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WHEN Dave Pelz quit his job as a NASA scientist to pursue a career in golf his father was so upset he did not tell anyone for years.
Mr Pelz Snr could not have imagined that his son was destined to become one of the most famous golf coaches on this planet from which Pelz Jnr, in his former job, had helped astronauts temporarily escape.
Should man ever colonise other planets you can bet a Dave Pelz Scoring Game School will be there not long after. In the meanwhile, his devotees can undertake a much shorter journey following the opening of the first of his academies outside of the United States.
Killeen Castle in County Meath, in Ireland, is the seventh school and is complemented by a Jack Nicklaus signature championship course, which will stage the 2011 Solheim Cup, the women’s equivalent of the Ryder Cup.
Pelz, known to millions through his TV shows, magazine articles and books, has achieved his worldwide success with a method of teaching devolved from the application of methodical scientific research. But on meeting the man you realise this appliance of science could not have worked had it not been married to a zealot's desire to preach the gospel of improved golf – nor, indeed, had he not been married.
In the Seventies, Pelz examined the deficiencies of his own game when unable to make it onto the US PGA tour as a player and began teaching other professionals based on his deductions. It was wife JoAnn who encouraged Pelz to spread the teaching net to include amateur pupils as well.
“What I learned is that 60 to 65 per cent of shots in the whole game occur inside 100 yards and that 80 per cent of the shots lost to par – 80 per cent of your handicap if you're an amateur – occurs inside 100 yards," says Pelz. “Then I look out at the driving range and see 95 per cent of people practise the full swing.
“The short game from 100 yards to the edge of the green and the putting game – that's the scoring game – gets five per cent of the practice. Of that five per cent, 4.7 per cent is spent on putting – the poor short game gets virtually nothing.
“Your average golfer never practises his chipping and putting. By practice I mean meaningful, purposeful attempts to improve. People go and hit chip shots before they play, but they are not learning anything.
“I tried to be a player and no one ever said that was my problem. They said 'you don't hit a two-
Although Pelz is often dubbed a golfing guru for his work with such luminaries as former Masters and US PGA champion Phil Mickelson, there is nothing mystical about his teachings.
“I don't have any old wives’ tales, I don't have any mentors who were great teachers, none of my understanding of the game comes from what anyone has told me," he explains. “I am a pure scientist. I'm going to measure it; if it's true, I'll find out, if it's not true, it won't hinder me.”
What cannot be accounted for empirically is the depth of Pelz's desire to enable pupils who attend his schools to leave with an improved game that will increase the pleasure they get from a game he loves.
However, evidence can be offered in the joy he derives from a testimonial sent by an 82-
He shot a lifetime best score in its third round and lowered it in the fourth.
“That is one of the biggest thrills I've had," enthuses Pelz. “It was wonderful when Mickelson won his first major, wonderful when Steve Elkington (another of his pupils) won his major.
“I've had players win nine majors, but this 82-
“When I get up in the morning my goal is to understand the game better – I'm continually doing research.
“But to get paid for it is ridiculous – and to get people pay me and then thank me, it's unbelievable.”
Pupils passing through the Killeen Castle school will have to pay extra attention to their game when trying to put theory into practice on the adjoining Nicklaus course as it is not only challenging, but is set in surroundings – especially in the form of the castle – which offer continuous distractions.
“I'm wildly excited about this venture because we have over 30 per cent of our enrolees in the first month coming from the UK and have had 12 different countries represented. It's a wonderful start," says Pelz.
The Killeen Castle development also includes high quality residences set in the historic grounds of the twelfth century Norman castle which after extensive reconstruction is set to provide presidential-
Dave Pelz School, Killeen Castle
Published: January 10, 2009
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