DeChambeau rises to top of amateur game with a style (and set of clubs) all his own

OLYMPIA FIELDS, Ill. –– When SMU’s Bryson DeChambeau captured the NCAAs at Concession on June 1, getting a little airtime in the process on Golf Channel, it certainly caught the attention of golfers. This was a different player with a style all his own, a player who, beyond using a standard TaylorMade driver and 3-wood, won using same-length clubs, all measuring 37.5 inches, roughly the length of your average 6-iron, and a squarish torque-balanced putter.

His swing reminds some of the Natural Golf motion of the late ballstriking great Moe Norman, back and through with minimal wrist hinge.

To Mike Schy, DeChambeau’s longtime coach from California, and to Schy’s good friend David Edel, the man who painstakingly made DeChambeau’s unique set of clubs, the philosophy behind what DeChambeau does with his same-length clubs and single-plane swing makes perfect sense. Both are believers in Homer Kelley’s classic swing book titled “The Golfing Machine,” as is DeChambeau.

That said, his method isn’t necessarily for everyone.

“They can call me,” Edel said at the 115th U.S. Amateur, talking about golfers who may ring his Edel Golf offices in Austin, Texas, this week, “but I’m not making them.”

DeChambeau put a great deal of work into perfecting his action. Schy estimates that from the time when DeChambeau was 12 until he departed for SMU three autumns ago, DeChambeau spent about 30 hours a week at the course, hitting balls.

Here’s the skinny on DeChambeau’s irons: each Edel Cavity Back iron has a headweight of 280 grams, built on a 37.5-inch shaft, and each has an upright lie angle of 72 degrees. They range from 20 degrees (his “3-iron”) to 60 degrees (a lob wedge). On the bottoms of these clubs simply are listed the degrees, and no corresponding iron number. Edel said it took him roughly 4-5 hours to make each club, though advances in 3D printer technology could help trim time off the process moving forward.

Schy said the upright position of DeChambeau’s hands to begin the swing used to cause DeChambeau pain when he cocked his wrists, so to alleviate that, oversized JumboMax grips (weighing 120 grams each) were installed on his set.

Edel knew Jon DeChambeau, Bryson’s dad, and can remember going to the DeChambeaus’ home in Clovis, Calif., for a pizza-party garage fitting session when Bryson was still very young. Bryson told his father that he wanted one of Edel’s Variable Loft Series putters; the dad told his son that he’d have to save his own money for one. Through chores, Bryson eventually saved enough to buy the putter, with Edel selling it to him basically for cost ($350).

“Cool story,” Edel said next to the 12th green at Olympia Fields’ North Course on Sunday, moments before DeChambeau, 21, captured the U.S. Amateur with a 7-and-6 triumph over the Virginia’s Derek Bard.

It was four years ago, just before the U.S. Amateur at Erin Hills in Wisconsin, that DeChambeau asked Schy why he needed to play variable-length clubs. They originally built their own set of same-length clubs, using Nike Forged irons that Schy said “they destroyed” in the building process. DeChambeau even won a junior event in California with the set.

But it was Edel who helped really dial in a custom set about three years ago. He started by making DeChambeau some wedges (he required extra bounce), and he and DeChambeau became fast friends. DeChambeau frequently makes the 2 1/2-hour drive from SMU’s campus to Austin to tinker with clubs at Edel’s place.

“He knows I’m a ‘Golfing Machine’ guy, and he’d call and ask questions,” Edel said. “So I’d give him my take. Bryson is very smart, and he needs sounding boards to throw ideas against without people judging him. Sometimes, you need to hang out with people who will listen to you and say, ‘It all makes sense to me.’ ”

Schy played junior golf with Bryson’s father and also worked at the same club in California where Jon DeChambeau formerly was director of golf (Riverbend, now Dragonfly) in Madera.

Schy said that in doing research on set lengths, he discovered that Bobby Jones won the Grand Slam using a same-length set of clubs. And DeChambeau isn’t the only student of Schy’s who plays using that philosophy. Schy also coaches Christian Saunders, who plays at California Baptist, a Division II school, with a same-length set.

“A little bit of my philosophy,” Schy said at Olympia Fields, “is I like the club to get back where you started. He (DeChambeau) liked that. He’s always liked that. As we started going along, he started getting his hands higher and higher at address because that’s where his hands like to be at impact. So that’s the swing that you see now.”

Adds Schy, “I firmly believe that everybody is an individual, and you kind of let them find their way.”

With a U.S. Amateur trophy to go along with his NCAA Championship, and with 2016 starts ahead at the Masters, U.S. Open and British Open, DeChambeau certainly seems to be finding his way. Quite nicely, in fact.

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