As the most acclaimed golf instructor in the country, Butch Harmon has helped shape the skills of Tiger Woods, Dustin Johnson, Greg Norman and other championship caliber talent over the years. He even spent time as the personal instructor for the king of Morocco. A Las Vegas resident since 1997, the former PGA pro now runs the Butch Harmon School of Golf at the Rio Secco Golf Club in Seven Hills. Harmon is also a broadcaster and author with several books to his name and a regular column in Golf Digest. He served in the army during Vietnam and founded the Harmon’s Heroes Foundation to help disabled veterans and military families. With his heart clearly entrenched in the community, Butch Harmon opens up to Luxury Estates International about living in Las Vegas, his love of golf and the one thing most players forget to do.
LEI: Why did you move to Las Vegas?
Harmon: It was the perfect situation. I approached Rio Secco with the idea of doing a high-end quality school on a smaller scale. There were great golf schools at the resorts, but they were too big. Everybody was just a number. We wanted to do something more personal and Las Vegas was the perfect place to do it. People come to Vegas to spend money. We figured we’d give them a great experience of fun and learning during the day — and then they’d have the city at night to do whatever they like to do. It’s worked out perfectly.
You’ve counted Tiger Woods and Dustin Johnson among your students. Those are some big names. Is there anything those two have in common that helps make them exceptional students?
I think when you look at Tiger Woods, he was the best player in the world the 10 years I was with him. He worked harder than everyone. He had a tremendous God-given talent but he made himself better and better. Dustin Johnson is the number-one player in the world now. I never thought I’d see another one who resembled Tiger Woods, but D.J. is starting to get that way with his dominance and intimidation factor.
In addition to Rio Secco, what are some of your other favorite courses in Las Vegas?
I really like Cascata and Shadow Creek. I’ve only played the new Discovery property once — The Summit — but it’s a nice place. They’re doing a great job out there. The vistas are beautiful. The service is wonderful. They’ve sold a tremendous amount of real estate up there.
Living here for more than 20 years, you’ve seen a lot of growth. How has Las Vegas changed as a golf community?
When I first started coming here in the late 60s, there wasn’t a lot of golf. Then Las Vegas almost overbuilt golf courses. Some had to close, which is too bad. Now we have a tremendous variety of high-end courses and others at price points where everybody can afford to play the game. That’s the way it should be.
What are the advantages of living in a golf course community like Anthem Country Club?
It’s nice for me. Anthem Country Club is only five minutes away from where I work at Rio Secco. It’s a great development. We got in on the ground level and built our first house here in ‘99. It’s a family-oriented gated community with a nice golf course and a great environment.
Aside from golf, what do you like to do for fun around town?
I’m a sports junkie. I’ve been a season ticket holder for UNLV basketball for 15 or 16 years. We go to concerts. We’re big George Strait fans. George is a good friend of mine, so whenever he comes to town, we try to see his show and hang out with him. We’ve seen all the Cirque du Soleil shows. I think “O” is the best. We’ve seen it five times because we like to take friends when they visit.
Before we wrap up… any quick advice for golfers looking to improve their game?
One of the hardest things for golfers to do is leave their egos in the car when they show up at the course. Everybody thinks they’re better than they are. Understand your own game and what you’re not good at. That’s what you need to work on. A lot of golfers only want to practice what they’re good at.