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"The Short Game Bible" by Dave Pelz

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Figure I post an update since I bought this book in the fall of last year '08. I have since read through it 2x and seen nice progress. I think even as a feel player you can gain great insight into the mechanics of good short game swings. I myself don't have the time or drive to spend hours measuring my chips/pitches etc in from 100yds to really get good. I still take his approach but with 1 wedge right now. I measured out my SW from his 3 points and use it as reference. I also have learned to look for course conditions and take them into account which I never did before. My favorite mechanical aspect of of the "short game swing" is where he says to always accelerate through impact. This has helped me the most of any tip in my golf game and I try to carry it over into putting too and not stab at putts but swing through them.

Also my game has gotten allot better, went from carding low to mid 90's at the end of the summer to carding my first sub 80 round this past weekend (a 78).

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I really enjoyed the book myself. I read it maybe 2 years ago and pick it up every now and again. I think the bunker play instruction is spot on. I do not have the time to truely have a unique wedge swing where my hips are unrestricted compared with my power swing. Overall, a very informative book that I read very quickly. I want the recovery book by Pelz, and I have the putting bible as well. I am a pelz fan.

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I really enjoyed this book and I really appreciated the statistical analysis of the short game overall -- numbers never lie! But what I think has helped me the most so far, me being a non-feel player, is the systematic approach to practice. Maybe I'm just not disciplined enough, but having someone tell me that a certain way of practicing is important and has given me ALL of the reasons as to why gives me a sense of purpose on the range and at the practice green that I otherwise might only be able to guess at.

Now, the only thing I need now is a kid with a baseball glove to hit balls at...

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I think there is a lot of valuable stuff in the book, but the real transformation in my game for was when I changed to the Stan Utley style of chipping and putting. One of these days I plan to post about my "short game journey". But one style is not right for everyone, you should try many styles and settle on the one that feels comfortable and works for you.

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I am about halfway through the book and I can already say one thing, you will get out of this book what you put into it (with practice). It takes time to improve your short game and anyone that reads this book and practices what he says will get better. I am already seeing a difference in my wedge play after just a few short sessions in the last two weeks. My lob wedge is now a fairly reliable 35, 50, and 65 yard club. Before reading his book, I was poking and hoping. With continued practice I will be getting far more use out of my gap, sand, and lob wedges. They will essentially be 9 different clubs for 9 different lengths of shots. Can't beat that, especially when it is repeatable. And his section on chipping, wish I had read it 20 years ago. There is no magic bullet in golf. Buy the book, read a bit, practice, read a bit, practice, practice, etc.. and you will no doubt see your scores drop. The worse you are, the more you need this book. I will be buying his "Putting Bible" next.

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i think he's great, i love the technical stuff, i want to know why i'm doing something, not just because someone thinks it works for them so therefore it should work for everyone.

he's got an enormous amount of techincal research behind everything he says, how many other teachers have rolled 1000's of balls on 100's of greens, to understand how and why a ball will break.

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While I enjoyed Pelz's book - and theres no doubt Dave puts in the science work for his books - i feel the book is better suited to Pros who can put in the extensive training & drills. I do now use 3 wedges (sometimes 4 if i leave out the 3 iron) but, as an amateur, I got more short game value from 1 lesson with a club pro where he just got me to use a 9 iron and a wedge then vary the ball placement to change distances.

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i really liked this book. i will pick and choose what i want to take from it because there are some things that i'm not sure about, but i think it was well written and very informative. a lot of times books leave me wanting more, but i did not feel that way about this one. no one had ever gone into such detail with me about the short game like this. i am rereading it now because it was really too much to digest the first time. good stuff.

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500 pages BS

It is the worst book ever written on the short game, didn't like the technical crap and nonsense charts, etc. 3x4 or 4x3 system sucks with about half same distances with different clubs ...... personally I like to game my short game with fewer options, just using the 7 iron for low chips rolling most parts, 9 iron for low chips running less, 9 iron for moderate pitches ...... that is all ........ normal bunker shots ..... SW ....... wider stand, square to the target (bounce does it !)

"fewer options, lower scores" !!!!!!

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Originally Posted by Gerald

500 pages BS

It is the worst book ever written on the short game, didn't like the technical crap and nonsense charts, etc. 3x4 or 4x3 system sucks with about half same distances with different clubs ...... personally I like to game my short game with fewer options, just using the 7 iron for low chips rolling most parts, 9 iron for low chips running less, 9 iron for moderate pitches ...... that is all ........ normal bunker shots ..... SW ....... wider stand, square to the target (bounce does it !)

"fewer options, lower scores" !!!!!!


You may not like all the technical stuff, and it does have a lot of it, but the science behind his work is impressive.  In reading your different approaches to short game shots, I'm wondering whether some of Pelz's ideas could help you.  In other words, are you limiting yourself by only using 7 and 9 irons for your chips?  What about downhill chips to a close flag?  You may need to use a SW or LW in those cases.  But, good luck to you, but I think you are missing out on a lot of good information from Pelz.

BTW, do you have any short game book preferences?

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Fine Work.

I read it about 10 years ago (or whenever it was first published).

If you are a serious golfer, I think it's a necessary read ... in a game where one or two strokes makes a huge difference, one can pick up something, whether it's a particular trouble shot or varying swings with one club for distance.

For the not as serious anymore golfer, like me presently, I wouldn't bother unless you wanted a reference book and thought, "Heck, how could I get out of those pine needles?" Then you refer to Pelz.

____

I'm not a serious golfer any longer, it's more fun that way, so I like to use my lob wedge with a versatile grind, or if the shot requires it, a sand wedge, for all shots 50 yards and in around the green. I don't have the time to practice with lots of clubs, so I love to know what my two highest lofted wedges will do. To that end, I'd pick up Phil Mickelson's excellent DVD on shots around the green.

But Pelz did a lot of good work on this book. It won't appeal to all golfers, but to those who are serious, it's one to keep in the library.

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Originally Posted by Harmonious

What about downhill chips to a close flag?

BTW, do you have any short game book preferences?

GW and aim fot the pin....... prefer to roll it at most a few feet below the hole and follow the ball to have an idea on the line....... but honestly I can't say I have been in such a situation in many many many many rounds ........ so to me it is more or less a theoretical problem........

I prefer a low controlled shot whenever this is a sound option and in my opinion it is about allways the case, except I need to go over some problems.

My favourite Short game bible is from 1983 "Getting Up and Down" from Tom Watson and for bunkershots I like the Utley way.


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I agree the book is helpful. I also like the 3 swings with 4 wedge system. It is analytical but there is certainly feel involved in executing the shots. I don't think Pelz would argue that.

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Many interesting things in this book, technical aspects that affect your short game.  I do on the other hand not like the dead-hands approach or his appeal to cram the bag with wedges.  I bought a 60 degree Vokey after reading this book and was determined to go for this approach.  After some time I realized that the hardpan of my course, and almost constant high wind contidtion (trees can't grow on my course) forced me to reconsider my use of the wedges, especially something with more than 56 degrees.  Also shaping shots with wedges in these conditions with dead hands, is impossible.

Did as some others here have posted, visited my pro, and through some practice have enough of shots in my bag to attack my course, with my std 48 degree wedge plus the 56 Vokey, high low left or right.

For golfers who play in better conditions, this book has great value, for others, some parts of it are relevant, others can do more harm than good.

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In all I think it is lots of pages, using a lot of paper and ink, one can say tooooo much, and I maybe like only 10 of the let's say 50 pages of bunkershots analysis. The about standard Eupean bunker has heavy or hard sand, so the 11-16* bounce can best stay in the shop, and aming a lot to the left with the blade open to the right might be a solid solution at soft sand bunkers, but as soon as sand gets heavier or harder, the lesser open and the less bounce is needed for sound bunker play.

The 60* wedge is a club that needs a fuller swing to get any distance, and by doing that it is so easy to thin or blade the ball and the ball then travels at least the double distance ........ a 58* might be a sound option......

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I picked this up at the library and within a few chapters decided I need to buy a copy of this book.  While I agree it was a lot to wade through, I appreciate the scientific data and approach that backs up his conclusions.  I make no bones about it: this book has changed golf for me forever in a very short amount of time.  There is a lot of differing opinion in this thread, so I wanted to share some of my highlights:

The Bra Effect

His discussion of the "bra" effect completely changed how I think about the game.  I used to really fret over my approach shots, but now that I understand even the best players in the world have trouble consistently getting it close I don't worry about it any more.  It actually made me a better iron player: I'm swinging freer because I'm not *as* concerned about the results knowing as long as I make a decent swing I can still make par.  I'm also completely over trying to reach par fives in 2, an effort that has frequently ruined my rounds.

Dead Hands

I've used the dead hands shot a lot to recover from trouble but never considered it for "normal" pitch shots.  An hour on the practice range showed me that this is absolutely fundamental.  I was also surprised to find how well it works from sand.  I've always been a pretty good feel bunker player, but feel tends to break down under pressure.  Now I have a lot more confidence that even a bad swing or misjudgment will produce acceptable results.  "Dead Hands" is now my swing thought on pitch, chip, and bunker shots.

Multiple Wedges

I've carried 3 wedges (51, 56, and 62) since Tom Kite started carrying a lob wedge (and won the 92 US Open) but I honestly never understood how to use them as a set.  My old Hogan blades were 3-9, so for years the 51 was my pitching wedge* and I only used if for power shots.  My 62 was only for trouble shots and super high lobs.  (In fact, I had a falling out with it and took it out of my bag to add a 3I hybrid, but after reading this book I removed my 4I so I could put the 62 back in my bag.)  This meant that I relied on my 56 for 95% of my shots inside 100 yards.  Learning the 3x4 system (3x3 in my case, which Pelz says is OK) has added incredible depth to my short game.  I now have a variety of shots and distances I can produce with the same swing(s).

*Note: I do have a PW that came with my new iron set, but at 45 degrees it is really a 10 iron and I don't consider it in my wedge set.  I'm in the process of negotiating (read "begging") with my wife to let me buy a set of Vokeys (50.8, 56.8, and 60.4) to replace my 20 year old Hogans.  This leaves room to add a 4th wedge (64) someday, but I doubt I will because I think the 3x3 system is sufficient for amateur players.

Specific Yardages

I'm still working out my exact yardages, but one of the comments before was something to the effect of "too much math" on the course.  I don't get that: if you learn exactly how far each club carries (and what it does after it hits) with each swing, then how is math a problem?  How is that any different than knowing you hit your 8 iron 150 yards?  Another comment was about too much overlap, but I disagree. So let's say the 56 7:30 swing goes 43 yards and the 60 9:00 swing goes 42: that may look like overlap, but it's a difference of 3 feet which could easily determine whether or not you make it inside the "Golden Eight".  Plus, each will have a different amount of carry, roll, and spin which could also distinctly affect the outcome.

Chipping

I never had any success with chipping.  I tried all the approaches I could find and read about, but ultimately I ended up trying to use my 56 for everything.  When my feel was on it worked great, but there were many many times when it just let me down.  Pelz's lessons on ball position and (again) dead hands were just what the doctor ordered.  I've started chipping a lot with 8-PW and just knocking the pins down.  I finally believe that you can stand over a chip like that and honestly feel you can make it.

Odd shots

I agree far too much of the book seems to address "odd" short game shots.  I knew most of these already, but how often is your typical golfer really going to hit it out of the water?  Some of them are entertaining (the backwards shot is useful about once every hundred rounds) but beyond that I would recommend you just skip most of those if you find them out of place.  To be fair, it really wouldn't be a "Bible" if it wasn't all inclusive, but there's nothing saying you have to read every word.

Power game practice

While Pelz doesn't teach the power game, he does have some great words of wisdom about practicing it.  Namely, most of us spend a disproportionate amount of time on the driving range and not near enough with the short game (pros suffer from this as well according to Pelz).  His advice is simple: practice putting and the short game more and the power game less.  And when you do practice the power game, focus on driving.  I've started doing that, devoting about half my power game practice to driving, and my fairways hit percentage has more than doubled, which means I'm consistently getting closer to the hole on my 2nd shot which means I can take more advantage of my new short game skills.

There are two important takeaways here: first, your practice should be holistic.  You cannot ignore any facet of the game, but your practice should be proportionate to the actual shots you will perform on the course.  Most of us practice backwards, giving too much priority to shots we only use a few times a round.  Second, your practice needs focus.  Just beating balls is not practice, and can in fact be detrimental to your swing by ingraining bad habits.  Every session and every swing should have a purpose, a goal, and a target.  And you should learn from the feedback of the shot.  Of course, I'll freely admit this is easier said than done, but any improvement in your practice habits will eventually improve your game.

Method to the Madness

My final thoughts about all of this is that it has given me "repeatables".  I now have a system where I can always stand the same way, put the ball in the same position, and swing the same way for the vast majority of my short game shots.  Repeatability is the hallmark of great play in virtually every sport and has already had a profound effect on my game.  Two weeks ago I "went low" and shot an 80 (my best round of the year at that point) with terrible putting.  Last week I shot a career best 73 with two 3 putts and a double bogey.  This book has improved my whole game and I will be benefiting from it for a very long time to come.

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Does anybody use Pelz' method for calculating their Short Game Handicap (the 9 exercises)?

If so, does anybody else feel the handicaps for each exercise and in total are wrong? He claims he came up with those handicaps via golfers attending his short game schools, but I have found with my students that the handicaps are too high i.e. the exercises are tough! For example, the 3/4 wedge shot states you are a 0 handicapper if you get 11 points from 10 balls (4 pts in the hole, 2 pts within 3 ft and 1 point between 3-6 ft). Most low handicappers I test struggle to get more than a couple of points. The bunker shots are equally tough.

P.S. The Putting Handicap seems be OK.

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Originally Posted by The_Pharaoh

Does anybody use Pelz' method for calculating their Short Game Handicap (the 9 exercises)?

If so, does anybody else feel the handicaps for each exercise and in total are wrong? He claims he came up with those handicaps via golfers attending his short game schools, but I have found with my students that the handicaps are too high i.e. the exercises are tough! For example, the 3/4 wedge shot states you are a 0 handicapper if you get 11 points from 10 balls (4 pts in the hole, 2 pts within 3 ft and 1 point between 3-6 ft). Most low handicappers I test struggle to get more than a couple of points. The bunker shots are equally tough.

P.S. The Putting Handicap seems be OK.


It is funny that you say that.  The Handicap system is way to harsh.  So I made my own short game skills test using some of those shots, but with different scoring and handicap.  It has been really useful for my students.  I have them take the test and keep the scores and re test in a month.

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