ALL TIME. Mic drop.

    • Dennis

      Jul 11, 2020 at 9:02 pm

      Jim has had a nice 17-win, 1-major career. Tom Kite of his era.

      • benseattle

        Jul 13, 2020 at 5:59 pm

        Better pick up that mic, Lenny. Your point is irrelevant to the issue at hand. We’re not talking about a once-in-a-lifetime hot round — (in Furyk’s case two rounds) we’re discussing the making obsolete most, if not all, golf courses visited by the PGA Tour. We’re talking about the handful of super-long players — with MANY more to come — having a distinct advantage over average professionals. We’re talking about the complete ELIMINATION of accuracy, placement and strategy in golf, qualities once ESSENTIAL to winning at any level. Furyk getting off a 58 and a 59 simply means an outstanding player was nearly flawless THAT DAY. In the future — meaning the next year or two — bunters such as Furyk, Zach Johnson, Steve Stricker, Cory Pavin, etc. will still enjoy fine professional careers…. but they’ll do it folding sweaters in the pro shop — NOT by winning big on Tour.

  8. Rich

    Jul 11, 2020 at 5:38 pm

    I’m sorry, but when has distance NOT been the issue for the best players? The lineage is strong: Snead, Palmer, Nicklaus, Watson, Norman, Woods and Mickelson, Johnson, BDC. They all hit it long.

    Who since 1960 has dominated over a serious period of time and not been a bomber (relative to his times)?

    • Frank

      Jul 11, 2020 at 6:06 pm

      Um, Lee Trevino won the scoring title 4 times in the early 70s, including 3 consecutive times from 1970 to 1972 and that’s when Jack Nicklaus was in his prime. He still won another scoring title in 1980 after being wrecked by lightning in 1975 and before that accident happened, he was on pace to winning more than 10 majors. And he wasn’t long.

    • Frank

      Jul 11, 2020 at 6:08 pm

      Lee Trevino.

  9. Gordy

    Jul 11, 2020 at 5:29 pm

    His body is going to break down..you can’t lift and swing like that for 20-30 years. And once they get into tournaments ie: majors swinging like that won’t last under pressure.

    • Rich

      Jul 11, 2020 at 5:44 pm

      Do you have any examples of people who could not do it?

      Do you have evidence that longer players choke more in majors?

      I doubt it.

      • Gordy

        Jul 11, 2020 at 6:36 pm

        He’s the first player to swing like this..example of players who starting bulking up and bodies breaking down..Tiger and Rory

        • Jay

          Jul 12, 2020 at 5:18 pm

          Tiger and Rory really aren’t that big at all. They look like average guys who lift weights a few times per week. Rory has had no significant injuries because of his “bulking”. Tiger has had back problems, which is more likely from the countless golf swings he has taken in his life instead of adding some upper body muscle. To the contrary, you can probably make a better argument that the guys who lift weights are more likely to prevent injury because they are strengthening their low back and abs as well.

          • Gordy

            Jul 12, 2020 at 8:18 pm

            Rory missed a bunch of time from a rub injury from lifting. He even Admitted that lifting did it. Tigers back issue is from hitting balls in a bulked up body. And yes I can from experience of power lifting and being around weight lifting my whole life. It catches up with you, epically swinging the club thousands of times a day.

  10. Dani

    Jul 11, 2020 at 3:12 pm

    I think it’s great for golf. Look at it from a micro and macro aspect. At the majors let the majors punish anything in the rough . Shorten fairway width grow the rough shin high first cut. Etc. Put bunkers out at 330 carry etc. in the tourneys no one Usually watches (like rocket mortgage etc) fans are tuned in. Let long ball hitters destroy courses and tune fans in for the tourneys that don’t matter. The majors can defend themselves.

  11. MhtLion

    Jul 11, 2020 at 2:38 pm

    I agree completely. Bryson single handily changed the professional golf. A brain changed what hundreds of muscle heads never could because they never deviate from the norm. It’s a such pleasant irony to see all these career athletes who pretty much did nothing but golf from their junior high years got out drove by a scientist. They hated Bryson for trying new things. They made a fun of Bryson for thinking. They ridiculed Bryson for seeking a new way to do something old. At the end of the day, they were the p***ies. Bryson is the man.

    Bryson will leave a big mark like the first Titleist Pro V1. That ball changed the game once. Now Bryson just changed it again. Funny thing, they are both products of ‘thinking’.

    • Lean back B I got you

      Jul 11, 2020 at 11:04 pm

      You got a little Bryson sauce right there. Need a napkin?

    • Tiger

      Jul 11, 2020 at 11:38 pm

      Bryson hasent changed the game, Tiger did. He has everyone chasing longer drives since they were kids, many are just now showing up. The top college players now can ALL swing in the 120s if they want. Just look at the social media of top juniors. 350 yd bombs are no problem. I play with some ASU and U of A golfers and for them all there carry with driver is around 300. This is the norm for a Pac 12 player now days. Bryson is long thats for sure but his game didnt change it like Tiger. Tiger has done more than than people think, and thats saying something

      • Dennis Clark

        Jul 12, 2020 at 10:42 am

        Tiger changed the PROFESSIONAL game in many ways. His sheer brilliance mostly; the greatest player ever for 10-12 years. I mention that in the article. But soon his reign will end and the professional game needs new energy. BDC might be that. He’s not Tiger, but nobody is. But I grew up in the era of Arnold Palmer who changed ALL golf, not just professional golf. Everything changes…

    • Steve

      Jul 14, 2020 at 7:01 am

      Scientist? He’s a college dropout.

  12. Jay

    Jul 11, 2020 at 2:17 pm

    Let’s just give this some time and see how Bryson does over the next few years. He’s playing well now but will he stand the test of time?

    • Dennis

      Jul 11, 2020 at 2:49 pm

      Yea he’s a determined young mad scientist though. And one helluva player. You’re right, we shall see

    • Rich

      Jul 11, 2020 at 5:40 pm

      Six wins in three years.

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Opinion & Analysis

The differences between good and bad club fitters—and they’re not what you think

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Club fitting is still a highly debated topic, with many golfers continuing to believe they’re just not good enough to be fit. That couldn’t be further from the truth, but it’s a topic for another day.

Once you have decided to invest in your game and equipment, however, the next step is figuring out where to get fit, and working with a fitter.  You see, unlike professionals in other industries, club fitting “certification” is still a little like the wild west. While there are certification courses and lesson modules from OEMs on how to fit their specific equipment, from company to company, there is still some slight variance in philosophy.

Then there are agnostic fitting facilities that work with a curated equipment matrix from a number of manufacturers. Some have multiple locations all over the country and others might only have a few smaller centralized locations in a particular city. In some cases, you might even be able to find single-person operations.

So how do you separate the good from the bad? This is the million-dollar question for golfers looking to get fit. Unless you have experience going through a fitting before or have a base knowledge about fitting, it can feel like an intimidating process. This guide is built to help you ask the right questions and pay attention to the right things to make sure you are getting the most out of your fitting.

The signs of a great fitter

  • Launch monitor experience: Having some type of launch monitor certification isn’t a requirement but being able to properly understand the interpret parameters is! A good fitter should be able to explain the parameters they are using to help get the right clubs and understand how to tweak specs to help you get optimized. The exact labeling may vary depending on the type of launch monitor but they all mostly provide the same information….Here is an example of what a fitter should be looking for in an iron fitting: “The most important parameter in an iron fitting” 
  • Communication skills: Being able to explain why and how changes are being made is a telltale sign your fitter is knowledgeable—it should feel like you are learning something along the way. Remember, communication is a two-way street so also being a good listener is another sign your working with a good fitter.
  • Transparency: This involves things like talking about price, budgets, any brand preferences from the start. This prevents getting handed something out of your price range and wasting swings during your fit.
  • A focus on better: Whether it be hitting it further and straighter with your driver or hitting more greens, the fitting should be goal-orientated. This means looking at all kinds of variables to make sure what you are getting is actually better than your current clubs. Having a driver you hit 10 yards farther isn’t helpful if you don’t know where it’s going….A great fitter that knows their stuff should quickly be able to narrow down potential options to 4-5 and then work towards optimizing from there.
  • Honesty and respect: These are so obvious, I shouldn’t even have to put it on the list. I want to see these traits from anybody in a sales position when working with customers that are looking to them for knowledge and information…If you as the golfer is only seeing marginal gains from a new product or an upgrade option, you should be told that and given the proper information to make an informed decision. The great fitters, and I’ve worked with a lot of them, will be quick to tell a golfer, “I don’t think we’re going to beat (X) club today, maybe we should look at another part of your bag where you struggle.” This kind of interaction builds trust and in the end results in happy golfers and respected fitters.

The signs of a bad fitter

  • Pushing an agenda: This can come in all kinds of shapes and sizes. Whether it be a particular affinity towards certain brands of clubs or even shafts. If you talk to players that have all been to the same fitter and their swings and skill levels vary yet the clubs or brands of shafts they end up with (from a brand agnostic facility) seem to be eerily similar it might be time to ask questions.
  • Poor communications: As you are going through the fitting process and warming up you should feel like you’re being interviewed as a way to collect data and help solve problems in your game. This process helps create a baseline of information for your fitter. If you are not experiencing that, or your fitter isn’t explaining or answering your questions directly, then there is a serious communication problem, or it could show lack of knowledge depth when it comes to their ability.
  • Lack of transparency: If you feel like you’re not getting answers to straightforward questions or a fitter tells you “not to worry about it” then that is a big no-no from me.
    Side note: It is my opinion that golfers should pay for fittings, and in a way consider it a knowledge-gathering session. Of course, the end goal for the golfer is to find newer better fitting clubs, and for the fitter to sell you them (let’s be real here), but you should never feel the information is not being shared openly.
  • Pressure sales tactics: It exists in every industry, I get it, but if you pay for your fitting you are paying for information, use it to your advantage. You shouldn’t feel pressured to buy, and it’s always OK to seek out a knowledgeable second opinion (knowledgeable being a very key word in that sentence!).  If you are getting the hard sell or any combination of the traits above, there is a good chance you’re not working with the right fitter for you.

Final thoughts

Great fitters with great reputations and proper knowledge have long lists, even waiting lists, of golfers waiting to see them. The biggest sign of a great fitter is a long list of repeat customers.

Golf is a game that can be played for an entire lifetime, and just like with teachers and swing coaches, the good ones are in it for the long haul to help you play better and build a rapport—not just sell you the latest and greatest (although we all like new toys—myself included) because they can make a few bucks.

Trust your gut, and ask questions!

 

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TG2: TaylorMade P7MB & P7MC Review | Oban CT-115 & CT-125 Steel Shafts

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Took the new TaylorMade P-7MB and P-7MC irons out on the course and the range. The new P-7MB and P-7MC are really solid forged irons for the skilled iron players. Great soft feel on both, MB flies really low, and the MC is more mid/low launch. Oban’s CT 115 & 125 steel shafts are some of the most consistent out there. Stout but smooth feel with no harsh vibration at impact.

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes or here to listen on Spotify.

Want more GolfWRX Radio? Check out our other shows (and the full archives for this show) below. 

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Improve your transition for better wedge play

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In my opinion, one of the most misunderstood areas of the golf swing is the transition from backswing to downswing, but I don’t read much on this in the golf publications. So, here’s my take on the subject.

Whether it’s a short putt, chip or pitch, half wedge, full iron or driver swing, there is a point where the club’s motion in the backswing has to come to a complete stop–even if for just a nano-second–and reverse direction into the forward swing. What makes this even more difficult is that it is not just the club that is stopping and reversing direction, but on all but putts, the entire body from the feet up through the body core, shoulders, arms and hands.

In my observation, most golfers have a transition that is much too quick and jerky, as they are apparently in a hurry to generate clubhead speed into the downswing and through impact. But, just as you (hopefully) begin your backswing with a slow take-away from the ball, a proper start to the downswing is also a slower move, starting from this complete stop and building to maximum clubhead speed just past impact. If you will work on your transition, your ball striking and distance will improve, as will your accuracy on your short shots and putts. Let’s start there.

In your wedge play, your primary objective is to apply just the exact amount of force to propel the ball the desired distance. In order to do that, it makes sense to move the club slower, as that allows more precision. I like to think of the pendulum on a grandfather clock as a great guide to tempo and transition. As the weight goes back and forth, it comes to a complete stop at each end, and achieves maximum speed at the exact bottom of the arc. If you put that picture in your head when you chip and putt, you will develop a tempo that encourages a smooth transition at the end of the backswing.

The idea is to achieve a gradual acceleration from the end of the backswing to the point of impact, but for most golfers, this type of swing is likely much slower than yours is currently. I encourage you to not be in a hurry to force this acceleration, as that causes a quick jab with the hands, because the shoulder rotation and slight body rotation cannot move that quickly from its end-of-backswing rotation.

Here’s a drill to help you picture this kind of swing pace. Drawing on that grandfather clock visual, hold your wedge at the very end of the grip with two fingers, and get it moving like the clock pendulum–back and through. Watch the tempo and transition for a few moments, and then try to mimic that with your short or half swing tempo. No faster, no slower. You can even change how far you pull the club up to start this motion to see what happens to the pendulum tempo on longer swings.

An even better exercise is to have a friend hold a club in this manner right in front of you while you are practicing your chipping or pitching swing and try to “shadow” that motion with your swings. You will likely find that your transition is much too fast and jerky to give you the results you are after.

If you will practice this, I can practically guarantee your short-range transition will become really solid and repeatable. From there, it’s just a matter of extending the length of the swing to mid-range pitches, full short irons, mid-irons, fairway woods, and driver–all while feeling for that gradual transition that makes for great timing, sequencing, and tempo.

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