Putting Principles Of Dave Pelz

by : Walter Ballenberger

In his book "Putt Like the Pros", the well known and highly respected short game guru and teacher, Dave Pelz, makes some interesting points that every golfer should be aware of. This article will discuss a number of these observations which will hopefully put the science of putting into better perspective.

As a young college student Pelz had aspirations of being a great tour player, and he played college golf at Indiana University in the Big 10. As time went by he became more and more frustrated that he could not beat a certain player from Ohio State, also in the Big 10, named Jack Nicklaus. Of course no one knew at that time that Nicklaus would become perhaps the greatest player to ever play the game. Before his last year in school Pelz and his coach decided that putting was the aspect of the game that was holding him back, so with great determination he decided to dedicate himself to practicing his putting and making improvements. He arranged his class schedule such that in the fall and winter season when the weather did not allow golf to be played he took a very heavy load of classes. In the spring season he then had a light class load and was finished every day by 10:30 am. He thus was at the golf course by 11am each day. Pelz was obviously dedicated and motivated since he practiced putting 4 hours every day!

At the end of the college golf season that year Pelz realized that his stroke average was 0.1 strokes higher than the previous year. In other words after all that practice and dedication, instead of improving, his scores got worse! In fact Pelz mentions that he has often seen young players of twelve to fourteen years of age who are fabulous putters, but by the time they are older they are only mediocre. This underlines an important point that Pelz learned later in life about putting: if you are going to practice you need to practice intelligently. This means you need to get accurate feedback about your stroke, and this in turn means you need to know more than whether the ball went into the cup or not. The problem here is that it is very difficult to see the difference between whether a golfer made a good putting stroke or a poor one.

Pelz decided upon graduating from college that he could not compete and succeed on the PGA tour. He studied physics, mathematics and related courses, and he took a job at NASA and became a scientist. He stayed there for 15 years before taking the dive into the golf business as a short game consultant, inventor, and author. His scientific approach to putting issues is clear when you read his books. While still at NASA Pelz invented a putting aid called the Teacher Putter, which is a device that helps golfers groove their strokes, giving feedback about whether the stroke was good or poor.

Early on Pelz wanted to understand how many putts a person could reasonably expect to make. To address this he build a machine called the Perfect Roller, which took some time to perfect, but he could eventually roll perfect putts from the machine, time after time. He took his machine to several golf courses and took data about the number of putts his machine could hole. He tried 100 putts on each of the 18 holes of the courses he did his tests on, rolling 12 foot putts in each case. To his surprise his machine could only make about 50% of the putts attempted on two different golf courses. He improved this by arranging to do his experiments on a course with a reputation for excellent greens, and he did this early in the morning just after the greens had been mowed and no players preceded him on the greens. Here he was about to hole 84% of the putts, a big improvement, but his machine still missed 16% of the attempts in almost perfect conditions.

Pelz then did experiments with golf balls and determined that golf ball imperfections can made significant differences, and he also studied the effect of the imperfections golfers cause on putting greens when walking on them. The bottom line is that even professionals can't expect to make them all. He presents data which shows that PGA Tour players in tournament play made on average between 9% and 21% of the 15 foot putts they attempted. For 10 foot putts the numbers increase from about 16% up to 31 %. Even on 6 foot putts these pros, the best players in the world, made on average from about 45% to 56% of the putts they attempted. So if you think you should hole every six footer you face, your expectations are too high. One way to improve that performance is to read Pelz' book, "Putt Like the Pros", and absorb what he says. His teaching method includes making a correct stroke, having the correct face angle at impact, hitting the ball on the putter "sweet spot", having good touch and distance control, and improving the mental aspects of putting. If a golfer addresses these tasks in the proper way, that is obtaining proper feedback, he almost certainly will improve his putting.