If I could have dinner with one golfing great, I’m not sure who I’d pick.
I’ve wavered between Tiger Woods, Ben Hogan, Greg Norman and Phil Mickelson. At the 2012 PGA Merchandise show, I took part in a dinner with legendary instructor Butch Harmon, who has been a teacher or personal friend to every one of them, and many other of the game’s top names. It wasn’t the same as having dinner plans with each of my golfing heroes. It was almost better.
At the event, Harmon talked about his new instructional DVD, “Butch Harmon About Golf presented by Titleist,” and shared stories about some of the most memorable moments of his life — one which has been enmeshed with golf’s most legendary names since his childhood.
Golf writers like to debate how the players of each generation compare to one another, and who would win in a head-to-head matchup in each player’s prime. I doubt that there is anyone in the world as qualified as Harmon to weigh in on the discussion.
It was Harmon’s opinion that the players from the past — Hogan, Sam Snead, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer, Lee Trevino and Seve Ballesteros, to name a few, had more ability to work the ball and vary shot trajectories than today’s players, and would most likely rise to the top in today’s game because of those skills and the advantages of modern equipment. But he also said that had these players grown up in today’s instruction climate, where teachers are sometimes apt to change a player’s natural tendencies in favor of their teaching methodology, we might have never heard of some of golf’s founding fathers.
Harmon echoes his beliefs in his new DVD, saying up front that he does not believe there is just one correct way to swing a golf club. He talks at length about the importance of the fundamentals throughout the DVD’s four hours and 57 chapters — things like grip, posture, stance and alignment, but also dives much deeper than these introductory lessons.
One of my favorite moments in the DVD came early, in Harmon’s discussion of the back swing. He said that a player’s weight has to move in the same direction as the clubhead throughout the swing. I’ve heard so many explanations of how the club and body work together, but none as simple as Harmon’s tip.
Harmon breaks down each part of the swing, and also covers specific trouble shots that golfers face such as when the the ball is above a player’s feet, below a player’s feet, the uphill lie, the down hill lie, fairway bunker shots, etc. For more advanced players, Harmon also covers specialty shots like Tiger’s famous stinger (a must watch lesson that seems almost too simple, but works), flop shots and buried bunker shots. He also shares remedies for two of golf’s scariest shots, the shank and the yip. Whether the segment is for the elementary or advanced, however, there is still something for players of all levels to learn from Harmon, including a segment about golf-specific fitness from Dr. Greg Rose of the Titleist Performance Institute (TPI) and chapters on proper club fitting.
The knowledge and drills Harmon has absorbed from the large stable of Tour pros he’s coached throughout his 40 years as an instructor are no doubt the most valuable part of the DVD, but its most impressive aspect may be that unlike many other instructional videos, it is not a swing-centric production. There are several segments on the proper mindset, practice routine, and short game and putting. After most segments, Harmon highlights the tips he shared in the previous footage with the help of a star-studded cast — Adam Scott, Nick Watney, Dustin Johnson, Natalie Gulbis and Phil Mickelson. There’s also interviews with these players about the impact Harmon had on their games, which features Harmon’s most famous student, Tiger Woods.
It was clear to me at Harmon’s dinner that he is a master communicator. This trait is obvious throughout in the DVD, which at many times feels more like a conversation than an influx of information. In the instructional segments on juniors, seniors and women, Harmon showcases his ability to put golfers at ease in the sometimes uncomfortable setting of a golf lesson, and instructs with a grace that PGA Professionals will be sure to notice.
The DVD will be available March 1, 2012, for $79.95 on-line at www.butchharmondvd.com.