From all the talk amongst players, commentators and on social media, the ground shook at Colonial Country Club in Texas last week.
The cause of course wasn’t raucous fans (there were none), nor could it be blamed on a seismic shift of the earth’s tectonic plates, but created as Bryson DeChambeau stepped foot on the property for the PGA Tour’s restart. Likely with a protein shake in hand.
And while the former US Amateur champion’s physique is certainly noticeably different from the pre-coronavirus days, it was his now almost violent swipe at the golf ball with driver and resulting distance that really opened many eyes.
DeChambeau has never been short when measured against his fellow Tour pros and is far from the first Tour player to seek out alternate ways beyond a swing change to gain more distance.
Insane speed from @b_dechambeau Launching bombs and having to move to the very back of the range or it’d be in someone’s kitchen 360 yards away. Unbelievably impressive to witness 🔥🔥💣💣💣🙌🏾 pic.twitter.com/LPLdHrPsHR— Jonathan Yarwood (@JonathanYarwood) June 16, 2020
Tiger Woods transformed his body. Phil Mickelson has slimmed down and gained muscle. Even in the same week as DeChambeau was quoting a 20 pound weight gain, 2019 US Open champion Gary Woodland mentioned a similar weight loss with a goal towards being a better player.
However, few of these have been as big of a change or as quickly. And few have seen a longish driver of the golf ball become a monster off the tee that looks part PGA Tour player part World Long Drive Championship competitor.
DeChambeau’s equipment has had to move with his ever increasing mass. Lofts being made stronger to counter the higher spin rates and other launch monitor gauged changes to his ball flight to allow him average 340 yards off the tee last week. An improvement of 22.9 yards from his last completed tournament.
The long term effect of this drastic body change will obviously take years or even the entirety of the 26-year-old Bryson’s career to fully judge and understand. The battle of a body carrying that extra weight and working under the strain of an extremely fast golf swing surely to eventually take its toll.
There is also the effect caused by DeChambeau’s weight fluctuation and power on the game itself.
Early reports from other PGA Tour players suggests a fascination with the idea of the all new Bryson, but little, to none, mention of following suit.
But after almost making the playoff at last week’s event and finishing third on a golf course he humbled with his distance, despite it not typically being an out-and-out power player’s venue, there will surely be more following his lead in the future.
Juniors hitting the weights harder than before. Athletes from other sports making the switch and utilising their power to fly the golf ball amazing distances and learning the rest of the game as an afterthought.
This is Bryson DeChambeau at the 2015 Australian Open. 14th hole at The Australian GC. I went down specifically to watch him. Such an interesting character. He distance was good then but what he is doing at the moment is amazing to watch. Driver was a Taylor Made 430 with an Oban shaft. #brysondechambeau #golf #golfswings #golfaustraliamagazine
DeChambeau certainly had an exceptional amount of talent and dedication to the game before his transformation, so a field of 156 Incredible Hulk types taking to the course in five or even 10 years isn’t likely just yet, but isn’t beyond the realms.
Based on past experiences, this would be the most likely change to evolve following DeChambeau’s lead when it comes to golf.
However, there could be another. One that many within the game have called for, going back a significant period of time.
DeChambeau made one of the PGA Tour’s historic venues look as though he were a 16-year-old playing rugby league against the under-11s.
His creation of power is beyond impressive, yet if he was tasked with hitting a golf ball that spun more, or using a smaller headed driver it is hard to imagine he would even thinking about swinging out of his shoes so hard.
Beyond toying with golf courses, upon arriving at this week’s Tour stop, highly rated Harbour Town, DeChambeau was forced to hit driver on the range well behind the other players after depositing a number of his chosen Bridgestone’s over the back fence.
There is a safety element to this, as the forgiveness of current drivers and lower spin allows an almighty swipe that in the hands of a less skilled player than Bryson could see a ball travel anywhere and everywhere.
But the issue most concerning to those in the rollback camp are the loss of relevance of historic and great courses. And the loss of the wide variety of players capable of excelling at the top level of the game.
There has always been power players at the top of the game and they have yet to earn complete and utter dominance. However, it is almost impossible to imagine the creative and exciting shorter hitters remaining relevant if the game moves even further towards DeChambeau’s new method.
Regardless of what the change he causes may be, watching DeChambeau carry drivers past the likes of Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson is impressive nonetheless.