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Dave Pelz with research on why average golfers need better short games

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How important is short game to a golfer’s score? According to Dave Pelz, it’s critical. A new video from the short game guru, which is part of Cleveland Golf’s #own125 campaign, reveals that PGA Tour players get up and down when they miss a green roughly 60 percent of the time.

The video also reveals statistics for scratch, 10-handicap and 20-handicap golfers, which (not surprisingly) are much, much lower.

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41 Comments

41 Comments

  1. jjoro

    Nov 26, 2015 at 10:28 am

    What a revelation from a self made, self centered genius. I bet he is the ONLY “guru” to figure that out. WOW, we need a better short game. Kinda like he messed up Phils Putting with his genius observations. He probably thinks the answer is to make more Putts,,, DUH.

    • DonW

      Feb 16, 2016 at 11:57 pm

      Pelz may have an interest in selling his short game training classes and publications, but HE IS CORRECT, the short game is the most important area for score improvement. You can’t recover from a missed putt and putts are easier if your short game is more accurate.

  2. Mat

    Nov 12, 2015 at 11:08 pm

    Pelz also says… tour pros 1-putt half the time from 8ft or less.

    The conclusion I draw from this is simple…

    If you hit a GIR, your odds of two-putting from anywhere are in the high 60s or better.

    The odds of you hitting a green within 8 feet of the pin from anywhere not on the green is likely lower than 25%, and it goes down fast.

    Therefore, if you want to par a hole, you want GIR. Most GIR shots are attack shots from 75-175 yards. Practicing those areas, and focusing on your equipment in that area, making sure you don’t have huge gaps is really key.

    Pelz is absolutely right when he suggests knowing your partial swing numbers. If you have a 46 yard shot, you should be able to get within a couple yards of it, thus giving you a scramble opportunity. However, he isn’t taking into account the real statistics of accuracy. Longer drives make easier second shots. Second shots will determine your likelihood of par-vs-bogie more than any other factor.

    As a 10, if you GIR, you are 70% to par, and 98% to bogey. If you miss GIR, you are 15% chance to par, 60% chance to bogey.

    As a 0, if you get your scrambling up to 30%, you’ve shaved 0.15/sph. If you get to iron play of that caliber, you’ve gone from 30->60% GIR, you reduce 0.45/sph. I’ll spend my time where it’s 3x more effective, thanks.

  3. Hudson

    Nov 12, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    This article looks totally wrong in my case :
    On my last three rounds (I am a 10/12 HCP), I lost a total of 33 strokes (on 47 holes)
    based on the STROKES GAINED (LOST) approach.

    Here is the breakdown:

    Tee Par 4/5: -13.2 (39.6%)
    Recovery: -0.1 (0.2%)
    Second shot on par 5: -2.2 (6.5%)
    Lay up P3: -1.2 (3.5%)
    Lay up P4: -1.3 (3.8%)
    Lay up P5: 0.0 (0.1%)
    Attack 0-50 m: -2.7 (8.1%)
    Attack 51-100 m: -2.2 (6.7%)
    Attack 101-150 m: -4.3 (12.8%)
    Attack 151-200 m: -4.4 (13.3%)
    Putting: -1.8 (5.3%)

    So it means that I am LOSING the most strokes on three parts of the game:
    1) Driving (39.6% of the total lost strokes)
    2) Attack 151-200 meters: -4.4 (13.3% of the total lost strokes)
    3) Attack 151-200 m: -4.4 (13.3% of the total lost strokes)

    Short game would only be fourth for me and putting is my best part as I only lost -1.8 strokes on 47 holes…

    This confirms what I have seen and calculated for 2 years now based on the strokes gained method…
    See here below if interested:
    http://golf-made-in-us.blogspot.com/

  4. ders

    Nov 12, 2015 at 3:01 am

    I reject the “practice your short game” conventional wisdom (as a player who sucks I get all kinds of unsolicited advice on my game). I’m happy when I shoot low 90’s but my average putts per round is just under 34. I take an average of 8 penalty strokes a game. What part of my game should I work on? Its clearly not the short game. If I get my drives under control, I drop my scores by at least 8 strokes. I COULD NEVER PRACTICE ENOUGH TO TAKE 8 STROKES OFF MY PUTTING (my putts per round would be lower than Jordan Speith if I did that). And putting is boring, its not the reason anyone plays golf. Nothing amps you up more than a great drive and nothing bums you out more than slicing your tee shot into the lake. If I hit fairways, I’m having fun regardless if I’m 3 putting every hole.

  5. Reeves

    Nov 9, 2015 at 7:32 pm

    Ok, Dave Plez has some wonderful ideas and he has a great short game school….but you are looking at elite amateur training…How many weekend duffers or retired people who play once or twice a week are really going to pay what his short game schools (or days) cost and even if they did or could how many would put in the practice time, very few. What the ever day player needs is very short and usable fixes that can keep the ball in play..that is where the need is not short game schools and fixes that take hours of practice. Here is an example of what the average Joe and Jill need out on the course…Putt every short shot you can, leave the wedge in the bag all you can around the green….just saved everyone a few shots and got you off the green so the 5 some behind you has the extra time they are going to need to read their putts from every angle….the ones with all the Plez school training…

  6. golfraven

    Nov 5, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    Last time I played a round with my brother I was all other with the tee shot, imprecise with the green approach but then made great saves and one putter first three holes (par, birdie, par) and then I received an emergency call and had to go home. I could have easily played 3 over but went away with a smile. That is why you need good short game if you are a weekend player.

  7. ca1879

    Nov 5, 2015 at 3:34 pm

    Best short game in the world won’t help if you’re getting up and down for bogey or worse. You have to get it there first.

    • Cliff

      Nov 6, 2015 at 2:09 pm

      The best short game will help if you can’t get the ball to the green. Why is that so hard to understand for people. I can hit 2 crappy shots and be by the green, chip it close and make par. I can also hit 2 good shots and miss the green, chip to 20′, and make bogey. Those 2 good shots don’t put the ball in the hole!

      • Double Mocha Man

        Nov 10, 2015 at 10:39 pm

        But those two good shots might put you close enough for a birdie putt.

  8. Large chris

    Nov 5, 2015 at 12:39 pm

    I certainly believe the more sophisticated recent statistical analysis work, that shows driving and GIR to be far more important than it used to thought….

    BUT the much more useful approach for the average golfer is to focus on becoming ADEQUATE in every area. I play with average golfers every weekend, and most have one or two glaring weaknesses, eg off the planet wild driving, total inability to get out of a bunker (think Boomer in the pebble beach pro am), unable to put a roll on a 3 foot putt, 20% of irons topped or shanked….

    Focus on becoming ADEQUATE in every area first, before worrying about which bits to spend most time practicing on.

    • Cliff

      Nov 5, 2015 at 1:09 pm

      I’ve made plenty of pars rolling the ball off the tee. I’ve never made a par 3 putting, unless it was a par 5.

      • Large chris

        Nov 5, 2015 at 6:54 pm

        Then just imagine how many birdies you could make by not topping it…

  9. ptat

    Nov 4, 2015 at 9:05 pm

    It helps Dave sell more wedges for Cleveland is why

  10. Craig

    Nov 4, 2015 at 7:44 pm

    I play off 16 averaging 44 putts and i’ve been focussing on my putting (without much success obviously!!!), but playing with a 2 h’capper recently really highlighted to me that it may be my chipping which is as much to blame. In particular from under 10-15 yards off a green he was typically up and down in 2, where i was 3 or 4. So this makes sense to me…

    • Mat

      Nov 12, 2015 at 11:13 pm

      I’ve been there, man. Only one thing helped me… and I went from averaging 40 to about 34 putts now. Unless you are inside 8 ft, assume that you will miss your first putt. Odds are that almost always you will. That’s ok, that’s normal. Just putt in such a way that you will make your second putt. Forget about the hole and draining the long ones… it’s all a bit of luck at our level anyhow. However, if you put yourself in a position to make the second one, your total strokes will fall faster than any other way statistically. GL

  11. AJ

    Nov 3, 2015 at 10:39 pm

    Why would anyone advocate the importance of 1 aspect over another, it is all important to your score right?? poor shot game, long game, putting etc. are all detrimental to you score, enjoyment, and a waste of everyone’s time. what is worse.. watching a 20 hdcp zigzag down the fairway or chunk and skull it around the green after? there is no secret to better golf, it is all about practicing every aspect. poor golf is only due to a lack of preparation.

    • Cliff

      Nov 4, 2015 at 10:29 am

      I’ve never shot a good round with bad putting.

      • other paul

        Nov 4, 2015 at 9:10 pm

        I shot 90 when I hit 16 greens in reg one round. Drove great, approached well, wedges fine, putted like crap. 3 putted the whole way.

      • TheCityGame

        Nov 5, 2015 at 9:14 am

        I have. A LOT. I shot 78 with 39 putts one day.

        But, I’ve never shot a good round with poor ball striking.

        Basically what Pelz is saying here goes against all modern knowledge of scoring. It’s borderline non-sense. He mentions shot link data in the opening line, but apparently has no understanding of it.

        Read Broadie.

        • Cliff

          Nov 5, 2015 at 10:53 am

          If you consider 78 a good round….

          • Joe

            Nov 5, 2015 at 11:39 am

            78 is a good round for the average golfer. Those that agree with Pelz are above average golfers.

            If the true average golfer could save just two strokes off the tee (one less ball OB / Lost) just once per round, they would do better than improving their scrambling percentage from 5% to 15% (which is 1.8 strokes if you assume you miss every green).

  12. Kerryn Jamieson

    Nov 3, 2015 at 10:10 pm

    What I think is being missed here is that the title of the article reads “average” golfers. While driver distance may be an indicator for handicap you have failed to realise that most of these “average” golfers are physically incapable of producing the techniques required to hit that long drive. However they are more likely to be able to produce the physical techniques required to have just as good a short game as a pro. Changing the full swing motor pattern in a 50 year old to get them to swing at 100mph is near on impossible but getting them to hole 90% of 3 and 4 footers and chipping the ball to that 3 and 4 foot range is a much more achievable task and therefore I do believe that improving their to improve their scoring results improving the short game is a goal that is realistically achievable.

    • AJ

      Nov 4, 2015 at 8:52 am

      That is why we have forward tees, use em! They’re Not just for ladies and kids……

    • other paul

      Nov 6, 2015 at 9:03 pm

      I’m 33 and changed my motor pattern for my golf swing in about 6 months. Went from straight and 97MPH swing up to 117 MPH swing and less straight, but I am sorting it out now (fat grips helped). Read Kelvin Miyahiras articles and use a camera. Focus on body positions and then worry about the club after.

      • Another Paul

        Nov 11, 2015 at 12:01 pm

        Can I ask, 97 to 117, are these verified on a trackman type of device? And were they maximums or averages, and are these numbers for a driver swing? Also did you just use the info on Kelvin’s website or did you actually see him for a lesson/s? finally can I ask what was your handicap reduction in that 6 months? His site looks interesting 🙂 Many thanks 🙂

  13. snowman

    Nov 3, 2015 at 9:32 pm

    Pelz still clings to his 1980’s mantras. He’s not all wrong; no doubt Short game is Important, but there has been lots of study done on this and the major difference in Scratch/Pro and Higher Handicap is quality of Ball striking. There are exceptions — e.g. guys that are mediocre ball strikers and short game or putting magicians, but on average the lower handicap, the better the ball striker. As an illustration to prove the point, someone asked ‘do you have a better chance to beat a pro in a chipping contest or a ball striking contest?’. Unless you have the yips, you are almost certainly closer to a pro short-game than pro ball striker. If you want to really lower your handicap, become a long, reasonably accurate sdriver, and a GIR machine. Once you get to a 5 or better, then you can really prioritize that short game. Side note: I read somewhere that Driving Distance the key determinate in your handicap potential. Oops, Please disregard the above comment. I forgot everyone on WRX is 2 hdcp or better and already carries their driver over 290.

    • alexdub

      Nov 4, 2015 at 6:54 pm

      Totally agree with this statement. Ball striking has a tee-to-green effect; that is, improving ball striking has the potential to improve every part of your game. Conversely, practicing 100 yd. wedge shots does not translate into a better driving game (or long iron game, for that matter).

    • Mike

      Nov 14, 2015 at 5:59 pm

      I’M A SENIOR 67 years old and I play 6-8 times a month. Been a 3-5 handicap or better since I was 9 years old. In my life I have had 5 lessons and been to Pelz’s short game school twice. I really wish people would learn 1) put the driver in the bag and use whatever you can hit the fairway with. 2) Work on your putting 3) don’t try to knock the cover off the ball. try to make solid contact. Listen to Pelz. 100 yards in is where the scoring happens. Just My $.02!

  14. Steven

    Nov 3, 2015 at 7:17 pm

    This is not what a strokes gained analysis would show.

  15. cdvilla

    Nov 3, 2015 at 6:05 pm

    I’m living by this well-reasoned argument posted on this very site! Drive it well enough then hit it on the green more often. I’ve built my practice around this approach and it’s working for me.

    http://www.golfwrx.com/285949/the-truth-behind-greens-in-regulation-and-scoring/

    • RHJazz

      Nov 3, 2015 at 9:18 pm

      The logic in the linked article is very sound. Of course we could score better if our short game was better in general, but I agree with cdvilla and the other article – it’s far more reasonable to think you can significantly improve your score by hitting more greens in regulation.

      • Ian

        Nov 4, 2015 at 8:08 am

        +1. My #1 goal is GIR and that generally starts with a good drive.

    • kevin

      Nov 6, 2015 at 6:22 am

      I’d like to add to this… In my last round, I hit 3 GIR! Three. T-H-R-E-E!! For an 8 handicapper hitting 3 GIR???

      Well, I shot 12 over – was scrambling on 15 holes and managed to up-and-down (or chip in) 5 times for a dismal one-third in scrambling! There’s a graph indicating the capability of scrambling based on your handicap – I should be off a handicap of 5 or lower based on my scrambling. The odds are just not in your favour if you are missing greens in regulation.

      All this time, I thought my short game was rubbish – meantime, I can rest easy knowing that the hour a day short game practice I do in my backyard is paying off.

      SO, I NEED TO HIT MORE GIRs!!!!!

      My chipping and putting is decent – only 1 three putt, 4 one putts and 2 chip ins (one for bird and one for bogey). I can’t remember when I last had more than 2 putts per hole.

      I lost 4 shots off the tee with my driver (2 drives under trees forcing me to punch out, one into a fairway bunker with no chance for a GIR and lost two shots on a miss hit tee shot). That totals 5 lost shots…
      Further in my analysis, I found I lost two shots on a 7 iron approach shot – tried attacking a sucker pin! Another lost shot (again with 7 iron) in green side bunker short siding myself for a difficult up-and-down. Lost a shot on tee shot of a par 3 landing in green side bunker – it was a very difficult bunker shot of 20 yards up hill (I got the ball to within 15 feet but missed the putt, should have done better with the tee shot).

      Only lost one shot to chipping…

      I’m probably not considered an average golfer but really, if you keep focusing on the short game, the rest of your game will fail you and you’ll be left trying to save bogey with your amazing short game…

  16. David

    Nov 3, 2015 at 4:59 pm

    “Average” players could score better if they improved their short game = fact

    • TheCityGame

      Nov 5, 2015 at 9:18 am

      “All” players could score better if they improved their short game = fact

      “All” players could score better if they improved their long game = fact

      “All” players could score better if they improved their putting = fact

  17. Alec Emerson

    Nov 3, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    This is woefully innacurate. The importance of the 4 parts of the game is 1. iron play, 2. driving, 3. putting, and 4. shortgame. Firstly, while it is true that after a poor drive, you have more time to recover than after a poor short game shot, players misses with longer clubs tend to be further from target, thus increasing probable score on the hole. A bad drive could result in a 2 stroke penalty (stroke and distance), while even the very worst short game shot is only an effective 1 shot penalty (chunk your chip and move it 5 feet). Again staying with the worst shot example, the very worst short game shot vs the best is almost never more than 2 shots (up and down vs down in 4), while the best drive (down the middle in 1) vs the very worst drive (ob, then skank into the rough) yields a greater difference in average scoring than 2 (usually about 2.5)

  18. Jon

    Nov 3, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Just like putting stats between pros and amateurs, don’t you think better golfers are typically in a better position to get up-and-down than less skilled golfers, which in turn makes these conclusions less valid? Nice video editing though.

    • Mike

      Nov 3, 2015 at 4:54 pm

      have you ever watched pros on the putting green before a tournament? they have a putting coach and hit a million putts. they are not only more skilled but practice like crazy.

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WATCH: How to control your low point and angle of attack in the bunker

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Top-100 golf instructor Tom Stickney of Punta Mita Golf Academy demonstrates how to control your low point and angle of attack when hitting greenside bunker shots.

Enjoy the video below!

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WATCH: How DJ’s “bent left wrist” move can help fix your slice

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While at True Spec Golf in Chicago recently, we spoke with Rick Silva of Movement 3 Golf and True Spec Golf about Dustin Johnson’s bent left wrist position and how it can help golfers. Below, Silva briefly explains “gamma,” and how it can help your golf swing to produce straighter (and longer) shots.

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The Science of Square: Is a wrist position at the top like DJ better for your swing?

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I recently wrote an article called “The Science of Square: Understanding the relationship between the wrist and the club face,” about the wrist action during the swing and what happens when you change conditions from address to the top, and how that affects the club face. In addition, I suggested that the average golfer plays from a more square condition at the top, rather than one that is radically shut (i.e. Dustin Johnson). I did not say that the average player could not play from a slightly shut condition, but remember, compensations have to occur.

However, there has been a growing number of better players who have had wonderful success playing from conditions at the top that range from slightly shut to super-shut. Think about the swings of John Rahm, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Tony Finau, and Dustin Johnson at the top.

So in this article, let’s examine the shut club face position at the top using Hack Motion’s Wrist Sensor so you can see how the wrist action changes when this type of position occurs during the swing. I took a few sample swings with the new “modern” swing… slightly stronger grip working into a flexed lead wrist at the top, which causes the shut face at the top like DJ. Here is what we saw…

At address we see that the wrist in the stronger position possesses 32 degrees of extension, or cupping at address, which is common with stronger grips showing more knuckles.

At the top I moved from 32 degrees of extension to -12 degrees of flexion a change of 52 degrees from address to the top. I will tell you that moving your wrist from extended to flexed is hard enough and to do so like DJ is superhuman!

Now here is where it gets interesting… in the chest-high position on the way down I still possess -7 degrees of flexion, meaning the club now swinging from the inside has a face that is slightly shut. These two things together will cause the ball to move from the right to the left easier because I won’t have to think about the “release.”

Above is the delivery position around belt-high, the lead wrist is still into flexion and will also deloft the club and deliver some extra shaft lean coming into the ball. Great for players with a ton of speed.

Impact (above) for me is with a neutral lead wrist, which means that the club was delivered with solid impact alignments. But why isn’t mine flexed more at impact? Because with my lack of Tour Quality Swing Speed, I simply cannot get the ball to go high enough or stay in the air long enough to work for me, thus, I have to hit the ball in a more neutral impact position. This is one of the biggest reasons why this position will not work for players without higher than normal swing speeds.

In fact, many great teachers feel that this has merits for the slower swing speeds as well, but with a caveat. Brian Manzella, a Golf Digest Top-50 Teacher and a Golf Magazine Top-100 Teacher, says

“To me, all club faces are open at the top relative to the target, so armed with a stronger grip, the face is less open during the swing. This helps some slicers by giving them less to close by the time of impact, and helps some good players hitting fades easier at high speed, by unwinding their bodies more and having their hands more forward at impact. However, the main advantage for folks with more neutral top of the backswing positions, is that if your wrist is flexed late, you can start to go toward extension to add speed and still have forward lean at impact.”

Basically he’s saying that for neutral players, if you have some bowing of the left wrist within your deliver position, you can get away with some “throw” at the bottom and still have solid impact!

The bottom line is that you must figure out what position works best for you and your game. For me, I play better from a more neutral position due to my lack of speed, but that shouldn’t deter you from trying the stronger grip and more shut position at the top; heck it just might be YOUR key to success.

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