What makes Brooks Koepka’s equipment setup unique? A gear expert explains

Few know Brooks Koepka’s equipment setup better than Cleveland/Srixon Tour rep Rob Waters. When Koepka announced he was leaving free agency to sign a multi-year gear deal with the equipment manufacturer in 2021, it was Waters who was tapped to oversee an extensive gear transition that initially started with Srixon ZX7 irons. From there, Koepka added a ZX5 LS MKII driver, Cleveland RTX 6 ZipCore wedges and a Z-Star Diamond golf ball.

Work behind the scenes with Waters and the rest of Cleveland/Srixon’s Tour team culminated with a gear-validating win at the PGA Championship, where Koepka held off the field at Oak Hill for the fifth major title of his career.

Following Koepka’s first major win as a Cleveland/Srixon staffer, Waters sat down with GOLF.com to detail the 33-year-old’s equipment setup, testing process, unique lob wedge and more in a wide-ranging interview. (Note: This interview has been edited for length and clarity.)


Where does Brooks Koepka’s PGA Championship victory rank in terms of the guys that you’ve worked with? And where were you when you saw him win on Sunday?

I was actually here in Fort Worth. Just landed. Left DFW and rushed to Fort Worth to get back to the hotel and watch it. And it’s exciting. I mean, he played great. He dominated off the tee. His iron shots were spot on. He’s just fun to watch. I mean, when the guy’s on it’s gonna be tough to beat. And even the guys on Saturday night that were very critical from the media standpoint were saying he’s a good front-runner. And, I mean, just couldn’t be happier for Brooks and Srixon.

When was the first time that you all had an idea that maybe Brooks didn’t just want to play Srixon irons but there was a possibility that he might want to do more and sign a staff deal?

I go back a couple years ago at American Express when he put the irons in play. Rodney McDonald [Cleveland/Srixon’s VP of Tour Operations] did some testing with Brooks the week before and with the golf ball and wedges, with all the equipment. He really liked the irons and came into that event with the irons in play and wanted to put ’em to the test, and that’s why he played the American Express.

We gave him golf balls to test. He was at home and he worked with the ball for a couple of months and really found out what he liked about the golf ball. He said he couldn’t find anything wrong with it, so that’s always a good thing. It was a pretty easy process, to be honest with you. We were there to support, but at the end of the day Brooks was very happy with everything that he saw, from irons to wedges to golf ball. And driver.

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After Brooks decided to play an old driver and ball last year at the U.S. Open, Cleveland/Srixon released a statement saying they were getting close on the product he currently has in the bag but weren’t quite there. Where was he last year at the U.S. Open as far as testing that gear, and how big of a role did he play in the development of the product?

Very huge in the development of the product. I mean, we listen to these guys and our R&D team listens to us. We work very hard to get these players what they need. And, I mean, there’s sometimes a transition from another company and playing a driver that you’re familiar with and you know what happens on mishits. We worked well together as a team and with R&D and with Brooks and the tour department to get everything that he needed. And it was a fun process. It wasn’t a very difficult process. I think after the U.S. Open it was, like, okay, we can relax.

Here we are with the golf ball, here we are with the driver. You’re always making tweaks and changes throughout the whole process. In the last year we’ve tried a couple different drivers. The low-spin [LS]. The regular [ZX] driver that’s not low-spin. We’ve tried ’em all and, I mean, obviously, he was injured a little bit and he had some health issues, and we fought through that with him. We spent some time with him in Tucson with some drivers. Got him dialed into the driver and he’s been playing well ever since. I think he’s won one or two times and then the PGA Championship. So he’s very, very happy with the equipment. That’s a win-win for everybody. Especially him.

What was it for him about the Srixon ZX5 LS MKII driver as he was going through the testing process that made him feel like it was the best fit?

I mean, Brooks is different because he hits down on the driver. Most of the guys on the PGA Tour hit up on the driver. So when you’re hitting down and swinging left, you’re going to spin it more. So we just had to knock down the spin because he likes to see the ball go left to right, and his go-to shot is really a flat cut. For most of us we’d say it’s a flat slice. But, you know, he’d rather see it go left to right in the right rough than anything going left. So it’s finding that proper balance of spin and launch because he does launch it lower than most guys.

We’ve gotta have the spin on the driver for him to be able to hit the shape that he wants. We spent two days with him in Tucson and when we got done day two he was, like, “This is the one.” So, you know, it’s always a process with these guys.

It sounds like Brooks is very low maintenance when it comes to his equipment. Fair assessment?

Yeah, I mean, once his bag’s set, he’s pretty set. I don’t get to go to many of the events out there on the LIV, but once his bag was set, he said, “You’ll never see me again. I’m done. I just want to go focus on what I need to focus on.”

With him being out on LIV, do you all do more of your testing time with him at his home course? Do you send him the product?

Most of the stuff now is being built [on LIV].

Koepka currently plays Srixon’s ZX5 LS MKII driver. Ryan Barath/GOLF

When he’s testing, how much is he weighing the launch monitor numbers he’s seeing versus the feel and launch window?

He pores over the data but he’s also a visual guy and he’s got windows that he wants to see the ball come out of, and as long as the numbers match the windows, he’s fine.

It seems like every Tour pro has that one club in the bag that’s difficult to figure out. Was there one when you were working on getting gear in the bag for him that was, like, all right, this is gonna take a little bit longer?

I don’t want to say it was easy, but it was pretty simple. Every time we worked with another driver there would be something else that we needed to do and tighten up on. It’s a process. I wish we could just snap our fingers, come in the trailer, build something, and go, “Here you go.” And sometimes it’s that easy and sometimes it can be a little longer process. And, I mean, we just had to find the right combination for him. For instance, getting the correct weight placement in the head to get the CG to match up to the way he likes to swing it. Brooks has a unique way of playing golf. He’s down-left with the driver. And that’s just not normal for what we’re used to seeing out here.

If you look at his entire bag as a whole, is there anything from a build standpoint that only Brooks does?

The only thing that has his fingerprint on it is our 60-degree wedge. It’s a different grind for him. A little bit wider sole. Little bit lower bounce. I mean, the guy’s an exceptional chipper and he pitches the ball like no other. He has a certain feel that he wants the club to go through the ground. And how he can control his trajectory and also hit the long shot, hit the spinner, and do all the stuff. I mean, he’s a magician around the green. It’s fun to watch, no doubt. But, I mean, that’s really the only thing. Everybody says, “Oh, you know, what’s custom about their stuff?” I mean, you can buy his driver. You can buy his irons. You can buy his wedges.

A lot of golfers watch Brooks and say, “He’s gotta have completely custom stuff. His driver that he has is not gonna be the one that you’re gonna buy off the rack.” Is that the case?

The way his driver is weighted up, there’s a lotta people that wouldn’t be able to hit Brooks’s driver. But it’s the same driver head. I mean, we’re very particular out here when we build. There’s a certain swing weight we’re trying to build. All the lies and lofts are checked spot on. All the grips are weighed. All the shafts are proper. I don’t want to say it’s no different than what you can buy off the rack. It’s just way more precise on how we put everything together.

With as much feedback as Brooks is able to give, does it feel like he enjoys being hands-on with designing gear?

He’s pretty hands-on. I enjoy working with Brooks because he’s very honest. He’s got a certain thing that he’s looking for. He’s looking for a certain launch, he’s looking for a certain window, he’s looking for a certain spin. And we can work our way through that. Sometimes you get players that don’t have any communication at all and it’s, like, okay, I need a little bit of help from you. What direction do we want to go in? Brooks pretty much tells us, “Here’s the direction I want, here’s what I expect from my driver.” Or, “Here’s what I expect from my irons,” which is very helpful.

ZX7 MKII Srixon 2023
Brooks Koepka’s winning gear from the 2023 PGA Championship
By: Ryan Barath

How much time did you spend with Brooks versus him just testing at home when it came to the Srixon Z-Star Diamond ball?

I think a lot of it was trying to get used to it. Prior to American Express a few years ago, Rodney went and spent some time with him and he found a ball he said, “Here’s some things I’m keeping, and I’m keeping this Diamond ball because I want to work with this Diamond ball.” He really liked the way it flighted. And he went home and did some testing and he’s just, like, “Wow. I mean, my distance control’s better. It’s better in crosswinds. It’s more stable in areas that I’m looking for.” And, you know, he said in Tucson, “This is the best ball I’ve ever played in my career, hands down.”

Did he do any shaft testing when he was first getting into the Srixon product?

We tried. We wanted to do some experimenting but everything went back to what he’s used to playing. So we just had to make some tweaks and changes to the [driver head] weighting, how we weighted the head with the glue, and that was pretty much the extent of it.

Brooks is part of the Tour pro contingent that prefers to play a blade pitching wedge — 46-degree Cleveland RTX 6 ZipCore in his case — instead of one that matches his iron set. Any insights behind why he prefers the Cleveland offering?

I gotta be honest with you, Jonathan, that was a thing that he wanted to test and it worked out, and he just put it in play. And we do have quite a few guys out here that play the Cleveland pitching wedge over the Srixon. It fits more into their scoring clubs, the profile and the shape. And it’s just something they’re used to. It’s a feel thing, it’s a looks thing, it’s hitting the number thing. There’s no rhyme or reason. It’s just this is what the player prefers.

There’s one club in the bag that everybody always talks about. It’s not even a Cleveland or Srixon club. It’s the Nike long iron. Have you guys tried to bump that one from the bag, or do you just throw your hands up and say we’ve got so many clubs in the bag, give him some wiggle room with a few?

There were a couple of things that he said to us in the beginning, like, “My 3-wood’s gonna be hard to get out of play.” He said, “I’m not saying I won’t test anything.” And he said, “This the 3-iron is gonna be a hard one and the 2-iron’s gonna be a hard one to get out.” We’ve done some testing. I mean, look, he won with PGA Championship with our Srixon irons, Cleveland wedges, and he won with our Z-Star Diamond golf ball. We couldn’t ask for more. We couldn’t be more excited.

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Jonathan Wall

Golf.com Editor

Jonathan Wall is GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com’s Managing Editor for Equipment. Prior to joining the staff at the end of 2018, he spent 6 years covering equipment for the PGA Tour. He can be reached at jonathan.wall@golf.com.