Dave Pelz had his eyes opened while still a NASA researcher. “Over a 15-year period I finally realized I was a golfer who loved physics rather than a physicist who loved golf,” he says.
Though he can be dragged out of his lair for a full day’s attention for $30,000, Pelz is still a researcher and writer at heart, so he leaves most instruction at his nine schools to others. “In season, the Homestead Resort on Michigan’s Leelanau Peninsula is one of our nicest facilities, right on Lake Michigan. Our Irish school, Killeen Castle, is where the Solheim Cup was played last year. It’s about 15 minutes outside of Dublin on 800 acres.”
Research showed Pelz that, “Eighty percent of shots lost are lost in the short game. So I work with people where they’re losing the most strokes. When you get close to the green — that’s where you need to hit your good shots.”
Research also showed him that rotating the forearms through impact messes up putting more than anything else. Which is why a few eyes were opened last season when Pelz student Phil Mickelson experimented with a belly putter.
“That’s my recommendation — not that players necessarily switch to a long or belly putter — but to try it, because it will prevent rotation of the forearms and you’ll make more short putts,” says Pelz. “Statistics show that the belly putter is the best, followed by the long putter. The worst is the way everyone comes to my school putting.”
One of the more visible belly putters last year was Keegan Bradley, winner of the PGA Championship. Bradley, along with the exciting new LPGA star Alexis Thompson, two-time heart transplant PGA tour golfer Erik Compton, and U.S. Open champion Cristie Kerr, are Jim McLean pupils. Though he has schools in exotic resorts (Mayakoba in Mexico, Casa de Campo in the Dominican Republic), McLean has been working out of the Doral Golf Resort in Miami since 1991.
For $5,000, you will get a 90-minute lesson and lunch at the Doral Resort Learning Center and then play 18 with McLean on either the famed Blue Monster course or the Jim McLean Signature Course.
McLean’s eleventh book, The Complete Hogan: A Shot-by-Shot Analysis of Golf’s Greatest Swing, has just been published. The man knows the golf swing, and he has a system called The 8-Step Swing.
“But it’s a teaching system rather than a method,” he says. “We ask if the player’s swing is falling within a range, rather than striking some perfect position. The eight steps are checkpoints, not a connect-the-dots. You can’t teach a beginner like a tour pro, and most people are not after a complete overhaul of their swing.”
McLean says that though he’s probably given 12,000 private lessons in his time, he is not a “tip” type of teacher. “Nonetheless, my recommendation is to work on getting the tension out of your game, body, and hands. Sounds easy, but it may take a little time.”
McLean has the solution, though — head to a golf school: “Put away the cell phone for three days and get rid of the tension. And it’s almost a slam dunk, you’ll get better at the game. That’s two reasons right there that golf schools are the greatest thing in the world.”