Bryson DeChambeau was missing short putts. Then he looked at ball dimples.
Bryson DeChambeau, in his first full season on the PGA Tour, ranked 97th, out of 190 players, in putts made from under 5 feet, and 111th, out of 193, the following season, and he was stumped.
“When I was putting bad in 2017, I was doing face-on putting, I was trying a bunch of different s**t, and it didn’t really work that well. Nothing was working well,” he said this week on the Full Send Podcast. “And I eventually found arm-lock that worked pretty well, but I still noticed I was having these weird putts from like 5 feet and in — they were just coming off line just really weird.”
And then they weren’t. Lost in all of DeChambeau’s recent distance gains was his improvement from short range. In 2019, he was 24th in putts made from 5 feet and in. In 2020, he was 20th. This past season, he was 61st, but his percentage made was better than those first two years.
To the likely surprise of no one, DeChambeau had investigated why. But what he discovered may be at least a little stunning. If it wasn’t the stroke, or the putter, it had to have been the ball. And it was, he said. But it was the smallest part of the smallest part of the ball.
“So I did some study and some research on the golf ball and the geometry of those dimples,” DeChambeau said on the podcast. “And so, and this is getting a bit technical, so the dimples, they have edges on them, right. And if you hit the dimple on the edge at the wrong angle, it can come off horizontally or vertically.”
What was his fix?
“So if you hit it at this angle, it will twist and go off line,” DeChambeau said on the podcast. “But if you’re hitting on the top or bottom of the dimple, it will only affect the vertical launch. So when I was putting, I was missing putts from super-close ranges because I was hitting it off the other edges of the dimples. And so a lot of guys who miss short putts — they’re like, I felt like I made a great stroke, but it comes out and lips out of the hole from a foot or 2 feet — it’s because they’re hitting it on an edge.
“So the firmer you hit it, the more the golf ball compresses. So when you’re hitting something a lot harder, it’s compressing and it doesn’t come off at a weird angle. When you’re hitting it softer, like a 5-footer or like a 3-footer, you hit it a little bit off the edges, it can now come off line.”
His solution appears to have worked. In both 2017 and 2018, DeChambeau made 96.65 percent of his putts from 5 feet and closer. In 2019, he rolled in 97.66 percent, in 2020, 97.75, and last season, 97.25.
“I was looking at different putter designs, like what is going on — I felt like I was taking every variable out of it,” DeChambeau said on the podcast. “So I was hitting it on my line, and it was still coming off at weird angles. Like I felt like I was stroking it perfect. I used numerous devices that told me my putter was square at impact. I was stroking it with a proper club path, proper lie angle, attack angle, all this stuff, whatever. And unfortunately there’s no answer to it.
“That’s when I went and did my research.”