Butch Harmon: About Golf
By Gary Van Sickle
Friday, February 03, 2012

Butch Harmon, one of golf’s best-known instructors, has a new instruction video coming out March 1, “Butch Harmon About Golf presented by Titleist.” The two-DVD set will feature more than 250 specific tips and more than four hours of instruction.
It’s about time you got some publicity. Tell me about the video.
The video is an accumulation of my whole life in golf, everything I’ve learned. The fun part is, it’s not just instruction. It’s stuff for juniors and women and seniors, and I sit down with all of the great players I’ve worked with and let the average person in on something they’d never hear -- what we did and how we did it. There’s instruction, all kinds of tips, all kinds of things that will help people. It’s four hours on two discs, but it’s set up so you can go to any section you want, you don’t have to watch the whole four hours.
That’s a relief.
It flows. The reason I wanted to work with Terry Jastrow, the director, is that he knows golf and he knows me. His attention to detail is phenomenal. It was a year-long process, but it was a passion and a labor of love. I’m very proud of the way it turned out. A lot of times after one of these things comes out, you go, ‘I wish I’d have done this or that differently.’ I didn’t have that this time. This came out really well.
Watson did a video last year and it was good. Not only do we get your insight, you’re preserving instruction knowledge and history. How great would it be if we had DVDs of Harvey Penick or Claude Harmon?
Without a doubt. My goal was to share what I’ve learned. I say in the start of the video, I haven’t invented anything, I learned all this from somebody else and I just wanted to share it with you.
Somebody in 2185 will probably say, Hey, put that Butch Harmon instruction video in again, I want to watch that.
Let’s hope so [laughs].
It’ll probably be someone in China.
The DVD will be in Chinese, too. When Terry was doing the foreign versions, they were screening interpreters’ voices so they would sound like me.
You’ve done books and tapes before, so this wasn’t a stretch for you, was it?
The filming is the easiest part. Then I just talk, like I’m giving a lesson. The hard part was trying to figure out how much context I wanted in there. I was taught by my dad to teach at a second-grade level, so even a second-grader can understand what you’re talking about. I wanted to make sure it wasn’t over-verbalized. It turned out better than I thought it would. The sequencing is good, it’s easy to listen to. If you want to skip to the short game or side-hill shots, you click right to that segment and you watch it.
So at the end, you escape in a submarine and the island blows up, right?
Yeah, I jump in my Aston Martin and drive off.
Obviously you can’t give private lessons to every person who wants them. This is a great way to fill that void.
People think I teach only tour players. I do teach average players, but there’s only so much time in the day. I can’t get to everybody. This is my way of sharing my knowledge so people can feel like they’re getting a lesson with me.
What’s your best little secret in the video?
The part where I sit down with the great players I worked with and we talk about what we did, what they took from my instruction. That was the original idea for the whole video. It’ll be fun for the average person to hear Greg Norman and I talking about what we did, or Fred Couples talking about how hard I was on him. I’m brutally honest with people, sometimes to a fault. Fred talks about that. I was hard on Freddie because Freddie is lazy. I had to use some tough love on him. Fred said, Butch is tough, not in a bad way, but he’s tough.
You’ve got to do what you’ve got to do to get the message across.
The faults and cures part is good, too. I explain the bad shots they hit and what causes them and how to get out of them. And the short game area is the most important, anyway. If your full swing never changed and you improved your short game, you’d shoot five or six shots lower. Nobody ever looks at it that way. We cover every part of the short game.
It’s amazing how many people take swing lessons but never putting lessons.
That’s right.
Your book, “Pro,” which was about your father, had such good practical lessons. I remember when Tiger won in Vegas and you said, you’ve always got to walk around with $300 in cash in case of emergency or so you can take care of the attendants in the locker room.
He’s still not taking care of them, while Phil goes overboard on tips. I get asked all the time, what do you want your legacy to be? I’d like people to know that I really cared about golf, how much respect and love I had for it. I have a great passion for what I do. It’s not an accident that I’ve been successful. I’ve worked at it my whole life. I come from a family of teachers. I just love doing it.
So there isn’t anything you’d change in this video?
This one, I think I got it right. I don’t have any regrets about this -- other than I’m 40 pounds heavier and look like I sat on an air hose. I told Terry, “I’d like to shoot the whole thing over again.” He said, “That would cost us half a million dollars. Why?” I said, “Well, goddammit, look how fat I am.” Terry being Terry said, “It’s a good barometer, you never want to go back and look like that.” Gee, thanks a lot, Terry.
So you’ve lost some weight?
I lost 45 pounds. You can see it in the video. As it gets near the end, I get smaller and smaller.
What’s next on your schedule ?
I start traveling again. The nice time is over. I’m on airplanes a couple times a month now. I’m doing nine events for Sky TV. I’m doing the Ryder Cup, too. I hope we win one, for a change. This will be my ninth Ryder Cup I’ve done for Sky and we’ve won only two. I’m the only American on the broadcast team, so you can imagine the crap I take.
The Europeans are loaded again. They’ve got 18 guys you’d want on the team but you can only pick 12, while the Americans have seven or eight guys you can really count on but you’ve got to have 12.
And Europe has the best captain they could have in Jose Maria Olazabal. People in the U.S. love him and his passion for the game is unparalleled. It’s going to be difficult for the U.S. to win.
Even the Ryder Cups we won, like ’91 and ’93 and ’99 were awfully close. We aren’t that far from being shut out for 25 years.
Everybody says, Why do we do so well in the Presidents Cup and not so well in the Ryder Cup? They’re two different animals. In the Presidents Cup, there are more people living in Florida who play for the International team than for the American team. For the Ryder Cup, there’s more to it than just golf. For years, they never won anything. But for it to continue to be great, we’ve got to start winning. If the same team wins all the time, it loses its luster.
It’s the only event where everybody cares about every shot, one way or the other.
It’s become the biggest event in golf. You feel the tension when you’re there. You feel the anxiety in the players, You feel the anxiety in the crowd. It’s pretty cool.
The Europeans went from having a chip on their shoulder from being disrespected, and now they’ve got a chip on their shoulder because they know that they’re better.
That’s one of the reasons they are better, because they have that. And they’ve earned it, unfortunately for us.

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