By Mark Hayes – Golf Australia body
Save yourself some time – go out and buy a 1969 book called The Golfing Machine, by Homer Kelly.
Why? It will enable you to understand better the future of golf, Bryson DeChambeau.
Kelly was a Seattle aircraft mechanic obsessed with producing the engineering specs of the golf swing. His teachings, largely unknown to 99 per cent of the golfing fraternity, have found a latter-day disciple in DeChambeau.
And now, four decades on, in the effervescent Californian, they’ve found a player with the rarest possible combination of passion and skill for both golf and physics to bring it to life.
The first thing you notice about the 22-year-old is his Ben Hogan-style peaked cap; the next is a swing that features an arm position unlike any other.
If you look a little closer, you’ll see a set of irons all the same length – that of his seven-iron – compared to the regular half-inch (1.25cm) gap between each iron.
If you were lucky enough to meet him, he’d tell you that he has individually tested the centre of gravity of each of the golf balls in his bag with a Epsom Salts fluid and lead tape.
And he’d say something like: “I float the ball, spin it to see how much the `CG’ is off. If a golf ball is perfectly weighted, it will spin over itself in an environment almost free of friction in that water. But if the `CG’ is not perfectly in the symmetrical centre of the ball, it will create torque on the ball with gravity. The heavy side will then go to the bottom. I then place lead tape on the ball – a certain amount – to see how much it flips over and if it’s more than 60 milligrams, I put it straight in the `shag bag’.”
But it’s far from a lecture. Nor is it remotely pretentious. It’s just a kid who genuinely loves melding his two passions.
“It’s just trying to maximise my potential to play my best golf,” the world No.5 amateur said.
“In every facet of my game, I’m just thinking what can I do to maximise my game.”
Then this physics major, before he left his SMU College in Texas, takes it a level approaching the edge of mortal comprehension.
“Homer talks about a `zero shifting motion’ and it’s mainly for chip shots. But I extended it out to full shots. I figured out a way to combine the big grips and the length of the club to maximise that motion.
“I have the same 72-degree lie angle on each club and I swing on a 70-degree plane angle and the two-degree discrepancy is because of the (lag) in the shaft when I come to impact position.
“I think it’s logical. I put the same swing on every club. It’s not what you’re taught as kid if you want to try to swing like Ben Hogan, but it makes scientific sense to me.”
And nobody listening dared argue. We couldn’t.
DeChambeau and his coach Mike Schy, who literally threw Kelly’s book at the inquisitive 15-year-old seven years ago, take their own constant experimentation to clubmaker Edel Golf to build millimetre-perfect custom-designed sticks.
A broad smile comes over DeChambeau’s face when asked if they will one day bear his name.
“I can’t talk about that. I’m still very much an amateur.”
DeChambeau fired a two-under-par 69 – featuring a slam-dunk eagle on the par-four 8th hole – today to open his Australian Masters campaign – the second time he’s played on the Sandbelt this year after the Australian Masters of the Amateurs at nearby Royal Melbourne in January.
“My team and I think it’s important to travel the world and play golf in as many different conditions as I can and learn as much as I can – I love coming here,” he said in what is doubtless music to Australian golf officials’ ears.
And he’s learning a lot – and quickly.
DeChambeau, who’s also playing in next week’s Emirates Australian Open in Sydney, this year became just the fifth player — behind no less a group of Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Ryan Moore – to win the NCAA and US Amateur championships in the same year.
“That might take a while to settle in, I think. That’s pretty crazy.”
So might that book for us mere mortals.
But there must be something to it.