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Review: "Unconscious Scoring" by Dave Stockton

A winning text from a winning golfer makes it easy to build a sure-fire short game

By: James A. Frank

I can’t review Dave Stockton’s new book, Unconscious Scoring, without stating at the outset that I am a Pelzian. That is, a disciple of Dave Pelz, who brought scientific research and testing to golf, particularly the short game.

I worked with Pelz for more than a dozen years, including co-writing three of his books, notably his Short-Game and Putting “Bibles.” I’ve proven to others and to myself that his methods work, and I find his deep background and extensive evidence compelling stuff. I like the backstories almost as much as I believe in the instruction.

That said, I don’t think I’ve read a simpler or more common-sense approach to golf instruction than Stockton’s. Anyone who can reduce the art of lowering scores to two pitch shots—one high, one low—and a putting method that boils down to “see the line and make a stroke” is worth listening to.

Stockton’s genius is his simplicity. Almost every off-the-green situation he describes can be handled by one of the two pitch shots or a slight variation. That includes sand play and short shots out of every kind of rough. (Note that he’s primarily working only inside about 30 yards from the green, not the 100-yards-and-in that Pelz deals with.)

He also puts great stock in the mental game, which is basically convincing yourself that you’re going to hole every shot: Of course you won’t, he admits, but that mindset is all the psychology you need.

As noted above, there’s a chapter on putting, which says little more than read the line and then use whatever method you like to roll the ball. His point is to think about it less and, as he puts it, “let it go” and “roll it.” (Makes me wonder what more could be in Stockton’s other book, “Unconscious Putting.”)

But what I really like, and respect, about Stockton is this: He is that rare Tour player—with numerous wins on both the PGA and Senior Tours, as well as two major championships and success as a Ryder Cup captain—who knows he is doing something different and effective, has been doing it for ages, has studied it, and can successfully pass it on. And not only to us: His current students include Phil Mickelson and Rory McIlroy, and he tells some interesting stories about other pros he’s helped over the years.

He’s been spreading the gospel, in one form or another, almost as long as he’s been playing. These days, he teaches with his two sons, Dave Jr. and Ron, and he credits his interest in the game to his late father Gail, who was a club pro. He’s also quick to cite the many greats he’s borrowed from over the years, among them Julius Boros, Dale Douglass, and Gary Player.

Stockton’s instruction concepts are simple and smart. That’s a tough combination to beat.

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