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Undercover Lesson

Inside a Rickie Fowler-Butch Harmon practice session: A minute-by-minute guide

January 31, 2024

Rickie Fowler and Butch Harmon have had a long, successful career together. After a brief interlude, the pair re-joined forces last year, and the move catapulted Fowler back into the winners circle for the first time since 2019.

In honor of longtime No. 1-ranked teacher Butch Harman being inducted onto Golf Digest's Legends of Golf Instruction list, we joined the pair for an undercover lesson. Being a fly on the wall as they two went to work was equal parts fascinating and informative.

You can watch the full lesson below, and scroll down for a minute-by-minute breakdown.

0:24 Butch asks Rickie to start with a stock drive, which provides a good baseline for the rest of us. Rickie says his stock shot is a little left-to-right fade. As the ball flies it reaches an apex of 130 feet, which is pretty high. The tour average is just over 100 feet.

1:04 Taking through some of the changes Rickie and Butch have been working through, Butch notes that Rickie's "consistency of trajectory is much better." Lots of us tend to think about side-to-side consistency, but how often do we think about high-and-low consistency?

1:45 Because Rickie is a fader, he says he feels uncomfortable hitting draws with his driver. When he really needs to draw it, like when the wind is going from left-to-right,

"A lot of times I'll hit 3-wood because I can hold it against the wind a little better," he says.

2:29 Fowler went into some fascinating detail when discussing his golf ball, the TaylorMade TP5. Like Tiger Woods, Fowler says he likes having a golf ball that spins more, because it gives him a sense of control.

"I like having spin, and I like being able to flight and take spin off as well. I'm looking for control. The ball I use is the spinner of the options," he explains. "Once you start getting closer to the knuckle-y side, the two-way misses are a lot closer. Sometimes those draws don't end up having enough spin on it."

4:44 How hard does Rickie swing on a stock shot?

"It's a controlled 100%. I'm not holding back a whole lot." he says.

7:24 Rickie misses two shots out to the right, but Butch explains that miss is a good one for Rickie.

"It's almost never going left," Butch says. "Most guys like to see the ball move left-to-right."

"The cuts come down a little softer," Fowler adds.

8:15 Rickie says his swing thought for hitting the ball low is turning the logo of his glove down towards the ground.

"I want a good chest and head release. I also feel like the emblem of the glove gets a little more down.

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9:28 Another good swing thought from Rickie which he says keeps his cut under control

"A big thing is making sure you don't slide into it," he says. "Staying behind it is important, but continuing to release it. When I'm trying to hit a cut, I'm thinking cut, I'm not trying to cut it."

10:50 One interesting note that Butch talks about was limiting the amount of curve on Rickie's stock shot. This is something I hear pop up a lot with pros: They don't want their stock shot shape getting too severe in either direction.

"When we started working together, your slight lines were a little wide. Not your sight lines are tighter, because the ball is not moving as much."

11:29 Butch notices that Rickie leans the ball slightly forward when he tees up the ball — "I've just always done it that way," Rickie says. — and that he tees the ball low for more control.

"You use the lowest tee of anyone on tour," Butch says.

12:47 Butch drops a little take here, which is a good reminder for the rest of us:

"I've never liked talking about ground force and things. I've never been a big 'try to hit way up on the ball' guy. That's great for long drivers that are trying to hit one ball out of 10 inside a 50 yard wide green. But you need to hit 10 out of 10 in the fairway."

13:55 It's actually pretty crazy how high Rickie hits the golf ball. Second-highest on tour, and he sends one 151 feet high into the air."

"I've never had a problem hitting the ball high," he says.

15:13 Some good news-you-can-use here from Butch: If you're trying to curve it, loft is your friend.

"We don't try to hit very many draws with the driver," Butch says. "If you really need to draw it, you're going to hit 3-wood because the more loft makes it easier to do."

16:32 What's Butch's swing thought for Rickie when he wants to draw it?

"Get your arms past your body," Butch says.

17:30 The video closes with Butch challenging Rickie.

"You're a little into the wind, and you've got a bunker you need to carry. Let's say you hit this one 305, 307," he says.

What does Rickie think in this situation?

"I try to be a little more controlled, slower on the backswing to make sure I don't get too quick," Fowler says. "I like the feeling of letting everything gather."

He sends a high draw down the range, and calls it a day.