Reactions: Bryson DeChambeau and the future of pro golf

The 2020 U.S. Open champion's style of play has golfers sounding off.
Few golfers get people debating the game like Bryson DeChambeau.

Pro golfers tend to be among the most milquetoast professional athletes. Modern outlier figures (for very different reasons) like John Daly and Tiger Woods have tended to be the exceptions that prove the rule: frankly, golfers are a little boring compared to other pro athletes.

While this may still (and probably always) be true on the whole, the gap seems to be closing. The current crop of talented players includes several about whom seemingly every moderate consumer of televised golf seems to have a strong opinion. Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed have been lightning rods in recent years for their (again, quite different) public personae.

2020 U.S. Open champ Bryson DeChambeau might have them beat. I wrote my column earlier this week thinking I'd get a few comments about his style of play and what it may mean for pro golf going forward, but I have to say that the more than 100 (and counting) responses the article received surprised me a bit.

In the end, I think golfers everywhere are more or less in agreement that DeChambeau's all-out-assault style of play, underpinned by aggressive strategy and long hitting off the tee (and little regard for whether his ball ends up in the fairway or rough) seems likely to produce a lot of high finishes and wins in future tournaments.

Where the debate rages, however, is over the question of whether this style of golf should be encouraged, or allowed (via altering equipment regulations) by the game's governing bodies.

We'll get into the distinctly pro- and anti-Bryson-Golf comments in a moment, but I wanted to first highlight a few I found interesting overall:

Reader Dustin: "Watching golf is entertainment based on what’s possible. Playing golf is the reality check that maybe it is or isn’t for me -today-. Lol. What Bryson did has little relevance to the rest of us. It’s just entertainment. No reason to change the game because a few people do what most don’t or can’t."

My take: I'm not so sure we can write professional golf off as "just entertainment" when it is so clear that recreational golfers everywhere take cues from the pros, and golf facilities are clearly influenced by the venues they see on TV. As great as Augusta National Golf Club is, it serves as an exemplar of course conditioning. Many private club memberships and resort guests and other golfers dock courses points for conditions that are anything less than completely lush and pristine. Augusta can get away with it because they have a functionally unlimited budget to attain those conditions compared to the courses you and I play. They also have the financial will and power to acquire land to lengthen their course to accommodate DeChambeau-like distance, unlike practically every other course on the planet.

"It's about course presentation, wrote reader David Cross. "This course was set up to statistically favour boomers so why the surprise when a very talented boomer wins[?]" The underlying implication here is that the USGA's insistence on keeping all the fairways between 25 and 29 yards wide (with the short par-4 6th's landing area a scant 20 yards across) made it so that even shorter hitters missed so many fairways that they could not create enough separation from the longer hitters for their superior driving accuracy to ultimately matter over the course of the tournament. Others have made this argument in recent days and it makes sense to me, especially in light of the fact that DeChambeau's 23 fairways hit for the week (a 41.1% success rate) were the least by a U.S. Open winner since such stats were counted.

But here's the thing: to David's point, everyone hit fewer fairways than usual at Winged Foot. DeChambeau's four-day, 23-fairway total sounds pathetic in a vacuum, but he was tied for 26th in the field in driving accuracy for the week. So while he hit the ball really far, he also hit it relatively straight.


Bryson DeChambeau plays golf with an unusual set of clubs and swing philosophy, but golfers everywhere can learn a great deal from his approach. GolfPass is your source for all things Bryson.


Another reader, Jeff, was less interested in what DeChambeau does on the tee box than what he does on the greens:

"The real question for me is: Why is anchoring the end of the putter to your chest any different from anchoring 16-18" of the putter to your forearm?" he wrote. "Anchoring is anchoring, and neither method is technically a "stroke" in the "tradition" of the game. IMO, that is the rule that needs to change. BDC is smart enough to research and implement a conforming putting stroke, were this rule to change."

I think it's safe to say that the USGA's 2016 ban of "anchored" putting styles hasn't had the full intended effect Bernhard Langer on the PGA Tour Champions and Adam Scott on the PGA Tour are two examples of the long putter remaining in use, but with players hovering their top hands just off their chests and still swinging the putter as they did before. DeChambeau (along with Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar and several other pros) use an "arm-lock" putter, which runs up a player's lead forearm, promoting a pendulum shoulder-rocking putting stroke. Such putters are not afoul of the anchoring ban because unlike the chest or the stomach, the arm is not stationary during the stroke. Still, this style of putting strikes a bad chord with many golfers, who would rather the rule be changed to simply require that the putter be the shortest club in a golfer's bag.

Comments in favor of Bryson-Golf

(Some comments are excerpted. In these cases, click the reader's name to see the full comment on the original article.)

Reader John: "I like seeing players taking the game to the extreme. We should not discourage athleticism or innovation. I'm happy to play my game as best I can each day."
Reader James Arthur Murray: "[DeChambeau] brings something special to the game. Young players now will be putting more time in the gym and less time on the range. Welcome to a new era in golf."
Reader Barry: "Suck it up every one ... the only guys complaining are the short hitters. It takes a ton of talent to hit long...its speed not strength that matters. The game will always change...any nay sayer will be left behind [...] they are finely tuned athletes so embrace the new emerging talents and stop your whining..."

Skeptics and opponents of Bryson-Golf

Reader Greg: "So instead of making the game of golf into who can hit it farther, straighter, and faster, why not make it a game of skill again? ... Make the golfer use their skill and head again instead of the muscle. Make this game more challenging for everyone to enjoy instead of the big hitters."
Reader Bob: "Distance hitters are always going to be with us. The question is are we going to have to create new 8,000 + yard Championship venues. I think losing a Pebble Beach, Merion, [Olympic], Winged Foot, Congressional, etc. to U.S. Open play would hurt golf from a measuring perspective from the past. We can only trick up those courses so far until they become unplayable and unfair for even the Pros."
Reader Marty: "Bryson can do what ever he wants. The PGA needs to step up here and put a clock on him. I can understand the frustration of other golfers that have to play with him and can never get in to a groove because they are constantly waiting for him to look at his book and do his calculations on how he needs to play this shot. He does it on the greens to. This to me is NOT golf. It is a physics class on the course."

Click here if you'd like to read the original piece, and be sure to give your thoughts below!

Tim Gavrich is a Senior Writer for GolfPass. Follow him on Twitter @TimGavrich and on Instagram @TimGavrich.
52 Comments
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There will always be exceptions in a game like golf, where equipment and extreme training can change the game. BDC is just the next phase and the newest player to challenge golf's traditions. Jack, DJ, Brooks and especially Tiger all have changed the game. Is this newest iteration good for the game, I certainly don't know, but it does create interest. . . . ."what will Bryson do next. . ."? Will BDC dominate the game as Tiger did? Not a chance. My only real interest is how long he will last. Extremes tend to be short lived. Age changes everything. Personally, I will just buy the latest driver on the market that guarantees more distance.

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"Extremes tend to be short lived. Exactly on target. many golfers that have won an open or 2 and that is all.

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Are thinking John Daly. Caddy said "kill" before each drive at the PGA.

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Poor course set up by the USGA. Fairways should not narrow until around 300 yds. Should be 40 yds wide until then. Allows more strategy for all players but helps short, accurate players. Pin placements more reasonable. Too many pins had no way to get to them.
Can't make enough birdies.
Course management could be emphasized. Fair for bombers and accurate hitters.

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Of course he is good for the game. Every player on the tour offers something different with technique, attitude, confidence, personality and style. That is what makes the tour the tour. Stop analyzing and enjoy the tournaments.

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It seems like sour grapes for the naysayers. As hard as DeChambeau works, give him his due. He isn't playing much if any slower than other players. At 71, I have lost a lot of speed and yardage. But, I don't complain because others hit it longer, I just wish I could get it back. If young players want to hit it longer, work harder.

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Seems like a lot of gab about a particular golfer's talents. Doesn't anyone recall when Tiger emerged on the scene when, around 2000? And courses had to be "Tigerized" to accommodate the length and skill of his game. At the time, now one that I can recall had condemned him for being a vastly superior golfer, the best to come along since Jack Niclaus. So, if a pro comes along who can regularly smash it 340 to 380 yards and still finesse it around the greens, I think we should be stand in awe and not be critical.

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I have been golfing for 45 years. The attraction for me to the game is the target sport aspect. Bryson and Tiger and others have changed that go a distance game.
If the PGA wants to keep equipment they have approved allowing longer distances, then they need to add water bunkers snd other difficult bunkers to the long distance landing sreas of the fairways. This will bring the long hitter back to shorter distance drivesand still allow the shorter hitter to get better distance with the approved equipment.
One thing I have observed in tornaments on TV is the lack of short game play and putting by these long hitters. The current pros, with s few exceptions, generally come up short or miss the hole on the low side. These two faults will cause you to not make a putt. If we shorten the drive with landing area restrictive bunkers, then they would have to have better touch on approaches and better putting ability, and that is what this game is all about.

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the obvious is the length is out of proportion, but also if we all applied the mathematical possibilities to each shot, the round would now take five and a half to six hours. both of these not healthy for the game

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I think it is time that golf courses were modified to ensure more skill is involved rather than brute force and strength. Current trends limit success to those who can hit the ball immense distances resulting in drive and short iron / pitch shots. Many of the lesser (average) mortals cannot compete.
I believe that the courses should be modified to put skill and pure shot making back into the game and challenge each golfer to think his way around the course more.
I suggest that fairways be manicured in such a way as to limit the excessively long drives by letting the rough grow in on the fairways at prescribed landing areas so that if the really big hitters decide to hit the extra long dries they end up in the rough. Instead of tee to green fairways, modify them to make it more of a challenge to plot your way around the course.
This would not only bring shot making and accuracy more into the game but at the same time reduce the cost of maintaining golf courses i.e. less labor needed, less machinery maintenance, less fertilizers etc. I think it would be better for the game and make it more interesting for the spectator. By all means let the guys "give a go" if they choose the risk and reward shot but increase the risk.

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Look at every sport you can think of, they are all going further, faster, longer, better as technology, training, mental improvements, equipment improvements, all change the face of that particular sport. Just look at Michael Phelps, no one is asking if he is "good for swimming". Every generation of golfer is going longer distance, lower scores, better prepared. Plus, we can't single out Bryson, there are several golfers hitting as far (Champ, Wolff, Johnson, Bubba). I think what scares people about Bryson is his scientific approach to the entire matter, and what is scary about that is that most of us are not smart enough, or not dedicated enough, or interested enough to do what Bryson does. It is available to all. He should not be villainized for being dedicated enough to put in the time and effort. His power will not be able to overcome human fallibility and the bitch of a mistress called GOLF. For a while it looked like Jordan Speith was the chosen one, and now he struggles. Who is to say that Bryson will not stumble. Bryson is not good nor bad for golf, but the natural progression of the sport. Bryson is simply a shining example of what dedication can accomplish.

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I am from Australia and have been playing the game since we only had persimmon woods and blade irons and only reached a 3 handicap so worlds away from anything special but I agree that Bryson is not special in terms of being a long hitter to have won.

Jack was long, Greg Norman was said to be the longest and straightest driver of his time and Tiger was long and whilst I may be wrong it appears to me that Bryson, unlike Jack, Greg and Tiger, has set out to simply "overpower" any golf course from tee to green and in the knowledge that with sufficient distance in most cases the next shot with a modern golf club will be more than easy.

I read a comment on the "anchoring" of the putter that Bryson, Matt, Adam and Bernhard utilise and I have to agree it should be stopped simply by ensuring the putter is the shortest club in the bag and limited to 36".

I am inclined to think that the discussion around courses accomodating for Bryson's length might not be academic as I am relatively sure there will be more people than golfers that would express some concern for copious amounts of extended real estate just to cater for a minimum number of people capable of utilising it.

The concern is not that just Bryson might be bad for golf because I doubt that but rather whether what Bryson is offering is ultimately what we as golfers want - will our young people be wildly seeking distance risking some other issues - talk to others on the course and those with adjacent housing

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Reactions: Bryson DeChambeau and the future of pro golf