Why Bryson DeChambeau Wins

Bryson DeChambeau might be the most innovative athlete in the world right now.

He just won his first major championship and is changing how golf is played at the highest levels. People call him “The Mad Scientist of Golf.” Here’s what you can learn from him.

1. Great ideas are buried in history.

Bryson’s swing is inspired by a 1969 book called The Golfing Machine. It describes 144 ways you can swing a club and inspired Bryson to adopt a “single plane swing.” It’s one of the most controversial books ever written about golf.

 

 

2. Experiment with yourself.

Most players have irons of different lengths, but all of Bryson’s are 37.5 inches long. Unlike other pros, all his irons have the same swing weight. Their lie angles are 10 degrees more upright than usual, which is why his swing looks funky.

3. Follow the math.

Bryson studied @MarkBroadie‘s ideas and determined that if he wanted to be #1 in the world, he needed to hit the ball farther. To do that, he gained 40 pounds, started swinging as hard as possible, and changed his swing. Now, he’s the longest driver on tour.

4. Make progress by turning an art into a science.

For all of golf history, golfers putted based on their feel and intuition. But Bryson uses a system called vector putting where he uses math to compute the break and determine how the ball will roll along the grass.

 


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5. Optimal performance happens somewhere between conventional wisdom and what your body tells you.

Most trainers will tell you to rest, but Bryson DeChambeau works out every day. Most golf coaches tell you to hit with a 7-10 degree driver, but Bryson’s is only 5.5 degrees.

And you work out every single day?

Yes. No matter what, it’s every single day. I don’t take days off. I found that when I stopped doing things, my body started to lower its tolerance levels. So for me, it’s actually a recovery mechanism and a training mechanism to tell my body, this is the force you need to produce. If I just sit and don’t do anything for a couple of days, all of a sudden gravity starts pushing my body down. Then, I can’t hold all the forces that I’m producing. Moving regularly helps me put out all of the check engine lights when things come about. When they arise, I can fix them really quickly.

I don’t do physical therapy or massage work. Whenever I’ve tried deep tissue massage things or putting things onto my body or whatever, I felt like I got up off the table worse for it.

6. If you’re innovative, people will laugh at you.

Bryson’s been criticized for turning golf into a science. Instead of “trusting his feel,” he pulls from physics and geometry. He’s the only golfer I’ve ever seen who consistently brings a launch monitor to the driving range.

Golf announcer Brandel Chamblee thinks the method, with its focus on the geometry and physics of the swing, has robbed players of their natural talent.”

He describes many top players today almost as victims of what he calls overly technical coaches and overzealous trainers. That puts him on a philosophical island in a sport that has become both more athletic at the highest level and more scientific.

7. Seeing that experts are wrong in one area inspires you to question conventional wisdom in other areas too.

He first questioned conventional wisdom with “The Golfing Machine.” Then, he did it by putting big grips on his clubs. Now his goal is to live for “130 or 140” years.

I’m always trying to add more value to my life in general. I mean, my goal is to live to 130 or 140. I really think that’s possible now with today’s technology. I think somebody’s going to do it in the next 30 or 40 years. I want humans to be better. I want them to succeed. I want to say, Hey, this is all of the stuff I’ve experienced that helped me do my best. If it helps you, great. If it doesn’t, well, let’s keep working on it. Let’s keep figuring stuff out. That’s my take on life.

There’s a growing sentiment that the modern tour player has become so reliant on science-based technology and biomechanics that it’s inhibiting natural ability.

“The book has been misunderstood,” he says. “Because it’s based on science, people assume it’s going to dictate that you swing one way, when actually the principles allow for all sorts of individual differences. It’s just going to look different with every body type. That’s the key that drew me to it: It’s about the individual. I want people to understand that golf is not just a one-way street, that you can do it a bunch of different ways.”

“(Bryson)’s the only one in the world who swings his hands and his club on one plane throughout the whole swing,” said Schy. “It doesn’t shift up or down, it stays on the same plane line.”

8. Identify the highest leverage ways to improve.

Professional golf increasingly rewards people who drive the ball far. But Bryson’s also improved his putting. When he first turned pro, he was 157th in putting. Now, he’s 12th. Likewise, he’s climbed from 55th to 2nd in driving.

9. Work hard.

The night before his US Open win, he was the last player on the driving range.

10. Measure what you can.

Bryson gets instant feedback after every shot on the driving range, which is unprecedented in the golf world.

The data pays off too. With a 200 mile-per-hour ball speed, this drive flew 365 yards — more than 3.5 football fields.

11. Unique people do unique things, even outside their main area of expertise.

Bryson’s autograph is as unique as his approach to the game. Even though he’s right-handed, he often signs his autograph backward with his left hand.

12. Extreme results require extreme dedication.

Bryson once said: “I can be good at anything if I love it and dedicate myself. And I love history. I love science. I love music. I love golf. I love learning. I love life. I love trying to be the best at anything and everything.”

13. Greatness is grueling.

Bryson and his coach Chris Como set up the ideal indoor practice studio. This video shows how he swings as hard as he possibly can to increase his clubhead speed. Note the force plates under his feet and the data at the end of the video.

Video from Golf.com

14. Cutting-edge innovation happens in weird ways.

Bryson works out his brain by watching movies. He measures the peaks and valleys of his brain’s electrical current, with a goal of staying calm during stressful scenes.

He also monitors his brain activity on the course.

Maintaining a proper balance between the parasympathetic and sympathetic states, flattening out his EEG reading to eliminate the highs and lows — that’s the end game. Since the unit’s software automatically adjusts the optimal range after each session as he improves his performance level, DeChambeau never makes it through an entire movie without it stopping. He is constantly forced to get better.

This learning process, called operant conditioning, modifies behavior through either reinforcement or punishment. For golfers, it’s generally limited to the range or practice rounds, made via physical adjustments to a swing following a wayward shot, swing coach critique or poor TrackMan reading.

DeChambeau and his team at Neuropeak Pro have taken it to the next level, determined to gain a key advantage in a sport that Jack Nicklaus’ swing coach Jim Flick once famously declared as “90 percent mental — and the other 10 percent is mental, too.”

The DVD exercise provides both instant negative feedback and positive reinforcement, teaching the brain the benefits of being calm, focused and stress-free. Thanks to the analytics that DeChambeau receives, he knows exactly what levels cause the movie to shut down and resume.

The special effects and dark humor are entertaining, but DeChambeau’s not watching for pleasure. He’s working out his brain.

Using his travel-sized Neuropeak Pro brain-training unit, DeChambeau pops in the DVD, then attaches a gold-plated silver EEG sensor to his head. The real-time data he receives monitors the peaks and valleys of his brain’s electrical current as the movie unfolds. DeChambeau’s goal is to avoid the spikes that occur at the most stressful, intense parts; he wants to keep his high beta and theta ratios inside a pre-determined range.

If the activity in his brain fires too high, the movie will immediately stop. Only when DeChambeau relaxes his brain — controlling his breathing, reducing his heart rate, focusing his mind to reach a calm state — will the movie resume playing.

15. Collect more data.

Bryson insists on collecting data beyond the driving range. He’s the first golfer I’ve seen that brings his launch monitor onto the course so he can mimic tournament conditions.

With all that data, he can study trends and identify where he can improve.

16. Stick to the plan.

At the gym, Bryson focuses on isolation exercises instead of compound movements like squats and deadlifts. 

Gaining weight gives him stability on the course which has helped him increase his swing speed to 135mph and his ball speed to 200 mph.

17. Keep pushing the limits, even after other people think you’ve made it.

Right after winning the US Open, Bryson announced that he’s going to experiment with a 48-inch driver (3 inches longer than the norm) so he can drive the ball even farther — “maybe 360 or 370 yards.”

18. Perform intuitively.

Bryson practices like a scientist so he can play like an artist. Here’s what he learned from his hero, Moe Norman: “Why was he able to hit it straight every time? It wasn’t that he was thinking about everything. More like he was thinking about nothing.”

19. Ground yourself in timeless ideas.

In 2014, Byson almost quit playing golf. He was depressed and unhealthily obsessed. Desperate for answers, he turned to his favorite Bible passage from Colossians 3:23: “Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men.”

20. Surround yourself with experts

Early in the week of his US Open win, Mark Broadie and Bryson’s coach realized that the fairways were so small that driving distance would be a deciding factor.

Bryson heard that, doubled-down on long drives, and over-powered the golf course.

21. If you’re want to become world class at your craft, it helps to have fun.

Here’s a video where Bryson hits a driver with 203 mph ball speed. That’s insane. For reference, the PGA Tour average is 167 mph. He’s like a kid in this video too — playing instead of working.

22. Trust your DNA.

Bryson believes that his only constraints are the laws of physics and the rules of golf. That’s why he continues to experiment with his technique, even after he wins a major championship…. it’s who he is.

Great interview with his coach, Chris Como.

23. Use the data of science and the wisdom of intuition.

Bryson may take a scientific approach to the game but that doesn’t mean he ignores his hunches. Internalizing the technical side of the game should actually improve your intuition.

Love these ideas from his coach below.

Chris: I think every great player has figured out their own style that’s been successful for themselves. So I don’t know if you’re going to see people mimicking him across the board with what he does. But I think the spirit of how he’s going about it is gonna revolutionize the game. And I think that spirit is saying, “don’t put yourself in some boxes that are just arbitrary.” And rethink the problem of sorts and figure out ways to help yourself get better, without falling prey to certain narratives of “you can’t be analytical, if you’re analytical, you’re not going to be an athlete.” I mean, this guy is a great athlete, and you can have both worlds, right, you can have a certain analysis and still connect with your intuition. Even on Saturday night at the range, we were trying to figure out what was going on, are we using his flight scope? And then we talked through something, and all of a sudden in his mind, he’s like, “oh, that feels right.” So there is still this intuition that he has, it’s incredible. And I’m always a big advocate, like listen to that intuition. That’s your biggest ally. You can have both these worlds. People make him out to be the sort of scientist who’s just painting pictures by numbers. That’s nowhere even near the way he plays a game. It’s this mix of athleticism, intuition, as well as some analysis and trying to think through problems.