Renowned golf coach Claude Harmon III discusses the progress of his self-named Claude Harmon III Golf Performance Academy at Dubai’s Els Club.
The Harmon name has been associated with golf coaching for more than 75 years, spanning three generations.
First in the legendary lineage was Eugene Claude Harmon Sr, winner of The Masters in 1948, friend of Ben Hogan and a teaching professional. His sons Craig, Bill, Dick and Claude Jr (‘Butch’) all followed him into teaching, with the latter arguably the world’s most famous golf coach having overseen Tiger Woods’ rise from teen prodigy to global superstar.
Now Butch’s son Claude Harmon III is ensuring the legacy lives on, with some of the sport’s biggest names currently under his tutelage, including Dustin Johnson, Rickie Fowler, Jimmy Walker, and current world No. 1 Brooks Koepka.
The family’s association with the Middle East stretches back more than a decade, with Claude Harmon III opening the Butch Harmon School of Golf at The Els Club in January 2009. This year, the facility – the Harmons’ first outside of the United States – was rebranded the Claude Harmon III Golf Performance Academy. It was fitting given Claude Harmon III’s contribution to golf in the UAE.
“Dubai is somewhere I consider a second home,” Harmon III tells Sport Industry Insider. “I lived here for three years and the emirate has a strong golfing community. It was a no-brainer for us to set up here. The UAE is one of my favourite places in the world and Dubai is one of my favourite cities.
“Golf has grown hugely since we first arrived. Before we built our amazing facility here in Dubai, there was just desert all around it. Now there are high-rises all around! Personally I feel our Academy has changed the landscape of golf and its instruction, making it what it is today. How have we done this? By focusing on fitness and junior development.”
Those twin tenets remain in place despite Harmon having relocated back to the States and, with the academy now an eponymous facility, there has been even more incentive for him to remain involved with its progress in Dubai.
“If you put your name to something you want to make people live that brand and feel part of the family,” Harmon explains. “Whether they’re an employee or a pupil. I think that’s the key reason as to why we’ve been so successful.
“We’ve created our very own culture, not just for our customers but for our employees too. Most people in life just have a job. At the Academy in Dubai, we create opportunities for those who want to have careers in golf.”
Harmon’s own career has exploded in recent years thanks to the remarkable success of the players he has coached, with Brooks Koepka’s back-to-back wins in both the PGA Championship and US Open between 2017 and 2019 arguably the highlight.
“All of the players are different in their own unique ways so it’s about focusing on each individual’s needs. It has been a blast working with Brooks and see him rise up through the game in meteoric fashion. I feel blessed just being able to work with elite athletes in their chosen profession and watch them lift trophies.”
Although most of Harmon’s time is now spent coaching the best players in golf, the American still finds working with amateurs incredibly gratifying and insists the passion for helping people improve runs through all of the Claude Harmon III Golf Performance Academy’s coaches.
“It brings me so much satisfaction,” he says. “At the Academy in Dubai, we’re able to use the same modern technology we apply to the pros such as launch monitors, 3D and weight transfer technology. Our coaches are then able to break this down and disseminate this information to the average golfer.
“Many amateurs try to emulate or mimic another player’s style (usually a professional’s) but when teaching, our instructors tell players to focus on themselves. We just want our pupils to be the best version of themselves and they’ll only manage this if they focus on their game alone.”
The Claude Harmon III Golf Performance Academy will be joined at the Els Club later this year by a brand new leisure facility that will include a gymnasium, large resort-style swimming pool, a swim-up pool bar, a children’s play area and an additional restaurant.
It should help elevate the facility further as it aims to compete with other golf academies in Dubai, including the Peter Cowen academies at Emirates Golf Club and Dubai Creek Golf & Yacht Club, as well as the David Leadbetter Golf Academy at JA Resorts & Hotels in Jebel Ali. Despite the competition, Harmon is confident that his product remains a market leader.
“Honestly, my proudest moment is not as a coach but actually what we’ve done here in Dubai and the Middle East in allowing the sport of golf to flourish. Our Academy has allowed both amateurs and our instructors to find their place in the game.
“We’ve changed the landscape and I am extremely proud how, even today, we’re still seeing our competitors mimic our model. Imitation is the highest form of flattery after all!”