DRIPPING SPRINGS, Texas -- Dave Pelz, whose litany of golf books includes the New York Times bestseller, The Short Game Bible, says his latest project is the most important work he's ever done. Why?
Because it covers a topic that has been a mystery to most golfers.
Pelz is talking about green reading, and this project, which he is funding through Kickstarter, promises to unravel the mystery of reading greens. Even tour players, Pelz says, have difficulty in reading greens but they have the advantage of charts (which some pay dearly for) and their caddies' help.
There have been strides in recent years, most notably Aimpoint. But Pelz says his work, which is based on his background as a physicist, takes away the mystery. He won't give too much away here until the Kickstarter is funded and the work is published, but I did get to spend an afternoon with him at his "dream home" in Dripping Springs, Texas, in the Texas Hill Country just outside of Austin.
It's in that backyard, where Pelz has more than a dozen greens (nine of them target greens) and where he does much of his research. It's where he can replicate any slope on a green and study the data. It's where some of his best students, including Phil Mickelson, come visit to work on their own short games.
What the Pelz GreenReading project is about
Pelz says the scope of the project is beyond anything he's done before.
"I can't teach you how to read greens in one paragraph," he said. "This Kickstarter funding is to allow us to create new 3D graphics and video images to show you what to look for and where to look from, in our new GreenReading system. At this point, all I can do is ask you to trust me (and the resume of my last 40 years in golf) and help us get this new paradigm into a 'golfer-friendly' package."
But why is Pelz using Kickstarter instead of a publisher? After all, he's been a successful author for years. He says it's because Kickstarter is an innovative approach to funding research, developing new ideas and products. It allows more freedom to create and present original content to golfers in the best possible way.
"As I continue my passion for exploring and creating better was to help golfers play better, I’m inspired by other Kickstarter projects," Pelz said. "I gladly join with the small businesses and starving new artists of the world… to discover new and better ways to do things."
Unlike many Kickstarter programs, though, this isn't a donation, but rather a preorder of Pelz' new "book," which if it gets funded by this summer will be by the end of the year. The cost is $79 and if all is successful, those who preorder will get by Christmas "Dave Pelz' Secrets of GreenReading" book, video and on-course guide. If the funding doesn't come through in time, everyone will get a refund, but the project will continue. It will just take longer – about three years, he estimates – if he has to fund it on his own.
"Books are great for some topics, and video is perfect for others. But to learn a new paradigm for GreenReading, I want golfers to see what we’re talking about as we're talking about it," Pelz said. "That's why we're combining the written word with video, to help golfers understand what they're looking for and how it looks."
Pelz says plumb-bobbing doesn't work
The new book provides an alternative to the old methodologies of green reading, Pelz says. For example, plumb-bobbing doesn't work. Pelz says all putts, no matter their break, can be plumb-bobbed as straight, but because golfers already have a pre-conceived notion of what the putt does, they tend to tilt their heads one way or another (effectively influencing the plumb bob) to confirm what they already believe. He proved this to me in his backyard as I was indeed able to plumb-bob severely breaking putts as straight.
As to other methods people use to read greens such as Aimpoint, Pelz doesn't want to discredit them, but simply says there's a better, more scientific way to approach green reading.
"We show exactly what to look for on the greens, and how to determine "how much break to play" in a very different way. And then we show how to get really good at it," he said.
Some of Pelz' tour players are already using the methods, though Pelz wouldn't divulge who they were, but that they have improved. As for how much it will help recreational golfers, Pelz says it would mean an improvement of several shots per round, depending on how a good a putter you already were before you started.
"But I know when you read your putts better, you’ll hole more of them and enjoy the game more," Pelz said. "And that is my true goal."