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Tee Times Magazine | Minneapolis/St. Paul

Breezy Point

Local Golf
August 17, 2017

RJ Smiley

How did a physics major and a NASA scientist become a world leader in short game golf instruction?

In 1961, Dave Pelz joined NASA, working at the Goddard Space Flight Center doing research on the upper atmospheres of the earth and other planets in the solar system. Pelz became a senior scientist with responsibilities for several satellite programs, including Explorer.

Pelz earned a degree in physics while attending the University of Indiana on a golf scholarship. He may have been a scientist, but his dream was to play professional golf on the PGA TOUR. While in college he played 22 matches against Ohio State's Jack Nicklaus... losing every single time.

After failing to make the grade on the TOUR because of a poor short game, Pelz put the science of physics to work and studied how the putter strikes the ball during putting. This work led to the creation of the "Teacher Putter" in 1970. Pelz improved his putting enough to qualify for the U.S. Amateur and earned medalist honors at the Maryland State Amateur. This experience convinced him that even though putting is not a natural ability, putting could be learned. Thus began a lifetime of research on golf shots within 60 yards of the cup.

In 1982 Pelz started his short game schools in Austin, Texas. Since that time Dave has been a contributing writer for GolfDigest and has done a series of appearances on Golf Channel. Dave has written numerous books and articles on putting including his best seller, "The Putting Bible."

Pelz has coached several major winners including Mark Brooks, Vijay Singh, Payne Stewart, Andy North and others. But Pelz is best identified with TOUR favorite Phil Mickelson.

One of my best friends and longtime golfing companion worked for Dave Pelz as lead instructor in his short game schools for 12 years. Dennis has stories of Division I football coaches, movie stars and business leaders who came to Pelz short game schools. It makes no difference, whether it's Phil Mickelson, Sylvester Stallone or Michelle Wie, the routine is the same. You must do the short game school to learn the terms and understand Dave's terminology. Dennis tells me, "The reason Dave wanted everyone to go through his schools was because once he starts talking everyone in the room eyes glaze over. He gets so technical that it is over the top. Dave has so much research, he wants to share it all."

Dennis has told me of the times that Phil and Dave would stand for hours hitting wedge shots of all description. This was done in the form of competition, but with a purpose. Dave wanted the feedback. Dave introduced the 64º wedge and Mickelson was one of the first to use it winning major championships. Dennis told me that one afternoon he saw Mickelson hitting 64º wedge shots about 30 yards making one shot - hit, check and spin to the right. The next would hit, check and spin left. The combination of Mickelson's ability, Pelz knowledge and teaching, and the 64º wedge has made them both famous. To this day Mickelson will call Dave and send his jet to pick him up and fly to where Phil is playing to reinforce the lesson learned.

Dave Pelz is a true mad scientist who knows the statistics and has created books, videos and clubs that will improve golfers short game.

I will leave you with these two Dave Plez facts. Fact 1: After analyzing 20,000 chip shots, Pelz's research proves, "All golfers have a better chance of holing a chip shot with the pin in the cup." Fact 2: Hitting a putt 17 inches beyond the cup gives golfers the optimum chance of sinking the putt. "Attempt to hit every putt 17 inches past the cup and let the hole get in the way."

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