Physics Affect on Irons
Collegian Has Interesting Idea
We all know that the study of physics is a tough one, unless one is brilliantly inclined to the task. If you don’t have that kind of bent, it’s a nightmare. Although we consider physicists as being generally high-intellect people, there are caveats. Brilliant as they may be in discovering and explaining how it all works, they are generally no more able to do anything about the results than the rest of us are. That goes for Relativists, Quantum folks, Theoreticals, and all the rest of them. It was, I suppose, only a matter of time until physics got around to the game of golf, and I would have thought that golf would give them the same “can’t do a thing about it” curse as we all feel at times. But there’s a kid at Southern Methodist University who might take exception to that assumption.
Bryson De Chambeau is a physics major at SMU, and he has come up with a startling approach to playing golf – by making all the clubs the same length, at least the irons. That startled me for a moment. If the driver is shortened to conform to a set of irons, what would happen to distance. By the same token, an iron manufactured at driver’s length would drive me to distraction, especially with my talent for shanking. By employing, however, his love of physics with his love of golf, De Chambeau has come up with a set measuring 37 and one half inches, uniformly.
It all started when he undertook to read “The Golf Machine” as a teen. He found it a difficult read, but persevered. Years later, with the help of a non-mainstream coach, he put together a type of swing to go with the new measurements called “the single-plane swing,” or the “zero shifting motion.” The idea – by making all the clubs the same, the swing can be largely the same for each of them, and you don’t have to learn a different physicality, a different game, for all the different clubs in your bag. And there’s where I thought the problem with physics would come in. Fine, make the swing the same for every club, but you still have to execute it. This isn’t a class in theory, buddy.
De Chambeau, however, will not be disproven by the likes of me. Not yet having graduated from college, he has accomplished the rare feat of winning the U.S. Amateur and the individual NCAA Championship in the same year. He will soon play on the Walker Cup team, and probably has invitations to at least three of the PGA majors next year. He says that unlike that other golfer from his town, Jordan Spieth, he’s in no hurry to join the pros. He has more interest in living in the moment…for the moment.
So, playing with the same posture, pretty much the same stance, the same swing arc, and the same club speed may be something of a milestone discovery on De Chambeau’s part. He wears the standard Ben Hogan cap, and Hogan was something of a club builder himself. I still want to know what it’s like to line up a wedge the length of a three-iron, and how I’m going to manage a delicate around-the-green shot. He certainly can’t mean that the putter has been tailored to the rest of the irons, can he? What am I going to do with that?
All right then, he’s reducing the standard set of 144 variations to the golf swing to a much lower number, in the interest of consistency. That sounds like good physics and good golf – but speaking just for myself, I still have to make it happen, not just discover it. I’m not good at physics, so don’t look for me at the U.S. Amateur soon, even if do decide to give this a try.