The Four Cornerstones Of Winning Golf by Butch Harmon Jr.

This book is written by a man who has taught greats in the game of golf like Greg Norman, Davis Love III, Tiger Woods, and Rickie Fowler. As of now, one of the games greatest swing teachers is retiring from teaching. But he leaves behind a legacy with multiple major winning students. In the book "The Four Cornerstones of Winning Golf" Butch reveals tried and true methods that he learned from his major winning, later turned golf instructor dad, Claude Harmon Sr., and from his dads teaching lessons. This has elements of father-son golf that many in the game can relate to and remind one of how they were introduced to the game of golf. This book is for those just started to the game, to those who could use a slight tweak in their swing, or who could gain more confidence at the range. Harmon writes that his goal is to take each student and give them a framework of his/her current level of ability, and develop a practical approach that will allow the golfer to make the most of their own physical and mental package, help them both swing the golf club and play the game as best they can. Harmon introduces his four cornerstones by stating that his approach to teaching is for both the short term, like when a golfer who has a current average score of 100 to be content to shoot in the low 90's. And importantly, can be applied to the long term through swings that vary over time. One thing I want to point out, is that the swing is just one single aspect of what you have control over in your golf game. The other major factors that YOU HAVE CONTROL OVER, are the clubs, things like the brand, style, shaft length, bounce on wedges, grips, things like the ball, and you, and that's really it, your the the remaining factor. But being aware is really the only thing we need in this regard. The other factors are things such as the course layout, like green speed, the grass type, the wind, and weather. These are things outside of our control. And basing how your going to get better shouldn't be on something that is outside of your control. Therefore if you only work on one part you cannot expect to improve completely. 9.Butch further breaks down the things in your control into four areas, or golfing cornerstones. They are ball striking, short game, the mental side, or course management, and physical conditioning. Again, here is a multiple faceted breakdown of the key aspects of ones game, that if only practiced individually will limit ones improvement. 


Ball Striking

Harmon starts out by pointing out that one ought to exercise reason when setting out to improve your game in this aspect. If you think too much about distance, you will sacrifice control, and visa verse. You must aim for a combination of facets that will stay in the short grass, and hit greens in regulation a high percentage of the time. And this will depend also on the hole and conditions themselves but for a high percentage of the time to make take the smart route, no doing any "Phil Michelson" inspired risks. This is further rationalized by emphasizing the need for a well developed short game, mental flexibility, and physical conditioning. One place this can be applied is at the range. Without practice none of the knowledge and confidence will take root, and will dissolve away with time. You have been warned...

  • You should not have to reach your arms into position to grip the golf club.
  • As a rule, though, many more golfers stand to far away from the ball at address than stand too close to it.
  • Forward pressing: Ben Hogan had one, its a cue that may help you with the transition from a good rhythmic waggle directly into the back swing. 
  • A low, straight-back takeaway is the foundation of a wide swing arc, which eventually translates into increased power.
  • The momentum of the downswing should carry the club around the body, but most us seem to think that they should swing the club around and up.


Short Game (The game within the game)

We've all heard it, but its true. The majority of shots in any round are within the 75 yard range. The following table from the book is considering a golfer who average score is 90. (All shots in the short game, which include putting, are shown in bold type.)

From this table we can see that in this example the person who averaged score is 90 strokes per round averages 50 short game shots per round, more than half the strokes per round! This is point is further advanced by considering that a large number of the putts are tap-ins. Strengthening the argument that short game are as important to your approach to golf then the full-swing shots. 

  • There are a remarkable number of great putters whose styles are completely different from one another.
  • Stick with the putter you love. 
  • Drill: Address a short putt (4-8 ft) normally, then take your left hand off the handle and place it by your left pants pocket. Stroke putts with your right hand only, swinging the club back low to the ground and then through to the target. When you get to the course with both hands on the grip, you'll feel as though delivering the clubface perfectly along your target line will be a snap. 


Mental Side/Course Conditioning:


In my mind this is the most under-rated aspect of golf. Even in this book, it seems a bit of an after thought. With about one page dedicated to it. But it is worth the consideration. PGA tour pro or weekend golfer, we're all going to hit wayward shots or let the slow group ahead of us get under our skin, it is how we respond to those distractions that are sure to come that we have control of. Eliminating the effects of those distractions every round will save strokes, and by conditioning our mind the same as our bodies, like awareness we can become to navigate our emotions and impulses. When we agree on what the mental side of the game really means, only then do we have a chance at attaining that self control we ultimately want. Expanding on the course management side of things, we need to realize that we want to make our round the most pleasurable as possible, with the least amount of anguish and frustration. Everyone has their own set of ideas as to what constitutes a fun round. But I bet for the majority of time it revolves around our performance. Which is our score. This book and these concepts assume this is your goal. By laying up when the rangefinder says 250 yards to the green, by hitting 3-wood off the tee more, by erring on the side of getting the ball close to the hole rather than taking the break out of a 8 footer by slamming it in. You will on average give yourself a better chance of not humbling yourself with big numbers and hurt ego's.

  • Good course managers pick a landing spot in the fairway that will put them in the most strategic position to attack the flag with their approach shot.
  • DON'T be "club-bound" meaning: don't think about what you should be hitting at a given shot, especially at the local muni. Maybe there's a hole that you heard "Joe" got home with a driver and wedge. Where you might think "Gee if Joe had a wedge approach, so should I!" so they reason that I should at least have a 9 or 8 iron just because someone else did. Knock it off, and play your own game. Do you think the tour players are taking into account what their competitors used? What we're really talking about here is clubface loft, disregarding shaft length variability. Start thinking about this right now and leave all the crowing about reaching the 14th hole with a driver/wedge to others. 
  • See your shots in advance  

Physical Conditioning:

Harmon stressing that the golf swing is indeed an athletic movement. When you break down every aspect and condition for flying the ball a 240-270 yard drive it comes down to the need to have the proper skill set to set you up to achieve said accomplishment. Harmon points out that a healthy conditioning skill set  goes beyond the strength of our muscles, which is vital, but also the sensory awareness needed to complete a repeatable and consistent putting stroke. And to go back to an earlier cornerstone, the body and mind are connected. Given the average person, it may not be possible or advisable to spend 2 hours in the gym everyday. But understand that you cannot hit the shots that say Greg Norman hit.  Because you are not physically prepared to do so. 

  • Stretch your golf muscles daily. 
  • Swing a weighted club
  • If you wish to improve your swing strength you must increase the strength of your hands and wrists. The stronger your hands and forearms are the better you will be able to handle your club twisting from off center club face mishits. Also, getting out of the rough. The stronger your arms, the better you will be able to power out of the rough from longer iron shots. Strengthening your hands you will notice that your better able to shop the ball out of the rough and your worst mishits aren't flying as wildly as before.



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