Bryson Dechambeau and the single length thing…
Last week Bryson managed to secure a Web.com victory which secured his PGA Tour card for 2017. A feat which I would assess as being in the mid range of what he should be achieving given his abilities. I was fortunate enough to watch him play in person at last years Walker Cup matches at Lytham. He hits it great, has real talent and that little something that great golfers have. An arrogance, a sense of self where he sees himself as a cut above the other players. Not necessarily the most likeable traits but with out doubt an advantage for a professional golfer.
I want to address the single length iron idea from two perspectives. Firstly, from a technical one and secondly from a world of golf observation and what we can learn from the reaction to this young talent and clubs he uses.
The boring bit first. About eight years ago we were approached by a good client who had the idea of experimenting with single length irons. His background was as an engineer so the idea appealed to his sense of order. We put the set together using a set of blades (we had to add crazy amounts of weight to the long irons and remove lots from the short irons). What we found when we started testing was that he produced incredibly low flying long irons and had very limited control with the short irons. Plus he really closed up the distance gaps between his irons. So the idea of every club being the same to hit a ball with is one thing but it ignores a crucial thing. The length of the club not only impacts the speed that can be generated but it also has a role in creating the desired trajectory relative to the loft on the club.
Granted, the idea that a longer club always produces more speed tops out at different lengths for different golfers but I would argue this. All of the consistency that Bryson gets for the single length irons is traded against what he has to do to achieve his desired ball flight with each club in his bag. Because he has a ton of power he can make the long irons work, but for the average golfer this is not the case. If Cobra market single length irons to the average golfer every player who buys them will not be able to hit any iron in their bag further than a six iron.
Whilst there is way more to say on the technical side I want to get into the reaction of the golf world and the golf industry. I read this on Twitter: “is this the moment golf equipment changed forever”. Its easy to view that comment and only consider it in one dimension. That of “do I agree with the single length theory? Is it any good?” as if that somehow has a bearing on whether the idea would achieve commercial success or not. In fact it doesn’t, the only thing which that relates to is Bryson’s success as a player. I am going to stick my neck out and say whatever he achieves he could have achieved more with equipment where, whilst each club felt the same to swing, each club also had a defined job in terms of distance and ball flight.
So picture the scene, a young hyper talented golfer who is smart with an ego he hasn’t quite learnt to master arrives on the golf scene. He’s a marketing man’s dream in a golf equipment market where new ideas are scarce. From the moment he appears he’s been carefully surrounded by sycophantic people telling him he’s the greatest and smartest ever. It all building to this moment, millions spent – it’s time to cash in. So now even if Bryson has doubts it would be very hard for him to drop this flawed idea. And now because of the arrogance he is all alone, no one to bounce ideas off and a huge amount of pressure to stick with this one.
Will these new irons be successful commercially? Who knows, ‘adjustable drivers’ are still here but whether it works or not will not define the success. Bryson’s performance on the course will and if he can succeed in the highly competitive world of top-flight professional golf with his equipment as a handicap than he and Cobra deserve every penny they make!