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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 Golf Indoor Performance Center 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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