Is power golf the way to go?
By David Widener, Senior Editor Tee Times
I first became aware of power golf when purchasing the 1953 paperback edition of Ben Hogan’s book entitled Power Golf after my father began teaching me the game of golf.
Noted for his legendary ball-striking ability, Hogan wrote “No matter how big and strong you are it doesn’t mean a thing in golf, unless you know how to apply your strength. Distance is obtained by a full use of your physical faculties and strength in combination with perfect timing.”
At the time I wanted to learn as much as I could from Hogan. He was one of my favorite players and we lived in the same town (Fort Worth, Texas). His book covers 11 subjects and includes 120 self-teaching drawings to help you play better golf. My game did improve, but I was never really good, with my best a 79 on a par-70 course.
The reason I bring up power golf is Bryson DeChambeau, the man who used it to bring the almighty Winged Foot course to its knees in winning the U.S. Open by shooting par or better all four rounds to finish 6-under-par 274. He is one of only three of the 894 golfers who have played in the six Opens contested at Winged Foot to complete 72 holes under par. The other two came in 1984 when Fuzzy Zoeller and Greg Norman finished at 4-under-par 276. Zoeller then won in a playoff the next day.
What makes DeChambeau’s feat unique is that he hit just 23 of 56 fairways, which defies all logic since the U.S. Open is all about location, especially at Winged Foot. He used his power to smash the golf ball off the tee regardless of where it might go, averaging 325.6 yards, the longest ever by a U.S. Open champion.
DeChambeau made a commitment in 2019 to hit the ball farther, beefing up his body to become what he termed a different guy this year. The physical transformation meant putting on 40 pounds of muscle by working in the gym, eating a lot of steak and drinking a lot of protein shakes.
The turn to the power way thinking of golf resulted in a 20-yard jump in his driving distance and a 137-mph club speed. Now, at 6-foot-1, 230 pounds, he’s thinking of testing a 48-inch driver and putting on another 10-15 pounds.
“He’s taking advantage of where the game is now,” Roy McIIroy said after finishing tied for eighth place with a 6-over-par score.
One must wonder how Hogan would do with the equipment available today. One of his nicknames was Bantam Ben because he stood just 5-8 and weighed only 145 pounds. A 1949 Time Magazine article had his driving distance at 265 yards. While he was on a visit to Spalding a radar device clocked his clubhead speed at 132 mph, the fastest among the pros. A famous photo shows Hogan even hitting a 1-iron 213-yards on the 18th hole in the final round of the 1950 U.S. Open, which he won in a playoff.
DeChambeau did not need a playoff to win the Open and it’s not that the 27-year-old is an unknown. He’s one of just three golfers to win a NCAA, U.S. Amateur and U.S. Open Championship, and won six PGA Tour events before going to Winged Foot. He also was on the 2018 Ryder Cup team and 2019 Presidents Cup team. The question now is whether his power golf will work at Augusta National, site of the Masters Nov. 12-15. Distance is not as
important as keeping the ball in the fairways at Augusta.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Ben Hogan’s career included winning the 1945 Nashville Invitational with a 19-under-par score. It was his first PGA Tour win since returning from service in the U.S. Army Air Force in World War II. The tournament also was played in 1944 and 1946. I want to do a future column on the event and would like to hear from readers who have memories of the tournaments. Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.