'Hacker' starts swing training

CHRIS STEVENSON -- Ottawa Sun

, Last Updated: 7:56 AM ET

ORLANDO, Fla. -- He has taught an American Tiger, an Australian Shark and a Moroccan King, but I'm guessing nothing could prepare Butch Harmon for a Canadian Hacker.

Harmon, instructor to the stars and one of Golf Digest's top 100 teachers, gave me a lesson on the range at the Orange County Golf Center yesterday.

How, you might wonder, does a pale sportswriter refugee from the Great White North get a lesson from Harmon, most famous for helping Tiger Woods become, well, Tiger Woods?

Simple. I asked.

Harmon was on hand yesterday for Demo Day, golf's equivialent of an all-you-can-eat buffet. The industry's movers and shakers assemble here every year for the PGA Merchandise Show to launch their new product lines and take orders.

Demo Day, introduced a couple of years ago, allows pros and buyers from across the world the chance to try stuff out on the range before the big show starts today inside the Orange County Convention Center.

Harmon was on hand to make appearances for some of the companies he represents, including Winn, Inc., the golf grip manufacturer.

We chatted about Winn's new products, the G7 and G8 grips (Butch likes the G8 because it has a firmer feel, and the better player will notice there's no feeling of torque or twisting there).

HIGH ON HYBRIDS

Then I picked his brain a little about where the game is going and what could help the average player these days. Hybrid clubs, maybe, that cross between a long-iron and fairway wood?

"Hybrids are definitely the way we are going. These things are so much easier to hit than a 2- or 3-iron," he said. "The average player puts a 2-iron down there and it doesn't have a lot of loft, there's no mass to it and it looks like a knife. (The hybrids) are so much easier to hit.

"I'd tell them to throw those 2- and 3-irons away and some (average players) down to the 4-iron."

Harmon also said most average players don't have enough loft on their new, modern drivers.

"I know a bunch of my Tour players have gone to 10.5, 11, 12 degree lofts on their drivers," he said. "Stewart Cink is driving with a 10.5. Corey Pavin is using a 12. I don't think the average person uses enough loft."

Thinking this might be a good time to jump in, the subject being average players, I ask: "How about some help?"

"Sure," said Butch, "grab something and let's see you hit one here."

A WINN WIN SITUATION

I picked up a Cobra driver with a Callaway shaft and a nice Winn grip from a bunch of clubs leaning against a bag.

Harmon took up a spot behind me and a knot of people formed to watch.

"What's your handicap?" Harmon asked.

"Six Canadian, eight U.S.," I said.

"What's your normal ball flight? Draw or a fade?"

"A little of both," I said. "I let the ball decide."

My first effort was a low screamer to the left.

"Can I use the excuse I haven't hit a ball since October?" I asked.

"Use any excuse you've got," said Harmon.

After a couple more efforts, he went into action.

"You don't have enough wrist cock. Get that club moving up," he said, moving beside me and moving my arms on the path he wanted during my takeaway. "I want the clubhead moving a little ahead of your hands. Take a couple of practice swings."

I hit another one, trying to do what he's asked. It's a top.

"That's okay," he said. "The club's in a different place than you're used to. Don't swing so hard. Try just 60%."

The next one's a beauty, a long, high draw against a backdrop of clouds in the Central Florida sky.

Wow. Why'd Tiger ever leave this guy?

"That," said Harmon, to chuckles from those watching, "will be a grand."

Wonder if I can expense that?


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