‘Mad Scientist’ Bryson DeChambeau gains Masters edge with 3D-printed irons

Bryson DeChambeau of the United States tees off on the 4th hole during the second round of the Masters Tournament at the Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, USA, 12 April 2024
Bryson DeChambeau put his new clubs to good use with an opening 65 at Augusta - Shutterstock/Erik S Lesser

Mad scientists are sometimes infamous for taking risks that are beyond the comprehension of the layman in the name of their pursuit and so it is with Bryson DeChambeau at the 88th Masters.

The American, who studied quantum physics at college, is playing with irons that were made on a 3D printer and that happen to be so novel that the US Golf Association only assessed the prototype set as legal to use on Monday.

It is hard to imagine any other top-pro from going into the first round of a major with clubs that he has barely tested. But after his opening 65 and second round 73 par DeChambeau find himself in contention going into the weekend and declared what the game has always known – “I am different”. He is prepared to venture down whichever route he believes can give him an edge.

Hence, when he first hit the big-time, he ensured that he kept his swing on a single plane with clubs that were all the same length as his favourite seven-iron. And then, a few years later, he embarked on a dramatic weight-gaining regime to put on more length and, according to his medics, ruined his health in the process.

Changing clubs is more a conventional method, although throwing them in on one of the most important weeks of the year is definitely not. “I put new irons in this week - I think that’s a pretty big change, DeChambeau said. “And I’ve been using this new driver, 3-wood and 5-wood. So pretty much my whole bag is different since Greenbrier of last year [when he won a LIV event with a final-round 58]. The putter is the only thing that’s remained the same.”

Bryson DeChambeau of the United States chips onto the eighth green during the second round of the 2024 Masters Tournament at Augusta National Golf Club on April 12, 2024 in Augusta, Georgia
DeChambeau's irons had to be altered at the last minute to be declared legal - Getty Images/Andrew Redington

Michael Schy, DeChambeau’s equally creative coach, explained to Golfweek that they looked for a club-builder after tests indicated that if they inserted bolts on the centre of the clubface to the toe, it was more forgiving to skewed shots.

“What happens if you hit it on the toe?” Schy told the American website.” “It hooks a lot, right? What happens if you hit it on the heel? It cuts a lot. When you have bolts, that offsets that. The faces have some bulge to them, they are one-of-a-kind. It’s been an adventure.”

Schy and DeChambeau found their man in Briton Tom Bailey, the owner of little-known firm Avoda Golf, which makes bespoke clubs for clients. Bailey became fascinated by DeChambeau’s club-length approach a few years ago and was willing to take on a mission that other clubmakers deemed was impossible.

The one issue was that because DeChambeau was adamant that he required a two-piece club, the only method for a quick turnaround was with 3-D printing. But because a 3-D printer prints in layers, the USGA adjudicated that the grooves were too small as recently as last week. So, to afford his boss the choice, an employer buffed and grinded the grooves until the rules-makers were satisfied. DeChambeau was glad of the extra effort.

“It’s a speed thing” said the golfer who has broken new ground in Tour golf by achieving ball speeds in excess of 200mph. “When I mishit on the toe or the heel it seems to fly a lot straighter for me and that’s what has allowed me to be more comfortable over the ball.”