No-one in the history of the golf has approached their equipment set-up like Bryson DeChambeau… we sat down with Cobra to find out exactly how the Major champion and Arnold Palmer Invitational winner goes about it.
Tour players can be notoriously tricky to dial into new equipment, but no-one is anywhere near as complex or analytical as Bryson DeChambeau.
Cobra were convinced DeChambeau was destined for stardom, so they signed him as soon as he turned pro after the Masters in 2016. Ever since they’ve been on an equipment journey together, exploring every aspect of club performance.
Fine-tuning DeChambeau’s equipment (including his unusual One Length irons and ever-changing swing speed) has been a mammoth task, yet it’s just been a step in their journey; a journey that’s far from over, as DeChambeau continues to experiment.
One person who’s been at his side throughout the changes is Cobra’s VP of R&D, Tom Olsavsky. The two are continuously talking about different ideas, some of which make it into his bag, so, last year we asked Olsavsky to give us the lowdown on how Bryson DeChambeau goes about building his bag.
He told us: “We gave Bryson a Cobra employee badge when he first signed with us. It gave him access to anywhere he wanted to go in Cobra’s global HQ. He was scheduled to be with us for two days, but actually stayed for seven, and he’d have come in on the weekend if we were open. He sat with our engineers and asked all sorts of questions about what we’d learned from certain prototypes and experiments.
He’s curious about everything to do with golf, whether that’s the swing, the clubs, the body or how the grass grows. He’s a real student of the game.”
Bryson went to meet all the golf companies (Cobra, Callaway, TaylorMade and Titleist) in Carlsbad, California, when he was an amateur. “He was recruiting which brand he wanted to work with,” says Olsavsky. “We chatted for an hour, and he was very cool.
The second time he came back he brought the US Amateur trophy with him. It’s a two-piece trophy and being the prankster he is, he made a joke of it slipping apart as he handed it to me, most people haven’t seen his funny side yet.”
Bryson has an aggressive swing with a rapid transition at the top, he creates a ton of dynamic loft.
He gets very high launch, very high speed (120mph -130mph, sometimes even to 135mph) and very high spin. When he first started with us he played an 8.5° King LTD driver which we dialled down to 7°. At the time he was hitting driving the ball 280-plus yards, but today he’s averaging 325.
As he’s got stronger we’ve dialled down the loft to keep his spin under control. He’s currently using a 7° King Speedzone (dialled down to 5.5), but next year’s driver will need to be even stronger to keep up with his physical improvements.
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DeChambeau would give up 1200rpm of spin by playing a 9° driver.
His current spin rate with a 5.5° driver is 2500rpm, and you add about 300rpm for every degree of loft you increase, so he’d be losing significant distance by playing a driver loft like the majority of tour players. He’s been spending time with the long drive guys who also play very strong-lofted drivers – he's always keen to search out experts within every area of the game.
We’re looking at a ball speed of 190mph with Bryson’s current driver, but he’s got to 211mph with a 48in shaft.
I’ve not seen him hit the 48in driver yet, but he’s talking about it… a lot! We know from making the Cobra Long Tom that long-shafted drivers need less loft. We’re currently talking about what head specs we need for a 48in shaft; the current set-up just spins too much. Our new model might be ready for him around Christmas.
He hits a lot of golf balls.
He says ‘I don’t like playing unless I’m playing an event… I can hit a lot more balls and learn more on the range than I can on the course’. He will hit 200-300 drivers in a day. Whenever he comes to see us at HQ it’s all about hitting balls and looking at launch monitor numbers.
“What’s the roll and bulge in the low heel?” he asked.
DeChambeau is very keen on tying feedback from the shots he hits to his equipment. One of our most recent conversations was about the radius of the CNC milling on our driver face. He didn’t just want to know about the whole face – he wanted very specific details for the low and high toe and heel as well.
He wants to know what happens when he mishits, so when he hits a high spiny fade, he knows shots are a little towards the heel. You might have seen him spraying golf balls with water so he can see on a launch monitor how much difference moisture makes. He wants to know what happens when there’s only moisture on the toe or heel, too, and what’s the difference between the impact of moisture or mud.
Baseball bats and tennis racquets have big grips, so why shouldn’t golf clubs?
A grip size that’s much more matched to the size of his palm gives more power and control, and it’s something Bryson worked out for himself. We’ve done some research and it’s now a trend among the big grip companies to develop larger grips, especially with less taper and a larger size under the right hand.
Bryson holds the club with the grip much more down his hand, rather than across it, which helps with his single plane swing. He also feels by gripping something smaller than the hands’ size (like most golf grips) you constrict motion.
“Oh my god, there’s all these shafts to try, where do I start?”
Our Cobra Tour Rep Ben Scohmin made club after club for DeChambeau when he first came out on tour, because he wanted to know about how shafts work, what they actually do, and learn about them all.
We’re not shaft makers at Cobra, so when his questions led to how and why graphite shaft lay-ups are done in certain ways, I directed Bryson to two shaft experts who’d been in the industry for years. Both those guys (John Oldenburg and Jeff Meyer) happened to be at LA Golf at the time.
LA Golf bought Matrix golf shafts and Bryson DeChambeau was the perfect ambassador to play their product through the bag.
The owners of LA Golf like to partner with a few key players. He was always going to be a top player, he’s very much into his equipment and how he plays the game is unique. He’s also bright and eloquent and they’re willing to go and explore golf shafts with him.
Whatever Bryson wants to learn about he will search out the expert in that field. He probably talked to all the other shaft companies before he signed to LA Golf though.
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Every time you change your swing and particularly speed you change your shaft loading.
Bryson has been moving through shafts, particularly with his driver, as his swing has changed, and to a lesser extend with his irons and putter. It’s part of the reason why working with LA Golf is a good fit; they are design experts on shafts and are willing to work with him on every club in his bag.
We have to strengthen our driver heads for Bryson.
At the speeds he gets to, there’s more stress, so his heads are reinforced – that’s the one thing we do differently for him. DeChambeau used our King LTD for a number of years before switching to the SpeedZone, but we recommended he didn’t hit a lot of practice balls with the earlier model.
We didn’t really want him trying to reach 200mph ball speed in his back yard during the pandemic – it just wasn’t quite as robust as our latest models.
Drivers are rotated through a process of playing and practice.
We’ll make Bryson 20 drivers at a time and he’ll work through five or six in rotation, just because he hits so many balls. He doesn’t take any days off. If he’s not playing, practicing or working out he must be eating, travelling or sleeping.
We CT test on the tour truck to ensure each driver remains legal and doesn’t fall foul of CT creep. Some of the batches will be more heel weighted while others are more neutral, DeChambeau travels with them all. If he gets on the range and is fading shots too much, he’ll opt for a more draw weighted head that fits his swing better that day.
Bryson's speed and spin are so high we can’t make a 5-wood strong enough for him.
Bryson carries an 11.5° 3-wood and 13.5° 5-wood. Both are incredibly strong, but he hits every club super high. The 3-wood is a little bit lower spinning and most often hit as a backup from the tee; I don’t think there’s a hole in the world he’d need it for a second shot.
Most pros who have them choose a 5-wood for extra height. Bryson’s is an inch shorter and he finds it a little easier to launch from the turf. He can hold a green from distance with it, too, which most pros can’t do with a 3-wood.
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Our smaller more forward CG Speedzone Tour fairway helps knock down spin.
Looks don’t mean much to DeChambeau; he’s much more interested in if it works. His fairway choice is based on the smaller head having a more forward CG, which means less dynamic loft and keeping the ball flight down. Typically, this is Bryson’s fairway set-up most weeks on tour.
He doesn’t need hybrids as he can hit a 4-iron off the tee 280 (a little less off the ground). It makes me laugh when people talk about limiting drivers, because these guys hit 4-iron 240-280 yards – so limiting the driver isn’t really going to change a whole lot.
It took us a week to make Bryson’s first set of Cobra irons.
You have to appreciate his lie angles are 10° more upright than anybody else. You can’t bend a forged iron more than a few degrees before it breaks. So our team bent each iron until it broke, then welded the crack and bent again until it cracked.
We repeated the process until we got to the right lie angle. When he got them, he said they were great and put them in play. Today we have our supplier make the irons more upright and we order a batch at a time.
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If each club is a 7-iron length should they all have matching 7-iron shafts?
We’ve learned a lot about One-Length irons together. Initially he complained about how short irons would go too high and long irons too low. We suggested using a 4-iron shaft in the 4-iron and a PW shaft in the PW, he saw an immediate difference in trajectories and switched out of using all 7-iron shafts into the right shaft for each iron in the set.
We usually see Bryson going through three or four sets of irons a year, as he wears through the face roughness and groove edges pretty quickly.
He’ll see a higher percentage of fliers and some spin variation over what’s he used to when his irons start to wear. Some players like seeing a wear mark in the centre of the face of a forged iron, but it affects consistency. Bryson wants groove performance out of the rough; we changed a set for him right before the Masters one year and he was like ‘OMG, it’s like night and day the difference in consistency’.
We’re just waiting for DeChambeau to say ‘right I’m ready to switch’.
We are working on some new irons for him right now, and we’re hoping he might switch early in 2021. There’s a couple of options, one is pretty similar to what he has and the other is a blend between the King Speedzone iron and what he currently has. We’ve made a lot of prototypes that he’s hit and fed back on, so we’re ready and willing when he feels the time is right.
‘Why do I hit my short irons more left and my long irons more right?’
Bryson’s thinking was that he wanted to hit all his irons the same, so that’s why they were the same lie angle. He wasn’t sure when all the irons were the same length why he didn’t swing them the same speed (originally he thought it was down to aerodynamics of the head size), but we worked with him on it.
We’ve found that by tweaking lie angles to be more upright in the long irons and flatter in the short we’ve ironed out the bending differences (droop) between swinging a 5-iron harder and PW slower, even though they’re the same length.
Bryson wanted to hit full-speed wedges, but shots to go lower.
He’d seen how some European Tour players hit lower flighted wedges, where Americans typically launch shots straight up in the air. Wedges naturally have more dynamic loft as the centre of gravity is further back (than a mid and long iron) and because Bryson’s wedges have the same shaft length as 7-iron he was adding more speed than a traditional player.
For a while he used (and won with) a softer Dynamic Gold S400 wedge shaft, which lowered ball flight. Since bulking up though he’s now exhausted the stiffness of True Temper’s stiffest X7 offering and worked with LA Golf to produce an even stiffer (but not heavier) wedge shaft.
Plenty of people say you can’t play wedges the way he does.
But Bryson is very keen on proving other people wrong, and himself right. He didn’t really used to like practising with his wedges as he loved to hit drivers and the long clubs. So wedges have been a search for us.
The conversation has gone from grooves (he’s exhausted our groove variations) to offset, onset, bounce and centre of gravity. And when we’re talking grooves he wants to discuss everything, including the shape/type, edge geometry, the width v the edge shape etc etc.
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The challenge at the top level is not only being able to hit the shot, it’s being able to hit the right one when it’s required.
We’re club experts at Cobra, but there’s only a few guys out there who are considered “wedge experts” by the very best players. Bryson always wants to explore every field with an expert. Tiger Woods gave him some impetus to hook up with Mike Taylor (Tiger’s club maker) at Artisan Golf.
There’s some space for Bryson to explore in his contract so he went to explore different wedge groove configurations with Artisan. Those guys have heads ready to machine, they can do it quicker and more easily for him. We try to keep up as fast as we can but there’s a limit to how many projects we can take on.
We saw how his wedge play has developed at the US Open.
He still uses his clockface approach to wedge play, but you could see at the US Open how under control his wedges were. Shots were allowed to hit the front edge of the green and run out. He’s learned control isn’t always about flying and stopping shots. He worked really hard on his wedges the last month before the US Open, and already has a strategy for the Masters.
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