Bryson DeChambeau explains ‘frustrated’ pitch-black range session

Bryson DeChambeau hit range balls well past dark on Thursday at the U.S. Open.

Bryson DeChambeau hit range balls well past dark on Thursday at the U.S. Open.

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SAN DIEGO — At 7:51 p.m. on Thursday at Torrey Pines, tournament officials blew the horn, suspending play for the day due to darkness.

There are no lights on the tournament driving range. It’s mid-June, after all, which means it’s light early and light late. Plenty of time to hit balls. For most golfers, at least.

Bryson DeChambeau is not most golfers. And one of the very specific ways in which he is fundamentally different is his post-round range sessions. He hits balls after he plays until he resolves whatever swing issues cloud his mind. Eventually, he goes and putts. And then he finally gets to go back to his room.

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That’s an important point: DeChambeau always does this. There’s nothing showy about it. The exercise clears his mind. It makes him feel better. Sometimes that process takes minutes and sometimes it takes more than an hour but he insists it’s the best way to resolve swing issues as they arise. His most high-profile late-night range session came in last year’s U.S. Open, when he headed to the range at Winged Foot for some late-night work. Then he won the next day.

On Thursday at Torrey Pines, just after 8 p.m., DeChambeau walked onto the range. It was dusky for a while. Then it was dark. A scoreboard illuminated the right side of the range, which meant you could see DeChambeau’s face. Eventually, with every fan filtered off property, they turned the scoreboard off, too.

Now it was dark.

Here was the defending U.S. Open champion hitting balls in the absolute pitch black. He didn’t seem to be getting anywhere; he was muttering his frustrations into the dark. The entire thing seemed from the outside like an exercise in futility.

What was DeChambeau thinking at that moment?

“I said to myself, ‘I’m not going to figure it out,'” he told after Friday’s round. “I was hitting so many golf balls and nothing was working. I was trying everything.”

DeChambeau continued for a while, seeking a solution that wasn’t coming.

“Yeah, I couldn’t see very well, and it obviously being very dark, they shut the lights off, which is fine,” he said. “I’ve hit golf balls in the dark plenty of times. But at a certain point I was getting so frustrated with myself, I was just like, I can’t.”

DeChambeau walked off the range at 9:15 p.m. He went and ate dinner by himself, thinking about the same dilemma he tried to tackle on the range. Here’s how he described that process:

“I couldn’t figure it out for an hour and a half last night, and I went back and I was just sitting down, eating dinner and just thinking about it, thinking about it. I literally won’t talk to anybody for like an hour, just thinking, thinking, thinking, and sure enough, I went to bed and I found a little something that worked for my driver.”

That’s where you’ll need to buckle up and hop aboard the Bryson-mobile. To hear him tell it, DeChambeau essentially had an epiphany in the middle of the night. And it seemed to work. DeChambeau hit it better on Friday, scored better and came in with a round of two-under 69, four better than Thursday, to plant himself solidly in contention at even par heading to the weekend.

As for that late-night epiphany? I asked him more about it in a walk-and-talk interview after his round on Friday. Give it a watch:

That came after his range session, which was much shorter and much better lit this time around. But that doesn’t mean he’ll ditch the late-night sessions anytime soon.

“When I was younger, I would close my eyes and I would just hit golf balls in the dark, and obviously with my eyes closed trying to feel and sense my body, I got a better perception of what’s going on with my body,” he said.

Therein lies the contradiction of DeChambeau. His reputation is as a mad scientist, data-obsessed, chasing perfection. But one of the reasons he’s so good at golf is because he has such great feel — the sort of feel you can only develop from hitting range balls until you can’t see where they’re going.

It’s not clear how DeChambeau will play on the weekend at Torrey Pines. But one thing’s for certain: You can expect him on the driving range on Saturday evening, looking for an edge.

Dylan Dethier

Dylan Dethier Editor

Dylan Dethier is a senior writer for GOLF Magazine/ The Williamstown, Mass. native joined GOLF in 2017 after two years scuffling on the mini-tours. Dethier is a graduate of Williams College, where he majored in English, and he’s the author of 18 in America, which details the year he spent as an 18-year-old living from his car and playing a round of golf in every state.