Recently I was fortunate enough to sit down with Dave Pelz, one of the most
knowledgeable and respected people in all of Golf . . . especially when it
relates to the shortgame.We talked about belly putters, the USGA,
shortgame methods and his prize student and close friend Phil Mickelson.
LN: A few questions regarding the belly putter, What are your thoughts on
the belly putter, is it here to stay and what would cause you to recommend
the belly putter to one of your students?
DP: I have a little different take on it than most, to me the belly putter is not
new, I've been using the Belly Putter for the last 20 years in my schools.I
used them originally to demonstrate a pure pendulum stroke motion, you
cant brake your wrists, you can't hinge in the wrist joint if you use either
one of those long shafts. I use it in every one of my schools, and we
have every student putt with the long or Belly Putter to experience or
internalize the feel of what a putting stroke feels like when you don't hinge
your wrists.Wrist hinge is one of the two main problems in putting for most
golfers, the hinge supplies power to the muscles in the wrists, it works fine
on the practice green, but on the golf course when the pressure is on and
you have to make the putt, your muscles get tense and tight, the adrenaline
flows in the body and they might leave it short, the power is not correct.The
other thing is when you attach either the belly putter or long putter to your
body, now the shaft doesn't want to twist, the face doesn't want to turn due
to forearm rotation.The two main problems in putting are wrist hinge and
forearm rotation, because in every shot in golf to get power you rotate your
forearms through impact.As you release your forearms in putting, the face of
the putter head changes and when you eliminate that, you putt better.
20 years ago I started testing, and I have all of the data from over the
years, inside 10 feet if I have all of my students at the school test with the
belly putter, long putter or conventional . . . belly putter wins, they make
more putts inside of 10 feet.Even without training with the belly putter, they
make more putts.
In general, the long putts 40 to 60 feet, they putt worse because they don't
understand how hard to swing or how long to swing the pendulum to get the
same power as the hit . . . you take the hand action out of it, and you lose
power, so they leave those putts short.Looking at this over the years, maybe
5-10 percent of my students would change to the belly putter or long putter,
but our schools are a small percentage of golfers . . . not much impact was
felt until some kids grew up with belly putters or long putters.
Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson are now winning on tour, Keegan
Bradley winning the PGA gives (the belly putter) credibility . . . now 25 to
30 percent of our students are using the belly putter.I'm not promoting belly
putters or long putters, I'm promoting what I believe.I don't recommend
anybody buy one until they test, because some people actually putt worse
with them.In our testing we've actually seen people putt worse, more do
putt better, but it's not for everybody and I would say it's worth a try.
It's not going away, I've been doing it for 20 years, and now it's been proven
legitimate by the tour wins, it's here, it's gonna grow . . . long term it might
be a slightly easier way to putt.
LN: Do you see there being any issues (banning the belly/long putter)
coming up with the USGA?
DP: If it is an issue, I'm going to verbally abuse the USGA.As far as the pros
are concerned, I don't care what you do to the pros, you take the box
grooves away from the pros on their wedges, it doesn't affect them a bit . . .
they practice and get around it.It hurts the amateurs, I'm here to tell you at
my schools this year versus last year, the groove rule to the amateur is
serious.Pros use wedges 7-10 times per round, they miss 3 or 4 greens
and at the most they use their wedges 10 times in a round.Amateurs use
their wedges 17-25 times in a round, nearly every green amateurs hit is
with a wedge.The biggest question I get is how do I increase my backspin?
The USGA has now taken half of all of the possible spin away from amateurs,
I think that's a travesty . . . I think it's the worst decision.I like the USGA,
they're heart is in the right place but they misinterpreted what the changing
of the groove rule was going to do.It hurts the amateur, doesn't bother the
pro.They wanted to hurt the pro and they didn't want to bother the amateur,
they just got it backwards.If they take belly & long putters away from
amateurs they're going to decrease participation in the game by 10%.
They're are alot of golfers who have practiced and developed bad habits over
the years (that have the yips), now you give them a putter where they don't
use all of those bad habits and you get them back in the game again and
they are enthusiastic to play again.I'm not trying to make the game harder,
we don't need a ruling body that's making the game harder, we need a
ruling body that's going to preserve the game and let people enjoy it, it's
a wonderful game.I hope they don't ban long putters, I've got the data . . .
it helps alot of players.
LN: Phil had gone to the belly putter briefly, but has changed back to his
conventional length putter, what's your take on that, did he find that he
made more putts with his short putter?
DP: No, he made more putts with the long shaft on short putts, but it killed
him on his long putts because he has great touch, he's a great lag putter.
Instead of having 3-5 footers from 50 ft, he was leaving them 6-10 ft and
that's a big difference, that was hurting him.So he said it (using the belly
putter)has helped his stroke on the short putts.When he went back to the
regular putter, he's putting the long ones with his usual touch.I would
expect that he may switch back and forth a few times during his career. I
would say that half of all the tour players I see practicing with long putters
go back to there short putters because it (the belly putter) improves their
stroke mechanically on the short putts, but they retain the touch on the
longer putts.If you don't practice with it alot, your touch won't be very
good on the longer putts.The average first putt on the PGA Tour is 20
feet, that means half of them are longer than that, and you can't putt those
badly if your making your living playing golf.If you want to know a fact, most
amateurs can improve their score more by eliminating 3 putts than they can
by improving their short putts, they already putt the short ones reasonably
well, but they're terrible on the long ones.I was with Phil two weeks ago, and
we had our first session, and it was a great session and he's feeling better,
he's doing really well.
LN: How's he doing with the Psoriatic Arthritis condition?
DP: Well he's still on medication, and he's a year into it . . . if he stops it,
he can't play at all.If he stays on his medication he can play and play pretty
well.Last year he didn't finish in the top two in the world like he has been in
previous years, but he's still a great player.He's not playing at the top of
his game, he's ranked somewhere around 15th in the world right now, he's
such a great player, has such great talent and he loves the game, I think
he'll have a good year.
Teacher and player discuss the game plan
LN: When you and Phil go to a major championship site, the process you and
Phil go through has been talked about often, what exactly is that process?
DP: I liken it best to the phrase you've heard before, "horses for courses".
Some players play really good on some courses and really poor on the
others, and the reason for that is not their bio rhythms.Bio rhythms can be a
factor but the main reason is that some golf courses attack you, they make
you chip off of really short grass with the grain against you, some courses
have really soft sand, some courses have almost no bunkers, some courses
have hard ground where you can hit the ball short of the green and get away
with it, other courses have disasters in front of every green.Every course
attacks golfers with their own personality, it's one of the great parts of our
game.It's not like bowling alleys, every golf course is different . . . every
hole is different. When you have Bermuda grass instead of bent grass . . .
you know Jack Nicklaus never won a golf tournament on Bermuda grass
in the south until he moved to Florida and lived there for 2 years, then he
started winning.He grew up in Ohio on Bent grass greens, went to Ohio
State and didn't win when he went south.He didn't know how to putt on
Bermuda, his green reading wasn't up to snuff until he learned.You have to
learn where to hit it and where not to hit it, and you have to learn how to hit
the shots that the course invites and treats hospitably.You can forget
practicing the week before that tournament - those shots that course doesn't
have, it's not going to test you on those, so what I'm trying to do is to get
Phil or any other player that I'm helping prepare for a major, I'm trying to
get him to understand and feel what the course is going to require out of
him, and then have a couple of weeks to practice, practice, practice those
shots.Phil plays Houston hitting the shots with the clubs he'll use at Augusta,
he won Houston (in 2011).He's changed his approach to playing the Houston
course (it's scheduled the week before The Masters), and Rees Jones and the
people in Houston have done a nice job of getting the greens fast and the
chipping areas short, so players can work on the shots that are required at
Augusta, and the players enjoy it.
LN: Is Phil driving it well enough now that he'll be able to compete and get
that U.S Open ?
DP: You know, I think he is . . . if he's feeling good, if his body will allow it.In
certain practice rounds and tournaments, I've seen him drive it the best of
his life, he is a good driver now . . . he's not hitting a significantly larger
number of fairways because fairways are narrower and he's hitting it longer,
but he is missing them by less, he's hitting 3 or 4 roughs per round within 6
feet of the fairway, those 4 shots used to be in the next fairway or deep in
the trees, so I really believe physically his golf swing is better than it's ever
been.I think his shortgame is better than ever, I can tell you this for a fact, I
was just with him for a week, his short game for the third week in January is
better than I've ever seen it. I was amazed, I didn't expect it because he has
an awful lot goin on.He's built some greens and some chipping areas in his
backyard, so he was sharper than I've ever seen him.I'm quite excited about
him just being off the charts good with his shortgame.
LN: Last year he finished runner up at the British Open, did you guys work
on any of those shots, he had never really had success out there?
DP: Yeah, I've been goin over with him since 2004 at Troon, where he lost
by a shot.We started to hit knock down shots and low bullets, and bump and
runs and putting from off the green, now he has a little 8 iron bump and
run.He's developed his game over the years, what I'm hoping is that he gets
to the British this year feeling really good because I think he really does
have a chance, I think he's a good enough all around player now to play in
the wind . . . let the wind blow.He's workin on it.
LN: What does the data show on chipping with one or two clubs, versus
chipping with multiple clubs?
DP: Phil plays with two, a 60 degree and his 64 degree and he basically uses
those two and goes back and forth between them based on the amount of
backspin he wants and based on the loft that chooses.He probably used the
60 degree more in 2011 than in 2010, he had heavily favored the 64 but
when they changed the grooves it didn't offer the same advantage on
backspin that it previously did, but he still uses it alot because of the loft and
the the high shots that he requires.He is a two club guy, we chip around and
play games in sessions and I use four clubs, and sometimes five or six..I use
all the way down to the 8iron, I put the 8 iron back in my stance and it has
the loft of a 6 iron, and that's the way I teach. I teach using multiple clubs
and the truth is that he beats me.He is the best in the world and I'm not, so
I start with that disadvantage and try to compete with him.He is a great guy
and is great for the game.He's had a tough year with the health issues in the
family and then he comes down with psoriatic arthritis, (ironically Dave's
longtime friend Bob Murphy just happens to walk by, and Pelz is somewhat
distracted, citing that Murphy hasn't played competitively since being
diagnosed with Psoriatic Arthritis - just so happens I met Murph about an
hour before the interview with Dave Pelz and he agreed to a future
interview).If Phil stops taking his medicine, he can't get out of bed . . . it's
like an awful case of gout where your body's immune system attacks the
cartilage in the connections to the joints, he's had a tough time, but you will
never hear him say anything, whenever you ask him, he'll say "I'm fine it
has no affect on me". . . I'm telling you it's been tough, but I don't want to
make excuses for him, he'll be fine, he still has a great life.If he plays no
better than he has in the past year and a half that he's been on medication,
he'll still be the 15th best golfer in the world, and some players will never
play that well but he's still trying to get back to the top.I hope that Tiger
Woods regains his form, I hope Phil beats him head on, because what I saw
from Phil's shortgame earlier this year makes me think he can do it.
LN: Back to the previous question, does the data show that the average guy
benefits from chipping with multiple clubs as opposed to one.
DP: With no practice it almost doesn't matter, but if you practice a little bit
there is no question that people will do better with one club because there is
less to learn, it's tougher but there is less to learn.If you practice alot, I can't
tell you which is better, but I like to take advantage of the physical
advantage, Phil likes to take advantage of the mental and touch advantage,
because he puts all of his practice into two clubs, I spread mine out to five. I
still think I could beat him if I had the same talent and practice, but I
haven't proven that yet.
LN: What's new for you in 2012?
DP: I have been writing a book, Dave Pelz's Putting Games - it will be out
late summer early fall, it's published by Gotham.The tag line will be, "the
more you play, the better you'll putt".That means the more you play the
putting games during the week, the better you'll putt on the weekends . .
. that's what I'm trying to get the golfers to do because you can't
believe how many golfers say, "Dave how can I improve my putting"?I tell
them 10 ways and they don't have time to do any of them.I have games that
are 12 strokes a game, if you have time to hit 12 putts every night at
home.People don't have time to drive to the course, the wife, the kids, the
job are part of our daily routine.For people who can take a few minutes, 10
minutes a night . . . now you go the golf course on the weekend, you warm
up and play better and it changes the whole deal.Most golfers when they get
to the course on the weekend want to practice because they know if they
practice they're gonna play better . . . just playing doesn't make you a better
golfer.I have these games that have actual purposes and that's what I'm
writing about, and that's the book, it'll be out later this year:Dave Pelz's
Thanks to Dave Pelz