Taking Strokes off the Score
Where the Amateur Needs it Most

By ERIK OAKLEY
TL Golf Services Intern

I have never been one to trust training aids and gadgets when working on my game. And many other amateurs are of the same mindset.

Oakley-at-Pelz300We’ve been preached to in every sport to practice like we play, so why would I use something that I can’t use out on the actual golf course? I’ve even been hesitant to throw down alignment sticks on the range for the fear of looking like a try-hard.

Why is there a stigma around amateur golfers and certain training methods? Why are tools that will help you lower scores and improve your game seen as bad?

Go to a PGA Tour event and spend 15 minutes at the range … or even watch the Golf Channel’s television coverage as it eavesdrops at a tournament. You will see every professional player using, at the very least, an alignment stick. Are we better than professionals?

There is a fear around amateur golf of training aids and gadgets. Now don’t get me wrong, some of these aids are ridiculous and I wouldn’t be caught dead with most of them. We’ve all seen Tin Cup, but how do you know if you’re hitting the ball square every time with every club? How do you know if your aligned properly for that cut you want to hit?

That’s where the Dave Pelz Scoring Game School changed my view about certain training aids. And, hopefully, changed my average score for the better.

The Dave Pelz Scoring Game Schools are conducted at sites across America. I attended a one-day school during a week-long schedule at Hartefeld National Golf Club in Kennett Square, Pennsylvania.

It turned out to be an incredibly concentrated day of instruction on short game and putting techniques.

My conversion began while using a training aid that mounted on the putter face to see if I made contact in the sweet spot. I realized after about five strokes that I am all over the place. With a putter! I don’t even want to know where I am making contact with an iron.

Were we ever taught how to make proper contact with every putt? Sure when we first went mini golfing, someone said, “Make sure you hit it on the sweet spot.”

But how can we tell? Some people go through their entire golf career making off-center contact with the putter.

The Pelz School also caused an epiphany when it comes to the proper way to practice.

What do most amateur golfers do? They go to the range and aimlessly hit clubs — wedges through their irons — then eventually swing the driver as hard as they can. Once sufficiently tired, they walk by the short game area or practice green without as much as looking at it.

The Dave Pelz Golf instructors are true preachers of practicing short game and will answer your prayers of learning how to hit effortless chips, pitches, and bunker shots.

A one-day clinic of short game that lasts from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. sounds awfully boring and long. I don’t know about you, but I’ve never spent that much time on a golf course without taking a full swing. In reality, it is exactly what the amateur player needs and I walked away wishing there was more time.

A golf stat that intrigues me in professional golf is strokes gained from tee to green. Look up the leaderboard and you will find some of the longest hitters in the game. It’s cool, it’s sexy, and it’s what the fans want to see. But it is excellence in the short game that converts into the most important PGA Tour stat – earnings.

The most immediate change after one day at the Dave Pelz Scoring Game School might be with regard to the pitch shot. The Pelz Clinic makes pitching the golf ball so simple and effortless. In my ‘old’ way of pitching, it was what I called unorthodox. An open club face, a swing path that was from outside to in, and a back shoulder that dipped to attempt to get the ball to land softly. I looked foolish. The Pelz method feels awkward and funny, but now I actually look like one of the guys I watch on Sundays pitching the golf ball.

The Pelz Clinic opened my eyes to my poor alignment on chips and pitches. If I’m ever in a slump with alignment on full swings, I might throw some alignment sticks down on the range and sort it out. I have never thought my alignment was so bad on chips and pitches. Use an alignment stick once in the short game area and you’ll realize just how off you are on your aim.

Sixty percent of an amateur’s strokes are from 100-yards and in. Why not spend, at least, 60 percent of your practice time on shots 100-yards and in? The old saying goes, “Drive for show. Putt for dough.” Well let’s expand that saying to, “Chip, pitch, and putt for dough.”

The Pelz methods of swing fundamentals, putting form, and practice are all sure to take strokes off your game within three rounds of your first session. You’ll walk away hitting the golf ball closer on every chip, pitch, bunker shot, and putt, while having a better understanding of stroking the golf ball around the greens.

The practice facility at Hartefeld National, a Tom Fazio-designed gem in Pennsylvania’s southern Chester County, was perfect for the Scoring Game School. The large driving range has a separate area for short game practice – far from the distractions of the clubhouse.

Bottom line, the entire one-day experience was exceptional … and the results could last a lifetime. For more information about the Dave Pelz Scoring Game Schools, go to www.pelzgolf.com. For more information about Hartefeld National, go to www.hartefeld.com.

1 Comment

  1. Mark

    Well written and imformative, thank you for taking the time to point out some often overlooked but most important aspects of the game, as a player that doesn’t hit the ball as far or long as I would like to, I often unconciously rely on my short game to score well, but I have to admit I don’t practice it much as it just didn’t seem prudent. As I get older and hit the ball shorter distances,I think your advice might be the key to lower scores.

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