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Cover story: Golf Instruction

7 Things All Great Players Do

Here's who you should copy—and how to do it

My time around great players started with my dad. He finished top 10 in 11 major championships and won the Masters in 1948. His closest friend was Ben Hogan. When they'd play practice rounds together, I'd tag along silently, asking a million questions afterward. My clearest memory of Mr. Hogan is how he could control his ball. He always left it in the right place, even when he missed. And he could control it through the air like nobody--high, low, draw, fade.

It was incredible to watch.

One day my dad asked me to play with him and Mr. Hogan. By then I was a know-it-all teenager, and I got all the way to the first tee before my nerves took over. I remember standing over that first shot: I was wearing a visor, and on my last look down the fairway I saw a pair of golf shoes out of the corner of my left eye. Mr. Hogan's shoes. All those years watching him, and now he was watching me. I flared it right and didn't settle down until he threw his arm around me a few holes later.

Great players have a huge effect on us, because they excel at something we love to do. Here I'll show you what I've learned from some of the top players I've coached. Some are things we worked on together; others, just like Mr. Hogan's ball control, are things I simply marveled at. I'm sure these lessons can help you play better.

May 2012
Butch Harmon

Hitting balls without stopping will bring out your natural rhythm.

1. TEMPO

Ernie Els: Swing with natural rhythm
I started working with Ernie in 2008. Watching him hit golf shots is like watching a great performer. His long, flowing swing looks effortless. But I promise you that club is moving at impact--up to 130 miles an hour. Then you look at a player like Nick Price, who has a quick, brisk action. They've both found a rhythm that works for them, but they might as well be from different planets.

The point is, try to identify the pace that produces your best shots. If you talk fast and walk fast, you should have a quicker rhythm. If you stroll down the fairway and speak in long, detailed sentences, you're probably a smooth swinger. Try this drill: Tee up four balls in a row, and hit one after another without stopping. By the third or fourth ball, you'll be swinging with your natural rhythm. Take that feel to the course.
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