October 06, 2020
By GolfWRX, PGATOUR.COM
- Bryson DeChambeau used the arm-lock style to win the U.S. Open. (Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Conventional. Cross-handed. Anchored. Claw grip. Side saddle. The list of putting styles seen on the PGA TOUR goes on and on. The pros will go to great lengths to improve their putting.
With the introduction of new technology, we are learning there are a million ways to get the ball in the hole. Putting may be considered an art form, but science can help players improve.
The arm-lock style is not the newest idea, but it is one that has turned decent putters into great putters, and last month it was put on display as resident PGA TOUR physicist Bryson DeChambeau used it to win the U.S. Open. His incredible distance gains have received most of the attention but that storyline overshadows his impressive results with the arm-lock putter. He finished last season ranked 10th on TOUR in Strokes Gained: Putting.
The arm-lock is a proven method used by DeChambeau, Webb Simpson, Matt Kuchar and Keegan Bradley. By resting the elongated putter shaft against the lead arm and thus securing the lead wrist, players can control the putter’s arc with the bigger muscles.
The anchoring ban sent more players to the arm-lock method after they lost their beloved belly and long putters. It has revived the careers of players like Simpson and Bradley, who used it to re-enter the winner’s circle after lengthy victory droughts.
DeChambeau began tinkering with the arm-lock method in 2017, the same year he finished 145th on TOUR in Strokes Gained: Putting. He committed to the method in the second half of 2017, and he has improved in that statistic ever since. He was 32nd in 2018, 28th in 2019 and 10th last season.
It's safe to say the switch is paying off, perhaps even more so than the 25 pounds of muscle.
Here are the specs on DeChambeau’s putter and a Q&A with a member of the company that builds his putter, SIK Director of Communications Tyler Finley.
Putter: SIK Pro C (arm-lock)
Sightline: Back flange
Shaft: LA Golf C2L-180
Length: 43 degrees
Loft: 6 degrees
Lie: 78 degrees
Head weight: 380 grams
Grip: Jumbo Max 17”
GolfWRX: How did the relationship with Bryson begin?
Finley: Bryson uses the Flightscope (launch monitor) and the tech that Bryson works with, Alex Trujillo, is a friend of ours. Bryson was really struggling on the greens and Alex sent Bryson’s coach Mike Schy an image of our Descending Loft Technology explainer. After missing the cut at The Honda Classic in 2017, Mike asked Bryson to come up to Orlando to see if SIK could help. He proceeded to take the tournament rental car from Miami to Orlando. We spent two days going through absolutely every possible configuration of head styles, sightlines, hosel options, shaft options, etc. We tested on the Quintic Ball Roll System inside and outside with each option. We probably spent 20 hours with Bryson for the first two days.
GolfWRX: In testing with him, what exactly was he trying to gain and or fix that he thought your putters could remedy?
Finley: When Bryson came in, he was just looking for consistency. Obviously, at times he was a good putter. He had already won the NCAA Championship and U.S. Amateur but he was just too streaky for his liking. He was not, at that time, able to quantify why he was streaky and that led to inefficient practice. We identified that he was inconsistent with his distance control and a bit below average concerning face angle at impact. The arm-lock method addressed the face angle and our technology proved to best help the distance control variable.
WRX: Transitioning into arm-lock was something Bryson did a few years back. What inspired that change?
Finley: In a word: Consistency. We went through every conceivable option (even face-on putting) and the arm-lock proved to be the most consistent method we tried. It also is the method that we could best build a system around to quantify distance and face-angle at impact with the ability to max out the range of motion and create a true pendulum-type stroke. There is less breakdown in mechanics with arm-lock as there are fewer moving parts.
WRX: From a putter standpoint what did SIK do to make a putter that complemented exactly what he was looking for?
Finley: The main issue he was having was distance control. That is the main thing our technology addresses. Even the best players in the world return the shaft from address to impact with some variance. Our technology, Descending Loft Technology, addresses these variances by working to launch the ball at a consistent angle regardless of shaft angle. To Bryson, that was attractive if it was true. Bryson tests everything relentlessly, he uses a very scientific, data-driven approach to his game and our putter tested better than every other putter in the market. In the beginning, we tested ours against his gamer and our putter performed better, but as he gained prominence almost every manufacturer in the industry left putters in his locker. He tested them all and we always won.
WRX: How many styles did Bryson try until he landed on this one?
Finley: Initially, Bryson tested all our models in each sightline and hosel variant and settled on the Pro head shape with the plumber’s neck. It is the traditional Anser-style blade that was comfortable for him. But nothing is ever static with Bryson, he is always trying to get better or more consistent. We have made dozens of prototypes for him over the years including heavier heads and lighter heads (in the Pro shape), inserts in the Pro and Flo shape, moving the hosel closer to the center of the head, longer arm-lock hosels to try and be face-balanced, thicker and thinner topline profiles, completely new shapes, etc. etc. You name it, we’ve probably tried it. For his first few wins, the putter he used was the prototype we made in February of 2017. We went on to machine a hosel with the lie and loft milled in to avoid bowing of the standard plumber’s neck and he racked up another couple of wins with that setup.
His last two wins have come with the most recent setup change, the Prototype LAGP Constant Diameter shaft. That required us to make a hosel with a .580 connection and to adjust the center of gravity due to the increased hosel weight. But, for the most part, he picked the Pro head and finally settled on it for good (it seems). He mentioned to Michael Breed after the second round of the U.S. Open that he is, “finally settling into this putter for the rest of his life.”
WRX: What benefits does SIK think the arm-lock style has?
TF: The arm-lock method increases your ability to return the face square at impact vs a traditional approach. With the flat side of the JMX 17 contacting your lead forearm, the only way to manipulate the face is to manipulate the lead arm. That is much harder to do and more noticeable when it happens, as compared to just your wrists and hands in a traditional setup. This feature alone is a benefit and probably worth consideration but when you add that to a very upright lie angle, we are now improving path which has a direct effect on a player's ability to return the face square at impact.
We recommend a lie angle of 78 degrees which gets the player's arms hanging with gravity below your shoulders; this position allows the stroke to naturally be less arched but still square to the path which results in better face angles at impact. We designed the putter to be used out of the middle of your stance, which, if your weight is centered, should be the low point of the stroke. The arm-lock is simply about removing variables. If you are a great putter traditionally, then switching to an arm-lock may not make a lot of sense, but if putting is not a strength of your game, we really think arm-lock can help.