AUSTIN, TX. - Short game guru Dave Pelz likes to point out that he had a perfect record against former Ohio State All-American Jack Nicklaus when he played at Indiana University from 1957 to 1961.
He was perfect in defeat, going 0-22 against the young Buckeye prodigy.
Pelz was a good golfer in his own right, but the whippings from the Golden Bear made a career in physics seem more likely than even a cup of coffee as a touring professional. There was no hotter time to be employed by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) than the early 1960's, and Pelz took a position at the Goddard Space Flight Center doing research on the upper atmospheres of the earth and other planets in the solar system.
What in the world, you ask, does this have to do with the short game? The answer sounds like something you might get from futuristic cyber avenger Morpheus in the move The Matrix: Everything and nothing.
Everything, because it was Pelz's ability to apply physics to the golf game from 100 yards in that has made his short game instruction so successful.
Nothing, because Pelz's shortcomings as a putter and his regret that he didn't have the game to become a professional golfer, drove him back to the game, not science.
In 1970, Pelz began measuring what happens when the putter head strikes the ball and how he swung his putter. His research led to the development of the "Teacher Putter" and he improved his putting enough to qualify for, and play in, the U.S. Amateur Championship, and finish as medalist in the Maryland State Amateur Championship.
By the mid 70's, it was too late: The golf bug bit Pelz for good, and he took a leave of absence from NASA to start "Preceptor Golf," a company formed to manufacture and market his Teacher Putter. By 1976, Pelz had officially resigned from NASA, and began his comprehensive study of the short game.
In 1977, Pelz began an in depth analysis of every shot in golf. Using caddies, tour players and amateur golfers, he spent more than 3 years entering the data from thousands of rounds (shot distance, where it landed, relation to target, etc.) and found that the short game was 60-65 percent of golf. He discovered that players with the best short games win the most money and that the average Touring Professional missed shots from outside 100 yards by an average of 7 percent with each club, but that percentage rises to 16- to 20 percent on shots inside 100 yards.
Pelz's research ultimately led to teaching assignments with the likes of Colin Montgomerie, Vijay Singh, Lee Janzen, and the authoring of his best selling book, "Dave Pelz's Short Game Bible". Dave took some time away from authoring his two latest books to sit down with TravelGolf.com Contributing Writer Shane Sharp to chat about what else --- travel and golf!
Dave, you've had a chance to play golf all over the U.S. In your opinion, what is the best value out there in terms of a golf destination?
I think without a doubt that Myrtle Beach is the best value golf area. The prices are very reasonable and the golf you get is incredible. During the Dupont World Amateur, we ran testing with handicap groups of one stroke. On the last trip down, we were at the Legends Complex and they have one of the most incredible practice facilities that I have ever seen.
You can practice and play there as long as your body can hold out because the balls are free. If you are trying to get your money's worth, that is the place. The value these days is to be able to practice, find a game you can play with, and then go out and score a little better on a golf course. That is what it is all about for me. The Legends was impressive to me, because they take care of the golfer all around.
What golf destination out prices much of the golfing population?
Palm Springs. There are so many new private courses out there. The values are so much higher. I just don't know any place that competes with Myrtle Beach on price. Palm Springs is gorgeous. We are opening a facility out there. But I know it's an expensive place for golfers to land.
The golf course design world has been head over spikes for Tom Fazio over the past ten years, and rightfully so. Who, in your opinion, is churning out the best golf courses these days?
I have been so impressed with Rees Jones that I think that he is competing with Tom Fazio. Jack is great, Pete Dye is great and so creative, but Rees has really impressed me lately. I don't know Rees that well, and I was going to ask him what he has been doing that is so incredible lately. Of course, over the past 15 years he has been known as the "U.S. Open Doctor," so I think he has been looking at the best golf courses in this country, and trying to improve them. The mental gymnastics he has had to go through to do this is unimaginable. That experience, when you turn him loose on a new course, comes into play and the holes he creates are just amazing.
The reason I think Fazio may still be the best is because when I stand on the tee, I see an artistic picture of what the golfer is supposed to do. First, it is just beautiful. Second, he presents the golfer with what he needs to do, and he doesn't hide anything. That is different from Dye and Nicklaus back in their day, when they tried to out do each other with penal golf courses with hidden trouble.
You might write about golf holes from 100 yards in, but you play them from tee to green. What does it take to design and build a "great" golf hole?
December 14, 2001
As kids around the country head back to school, you, too, can continue your education—on the golf course. Before you play your next round, follow some of these helpful video tips from Golf Channel Academy.
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