When you watch Bryson DeChambeau do his speed training, it’s easy to get inspired on some basic level. You forget for a moment how this game is much more than just driving distance and you get stuck there, in awe of the power, the screaming, the self-degradation. Ramp it up, Bryson!
It’s only when you try it out yourself that you realize some of those antics — akin to power weight-lifters — is probably necessary. Swinging harder, feeling powerful, gaining speed is really not as simple as he makes it look. Bryson’s 145+ mph swing speed was of course ridiculous, but there was the question any solid golfer has surely asked themselves: why couldn’t I go 25 mph less than that? With a little help from Golf Hulk himself, surely I’d crack 120.
I had warmed up at Dallas National under the tutelage of Bryson’s coach Chris Como, who was none-too-pleased with the negative path of my face angle. But that didn’t matter. The only result we wanted is more speed. Faster swing speed, increased ball speed, etc. “When we’re doing this,” DeChambeau said. “I want you to rapid fire. I want you to hit as many balls as you can. And I want you to keep trying to apply force in different ways.”
If the ball skies off the top of the club face, it’s okay. As long as the club face moved faster. We started with a smooth swing at 109.5 mph, which is faster than most, but slower than the Tour’s 114 mph average. On the second swing, we reached that 114 mark. Unfortunately, the next 20 showed little progress.
“Take it back and feel like you’ve paused a little bit longer,” DeChambeau said. “And then apply a bunch of leg and rotational force through.
“Bend, the knees, grip it a little tighter, throw [the clubhead] up and PULL it from the top hard.”
On swing no. 22, all those little moves helped me reach 117.5 mph. A new PR! Perhaps 120 is doable after all. We also plateaued a bit, but in a good way. Raising the floor of most of my swings to 116-ish.
Swing 25: 116.1
Swing 26: 116.3
Swing 27: 117.1
Swing 28: 117.2
Swing 30: 116
Swing 31: 116.2
Swing 32: 116.9
Ultimately, that’s DeChambeau’s goal in all of this: raising his floor. In 2019, his average swing speed was 118.37 mph. In 2020, he cranked that baseline up to 125. And thus far in 2021, he’s at 133.03. There will be times when he swings it 138 mph multiple times in a round, but really he wants most of his driver swings hovering in that low-130s echelon.
“It’s all about breaking neurological barriers,” DeChambeau said now, basically on repeat. That’s his fancy way of reminding me there’s more to do. My normal swing — the one I’ve made millions of times as a golfer — has these little stoppers in it. Your swing does, too. Muscle memory, while a polarizing term, applies here. Bryson wants me to push past my neurological comfort zone and find the little speed pockets within my swing. There’s the top of the swing, which can almost always be longer. There’s the pace of the takeaway, which can be more rapid. There’s the transition at the top, how much the lower-body fires before your upper body, etc. There’s also the final push through the golf ball.
Rarely do golfers accelerate all the way through the golf ball. We are groomed to care mostly about the club face meeting the ball, so we plateau, speed-wise, during that final 20% on the path to the golf ball. We might not strictly decelerate — though many do — but we don’t typically go faster during that zone. Bryson saw it as my final speed pocket, at least for today.
He wanted me to get halfway through my downswing and pull. Hard. Pull hard with the hands until the clubhead passed the hitting zone. The last couple feet between club and ball can really matter for speed. And truthfully, I had been slowing down.
My 44th swing: 113 mph.
With a dozen spectators and a camera crew watching the PGA Tour’s Speed Demon turn into teacher, the idea of failing began to set in. Also, I was getting exhausted. My heart rate had peaked higher than the level it reaches during a 3-mile run. Sweat trickled off the tip of my nose, and when Bryson put his hands on my shoulders he could feel it seeping through my shirts. This was certifiably a workout.
“I want you to pull it back, time it, and then pull through,” my 27-year-old coach said. He was invested now. “PUSH with your feet off the ground. Keep your knees bent, go up, down, push off and THROW the club. Throw it as hard as you can with your hands. Throw it.”
I threw it alright. I grunted, too, recoiling off the swing to see what Trackman would say. 118.4 mph. A new PR on the 65th and final swing. Somewhere out on the driving range the ball rolled to a stop and my coach gave his approval. “Good job, dude. That’s what I’m talking about. That’s how you do it.”
That is how you do it, it seems. How valuable ‘it’ is for me remains to be seen, but finding those pockets in my swing where there was, and still is, room to go faster was enlightening. Did I get to Narnia, as he calls the euphoric state that follows a speed training session? Definitely not. Did we peek into the wardrobe and learn a thing or two? Totally.