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Opinion & Analysis

Bryson DeChambeau, the oh so human ‘Golfing Machine’

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The golf world has fired up its Bryson DeChambeau talk to a new decibel since his win at the 2020 US Open at Winged Foot Golf Club in Mamaroneck, New York. Much of the banter centers around the idea that the young Californian is “revolutionizing the game” by playing it in a way that hasn’t been seen before. The proposition couches the question of whether his style of play will influence and change the way other Tour pros and top-level amateurs and college golfers will play the game as well.

First let’s define the phrase ’bomb and gouge,” that has inserted itself rather quickly into golf’s present-day vocabulary and has come to characterize Bryson’s game. Bomb and gouge refers to the strategy of hitting the golf ball as far as one can then if it happens to land in the rough gouging it out with a short iron onto the green. But did we really see anyone other than DeChambeau this past week purposely play Winged Foot this way? Certainly not.

Nor with all of this talk about how Bryson’s style will change the game (and despite Bryson in interview after interview himself encouraging all golfers to “swing their swing” and play golf their own way) are we really hearing a chorus of Tour pros singing out about how much they want to be individuals yet who want to play golf just as Bryson DeChambeau does? Absurd, right?

In fact, Bryson’s uniqueness as far as swing technique goes has everything to do with Homer Kelley’s book ‘The Golfing Machine’, which Bryson’s teacher Mike Schy gave to him when DeChambeau was just a teenager. That book views the swing as comprised of a blend of 24 components parts, with each component possessing between 3 and 15 variations. Cross multiply and combine the components and their variations and the number of possible ways to swing the club has so many zeros after its “l” that it takes someone with a degree in advanced mathematics to know this number’s name.

Yet all Bryson has done and all any golfer needs to do is to assemble a swing with one variation from the list of 24 components. If this still sounds a bit complicated, you wouldn’t be wrong to think it, but perhaps the most unique way in which DeChambeau has earned his non-conformist status and badge is the manner and degree in which he has embraced and enjoyed the game’s complexity and difficulty. There’s very little just “grip and rip it” going on under that Ben Hogan cap of his. Or, as Homer Kelley in The Golfing Machine puts it:

“Treating a complex subject or action as though it were simple, multiplies its complexity because of the difficulty in systematizing missing and unknown factors or elements. Demanding that golf instruction be kept simple does not make it simple-only incomplete and ineffective. Unless this is recognized, golf remains a vague, frustrating, infuriating form of exertion.”

Some also say he’s revolutionizing the game because he’s trying to hit the ball as far as he can. Let’s set aside for a second the fact the Bryson isn’t even in the top ten on the list of the Tour’s Driving Distance leaders. What is revolutionary about him is that he has succeeded in adding distance to his drives while taking strokes off of his scores, whereas many other Tour pros throughout the game’s modern history at least found their scores rising right along with their newly gained driving distance numbers.

DeChambeau, with another assist from The Golfing Machine, also stands out in the manner in which he has freed himself from the “Mechanical vs the Feel Player” duality trap, even as many people describe him almost by rote as a “mad scientist” with a robotic swing and game calculated on nothing but the impact numbers read off of a launch monitor.

The mantra “Mechanics produce and feel reproduces” is one central to Homer Kelley’s philosophy in The Golfing Machine, and it’s a one-two punch DeChambeau both strives to achieve and often discusses during his press interviews and in interview after interview.

Therefore, with all of the talk about his single length set of irons, (Bobby Jones used one too), his physical bulking up (Johnny Miller, Tiger, even Anika Sorenstam added significant muscle to their frames), his diet and workout routines (Gary Player was ahead of him by 70 years in this regard!), the one thing rarely discussed about Bryson DeChambeau is just how central to his career remains the book The Golfing Machine.

While the book has often garnered vicious criticism over the years, with proponents of its pages criticized by some unsparingly, to put it mildly, Bryson DeChambeau has put an oh so human face onto this work of genius by Homer Kelley. Just look at the young man’s smile of joy as he hoisted the 2020 U.S. Open trophy!

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Opinion & Analysis

The future of club fitting is going virtual

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Thanks to technology, you can buy everything from custom-made suits to orthotics online without ever walking into a store or working in person with an expert.

Now, with the help of video and launch monitors, along with a deeper understanding of dynamics than ever before, club fitting is quickly going virtual too, and it’s helping golfers find better equipment faster!

What really took so long?

The real advancements started in the coaching world around a decade ago. What used to require heavy cameras and tripods now simply requires a phone and you have a high-definition slow-motion video that can be sent around the world in a matter of seconds.

Beyond video, modern launch monitors and their ability to capture data have quickly turned a guessing game of “maybe this will work” into a precision step-by-step process of elimination to optimize. When you combine video and launch monitor elements with an understanding of club fitting principles and basic biomechanics, you have the ability to quickly evaluate a golfer’s equipment and make recommendations to help them play better golf.

The benefits of virtual fitting

  • Any golfer with a phone and access to a launch monitor can get high-level recommendations from a qualified fitter.
  • Time and cost-saving to and from a fitter. (This seems obvious, but one of the reasons I personally receive so many questions about club fitting is because those reaching out don’t have access to fitting facilities within a reasonable drive)
  • It’s an opportunity to get a better understanding our your equipment from an expert.

How virtual fittings really work

The key element of a virtual fitting is the deep understanding of the available products to the consumer. On an OEM level, line segmentation makes this fairly straightforward, but it becomes slightly more difficult for brand-agnostic fitters that have so many brands to work with, but it also shows their depth of knowledge and experience.

It’s from this depth of knowledge and through an interview that a fitter can help analyze strengths and weaknesses in a player’s game and use their current clubs as a starting point for building a new set—then the video and launch monitor data comes in.

But it can quickly go very high level…

One of the fastest emerging advancements in this whole process is personalized round tracking data from companies like Arccos, which gives golfers the ability to look at their data without personal bias. This allows the golfer along with any member of their “team” to get an honest assessment of where improvements can be found. The reason this is so helpful is that golfers of all skill levels often have a difficult time being critical about their own games or don’t even really understand where they are losing shots.

It’s like having a club-fitter or coach follow you around for 10 rounds of golf or more—what was once only something available to the super-elite is now sitting in your pocket. All of this comes together and boom, you have recommendations for your new clubs.

Current limitations

We can’t talk about all the benefits without pointing out some of the potential limitations of virtual club fittings, the biggest being the human element that is almost impossible to replicate by phone or through video chat.

The other key factor is how a player interprets feel, and when speaking with an experienced fitter recently while conducting a “trial fitting” the biggest discussion point was how to communicate with golfers about what they feel in their current clubs. Video and data can help draw some quick conclusions but what a player perceives is still important and this is where the conversation and interview process is vital.

Who is offering virtual club fittings?

There are a lot of companies offering virtual fittings or fitting consultations over the phone. One of the biggest programs is from Ping and their Tele-Fitting process, but other companies like TaylorMade and PXG also have this service available to golfers looking for new equipment.

Smaller direct-to-consumer brands like New level, Sub 70, and Haywood Golf have offered these services since their inception as a way to work with consumers who had limited experience with their products but wanted to opportunity to get the most out of their gear and their growth has proven this model to work.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why wedge mastery is so elusive

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I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers over my 40-year golf industry career, because I have always believed that if you want to know what people are thinking, you simply have to ask them.

As a gearhead for wedges and a wedge designer over the past 30 years, most of my research and analysis is focused on these short-range scoring clubs and how golfers use them. What this research continually tells me is that most golfers—regardless of handicap–consider the wedges the hardest clubs in the bag to master. That’s because they are. I would even go so far as to say that the difficulty of attaining mastery even extends to the best players in the world.

Watching the Genesis Open this past weekend, for example, it seemed like these guys were hitting wedge approaches on nearly every hole. And while there were certainly many shots that covered the flag—like Max Homa’s approach on 18–there were also a great number that came up woefully short. Not what you would expect when a top-tier tour professional has a sand or gap wedge in their hands.

The simple fact is that wedges are the most difficult clubs in our bags with which to attain consistent shotmaking mastery, and that is because of the sheer design of the clubhead itself. For clarity of this article, I’m talking about those full- or near full-swing wedge shots, not the vast variety of short greenside shots we all face every round. To get mastery of those shots (like the tour pros exhibit every week), you simply have to spend lots of time hitting lots of shots, experimenting and exploring different techniques. There are no shortcuts to a deadly short game.

But today I’m talking about those prime opportunities to score, when you have a full- or near-full swing wedge into a par-five or short par four. We should live for those moments, but all too often we find ourselves disappointed in the outcome.

The good news is that’s not always all your fault.

First of all, you must understand that every wedge shot is, in effect, a glancing blow to the ball because of the loft involved. With 50 to 60 degrees of loft—or even 45 to 48 degrees with a pitching wedge—the loft of the club is such that the ball is given somewhat of a glancing blow. That demands a golf swing with a much higher degree of precision in the strike than say, an 8-iron shot.

I have always believed that most golfers can improve their wedge play by making a slower-paced swing than you might with a longer iron. This allows you to be more precise in making sure that your hands lead the clubhead through impact, which is a must when you have a wedge in your hands. Without getting into too much detail, the heavier, stiffer shaft in most wedges does not allow this club to load and unload in the downswing, so the most common error is for the clubhead to get ahead of the hands before impact, thereby adding loft and aggravating this glancing blow. I hope that makes sense.
The other aspect of wedge design that makes consistent wedge distance so elusive is the distribution of the mass around the clubhead. This illustration of a typical tour design wedge allows me to show you something I have seen time and again in robotic testing of various wedges.

Because all the mass is along the bottom of the clubhead, the ideal impact point is low in the face (A), so that most of the mass is behind the ball. Tour players are good at this, but most recreational golfers whose wedges I’ve examined have a wear pattern at least 2-4 grooves higher on the club than I see on tour players’ wedges.

So, why is this so important?

Understand that every golf club has a single “sweet spot”–that pinpoint place where the smash factor is optimized—where clubhead speed translates to ball speed at the highest efficiency. On almost all wedges, that spot is very low on the clubhead, as indicated by the “A” arrow here, and robotic testing reveals that smash factor to be in the range of 1.16-1.18, meaning the ball speed is 16-18% higher than the clubhead speed.

To put that in perspective, smash factor on drivers can be as high as 1.55 or even a bit more, and it’s barely below that in your modern game improvement 7-iron. The fact is—wedges are just not as efficient in this measure, primarily because of the glancing blow I mentioned earlier.

But–and here’s the kicker–if you move impact up the face of a wedge just half to five-eights of an inch from the typical recreational golfer’s impact point, as indicated by the “B” arrow, smash factor on ‘tour design’ wedges can be reduced to as low as 0.92 to 0.95. That costs you 40 to 60 feet on a 90-yard wedge shot . . . because you missed “perfect” by a half-inch or less!

So, that shot you know all too well—the ball sitting up and caught a bit high in the face—is going fall in the front bunker or worse. That result is not all your fault. The reduced distance is a function of the diminished smash factor of the wedge head itself.

That same half-inch miss with your driver or even your game-improvement 7-iron is hardly noticeable.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Breakthrough mental tools to play the golf of your dreams

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Incredibly important talk! A must listen to the words of Dr. Karl Morris, ham-and-egging with the golf imperfections trio. Like listening to top athletes around a campfire. This talk will helps all ages and skills in any sport.

 

 

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