Caddie Confidential: Is Bryson DeChambeau to blame for recent distance rollback talk?

We asked caddies if they thought talk about distance rollbacks by the USGA and R&A is directly related to Bryson DeChambeau’s physical transformation and the blueprint it might provide for future top-level golfers. This is what they told us. Credit: USA Today Images

Welcome to the sixth installment of our “Caddie Confidential” series, with monthly, inside-the-ropes perspective from dozens of Tour caddies on rotating golf topics. Up this month: we tackle distance, Bryson DeChambeau, whether technology has taken the skill out of the game and more.

We often hear from old-timers that advancements in equipment technology have taken the skill out of the game.

Whether that’s true or not at the highest level, we’ll get to in just a minute. But there’s no denying that advancements in technology sure have made the game a lot more fun at the amateur/recreational level.

We polled nearly four dozen PGA Tour caddies to get their opinion on a variety of questions related to distance, promising them all anonymity in an effort to get their most honest answers. Let’s dive in to what they told us.

Have advancements in equipment technology taken the skill out of the game at the highest level?

  • 30% of caddies said, YES, it has taken skill out of the game at the highest level
  • 70% of caddies said, NO, it has not taken skill out of the game at the highest level

Next, we turned the attention to Bryson DeChambeau. The 2020 U.S. Open winner at Winged Foot raised eyebrows with his incredible body transformation that started in the winter of 2019, but really took shape (literally) when the Tour returned from the pandemic’s 13-week hiatus.

DeChambeau looked like a completely different person, packing on the muscle and adding incredible length to his drives.

So, we wondered: has this rollback talk been brought to the forefront because of DeChambeau specifically?

Do you think the recent talk about distance rollbacks by the USGA and R&A is directly related to Bryson DeChambeau’s physical transformation and the blueprint it might provide for future top-level golfers?

  • 40% of caddies said, YES, the rollback talk is because of DeChambeau
  • 60% of caddies said, NO, the rollback talk is not because of DeChambeau

“You have to look forward into the not-so-distant future,” one caddie told us. “Younger players will see this transformation is possible and look to duplicate it. 290 turns into 300 turns into 340 turns into 360, and it hasn’t taken THAT long.”

Other caddies believe these talks have little/nothing to do with DeChambeau.

“Same old tired discussion with no changes. I wish they would make the balls softer and curve more.”

“This has been a topic since Tiger came out!”

Why or why not do caddies believe rollback talk is because of Bryson DeChambeau’s transformation?

Check out this selection of responses from caddies:

There is a fear that advancements in distance may make some traditional courses obsolete.

Bryson has definitely received a lot of attention for his transformation, but he’s not the only player hitting the ball crazy-long. With the technology in today’s ball and equipment fitting it is much easier for guys to attain these distances with accuracy.

I don’t see a governing body making wholesale changes to the rules of the game based on one person’s behavior.

Because they see him overpowering courses. But go back to Webb Simpson and Rory’s quotes. We have to be more thoughtful when designing golf courses now. For years the people who seem to be in charge seem to think it’s a solution to continue to make courses longer and bigger. The opposite is true. We need angles and doglegs and trees and bunkers well thought out. Not wide open 8,000-yard courses.

The USGA has been having the talks for years prior to Bryson coming on the scene.

Every time something dramatically changes, the USGA has a knee-jerk reaction. Bryson caused it this time. Just like two guys winning majors with belly putters caused the banning of them. But we know they didn’t totally ban anchoring!

Because they realize that if nothing is done, more people will do what Bryson has done. There are a bunch of young college players that can absolutely crush the golf ball.

We’re seeing a new level in distance records on the PGA Tour, and Bryson is setting the new standard.

There are plenty of players that can overpower a golf course. Bryson just made it more apparent. The rollback will only hurt the medium-length hitters because the bombers will still bomb it and the rest will be put at a disadvantage.

The amount of attention he is getting will drive younger players to follow his lead.

It’s been a topic for 20 + years. Bryson just fuels the argument. Plus, his body will break before any course records do.

He’s one person and doesn’t win every week. Injuries will catch up to him. It’s inevitable.

It has been a number of factors, including Bryson, that has seen the governing bodies to take a closer look at the effect technology is having in the game.

I think it is a skill to be able to hit the ball far, but I think they should play the balata ball instead. I think the ball should be rolled back. Curious to see how long hitters would launch it. I think if they rolled back technology, it would hurt the club manufacturers the most.

Over the history of the game there have always been a few guys per year that hit it much further than the Tour average, and I feel this will be the case with a rollback or not.

He may have accelerated the talks about distance rollbacks, but I think it’s been on the table before Bryson did what he did.

Interested in more from our June 2021 installment of Caddie Confidential? Be sure to check out if caddies think rollbacks on the PGA Tour would hurt the game and whether or not there should be bifurcation? 

You can view all the results from our entire Caddie Confidential by clicking here.

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