Individualism. Inclusivity. Non-traditionalism. – all words that have moved to the forefront of our society and especially important to how we learn, teach and grow at First Tee Pittsburgh. How ironic it is that some of the most important concepts that we embrace haven’t traditionally applied to the game our organization is built around. Whether it is how we dress on the course, the equipment we use, or how we play the game, going outside of the lines has never been an accepted part of the golf norm. Even in our modern day of awareness, the game is still consumed by outdated beliefs archaic attitudes. No professional in the modern game has been affected by all of this more than Bryson DeChambeau.
Over the last few years, Bryson DeChambeau has made a reputation of making waves in a sport where waves are not appreciated by the self-appointed keepers of the gates of golf. His individual accomplishments were applauded: an individual NCAA Championship and a US Amateur Championship endeared him to the USGA hierarchy as much as the Hogan style cap he wore to honor one of the legends of the game. But as time has gone on, Bryson just being Bryson has become an issue of conflicting styles, conflicting philosophies, and a challenge to how the game has typically been played.
In 2017, DeChambeau was experimenting with a side saddle putting style, a method the PGA Tour hasn’t seen since the days of Sam Snead in the early 1970’s. The method is still legal, but apparently, his putter was not. He received a call from a PGA Tour official informing him that the center-shafted putter which he intended to use in the tournament was deemed non-conforming to the Rules of Golf. DeChambeau didn’t understand the problem with the putter – that it was center shafted, as opposed to having the shaft in the back of the putterhead. Seeking clarification, he was told the USGA doesn’t comment on why clubs submitted for testing are deemed conforming or non-conforming because of a confidentiality agreement with all manufacturers.
Basically, “We Blue Blazers have no idea what you are doing, but you just can’t do it.”
“I was very disappointed with the way they handled it,” said DeChambeau. “They’ve said to me, too, that they don’t like the way I’m doing it. But it’s within the rules, and I don’t know why they don’t like it. They say I’m potentially taking skill out of the game. Anything that helps shoot lower scores or makes golf more fun and grows the game, that’s what I’m all about.”
Then in 2018 at the Travelers Championship, DeChambeau was seen using a drawing compass during his third round. He said that he used the tool to double-check hole locations in his green reading book. “I’m figuring out the true pin locations,” DeChambeau said. “The pin locations are just a little bit off every once in a while, and so I’m making sure they’re in the exact right spot. And that’s it.”
“The USGA has ruled that the use of a protractor (also known as a drawing compass) during a stipulated round is a violation of Rule 14-3a of the Rules of Golf,” read a statement from the PGA Tour to players. “It is considered ‘unusual equipment that might assist him in making a stroke or in his play.’”
Once again, “We have no idea what you are doing, but you just can’t do it.”
Fast forward to the Covid world of 2020. DeChambeau used the break in the schedule to transform his body into a speed generating machine. With 20 extra pounds of muscle and swing speeds approaching 140 mph, his 375 yard drives have become a common occurrence. He led the 2020 season in Driving Distance and Strokes Gained off the tee. Golf’s traditionalists have scoffed at the idea that a game of skill and finesse could be dominated by sheer brute force. Well, until 2020
The 2020 US Open looked like any other Open – a test where precision wins. USGA officials crowed about the course setup. They believed they had created conditions for a traditional U.S. Open, the kind in which players win with accuracy and patience, the kind in which attempting to bomb and gouge sends you packing after a missed cut.
“Winged Foot is narrow. And our U.S. Open DNA is about placing a premium on accuracy off the teeing area,” said Senior managing director of championships John Bodenhamer. “We think it’s important to make a player to drive his ball into the fairway and hit his approach shot from the fairway onto these magnificent putting green complexes.” DeChambeau scoffed at that. “I’m hitting it as far as I possibly can up there,” he promised. “Even if it’s in the rough, I can still get it to the front edge or the middle of the greens with pitching wedges or 9-irons. That’s the beauty of my length and that advantage.” He was right. He hit 23 out of 56 fairways (41%) but led the field in strokes gained tee-to-green, with an average of 5.57 per day. He bombed and he gouged, and he won.
November brings us the Masters. Another challenge for DeChambeau. Leading up to the tournament, he continues to train and recently surprised the golfing world with an Instagram picture of his FlightScope launch monitor screen that revealed a ball carry of 403.1 yards and a ball speed of 211 mph. He accomplished all this with a 45-½ inch shaft in his driver and not the 48-inch shaft he’s been experimenting with. Theoretically, he could reach each of Augusta’s four par 5’s in two shots with nothing more than a mid to short iron. He could drive both the par 4 third and par 4 fourteenth holes.
DeChambeau will need a repeat performance of dominant ball striking and timely putting as he did in the US Open. But if Bryson does Bryson and shuts out the critics, then there will be nothing anyone in a Blue Blazer (or Green Blazer) will be able to do about it.
It’s actually his world, we just live in it.
First Tee Pittsburgh celebrates the things that make us unique and rallies around the ways that golf can teach us to all find common ground. Please visit our website and find the clinic that is right for your child.
Submitted by Coach Jeff Lebedda, Southern Regional Manager