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Making the golf grade at the Dave Pelz Scoring School

Mike BaileyBy Mike Bailey,
Senior Staff Writer
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The Dave Pelz Scoring School stresses practicing with feedback and useful learning aids. (Courtesy of Pelz Golf)

BRASELTON, Ga. - It's a golf vacation that's ultimately more work than vacation but one that could make all other golf vacations that much more enjoyable.

It's the Dave Pelz Scoring School, which at more than $2,400 will rival the finest golf vacations in the world, and you don't get to play one single round of golf during the 72-hour period – not one.

But as one student said upon completion: "Why didn't I do this 20 years ago?"

In other words, he might have had far fewer miserable rounds had he gone through this kind of training long ago.

Dave Pelz Scoring School options

Based in Spicewood, Texas, just outside of Austin, the Dave Pelz Institute offers schools of various lengths around the country. There are one-day clinics and two-day short-game schools offered throughout the country, and three-day Scoring Schools conducted in Florida, California, Michigan, Georgia and even Ireland.

I went through the three-day school at Chateau Elan Winery and Resort just north of Atlanta. The location is ideal, because not only does Chateau Elan have three and a half golf courses, but it also has a short course, part of which is used for the school, as well as bunker stations and practice greens.

Student-teacher ratio is kept at 4-to-1 tops, but my school had two instructors for four students. Instruction started each day at 8 a.m. in a conference room within the resort. The morning session included breakfast sandwiches and continental options as well as coffee, juice and sodas.

Most of the classroom sessions were no more than an hour or so before we headed outdoors. An outstanding lunch buffet was also provided.

Dave Pelz Scoring School: The curriculum

After an initial classroom orientation, the school began with video evaluation of our current skills. This was critical because it established a baseline for our progress at the end of the school. Then it was back to the classroom for instruction on Pelz' principles.

It was there that Ty Waldron, a veteran instructor originally from Florida, explained to us that there are three non-negotiable fundamentals in the Pelz short-game system – ball position, synchronization of the swing and short-to-long.

Ball position varies depending on the shot, but to help us find it more consistently, we were provided with a T-square — a PVC-piped setup aid we could lay on the ground, which also helped with alignment.

Pelz also teaches that in the short game, the swing is synchronized, which is different from many full-game shots in which players often coil their upper body against their lower body. In other words, everything moves back and through together. And thirdly, Pelz also teaches a shorter backswing to full follow-through.

"The finesse swing is different than the full swing," Waldron told us.

Pelz is also a big advocate of having more, rather than fewer, wedges in your bag. His schools also promote the 64-degree wedge. "If you can hit a 60," Pelz said, "you can hit a 64-degree wedge. It just makes the hard shots easier."

In other words, for the finesse wedges of less than 50 yards, you can swing the 64-degree more aggressively, which is easier.

Dave Pelz putting principles

Much has been made of Pelz's straight-back and straight-through putting philosophy. It is his contention that if you get the hands and arms hanging vertically and your eyes over the ball, a pendulum stroke will produce such a stroke.

More importantly, the putting portion of the school also addressed tempo, length of stroke, green reading and the "art of putting." At one point, each student was given their ideal tempo on a metronome. Mine was 88 beats per minute.

We were also instructed on various drills for distance control, path, square contact, making a pendulum stroke and provided with a demonstration that showed the difference between the apex of the break of putt and the actual starting line of said putt. The conclusion is that most golfers typically play too little break.

Each student also received a putter fitting, and all four of us had putters that were too long for us. My specs, for example, were 32 inches with a lie angle of 73 degrees. I promptly had my putter adjusted.

Pelz Scoring School: The verdict

The Dave Pelz Scoring School is based upon Dave Pelz's decades of research. A former NASA scientist and college player, Pelz's principles have been adopted by many of the world's best players, including Phil Mickelson, whom Pelz teaches personally.

With that said, there are other short-game teachers who take issue with some of Pelz's methods, but any student who goes through one of the Pelz schools should come out of it with a thorough understanding of the short game and putting, and a plan to dramatically improve.

Perhaps the most valuable part of the course is the detailed binder that is provided to each student at the end. Through the miracle of computers, it contains personalized pictures of each student's swings and strokes at the beginning of the class with text on what each student needs to do to correct the problems. There are also illustrations of the correct methods and references, by page numbers, to Pelz's books that go into more detail of areas of concern.

Students also walk away with several other training aids, including the T-square, a teacher's putting clip (for center contact) and specially marked putting balls. Future schools are said to include more goodies. And at the end, students are given a comprehensive survey to fill out and send back.

After 25 years of playing golf, I came out of this with the first comprehensive assessment of where my short-game shortcomings were and how to fix them, and as one of my fellow students said, I wish had done this 20 years ago.

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Mike Bailey is a senior staff writer based in the Houston area. Focusing primarily on golf in the United States, Canada, the Caribbean and Latin America, he contributes course reviews, travel stories and features as well as the occasional equipment review. An award-winning writer and past president of Texas Golf Writers Association, he has more than 20 years in the golf industry. Before accepting his current position in 2008, he was on staff at PGA Magazine, The Golfweek Group and AvidGolfer Magazine. Follow Mike on Twitter at @Accidentlgolfer.

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