Brooks Koepka Q&A: On signing a gear deal, club development and his famous 3-iron
Brooks Koepka returns to the site of last year’s win at the WM Phoenix Open with a new equipment deal in place. Once the poster-boy for brand-agnostic gear setups, Koepka inked a multi-year agreement with Cleveland/Srixon in November that removed the biggest free agent from the market.
In a recent chat with GOLF.com, Koepka discussed his decision to leave free agency, Hideki Matsuyama’s role in his golf ball change, and the healthy supply of Nike Vapor Fly Pro 3-irons at his house.
You signed a staff deal with Cleveland/Srixon at the end of last year. At what point did you start to realize that you were ready to explore doing a staff deal with a brand? And what was that process like for you?
BROOKS KOEPKA: It was actually pretty easy. The transition started with the irons, which was probably the easiest transition I think I’ve ever had as far as equipment goes. It’s been super fun, the process has been great. I think the golf ball is the best golf ball I’ve ever played. Everybody was immediately amazed [during ball testing], from my caddie to the guys at Srixon and myself. The ball flight is about 15 higher and spin still the same. That’s what you want.
One of the craziest things I still can’t wrap my mind around is how the golf ball flies through the wind and doesn’t move as much, which is absolutely insane. I’ve told my caddie before that when you watch Hideki [Matsuyama] hit balls into a crosswind, it doesn’t move. I’m like, how the heck does he do that? It’s impossible. It’s blowing 20 mph off the right and the ball really doesn’t move. Meanwhile, my balls are up there going sideways. Then you hit the Srixon ball and it does exactly what Hideki’s done for years. So it’s pretty cool. It’s been months in the making and an easy transition, to be quite honest.
What does your golf ball testing look like? Is there like a certain shot — a go-to shot — that you need to see during testing to feel completely comfortable making the switch?
KOEPKA: I go through every shot I need. You can always try to start with anything around short game and pretty much eliminate balls. But it’s funny, back in 2016, I had just signed with Nike, and I remember being at [the Travelers Championship] and everything with Nike had stopped. And then a couple of months later, we were just kind of doing some testing and we blacked out every golf ball.
Only my caddie knew exactly what each golf ball was when we tested and I found three golf balls I liked. I just went with the one I used for years, but the Srixon was number two. It’d be interesting to see with amateurs if you blacked it out like that what their favorite golf ball would be.
Aside from the guaranteed money, what’s the biggest benefit to being a staffer versus a free agent?
KOEPKA: Money doesn’t matter to me. That’s not why I did this. I think it’s just better equipment, better ball, better everything. There’s a reason I was not with anybody for four-plus years, basically. I just think it’s better. It’s been pretty obvious to me. It’s been obvious to everybody on my team that the direction we moved is the right direction, and we’re all excited about it.
How much are you relying on launch monitor numbers to tell you how good a piece of gear is when you’re testing versus what you see and feel?
KOEPKA: All my coaches are [looking at the numbers] when I’m hitting it. I’m not a big numbers guy because I try to focus on the wrong stuff sometimes and trying to make it perfect. But we were just doing some stuff the other day and I mean, I can tell you from the moment of impact whether it’s a good swing, bad swing, what the deal is. I’m more of the eye test guy. If it passes my test, I can see if I miss.
I go about it in the old fashioned way. I mean, I know if it spins too much or doesn’t spin enough, if it’s the right height. I can tell him right there immediately that this setup is good or this ball is good. If you’re just trying to tinker with things … if it’s the right fit, I’ll let them know. They’re usually behind me saying, yeah, you’re right. Their faces are buried in a monitor and they’re not watching the ball.
What’s the one Cleveland/Srixon club you’re most excited to help develop in the future?
KOEPKA: I think I’m pretty happy with everything, especially the ball. I just hope they don’t do anything to it. I love the fact, as I mentioned, that it doesn’t move in the wind. I used these wedges as a kid, so it’s nothing that’s too crazy for me. And then the iron is honestly, like I said, it’s been the easiest transition ever. I’ve never played irons with that type of sole, how it’s kind of like a v sole. And I don’t think I’ll ever play anything but that going forward.
So I guess my answer is probably the woods would be the coolest thing [to help develop]. I think it’s probably one of the most underrated drivers out there. I think the feel to the ball flight to watching it come off that face — I just think the whole brand is very underrated.
I know you still have the Nike Vapor Fly Pro 3-iron in the bag. Do you have backups at home if anything happens to that club?
KOEPKA: I remember having that thing from basically the moment I signed with Nike [in 2016]. It’s not coming out of the bag and I got plenty of backups. We were actually laughing about that club the other day. The shaft is stating to wear right where the club rubs against the bag. I’ve had to reglue the ferrule because that’s come loose. But yeah, I mean, once I get equipment that I like and I stick with it — I’m not a tinker. I don’t change. I keep it just how it is. I’m excited and you know, we’re just finishing up getting everything dialed in. We’re two days into February, so everything’s going to be smooth sailing from now on.
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