What if I told you, in order to play your best golf, you needed to play with one length clubs, think methodically over each shot, and attempt to calculate every risk involved mathematically before you step into a shot?
Most of you would call me crazy, right? You would say things like, “just hit the ball” or “keep it simple.” That is seemingly the routine responses to the game of young PGA Tour star Bryson Dechambeau. A staple for the past couple years inside the top ten ranked players in the world, as well as being a 5-time winner on Tour. Bryson has earned the nickname of the “mad scientist” for his unusual style of play, but that doesn’t seem to bother him. As a matter of fact, he owns up to it.
Bryson DeChambeau has figured out what most weekend warriors won’t in a lifetime of golf, and that is how to play the game that best suits him, and his abilities. I’ve heard all the quotes, and you have too.
“I bet he’d play better if he just got up there and hit it.”
“I bet he’d make more putts if he just gave it a quick look and went off feel.”
“I don’t know how his caddie stands him and the way he plays.”
Most of the people saying those things aren’t ranked top 10 in the world, nor have they won five times on Tour. Bryson has been criticized since day 1 for being different, and many doubted that his style could be successful at the Tour level. While others are out there chasing swings they’ll never have, distance they’ll never find, or playing like they’ve been told, instead of what works best for them, Bryson is still out there owning his game and proving us all wrong.
What separates a good golfer from a great one is identifying what you do great and building off it. It would surprise many average golfers to know how many players on Tour can only play one shot, which is a basic draw or fade. This is because they recognize what they do well and go with it. Just because a hole moves a little left to right does not mean you have to hit a fade. It means you hit the shot that best suits you, and you’re game.
If someone was going to give you $1 million dollars to hit a fairway, that’s straight away in front of you, what kind of shot would you hit? Would you try and hit a baby fade, because “that’s what the pros do”, or would you go with the shot you trust? My guess is you would go with the shot you trust. This is what separates a pro from an average player. They aren’t digging for “shots” in their bag that they don’t have, unless they have to. They know what they do well, and they do it over and over.
Some of the best players in recent history manage their game differently, have unusual quirks, or seemingly don’t fit in with the crowd around them. Bryson plays slowly and has his own quirks, but it seems to be more than just that, that bothers people. Is it because how he plays the game is different? Is it because he uses math and science to figure things out, instead of just “feeling it.” Is it because he does something that you wouldn’t do yourself? Lets take a look at some of the other players who may play differently, but own up to what they do to be successful:
If you go back and watch, Tiger Woods may be the slowest golfer of all time… when he wants to be. He took minutes to read putts and what seemed like hours to analyze shots. Tiger always had a sense for the moment, but he also knew just how just how to control the speed a round to suit his desired pace. Just like a great quarterback controlling the clock to end the game, or a basketball coach controlling the tempo against a run-n-gun offense. Tiger seemed to slowly wind down his opponents in final rounds. That may have been Tiger’s gamesmanship, but the slow play created wear and tear on his opponents shot after shot, which lead to their slow demise.
Keegan Bradley plays golf more weird than anyone. We have all seen his crazy pre-shot routines, where it appears he is on the fritz. Either way, he has learned to adapt at what he does. It may just be a natural tendency or habit, but owning his routine and owning who he is as a player is the best way he knows how to play the game. Multiple wins on the PGA Tour and a major championship might prove that Keegan knows exactly what HE is doing.
Everyone told Jim Furyk he needed to change his swing growing up. With the encouragement from his Father to not listen to others, and to own his own swing, he has not only been successful, but worked his way into a Hall of Fame golf career. My guess is Jim tried to change his swing once or twice growing up, but it just didn’t work for him. There is no wax on, wax off, way to swinging a golf club. Heck, you could swing with one hand on the club always, but if you’re confident with it, then you’re going to be successful. I don’t think it’s dumb luck that Furyk, with that wild swing, is the only player in PGA Tour history to shoot in the 50’s twice, do you?
It is widely known that Vijay Singh practices more than just about any other player. The stories of Vijay sitting on the range and hitting balls for hours upon hours are endless. John Daly on the other hand, would barely show up to the range to hit before his tee time. Both won on tour, and both won major championships.
The difference between these two players is far more than their physical appearances. Daly knew that practicing too much wasn’t his thing. Born with all the natural talent, he was a real tee it up, and grip it and rip it type guy. Vijay was always more of a workhorse. Someone who thoroughly enjoyed the repetition, and creating the muscle memory or feel, from hitting shot after shot on the practice range. He knew hours upon hours of repetition and making swings is what was going to make him successful. Guy’s like John Daly probably shake their head is disbelief when they see someone like Vijay on the range for hours, only to shoot the same scores they did. Vijay knew in order to be successful he had to out-practice the others around him, to be better than them. John knew he had the talent, he just needed to get the competitive juices flowing, and then he was in it.
Bubba Watson admits to hating the driving range and never getting a lesson in his life. Most people on the PGA Tour have their swing coach right behind them every swing they take on the range. Kids now-a-days, seemingly have a swing coach as soon as they are born. But that long, fluid, steep swing works for Bubba. Bubba taught himself how to play off feel and the moment. It’s not something that Trackman or technology can teach, but something that is learned from digging it out of the dirt. Learning to play each shot for it’s ending value, rather than a number on a screen. It’s becoming a lost art in today’s modern world, but it’s what allows Bubba Watson to play his best. If he changed his swing to look more standard and conventional, could he get more powerful? Sure. If he made those changes would he win more? Who knows, maybe. Would he lose the essence of the true player that he is right now? 100%. All players hit on it from time to time. Finding what makes you successful and going with it, is one of the biggest keys to success. I believe Bubba’s two green jackets may speak loud enough on that.
Then there is Brooks Koepka, the captain of the slow play police. Brooks may be like a lot of you out there. Grip it and rip it, with no time to spare. Brooks is one of the few players on Tour that doesn’t require a lot of warm up time on the range, practicing, or time to hit a shot during a round. He is able to grasp the situation, with the proper club selection, and attack it. He understands his style of play very well, and doesn’t stray from it. It’s easy to get caught up in what other people do from time to time, but it never seems to phase Brooks. He continues to own his style of play, and personality, to be successful at what he’s doing. This style of play has lead brooks to an amazing young career so far, and without a doubt much more to come.
All of these players do things differently, but only do one thing very similar, and that is owning their style. Bryson plays the way he does, because it’s the best way he knows how, just like Tiger, Brooks, Rory, Keegan, JT, Bubba, and so many others all do. He could play like Brooks and take 15 seconds to get to his ball and hit, but that isn’t who he is, and that’s not what makes him successful. He doesn’t play the way he does because he thinks it looks cool or just wants to be different. He is able to understand that thinking his way through the golf course shot by shot, and by mathematically giving himself the best odds, is what sets him apart from his peers. In golf, it’s not always about bending to public approval and he doesn’t have to do things the way you like.
Growing up, we all learned what it took to make us successful in any way of life. Some people had to read chapters multiple times before taking a test. Other people could just glance over a study guide and pass. Some of us had to make flashcards and practice over and over to pass our times tables. To others, it came easy to remember and count. We each learned what we had to do early, to be successful at each and every task. It’s our natural ability and instincts that keep us moving forward. The game of golf is no different. My favorite quote towards golf growing up was, “You can’t break the course record on the driving range”, and it’s true, you can’t. You can hit it perfect on the range all day, but the more you play the more you’re going to figure out how to get things done. You may hit a big slice off the tee, but the more you play, the more you’re going to understand what you have to do to get that drive in the fairway. You will continually do what it takes to be successful.
Bryson Dechambeau is a world class golfer, with tremendous ability. What he has found in his golf game is something we all search for. The ability to understand what works best for him, and sticking to what makes him successful. To be the best player that he can be, and to get the most out of his game. Every golfer has their own quirks and tendencies, but that’s what makes this game great. We are all different, and you have to appreciate each golfer for what they are, and how they play the game. Even if it’s different than you, or you don’t understand it, because they do and that’s why they do it.
What if I told you that you could shave 5-6 strokes off your game by adapting the style of Bryson DeChambeau? That’s hypothetical, but I know I would, and if your a competitive person like me, then you probably would too.