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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. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone swing studio in Naples, FL.

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 Wedge Guy: Is lighter always longer?

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One of the continuing trends in golf clubs – particularly drivers – is the pursuit of increasingly lighter shafts; this obsessive goal has given us the premise that the lighter the club, the faster you can swing it. And that idea is driven by the relentless pursuit of distance at all levels, and for all golfers.

But as long as he is, for example, Dustin Johnson ran away with the Masters because he was exactly that – a “master” at ball control and precision. DJ outperformed almost everyone in the field in terms of fairways and greens. That gave him more birdie putts, better looks because of his precise approach shots, and many fewer tough par saves.

But my topic today is to pose the question: “Is lighter really the key to being longer for all of us “recreational” golfers?”
Let me begin by saying that “recreational” doesn’t mean any lack of seriousness or dedication to the game. Hitting better shots and shooting lower scores is the goal for all of us who care about our golf games, right? What I mean is that we do not make our living playing the game. We do not practice incessantly. We do not spend hours at the gym every day specifically preparing our bodies to optimize our golf skills.

Today I’m going to put on my “contrarian” cap and challenge this assumption of “lighter is longer” on a couple of bases.
First, if you watch every accomplished player, you will see that the body core rotation is fast enough to “beat” the hands and clubhead to the ball. All instructors agree that the big muscles of the legs and body core are the key to power and repeatability in the golf swing. The faster you can rotate your body through impact, the more power you generate, which flows down the arms, through the hands and shaft and to the clubhead. This is a basic law of “golf swing physics”.

The simple fact is, the speed at which you can fire these big muscles is not going to be measurably impacted by removing another half ounce or less of weight from your driver. But what that removal of weight can do is to possibly allow for your hands to be faster, which would aggravate the problem I see in most mid- to high-handicap players. That problem is that their body core is not leading the swing, but rather it is following the arms and hands through impact.

Secondly, speed without precision is essentially worthless to you, and likely even counter-productive to your goal of playing better golf. Even with the big 460cc drivers, a miss of the sweet spot by just a half inch can cost you 8-12% of your optimum distance. You could never remove enough weight from the driver to increase your club speed by that amount. So, the key to consistently longer drives is to figure out how to make consistently more precise impact with the ball.

No golf adage is always true, but my experience and observation of thousands of golfers indicates to me that the fastest route to better driver distance is to get more precise with your impact and swing path, and not necessarily increasing your clubhead speed. And that may well be served by moving to a slightly heavier driver, not a lighter one.

I’ll end this by offering that this is not an experiment to conduct in a hitting bay with a launch monitor, but rather by playing a few rounds with a driver that is heavier than your current “gamer”.

Continuing with my “contrarian” outlook on many aspects of golf equipment, the typical driver “fitting” is built around an intense session on a launch monitor, where you might hit 30-40 or more drives in an hour or so. But the reality of golf is that your typical round of golf involves only 12-13 drives hit over a four-hour period, each one affected by a number of outside influences. But that’s an article for another time.

For this week, think about pulling an older, heavier driver from your closet or garage and giving it a go for a round or two and see what happens.

I would like to end today’s post by wishing you all a very Happy Thanksgiving. It’s been a helluva year for all of us, so let’s take some time this week to count our individual and collective blessings.

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TG2: Reviewing the first major OEM (Cobra) 3D-printed putter!

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The first major OEM with a 3D printed putter is Cobra Golf! I took the new Limited Edition King Supersport-35 putter out on the course and found it to be a great performer. Cobra partnered with HP and SIK Putters to create a 3D printed body mated to an aluminum face that features SIK’s Descending Loft technology.

 

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You went to play, now you want to stay: Homes near Cabot Links & Cliffs

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At some point, we’ve all had that moment during a vacation where we look around and think to ourselves, “Instead of visiting, why don’t we just move here?” It always sounds a little crazy in the moment, but really, what’s stopping you?

Like many, I have done this myself, and it leads me down a rabbit hole of golf destination real estate to places all over North America where you get world-class golf minutes from home.

So whether you’re a big spender or looking to downsize and find a cozy hideaway, these homes near Cabot Links & Cliffs have it all.

Homes near Cabot Links & Cliffs

Inverness, Nova Scotia

Steps away

$1,495,000 – 12 Mine Road Inverness MLS Number: 202011562

Location, location, location!

This is currently the most expensive house in Inverness NS, and for good reason. It’s steps away from Cabot Links and overlooks the resort. It’s over 2,600 square feet of beautiful open concept living, and with a local address, you get a discount on tee times at the course, although with its growing popularity, you aren’t guaranteed times like if you stay on the actual property.

Who wouldn’t want to wake up to this view every day? Listing: 12 Mine Road – Realtor

Just up the road

$980,000 – 30 Broad Cove Road Inverness, MLS Number: 202010717

If the first one seems a bit crazy, this next one might be right up your alley.

This 4,000 square foot home, is only minutes from Cabot Link and Cliffs and has amazing views that overlook the Gulf of St. Lawrence. It has everything you could want including a large chef’s kitchen and enough room to host friends and family.

Listing: 30 Broad Cove Road – Realtor

Just you and the ocean

$394,000 – 6 Bayberry Road, Port Hood, MLS Number: 202015994

If you like golf but want a little more separation from the Cabot golf resort, less than 20 miles down the road is Port Hood, another quiet seaside town filled with quaint shops and endless views of the ocean.

You can wake up every morning to the sounds of the ocean and the smell of sea air, and when you want to play golf at a top 50 course in the world, you just need to make a relaxing drive along the water to get there—heck, if you are so inclined, and happen to have a boat, you can go almost door to door that way too!

Listing: 6 Bayberry Road – Realtor

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