MELBOURNE (Reuters) - If lacking in knowledge of advanced biomechanics, a degree in physics might help when chatting with American amateur Bryson DeChambeau, who believes his successful use of a single-length set of clubs might ultimately change the way players approach the game.
The 22-year-old casually drops complex equations into the usual golf jargon when discussing his swing, a finely calculated invention inspired by “The Golfing Machine”, the Homer Kelley manual heavy on science in decoding one of the game’s most elusive and confounding skills.
Years of slavish experimentation has produced a bag of identical length clubs with large grips that allow him to produce a consistent plane on his swing, whether driving off the tee or hitting off a fairway.
Heathen to traditionalists, the approach drew plenty of scepticism from instructors and colleagues.
That was until the Southern Methodist University senior won the U.S. Amateur title in August.
That followed his NCAA Championship in June, making him only the fifth player to win both the United States’ amateur titles in the same year.
Arnold Palmer once remarked that golf is “deceptively simple and endlessly complicated”.
Physics major DeChambeau describes his approach as simply “fun”.
He and his long-time instructor Mike Schy started working on it when DeChambeau was 15.
“We looked through the book (The Golfing Machine) and worked out what would work where,” he told Reuters in an interview at Melbourne’s Huntingdale Golf Club on Saturday, where he was competing in the Australian Masters tournament.
“It was complete experimentation. We finally figured out what worked really well for me and lucky enough that there was a special component called the zero shifting motion where I was able to swing on the same plane. We built the swing around that and built the clubs around that.
“It’s taken until now, I guess you could say. You’re still trying to improve every day. It’s kind of a fun thing, which I hope can help the game of golf.
“In regards to the swing, it’s very personal, but the single-length set I think it could be very applicable to many people out there. I think it could change how starters, beginners play the game.”
Apart from same-length clubs, DeChambeau is also fastidious about the balls he uses, rolling them in a salt solution to check on their centre of gravity.
“The heavy side will go to the bottom if it’s off ... I do it with every ball,” he said.
DeChambeau was grouped with Australia’s Adam Scott in his opening round and the former world number one had no hesitation branding the Californian a potential “superstar” of the future.
DeChambeau plans to turn professional after playing next year’s U.S. Masters and said he was enjoying his “internship” as an amateur, having delayed finishing his studies.
He was level with tournament favourite Scott on a two-under total of 211 after three rounds at Huntingdale Golf Club, five strokes behind the leader Matthew Millar, a local journeyman.
DeChambeau had to grind out a one-over 72 in windy conditions on Saturday and found at times that no amount of science could help in choosing the right clubs to play on the storied sandbelt course.
“I just didn’t get much out of it today,” he said.
“A couple of errors on a couple of holes, not getting the right clubs.”
More detailed analysis was bound to happen later in the evening.
“I look at the imperfections of myself and what I can do better.”
Editing by Patrick Johnston