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Review: Butch Harmon About Golf instructional DVD

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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.

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  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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Instruction

What you can learn from the rearview camera angle

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We often analyze the golf swing from the face-on view or down-the-line camera angle. However, we can also learn how the body moves in the swing from the rearview or backside view.

When seeing the swing from the rearview, we can easily see how the glutes work. The trail glute actually moves back and around in the backswing. This means the glute moves towards the target or towards the lead heel. Note the trail glute start point and endpoint at the top of the backswing.

To some, this may seem like it would cause a reverse weight shift. However, this glute movement can enable the upper body to get loaded behind the ball. This is where understanding the difference between pressure, and weight is critical (see: “Pressure and Weight”).

This also enhances the shape of the body in the backswing. From the rear angle, I prefer to have players with a tuck to their body in their trail side, a sign of no left-side bend.

This puts the body and trail arm into a “throwing position”, a dynamic backswing position. Note how the trailing arm has folded with the elbow pointing down. This is a sign the trailing arm moved in an efficient sequence to the top of the backswing.

Next time you throw your swing on video, take a look at the rearview camera angle. From this new angle, you may find a swing fault or matchup needed in your golf swing to produce your desired ball flight.

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Instruction

How to stop 3-putting and start making putts

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When we are 3-putting we are ‘stuck in the box’. This means that when we are standing over the putt the second before we make our stroke everything happens to ‘go downhill.’ When this happens, depending on your playing level, things can become a bit erratic on the putting surface.

When a 3 putt happens, it is typically because you failed to do something before you made your stroke. The large majority of my 3 putts happen when I am not completely SOLD on the line of my putt, aka not committed. Questioning anything over the ball will lead to 3 putts.

Here is a breakdown/checklist on how to approach the green and get your ball in the cup without hesitation.

1. It starts with the approach shot into the green and the decision of direction you make to enter the hole. Scan the entire green with your eyes on the walk-up. Left to right and right to left. Look for a few seconds before you step onto the putting surface. This helps determine the high side and the low side, or if the green is relatively flat. Don’t be picky, just look and make a decision.

2. Once you get to the ball, mark it. Take 3 steps behind your ball mark. Now you must pick a line… Left, Center, or Right of the cup. (Skip step 3 if you know the line) It should take seconds but for those that are not sure it will take longer. Understand that every putt has a statistical level of difficulty. So to increase the odds, players must avoid putting in the unsure mind, and take the time to figure out a line. I also find that people who are 3 putting are overly confident and just not committed aka too quick to putt.

3. To commit, you must find the angle of entry into the cup. Walk up to the hole and look at the cup. How is it cut? Determine if it is cut flat or on a slope angle. This will help you see the break if you are having a hard time. Then determine how much break to play. Cut the hole into 4 quarters with your eyes standing right next to it. Ask yourself, which quarter of the cup does the ball need to enter to make the putt go in the hole?

I encourage using the phrases ‘in the hole’ or ‘to the hole’ as great reinforcement and end thoughts before stroking the ball. I personally visualize a dial on the cup. When my eyes scan the edges, I see tick marks of a clock or a masterlock – I see the dial pop open right when I pick the entry quadrant/tick mark because I cracked the code.

Remember, the most important parts of the putt are: 1.) Where it starts and 2. ) Where it ends.

4. To secure the line, pick something out as the apex of the putt on the walk back to the mark. Stand square behind the ball mark and the line you have chosen.

5. To further secure the line, place your ball down and step behind it to view the line from behind the ball. Don’t pick up the ball mark until you have looked from behind. When you look, you need to scan the line from the ball to the cup with your eyes. While you are scanning, you can make adjustments to the line – left, right or center. Now, on the walk into the box, pickup the mark. This seals the deal on the line. Square your putter head to the ball, with feet together, on the intended line.

6. To make the putt, look at the apex and then the cup while taking your stance and making practice strokes to calibrate and gauge how far back and through the stroke needs to be.

7. To prove the level of commitment, step up to the ball and look down the intended line to the apex back to the cup and then back to the apex down to your ball. As soon as you look down at the ball, never look up again. Complete one entire stroke. A good visual for a putting stroke is a battery percentage and comparing your ‘complete stroke’ to the percentage of battery in the bar.

8. Look over your shoulder once your putter has completed the stroke, i.e. listen for the ball to go in and then look up!

If you find a way that works, remember it, and use it!

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Instruction

Golf 101: Why do I chunk it?

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Whether you are a beginner, 10 handicaps, or Rory McIlroy, no one player is immune to the dreaded chunk. How many times have you hit a great drive, breathing down the flag from your favorite yardage and laid the holy sod over one? It’s awful and can be a total rally killer.

So what causes it? It could be several things, for some players, it could be a steep angle of attack, others, early extension and an early bottoming out and sometimes you’ve just had too many Coors Lights and the ground was closer than your eyes told you…been there.

This is Golf 101—let’s make it real simple and find one or two ways that a new golfer can self diagnose and treat themselves on the fly.

THE MAIN CAUSE

With beginners I have noticed there are two main things that cause the dreaded chunk:

  1. Players stand too close to the ball and have no way to get outta the way on the way down. This also really helps to hit Chunk’s skinny cousin: Skull.
  2. No rotation in any form causing a steep angle of attack. You’ve seen this, arms go back, the body stays static, the club comes back down and sticks a foot in the ground.

SO HOW DO I FIX MYSELF?

Without doing all-out brain surgery, here are two simple things you can do on the course (or the range) to get that strike behind the ball and not behind your trail foot.

This is what I was taught when I was a kid and it worked for years.

  1. Make baseball swings: Put the club up and in front of your body and make horizontal swings paying close attention to accelerating on the way through. After a few start to bend at the hips down and down until you are in the address position. This not only gives your body the sensation of turning but reorientates you to exactly where the bottom of your arc is.
  2. Drive a nail into the back of the ball: This was a cure-all for me. Whether I had the shanks, chunks, skulls, etc, focusing on putting the clubhead into the back of that nail seemed to give me a mental picture that just worked. When you are hammering a nail into a wall. you focus on the back of that nail and for the most part, hit it flush 9 outta 10 times. Not sure if its a Jedi mind trick or a real thing, but it has gotten me outta more pickles than I care to admit.

As you get better, the reason for the chunk may change, but regardless of my skill level, these two drills got me out of it faster than anything all while helping encourage better fundamentals. Nothing wrong with that.

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