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Bryson DeChambeau Wins US Open—Is this a Win for 3D Printing?

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In a thrilling final, Bryson DeChambeau has won the US Open. DeChambeau is often called “The Scientist” given his rigorous analysis of the sport and his willingness to experiment with new gear and practices. He uses much longer driver shafts, much larger grips, and different driver geometry than other golfers. What The Scientist does with his setup is more closely watched than that of other pro golfers. At the same time, Bryson left the PGA for LIV Golf, meaning that, for many, he has disappeared from view, only appearing occasionally during the Masters and events such as the US Open. LIV is well-financed, but its games are not well-watched and it is in the process of merging with the PGA. To come from obscurity to win is therefore especially newsworthy.

At the most recent Masters, Bryson DeChambeau used 3D-printed irons from Avoda Golf. Avoda’s rise to prominence has been head-spinning. Started by Tom Bailey, a personal connection led to their evaluation by DeChambeau. The tiny company then made drivers with a bold curve on the clubface, a unique design said to allow for more accuracy and mitigate mishits. Bryson has a lot of design input in the irons, and this matters. Other golfers use the clubs their sponsors give them. DeChambeau, however, has no big golf club sponsors. Instead, he uses a variety of clubs from different vendors. Being less visible on LIV cost him a lot of sponsors, but his eclectic mix of clubs now gives their selection more credence. Rory will tell you he loves his clubs because he gets millions from their maker, whereas Bryson will pick whatever gives him an edge.

DeChambeau used Krank Formula Fire drivers, a SIK Pro C-Series Armlock putter, Ping Glide 4.0 wedges, all equipped with LA Golf Bryson Series shafts. For his irons, DeChambeau uses the 3D printed Avoda BAD Prototype golf clubs. Avoda is reportedly selling 15 sets a day of its 3D printed clubs, marking a big win for Avoda and for 3D printing technology. At the same time, Snarr3D is making waves with 3D printed golf shafts. Golf companies have been experimenting with 3D printed putters for years, and recently Cobra released commercially available 3D printed irons. Real interest and sales in 3D printed golf equipment are building. Personally, I think it could grow even more given the money people spend on golf equipment and the possibilities to significantly improve performance through 3D printed grips.

But perhaps this is just a moment in the sun for 3D printing. Avoda is using 3D printing for prototypes and reportedly wants to switch to molds once they can. While Bryson got to make a prototype bulge club, the real idea behind Avoda initially was to make more combo length irons available, allowing people to use the same swing for more clubs. This moment, therefore, may very well come and go. DeChambeau himself would like people to print a metal club head at home in an hour, which will take a while. In a more conservative quote, he said he thinks 3D printing is the future:

“Those days are coming. I don’t know how quickly it’s coming, but it’s certainly a really cool technology that we utilize, and hopefully it gets more widely known because that is the future. It’s just not here fully yet for mass consumption. I want it to be. I want it to be for sure. The price point just needs to come down quite a bit.”

On that point, we’re in agreement. $3,000 clubs will not work for everyone. Realistically, a big investment in volume would see quite low prices become feasible using HP’s binder jet technology. Automation will need to be developed, but the clubs could come down significantly in value, especially if 3D printing is optimized for production and only the face of the club is printed. At the same time, powder bed fusion clubs would be more difficult to reduce in price. Lower machine costs, lower materials costs, and things like settings could significantly improve the cost picture. It’s difficult to automate every step, however, and powder costs are still excessive compared to the costs of the MIM powders used by binder jet. While cost-effective 3D printed clubs will take years, a premium 3D printed club, not an exorbitant one, could be possible quite quickly.

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