ORLANDO, Fla. – When Bryson DeChambeau dismantled Winged Foot and won the 2020 U.S. Open by six strokes, some believed he was reinventing the game.
Both the USGA and R&A were well on their way to examining the length modern players hit the golf ball. But DeChambeau’s unique brand of power golf didn’t go unnoticed, and when golf’s rule-makers unveiled a proposed “modified” golf ball for elite competitions earlier this month, his victory at Winged Foot was cited by some proponents of the change as Exhibit A.
But if DeChambeau, who transformed his body as well as his swing to become one of golf’s longest hitters, is the poster child of the modern game and its struggle with ever-increasing driving distances he’s also the first to lay out a much more nuanced approach to the distance debate.
“I don’t think bifurcating the Rules of Golf isn't necessarily a great thing. I personally think that as we look at the golf courses, what matters most is how it’s set up,” DeChambeau said Wednesday at the LIV Golf Orlando event. “Look at Merion [the 2013 U.S. Open venue], it is the classic example. When Justin Rose won it over par [winning score] and it was 6,900 [yards].”
DeChambeau explained that longer golf courses aren’t the answer. Instead, he advocates for better-designed golf courses.
“If a whole golf course was [No.] 10 at Riviera that would be amazing. It would be so diabolical and unique and difficult and yet still fair if you play the right shot,” he said. “I still think there’s more to go on designing golf courses than designers think right now.”
In an interesting show of player harmony across both the PGA Tour and LIV Golf, DeChambeau, along with Bubba Watson and Brooks Koepka, balked at a “modified” golf ball. With the notable exception of Rory McIlroy, who said he supported the “modified” golf ball concept, many PGA Tour players have also dismissed the proposed plan as an overreaction.
McIlroy went so far as to tell the No Laying Up podcast last week that he would consider using a “modified” golf ball at Tour events even if the circuit doesn’t adopt the local rule in order to be better prepared for the major championships, which would likely adopt the new rule. It’s a concept DeChambeau has already considered.
“If that does occur [implementation of the new rule by the major championships] there will be a lot more thought that has to go into whether we play a different golf ball throughout the year or not,” DeChambeau said. “You look at it like we change wedges every week depending on the conditions, bounce and different grasses, might be how it happens in the future with the golf ball.”
For DeChambeau, the bigger issue will be who pays to develop the “modified” golf balls.
“I think you’re going to have a bigger problem with the manufacturers,” he said. “The players aren’t going to be happy about it, at least most of them. But the bigger problem is the manufacturers. I don’t think you’re going to get those manufacturers to pay to change the golf ball.
“It’s going to cost them a lot of money to reengineer, retool, I know the process and it’s very, very expensive. For them to do that the USGA and the governing bodies are going to have to pay for that, and if they do then fine. It’s my belief it would be difficult to get them to change.”