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Review: Butch Harmon About Golf instructional DVD



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

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Zak is the Editor-in-Chief of He's been a part of the company since 2011, when he was hired to lead GolfWRX's Editorial Department. Zak developed GolfWRX's Featured Writer Program, which supports aspiring writers and golf industry professionals. He played college golf at the University of Richmond (Go Spiders!) and still likes to compete in tournaments. You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz, where he's happy to discuss his game and all the cool stuff that's part of his job.

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Bryan Longlois

    Jan 18, 2013 at 7:04 am

    just as there are lots of great golfers there are also great teachers
    myself im still in the quest to play in the low 70s but i have to admit
    breaking 80 was a milestone.come an find out how to do it in two weeks
    youll be amazed

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Self-discovery: Why golf lessons aren’t helping you improve



Of all the things I teach or have taught in golf, I think this is the most important: It’s not what we cover in a lesson, it’s what you discover. 

Some years ago, I had a student in golf school for a few days. She was topping every single shot. Zero were airborne. I explained that she was opening her body and moving forward before her arms and club were coming down. “Late” we call it. I had her feel like her arms were coming down first and her body was staying behind, a common correction for late tops. Bingo! Every ball went up into the air. She was ecstatic.

Some time later, she called and said she was topping every shot. She scheduled a lesson. She topped every shot. I asked her why she was topping the ball. “I think I’m picking up my head,” she said to my look of utter disbelief!

I had another student who was shanking the ball. At least 3 out of 5 came off the hosel with his wedges. I explained that his golf club was pointed seriously left at the top of his backswing. It was positioned well OUTSIDE his hands, which caused it to come down too wide and swing OUTSIDE his hands into impact. This is a really common cause of shanking. We were able to get the club more down the line at the top and come down a bit narrower and more inside the ball. No shanks… not a one!  He called me sometime later. The shanks had returned. You get the rest. When I asked what was causing him to shank, he told me “I get too quick.”

If you are hitting the golf ball better during a golf lesson, you have proven to yourself that you CAN do it. But what comes after the lesson is out of a teacher’s hands. It’s as simple as that. I cannot control what you do after you leave my lesson tee. Now, if you are NOT hitting the ball better during a lesson or don’t understand why you’re not hitting it better, I will take the blame. And…you do not have to compensate me for my time. That is the extent to which I’ll go to display my commitment and accept my responsibility. What we as teachers ask is the same level of commitment from the learners.

Improving at golf is a two-way street. My way is making the correct diagnosis and offering you a personalized correction, possibly several of them. Pick the ONE that works for you. What is your way on the street? Well, here are a few thoughts on that:

  • If you are taking a lesson at 10 a.m. with a tee time at 11 a.m. and you’re playing a $20 Nassau with your buddies, you pretty much wasted your time and money.
  • If the only time you hit balls is to warm up for your round, you have to be realistic about your results.
  • If you are expecting 250-yard drives with an 85 mph club head speed, well… let’s get real.
  • If you “fake it” during a lesson, you’re not going to realize any lasting improvement. When the teacher asks if you understand or can feel what’s being explained and you say yes when in fact you DO NOT understand, you’re giving misleading feedback and hurting only yourself. Speak up!

Here’s a piece of advise I have NEVER seen fail. If you don’t get it during the lesson, there is no chance you’ll get it later. It’s not enough to just hit it better; you have to fully understand WHY you hit it better. Or if you miss, WHY you missed.

I have a rule I follow when conducting a golf lesson. After I explain the diagnosis and offer the correction, I’ll usually get some better results. So I continue to offer that advice swing after swing. But at some point in the lesson, I say NOTHING. Typically, before long the old ball flight returns and I wait– THREE SWINGS. If the student was a slicer and slices THREE IN A ROW, then it’s time for me to step in again. I have to allow for self discovery at some point. You have to wean yourself off my guidance and internalize the corrections. You have to FEEL IT.

When you can say, “If the ball did this then I know I did that” you are likely getting it. There is always an individual cause and effect you need to understand in order to go off by yourself and continue self improvement. If you hit a better shot but do not know why, please tell your teacher. What did I do? That way you’re playing to learn, not simply learning to play.

A golf lesson is a guidance, not an hour of how to do this or that. The teacher is trying to get you to discover what YOU need to feel to get more desirable outcomes. If all you’re getting out of it is “how,” you are not likely to stay “fixed.” Remember this: It’s not what we cover in the lesson; it’s what you discover!

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Jumping for Distance (Part 2): The One-Foot Jump



In Part 1, I wrote about how I think this concept of jumping up with both feet for more power may have come about in part due to misinterpretation of still photography and force plate data, self-propagation, and a possible case of correlation vs causation. I also covered reasoning why these players are often airborne, and that can be from flawed setups that include overly wide stances and/or lead foot positions that are too closed at setup or a re-planted lead foot that ends up too closed during the downswing.

In Part 2, let’s look at what I feel is a better alternative, the one foot jump. To me, it’s safer, it doesn’t complicate ball striking as much, and it can still generate huge amounts of vertical ground force.

First, set up with an appropriate stance width. I like to determine how wide to stand based on the length of your lower legs. If you go to your finish position and stand on your lead leg and let your trail leg dangle down so your knees are parallel, your lower trail leg should extend only as far back as it will go while being up on the tip of your trail toe. If you roll that trail foot back down to the ground, viola, you’ll have a stance width that’s wide enough to be “athletic” and stable but not so wide you lose balance when swinging. You can go a little wider than this, but not much.

To contrast, the stance below would be too wide.

Jumping off the ground can be caused by too wide of a stance and lead foot position that is too closed at setup

Second, make sure your lead foot is open sufficiently at address. I’ve previously outlined how to do both these first two points in this article.

Third, whether you shift your weight to your trail foot or keep a more centered weight type feeling in the backswing, when you shift your weight to your lead foot, be careful of the Bubba replant, and then push up with that lead leg to push your lead shoulder up. This is the one-foot “jump” and it will take advantage of parametric acceleration (read more about that here).

But also at the same time, shift your lower spine towards the target.

From a face-on viewpoint, this can look like back bend, but in 3D space it’s side bend. It kind of feels like you are crunching the trail side of your mid-section, or maybe just bending over to the side to pick up a suitcase, for example. This move helps lower your trail shoulder, which brings down the club (whereas this is more difficult to do if you try to two-foot jump with your trail leg). It also helps you to keep from getting airborne off your lead foot. Further it doesn’t change your low point (by not changing the relative position of the C7 vertebrae in its general orb in space) and complicate ball striking like a two-foot jump does.

At this point, the club releases and you can stand up out of the shot (you don’t need to transition in to any sort of dangerous back bend) in balance on your lead foot having generates tons of vertical ground force without having jumped off the ground or putting yourself at risk for injury.

“Movember” mustache… not required!

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Move Your Legs Like the Legends: The Key to the Snead Squat



It’s important not to overdo the “Sam Snead squat.” Understanding the subtle leg movements of the game’s greats is key to making your practice purposeful and making real improvement.

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19th Hole