Dave Pelz’s Short Game Bible was published in 1999. It is not just another book featuring some guy’s opinions on the short game. Pelz is different. For more than 30 years he has been both a keen observer and an enthusiastic student of the game. He has used his background in physics to scientifically study hundreds of golfers and thousands of golf shots.
The fact is that this book can make a difference to any golfer’s short game if they take the time to read, understand, and apply it. That is why a multi-part study of the book is worth doing. This study will contain summaries and commententary on Pelz’s main theories and observations. It will be published in short segments over the course of the next month or so, and then compiled as a complete downloadable report.
Who is Dave Pelz?
Pelz started playing golf when he was about 7, and although — according to his own telling of the story — he was not an outstanding player, he was well above average. He was good enough to earn a 4 year golf scholarship to Indiana University.
While at Indiana he studied physics and he played golf. His golfing experience in college was not particularly promising. He had the privilege of playing against Jack Nicklaus more than 20 times, and was beaten every time. This in itself does not make him a loser, but it didn’t inspire a whole lot of confidence either, and so he decided not to pursue a golfing career when he got out.
When he graduated he used his degree in physics to get a job with NASA doing “space research” and he set golf aside while he got on with his life. Eventually he drifted back to competitive golf, playing in local tournaments, and dabbling in club design on the side.
At one of these regional tournaments some local businessmen noticed how well he was putting with a putter of his own design, and convinced him to start a business designing clubs and teaching aids. Pelz’s own description of the early years of his golf business are sketchy. It is not really clear what he was doing except watching lots of golf, and losing lots of money.
Whatever he was doing, by his own admission his business was not very successful in the early years and he regularly considered quitting the business altogether.
“The Day That Changed My Life”
In retrospect Pelz attributes his lack of early success to a lack of focus — a failure to understand what the game of golf is really about. The event that opened his eyes to his need for a different perspective on the game was a match between Gay Brewer — a previous winner of the Master’s — and another fine looking young golfer who Pelz is considerate enough not to name. Brewer’s opponent had a beautiful swing that was text book perfect and which contrasted sharply with Brewer’s own unorthodox swing. But Brewer beat his opponent by four strokes that day.
Pelz couldn’t believe it. Here we had an inversion of the conventional wisdom. The guy with the mechanically perfect and supposedly predictable swing gets beaten by the guy with the
unorthodox, erratic looking swing that looked like it had been cobbled together in the back yard.
This was the beginning of Pelz’s quest for a deeper understanding of the game. Ironically in spite of this “eureka moment” Pelz does not end up endorsing non-conventionality. In fact his eventual conclusions are even more conventional — at least more mechanical and more analytical — than virtually any other leading teacher past or present.
What is unconventional about Pelz is his insistence that scoring takes place from 100 yards in — as a result of proficiency in the short game. No major swing theorist had ever focused exclusively on the short game. Throughout the history of the game every major teacher has emphasized the analysis and mastery of the full swing. But Pelz looked at the “facts” and concluded that the short game — pitching, chipping, and putting — is what seperated winners from losers.
Go to any driving range and watch for a while. You can’t help but come away thinking that Pelz is right. If golfers would use even 25% of the energy spent hacking balls to learn how to pitch, chip, and putt, they could make a much bigger impact on their scores than trying to hit their drives an extra five yards.
This is not really a new thought. Golfers have been talking about “the short game” since golf was invented. But as we will see in the upcoming segments of this study, Pelz focused on the short game in ways that had never been done before.