Dave Pelz Has Taken The Golf Short Game To a New Level
By Scott A.Sumner
It was my pleasure to sit down recently for a 45 minute interview with short game legend Dave Pelz at the 2008 PGA Merchandise Show held in Orlando, FL. The tall, congenial native of Cleveland was as calm and engaging to talk to as he appears in his many appearances on the Golf Channel and elsewhere!
Tell be about your background Dave.
I grew up in Cleveland and Lexington, basically a midwestern background. I played golf at Willowby High School and got a scholarship with Indiana University where I majored in Physics. When I got out of school I could not make the PGA Tour as I was not good enough so got a job at Goddard Space( NASA) doing research for several years. In my spare time I always
had been a golf nut, developed a new concept in putting and got a patent on it. I thought if I took a years leave of absence from my job I could do something really interesting in golf and make a contribution to the game with my classification as a research NASA scientist. I convinced my boss this would be a good business education for me and he agreed. So this is what I did and promptly lost everything I had made in the previous 15 years.It turns out I am a terrible business man. I needed some education in business which I had never had but I enjoyed myself so much I decided to resign my NASA job and get into the game permanently.
How did you lose so much money so quickly?
The teacher putter was my product with little clips on the actual putter that defined the sweet spot with prongs. It taught you to hit the sweet spot. I manufactured the putter and put an expensive ad in a national golf magazine. The ad cost $50,000 and all of a sudden we had a tremendous response. The only problem was I hadn’t thought enough about manufacturing and supplying the product and that was my first mistake. I have made many other mistakes in the following years. You have to have business sense so I got out of manufacturing and got into teaching. I had realized that 80% of the shots lost were in the short game and nobody was teaching the short game. It has now been my 32nd year in teaching, a second career. I look back and say my first career prepared me and taught me the true realities of research.
I learned how to test scientifically one parameter at a time, keeping everything else the same and just changing one thing . When I worked at Goddard Space I learned how to do it practically. No one in golf knew the scientific approach. If there is a result of the test they all
claimed it was their product that produced the result regardless if whether it did or not. I went to many manufacturers and said I will measure your product results for you and they said if you run a test that proves our product will do what we claim we will hire you and pay you well. Only if it proves our claim will we use you. I said never mind that, I'm an honest guy and I can’t do that. They said never mind then we won't hire you, so I started doing my own research and am
still doing it 32 years later.
You focus on the short game in Golf?
60 to 65 % of all shots for a golfer are within 100 yards. Nobody knew that before I measured it. I started doing research in putting and a few years later started worked with golf pros on the PGA. Then we started schools and it had gone from there. I'm enjoying life now. My schools promote if I can’t measure and prove it I will not teach it. We measure people, get them to try things and gain a better result. That is what makes our schools successful. Custom fitting in wedges and putters are critical. For you to take your putting stroke and adjust to someone else’s putter is insane. We find out what our students weaknesses are, why and give a roadway as to how to improve. We start in helping them improve and then they go home and develop at home. The PGA tour players come all the time.
How big is your operation?
We have 53 employees in 6 schools in the US and one opening in Dublin, Ireland this July.
We have 20 fulltime teaching professionals and 1 additional past PGA tour player who is a great teacher and trains the staff. I'm in the schools occasionally. My wife runs the company as she is the business person. She controls my schedule and life. She is the Boss. I teach some individuals and at some corporate events which are exclusive. My schedule means I travel a lot and we now have our own plane, a Learjet 31A. Currently we live in Austin,TX and just love
the university and the research aspects that we can partake in at the University of Texas. I am 2 1/2 hours from any where in the US on our jet. It is a wonderful life. I travel in style and stay in style. For instance I was in San Diego, Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday with a PGA Tour player, flew to Austin picked up my wife and went to Orlando for this show. I had 4 to 5million miles on American Airlines before but now it’s my schedule. We also always get a really good meal on the plane. Elite Air of Austin owns 13 planes and we own 1/3 of our plane. Fred Funk and a man who runs the runs the Elite operation own the rest. We can trade planes and all our planes are maintained by the manufacturer. We know the pilots and you can just drive up to the plane and we fly. It is incredible! I have a heck of a good time in business.
So Dave Pelz enjoys his career?
I get to talk golf. Golfers are a unique breed. We love this game.We all know we will never conquer it but by looking at it scientifically and sincerely we can find out how to improve. Improvement is what we enjoy in the game. For a 25 handicap to break 100 is fantastic or for
a 90 shooter to break 80 is incredible. That’s what I enjoy. I am working on the good side of the game. If I work with a tour player and he had been averaging 71 and I get him down to 69.5 I'm telling you he will make millions more and we had fun together. Phil Mickelson has
one of the best senses of humour, we have a ball together. Because I work so hard and didn't make any money for the first 22 or 23 years we have taken off and are doing pretty good. I'm loving it, having a great time and am healthy.
How can the average player improve?
If you are 10 handicap 8 of those shots you can get rid of in the short game -100 yards to the green and on the green. We learn the problems and help you fix them. If Phil Mickelson plays your first two shots Scott he would probably shoot under par. He is a plus handicap in
his short game. He would never shoot more than over 2 over. The biggest books we have are our Putting Bible,the Short Game Bible and Damage Control. One of the biggest problems in putting is people use their hand muscles to propel the ball. The best way is to lock or
immobilize your hand and use a swinging motion. When I putt the short puts I take short strokes and on the longer putts I take longer stokes, but I hit them all the same. I don’t hit I just make the swing.
At the end of our interview I told Dave I will have to try and get better in golf this year, lower my handicap. He said to me Scott you don’t try you either do or you don’t!