Dave Pelz goes Automatic

I‘ve been a fan of Dave Pelz for years now. He probably has forgotten more about the short-game than most people know. A smart thinker, he has made those little shots popular for serious golfers and shown the importance of having a better short game.

Having been taught his system and read all of his books, I always thought there was something missing. And that something was better instruction on how to learn to apply his technique.

In particular, how I could apply his methods without getting bogged down on positions and swing theory?

If I’m honest, my first attempt at learning his pitching and putting stuff put my head into a spin. Not sure if this was me going too far (I tend to do this) or the lack of clear rules to follow but I certainly lost the plot.

At the worst, I developed the putting and pitching yips – unable to take the putter away and so concerned about my swing positions, my pitching skill went out the window.

I think Pelz has experienced the same thing with his pupils. His latest book, Golf Without Fear, makes it very clear that automatic (being able to perform the motion in a free flowing and carefree manner) is incredibly important. Here is a passage on learning to hit pitch shots:

“…I want to show you exactly what constitutes a perfect reference swing. You need to understand the details of this swing motion so that you can internalize its feel and commit it to muscle memory. Please don’t misinterpret what we’re doing here:

I want you to understand what your perfect pitch swing looks and feels like so you can learn it, feel it, own it and then forget about it. I’m not going to teach you to think your way through your pitch swing. That’s not what you want to do.

Instead, I’m going to have you first understand it, and then learn it well enough so that it automatically comes out of memory as a habit, without thinking about it, when you use it.”

Please read that statement a few times. What Pelz is highlighting here is the automatic process perfectly. I’m not sure if his earlier works touch upon the importance of natural learning so explicitly – maybe if it did I wouldn’t have gotten myself in such a mess.

He is stressing the importance of learning the skill well enough so you can forget about it and then play with it. And you do this not by having to think your way through the swing. He gives you some basic reference points and that’s it. Later he mentions about finding your natural swing, not trying to copy him or someone else. All up

This golf instruction is as good as it gets. You can check out his latest golf book here – I strongly recommend it.

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6 Comments

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply December 27, 2010

    Ah, my favourite topic….fear. Get rid of the fear and the learning takes care of itself. Observe, do……and repeat. Thats it. You’re learning. The RATE at which you learn will be directly related to the degree to which you eliminate the fear. Reckon you don’t have fear? Think again. Its everywhere. Have a really close (honest) look at WHY you do what you do. A huge amount of it is based on wanting to look good. In other words, FEAR of looking bad. I would spend more time working on eliminating that than working on technique. It will free up your natural learning system (thats why kids learn so fast – no fear) and get you where you want to go quicker. And it doesn’t just apply to golf of course. It applies to developing your skills in anything. Don’t worry about what others are thinking of you. Because they’re NOT. They’re worrying about what others are thinking of THEM (!) This sounds like my sort of book. Thanks Cam.

  • Cameron

    Reply Reply December 27, 2010

    @Grayden: Thanks for posting. Learning to play without fear is a tough challenge – but a worthwhile one. It also takes continual effort and discipline.

    We all need to be able to swing without the fear of where the ball is going and what others think.

    Good stuff.

  • Gregor

    Reply Reply December 31, 2010

    You are right. The fear is about how we look – ego. But no-one is in the least bit interested in our game, unless it is distracting theirs. So you could hit the worst shot ever and most folk would not blink. They certainly don’t want to hear why you thought it was bad. They are too busy thinking up stories to explain their own shots.
    The advice Cameron gave me was to hit the shot like it had already happened exactly as you intended. How would you swing if you knew you would make the shot every time. You loosen up immediately and the flow comes back straight away. No fear.

  • Grayden Provis

    Reply Reply December 31, 2010

    “They certainly don’t want to hear why you thought it was bad…”

    That statement should be pre-printed at the top of every golf card in big, red, capital letters along with “fix your divots”. There is NOTHING more painful than someone telling you what they’re doing wrong all the way round a golf course. You end up like that guy on the Simpsons who can’t stop hiccupping (“Kill me, PLEASE kill me”)

    “The advice Cameron gave me was to hit the shot like it had already happened exactly as you intended”

    Excellent. Not much else to say really. Do that and everything else should take care of itself. Thanks Gregor. Some helpful stuff there.

  • Jeff Richmond

    Reply Reply March 12, 2012

    I can’t believe he got away with this statement: “You need to understand the details of this swing motion so that you can internalize its feel and commit it to muscle memory.”

    Maybe he should stick with facts and figures because the last time I checked….our muscles don’t have memories!

    But he’s on the right track because we most play golf automatically. That’s what we do when we play our best golf.

    For Consistent Golf,

    Jeff Richmond

    • Cameron

      Reply Reply March 13, 2012

      Jeff: While it’s true muscles don’t have memory I think Pelz here is using simple language to get his story across. I’ve got no doubt he understands that the learning pattern is created in the brain and not the muscles. The good stuff here is he’s talking about feeling the shot and learning to get it to the automatic stage. His earlier works didn’t go into this. Unfortunately nearly every golf coach misses out on this highly important step.

      Thanks for posting,

      Cameron

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