Butch Harmon, speaking to an audience of caddies, was preaching to the choir.
He had just been asked what he thought was the biggest mistake amateurs make, and toward the end of his answer, he laughed. During the question-and-answer session last week with three loopers as part of a fundraising event for the caddie-focused Evans Scholars Foundation, Harmon knew he had understanding ears.
“They never take enough club,” he said, his answer recorded in a video shared this week by the Western Golf Association and Evans Scholars Foundation Twitter account. “They take a club that if they hit it their absolute max, they may reach the hole. I tell them all the time, if it’s a 7-iron, take a 6-iron and swing easy.
“You guys caddying, you know they never take enough club.”
Notably here, the problem is simple, as is the solution. This has nothing to do with posture, grip, backswing or follow-through. Just fish through your bag and find the lower number. And while you may disagree with the overall thought of one of golf’s greatest-ever teachers, it’s hard to argue with the value of taking a smooth swing.
The Q&A also gave us a few more nuggets from Harmon.
His biggest golf pet peeve is much like his amateurs-biggest-mistake answer — it also isn’t complicated, but nonetheless is recurring. “Slow play,” he said. “My gosh, it’s the all-time worst, and Tour players don’t help it any. TV doesn’t help it any, either. Just get on with it.”
And Harmon said he cried during Woods’ win at the ’97 Masters.
The complete exchange from the video is below:
“What’s the best golf swing you’ve ever seen?”
“Best golf swing I’ve ever seen would be one that works, to be honest with you,” Harmon said. “I think the one that looks the nicest are the modern day ones that have nice tempo, Ernie Els or Fred Couples. But I believe in anything that works. There isn’t one way to do it.”
“What is the biggest mistake you see amateurs make?”
“They never take enough club,” Harmon said. “They take a club that if they hit it their absolute max, they may reach the hole. I tell them all the time, if it’s a 7-iron, take a 6-iron and swing easy. You guys caddying, you know they never take enough club.”
“Who’s a player from the past you wish you could have worked with?”
“Oh, boy. Interesting. I’ve had so much luck and success with great players. I’ve always wished — and this guy won two U.S. Opens — I almost wish I would have had an opportunity to work with Retief Goosen. Retief Goosen has a tendency under pressure to hit pull hooks off the tee. Now, that’s not saying there’s anything wrong with his swing. He just was a guy that I always felt like I could help and make even better. But I never had that opportunity.”
“Rank the majors: Masters, PGA Championship, Open Championship, U.S. Open.”
“Masters is obviously my favorite because my father won the Masters, but the Open Championship is the true championship of golf,” Harmon said. “You’re playing great links courses, and it’s the best players from all over the world.”
“What is your favorite golf course?”
“Well, I grew up at Winged Foot, so I’m just going to stick with Winged Foot,” Harmon said.
“Who’s your favorite caddie of all time?”
“Bones Mackay,” Harmon said. “Not only a great caddie, but a great guy and a dear friend.”
“What’s your biggest golf pet peeve?”
“My biggest golf pet peeve is slow play,” Harmon said. “My gosh, it’s the all-time worst, and Tour players don’t help it any. TV doesn’t help it any, either. Just get on with it.”
“What is your favorite Tiger win from your time working together?”
I would have to say it was his first Masters, in ’97, because when I first started working with Tiger, the neat thing about Tiger was he was very inquisitive about the old players,” Harmon said. “And I told him a story once. I said, you know my father said it was the greatest feeling in the world when he walked up the 72nd hole and he had a five-shot lead, and there’s no way he could have lost the Masters. And I said, someday, you’ll have that opportunity. Well, he had a lot more than a five-shot lead walking up the 18th hole, but I can remember standing behind the 18th green, behind his mom and dad, and it was kind of overcast, but I still had my sunglasses on because I had tears in my eyes because it actually happened.”