Whether you think Bryson DeChambeau is a mad scientist or simply mad, there is no mistaking his motivation.
Last week at the RBC Heritage, before he set out for his first round as a professional, your scribe asked DeChambeau what he would be doing if he wasn’t tying for fourth at Harbour Town and threatening to change the face of the game.
The answer was telling.
“I would definitely be doing some research in the golf industry with a club manufacturer or doing research for biomechanics, on efficiencies of motion, that sort of stuff,” he said. “I like understanding how the body works and how it can work most efficiently.”
If that is a bit too detailed for you, stop reading.
DeChambeau is the antithesis of many modern PGA Tour professionals: He’s outgoing, engaging, insightful, thoughtful and, yes, extremely confident with his own abilities and his unique method of playing the game.
Some would, and have, used the term cocky to describe DeChambeau, but that’s a wild oversimplification of an exceedingly complex young man.
DeChambeau doesn’t just want to win on Tour and contend in majors and represent the United States in whatever team match is on that season’s calendar – the normal check list for newcomers – he wants to change the game.
If that seems a bit lofty for your average 22-year-old, he’s actually been on a mission to challenge golf’s dogma since 2011 when he roped a 5-iron from 205 yards right at the pin while playing Dragonfly Golf Club’s second hole.
“I turned to Mike [Schy, his swing coach] and said, ‘This could change the game,’” said DeChambeau of that first field test of his 37 1/2-inch 5-iron. “Wouldn’t it make so much sense to a player to keep the same posture every single time no matter the shot?”
All of DeChambeau’s irons are the same length, 37 1/2 inches, which is the average length of a 7-iron shaft and, not coincidentally, DeChambeau’s favorite club.
“The reason people get hurt is because you’re changing your posture and moving your body at different angles. That’s why they have a favorite club because they are more comfortable at a certain angle,” he patiently explained last week. “If you change the angle you’re not as efficient and eventually your body gives out.”
Single-length, single-swing simplicity is the cornerstone of DeChambeau’s philosophy, which was born from “The Golfing Machine,” the 1969 Homer Kelley swing manifesto that is billed as “simple geometry and everyday physics.”
“The Golfing Machine” is not an easy read, nor are DeChambeau’s theories easy to digest, but that hasn’t stopped players from Rory McIlroy to Phil Mickelson from taking a peek at his unique clubs.
Simply put, curious minds want to know, and to DeChambeau’s credit he’s more than willing to walk anyone with even a passing interest through his swing philosophies.
That curiosity has spilled over to the general public in large part thanks to DeChambeau’s tie for 21st at the Masters and his top-5 debut in Hilton Head.
According to Cobra Puma Golf CEO Bob Philion, who recently signed DeChambeau to a “long-term” endorsement deal, the “intrigue factor” in the single-length concept was over 90 percent in a recent consumer survey.
Although Philion concedes the potential to market and sell single-length iron sets depends largely on DeChambeau’s continued success at the professional level, the public’s initial reaction has been encouraging.
“The intrigue factor is off the charts. We’re getting smarter every day,” Philion said. “People are interested and they want to try it. My question is, do they want to buy it? That’s some of the research that we’re doing.”
As daunting as cutting a new path into the golf club market may sound, Philion explains that it might be the perfect product to stand out in an extremely crowded market space.
“In terms of single-length irons, we look at it as an opportunity. We’re doing a lot of research and homework right now in that space and we’re intrigued with some of the findings,” Philion said. “As difficult as it may be to market single-length, it may be even more challenging to be in a space with variable length where all of our competitors are basically telling the same message.
“You see consumers standing in front of that iron wall and they can be bamboozled really quickly with the number of options.”
Philion uses his first trip to Dragonfly Golf Club just outside of Fresno, Calif., as an example of DeChambeau’s potential impact on the game.
“When I went to visit Mike Schy and see what they were doing up in Fresno, there were 100 kids out there that were thinking he’s the way and they are all trying to do single-length and follow in his footsteps,” Philion said.
For Philion and Cobra Puma, DeChambeau was the perfect fit for a company that embraces individuality – different and determined.
But the eureka moment came weeks after that first trip to Dragonfly when the two sides met to sign the endorsement contract.
“I can honestly say he’s the first player to ever sign a deal left-handed [DeChambeau is right-handed] and backwards,” Philion laughed.
What else would one expect from a 22-year-old engineering major who wants to change the game one single-length swing at a time?