Saturday, January 24, 2009

A Look Into the Poll Question: Dave Pelz

Name: Dave Pelz
Location: Spicewood, TX
Famous Students: Phil Mickelson
Notable Works: 'How To Putt Like the Pros', 'The Putting Bible', 'The Short Game Bible'
Notable Credentials: Golf Digest 'Top 50 Instructor', Golf Magazine 'Top 100 Instructor'
Training Aids: Pelz Putter Clips, The Truthboard, Pelz 'O' Balls
Web site:

Dave Pelz was a member of the University of Indiana golf team during the same time some guy Jack Nicklaus was a member of the Ohio State golf team. During their time playing against each other, Pelz often wondered why Nicklaus would beat him every time out. This was what sparked his interest in researching the game.

However, that was sidetracked by Pelz's career at NASA after graduation. But the desire to learn more about the game kept haunting him and eventually he started his research into the game.

The common misconception about Pelz is that he's always been a putter and short game guy. It doesn't help that in his first book 'How To Putt Like The Pros' he eludes to getting into the game solely to understand putting more. However, in a later book entitled 'The Short Game Bible' Pelz describes a different tale. He wanted to figure out what's the best way for a golfer to lower their scores. He then started physically charting golf shots on tour by himself. He would get an idea of where the pro golfer was aiming, let them hit their shot and then take off running and getting an estimate of how far off the golfer was from their intended target. After compiling the data he found that the golfer's with the lowest scores usually did the best from 100 yards in.

Pelz was looked at as the absolute guru of the short game, particularly since he had the NASA credentials and did a ton of research. However, lately his name has been surpassed by Stan Utley and his popularity has somewhat waned over the years.

Pelz used to be adamant about utilizing the straight back and straight thru stroke. And it made good sense. But now that Utley's book 'The Art of Putting' came out and so many golfers had success with it, Pelz has changed his tune about using the SBST stroke. He's also taken quite a bit of criticism from Geoff Mangum, mostly for his 'optimal speed' of putts being 17 inches past the back of the cup. As Geoff Mangum explains in a post in regards to his 'One Best Delivery Speed for Touch From Physics' YouTube video

Pelz' 1977 data DISPROVES his later claims about 17" past the hole: Golf Digest July 1977, pages 52-55. His later "claims" about 17" never mentions this 1977 article or share his data proving it, because he has none.

Pelz's science only proved what everyone already knew: the go-by distance does depend on grass type and condition.

Others who have tried to duplicate his research to check it conclude that his claims cannot be accurate.
Still, it's tough to discredit what Pelz has done for the game and even in Mangum's book 'Optimal Putting' he says that the SBST stroke can work just fine. I've been a good putter since I was 16 years old and used the SBST stroke throughout my D-I college team years and putted pretty well with it. Now I use an arc stroke which I feel is better (Mangum also says an arc stroke is fine in 'Optimal Putting'), but generally I believe that there's way too much made out of what type of stroke pattern a golfer has.

Furthermore, just about every teacher in the world has been wrong and changed their philosphies over time. So Pelz is not the only instructor to ever get something wrong.

Over the years, Pelz has come up with quite a few great training aids, like the putter clips, the truthboard and the 'O' balls. Plus, his chipping, pitching and bunker play techniques can work for lots of golfers.

He's likely to remain a mainstay as far as big name instructors goes for the next 20 years or so. However, the greatness of Pelz lies in that he doesn't rest on his laurels and always seems to find ways to improve his techniques and gain further knowledge.



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Anonymous said...

Possibly the most amazing read that I read all month :P

Yours Truly