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Note to Sir Nick: Does Bryson DeChambeau really need to improve his wedge game?

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I especially enjoyed the final round of last week’s Rocket Mortgage Classic—watching the battle of the two big ballers. As always, I was interested in Sir Nick Faldo’s commentary about the weakness in Bryson DeChambeau’s game–his wedges–and that he should make an equipment switch to tighten up this part of his game. Indeed, our Ryan Barath made the same suggestion in an article July 3.

I was all in—not only as a big fan of Sir Nick and Jim Nantz—but Bryson’s 6-iron-length wedges have always looked awkward to me. On Monday, I received several calls from instructor clients/friends asking if I could support Sir Nick’s analysis. Never one to back down from a challenge, I agreed to take a deep dive into the difference between Bryson’s game in 2019 and thus far in 2020.

The data is a bit thin—69 Shotlink rounds in 2019 vs. only 42 in 2020 through Rocket Mortgage. Nonetheless, I’d submit that we have representative samples.

Here is what I found.

DRIVING

Strokes Gained # and (Ranking):

  • 2019: .412 (24)
  • 2020: 1.11 (2)

This is a giant leap in Strokes Gained and ranking.  OK, but Strokes Gained is an abstract number and not all about distance. Why the jump? 

Distance:  302.5 (34) => 323 (1).  Again, quite a jump. 20.5 yards in distance ON AVERAGE. Impressive!

Errors:  .4 per round => .15/round. I have worked with lots of Tour players and reducing errors is extremely difficult. Most do it by prudently cutting back on distance. To pick up over 20 yards AND cut ERRORS* by 62.5% is miraculous! For perspective, the average of the PGA Tour in 2019 was .62 errors/round. So, Bryson is outdriving EVERYONE by 21 yards AND making less than 25% of the ERRORS*? Extraordinary!

[*Driving errors are Balls hit out of play that require an advancement to return to normal play or penalty results.]

APPROACH SHOTS

Strokes Gained:

  • 2019: .236 (Rank 54)
  • 2020: .428 (Rank 38)

Not a great improvement, but an improvement nonetheless. This is mainly because Bryson’s accuracy from the fairway went from 62% to 70%.

PUTTING

Strokes Gained:

  • 2019: .372 (Rank 28)
  • 2020: .690 (Rank 12)

Another substantial improvement. Two things stand out:

  1. Reduced 3-Putts from .49/round to .33 (Tour avg. is .51) – excellent jump!
  2. In the always critical 6-10 ft. range, his makes went from 54% to 62% (Tour Avg. is 52%). Again, over 42 rounds, this is as much improvement in a Tour player as I have seen.

WEDGE PLAY

In my work with Tour players, I consider this to be shots from 50 to 125 yards. Bryson may very well extend this range with his length, but I chose to stay with it because I have years of data on the Tour level play for comparison.

I measure:

  • # shots – How many shots a player faces on average per round.
  • % Greens Hit – As opposed to the Tour’s Proximity that includes greens missed w/i 30 yards of the edge.
  • Putting distance when hit (My Proximity)
  • Down-in – The average shots needed to get the ball in the hole.

I am going to stick with shots from the fairway only as they are over 70% of these shots for everyone.

*Avg. Putting Distance when the shots hit the green.

**Avg. Down-in:  The # of shots need to hole out.

Mr. DeChambeau has performed an extremely noteworthy feat in that he has not only dramatically increased his driving distance BUT his accuracy to boot. Further, he has improved EVERY facet of his game, including his oft-criticized wedge game. And not just a little. If we do the math on his Down-In improvement: 2.84 to 2.68 = .16/shot X 114 shots in 2020 = 18 strokes saved this year.

In my studies of the value of a stroke on Tour, at Bryson’s current top-10 level, each stroke is worth $50-70,000. I tip my hat to him!

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In 1989, Peter Sanders founded Golf Research Associates, LP, creating what is now referred to as Strokes Gained Analysis. His goal was to design and market a new standard of statistically based performance analysis programs using proprietary computer models. A departure from “traditional stats,” the program provided analysis with answers, supported by comparative data. In 2006, the company’s website, ShotByShot.com, was launched. It provides interactive, Strokes Gained analysis for individual golfers and more than 150 instructors and coaches that use the program to build and monitor their player groups. Peter has written, or contributed to, more than 60 articles in major golf publications including Golf Digest, Golf Magazine and Golf for Women. From 2007 through 2013, Peter was an exclusive contributor and Professional Advisor to Golf Digest and GolfDigest.com. Peter also works with PGA Tour players and their coaches to interpret the often confusing ShotLink data. Zach Johnson has been a client for nearly five years. More recently, Peter has teamed up with Smylie Kaufman’s swing coach, Tony Ruggiero, to help guide Smylie’s fast-rising career.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Steve M

    Jul 14, 2020 at 10:40 pm

    I think most of the courses have been quite ‘soft’ so far this year, with scores hitting crazy numbers. In Hilton Head for instance , his driving lifted the balls over all the trouble that the course was designed for.

    I am betting if you run the same numbers next Monday, they are going to look drastically different. I wouldn’t be surprised if he missed the cut.

  2. Mark M

    Jul 13, 2020 at 1:01 pm

    Bryson has obviously made a commitment to hitting the driver straight and much longer. He’s already well on the way to accomplishing that goal. It’s a major point of emphasis for right now, which means he has probably not practiced or worked on his iron and specifically wedge game as much as a result.

    HE knows getting the wedges better calibrated is the next step and I guarantee you that he will put in that work when he feels the time is right. When he does, everyone better look out because he will be nearly unbeatable when he plays well.

  3. Shane

    Jul 13, 2020 at 10:37 am

    He is hitting more greens, but hitting them further from the hole. The fact that his ‘down-in’ numbers have improved while proximity has gotten worse points to a simple fact. He is making more putts. I think his current putting stats bear this out. So long story short, he really has not improved much with his wedges, but his putting has been great.

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The Gear Dive: Elk is in the house!

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In this episode of TGD brought to you by Titleist, Johnny chats with the one, the only, the legend Steve Elkington.

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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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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