“Golf Without Fear?” Where’s the fun in that?

February 25, 2011
Shown is the cover of Dave Pelz’s book “Golf Without Fear.” COURTESY AMAZON.COM

I love playing the golf course at Shawnee Country Club, but sometimes the golf course doesn’t love me. One of my most daunting challenges at the Milford layout is the par-4 sixth hole.

There’s a deep, dark, often wet forest on the left, separated from the green by a sizable slope that will bounce errant approach shots even farther into the woods.

As a result, I favor the right side on my second shots, but that can also lead to trouble. It’s really not that hard to push the shot too far wide right, putting a gaping bunker between your ball and the green.

In addition, the green slopes away toward the woods on the left, so any skulled shot across the bunker and onto the green has a better-than-even chance of disappearing completely.

Furthermore, the turf just beyond the right-side bunker is sometimes a tad thin, if not outright hardpan.

Isn’t golf fun sometimes?
This situation at Shawnee CC combines two of the most feared golf shots players face, for both the professional and amateur ranks.

Don’t take my word for it - that’s what short-game guru Dave Pelz says in his newest instructional book, “Golf Without Fear: How to Play the Ten Most Feared Shots in Golf with Confidence,” (Gotham Books; $40 SRP).

Pelz, a well-known former NASA engineer, has gathered extensive data to support his suggested improvements for golfers. He popularized the idea that golfers should make their approach putts roll 17 inches past the hole if they miss, to eliminate the “doughnut hole” effect that can deflect a slower-rolling attempt.

Not “about a foot and a half,” not “more than a foot,” but 17 inches.

That is a good example of the engineering mindset, both at work and at play. I can’t fault Pelz’s approach to his data, but I think he sometimes he errs on the side of being too precise.

Nonetheless, there’s a lot to like about this book, not least of which is Pelz’s earnest approach to the subject matter.

You have the feeling that he really, really wants golfers to have more fun by learning how to overcome some of the common situations in which they find themselves.

In addition to tight lies (third) and short flops over bunkers (eighth) here are the other eight most feared golf shots, in ascending order: lag putting, balls up against walls or tree stumps, hitting through trees, buried lies in the sand, high cut-lob shots, downhill lies, greenside sand and short putts.

Many Cape Region golfers would agree that at least a few of these challenges are ones for which they could use a little more help, if not skill.

Pelz’s approach to each of these cases is the same. First, he provides an analysis of the problem and why it can be so troublesome.

Then he discusses the fundamental golf motions involved in making the shot work and why golfers sometimes fail.

Pelz then gives his preferred solution to the problem, often accompanied by a few alternatives.

The next part of the Pelz program shows how to develop your skills to match the solution in a relaxed, backyard environment, sometimes but not always using a Pelz company device or two. Finally, Pelz describes how to go from his backyard familiarization and practice routine, out to the practice range and eventually out onto the course.

The book is peppered with photographs, including what he calls the Golfer’s-Eye View of each of these 10 situations. Viewing these photos as intended often involves holding the book at an angle, while turning one’s head in the opposite direction.

It sounds goofy, and also looks it a bit, but you can actually see what Pelz is driving at, if you give these photographs a chance.

This book should be useful for golfers returning to the game after the winter break. Pelz’s suggestions are certainly worth checking out, either alone or with the help of your friendly local PGA golf professional.

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