Videos on DVD: Golf's grand library

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Golf videos are everywhere. Formerly sold in VHS format, they are now primarily available as DVDs. Subjects range from instruction to entertainment to history.

“DVD is a great medium for golf instruction, and our best sellers deal with instruction,” says Robert Kraut, president and CEO of The Booklegger, a Grass Valley, Calif., company that has been a golf-only outlet for books and videos since 1974. You can slow it down, you can stop it, you can watch it in slow motion, and you can see it very, very clearly.

“We sell a lot of DVDs from teachers like David Leadbetter, Hank Haney and Jim McLean. That being said, there are some wonderful DVDs out there that don’t necessarily deal with instruction.”

Case in point: “The Fairway Gourmet” series, which originally appeared on TV on PBS. Adventurous chef Jacky Pluton delights at collecting recipes from far-flung golf destinations.

Kraut, unable to obtain Pluton’s phone number, ended up with an e-mail address. He wasn’t sure it was valid, but he sent an e-mail anyway.

Voila! “He called me back from a motorcycle in France,” Kraut says. “He was delightful, and we struck a deal right then and there.”

Some DVDs evolve from a fascination with a particular person. “Mike Austin: Secrets from the Game’s Longest Hitter” is the culmination of Mike Dunaway’s friendship with Austin, who died in 2005 at age 95.

Austin is best-known for clobbering a 515-yard drive in the 1974 U.S. National Seniors, a predecessor to the U.S. Senior Open. Austin was 64 at the time. The tournament was held in Las Vegas at Winterwood Golf Course (now called Desert Rose). He had a 15 mph wind at his back.

“Forget about the distance,” says Dunaway, himself a well-known long driver. “He had the world’s best golf swing. He was technically and anatomically perfect.”

Perhaps the biggest hidden gem in the golf video world came from Clem Darracott. After reading in early 1967 that Ben Hogan would appear in his last Masters, Darracott showed up in Augusta, Ga., with an 8mm home-movie camera.

The normally camera-shy Hogan befriended Darracott and invited him inside the ropes. The DVD contains 23 minutes of vintage Hogan, who was 54 at the time. It was filmed from behind as Hogan hit shots.

The only narration is Darracott’s voice.

“We got a phone call one day,” Kraut says. “The voice said, ‘I heard about your company, and I have this 8mm footage of Ben Hogan.’ He wanted to know what to do.

“We told him to get in touch with the Hogan estate. So he got their permission, and we brought it out on VHS (“Ben Hogan: In Pursuit of Perfection”). Later we converted it to DVD. It is very special.”

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Better Golf for Kids

The skinny: Features golf professional James Pugliese, founder of The Better Golf Academy. Exceptionally well-done, it leads children through basics and fundamentals of the game and shows how to get started.

Cost: $14.98

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Ben Hogan: In Pursuit of Perfection

The skinny: Composed in an intimate, homespun style. Filmed at the 1967 Masters, where Hogan shot 66 in the third round (including a back-nine 30).

Cost: $29.95

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Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf: Hogan vs. Snead

The skinny: Played Feb. 21, 1965, at Houston Country Club as part of Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf series, which ran on television from 1962 through 1970.

Cost: $19.95

• • •

The Science of Golf

The skinny: Conceived by the PGA Tour, this three-disc set examines the golf swing, fitness, strategy and a variety of other subjects. Includes some excellent 3-D animation.

Cost: $29.95

• • •

Bobby Jones: How I Play Golf

The skinny: The classic 18-part series that is an essential part of any golf library.

Cost: $69.98

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Rotella Speaks

The skinny: Includes five DVDs. All you ever wanted to know about the mental side of golf. Sports psychologist Bob Rotella not only has counseled numerous touring pros, but he also is a skilled amateur player.

Cost: $69.95

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The Fairway Gourmet

The skinny: This two-DVD set will appeal to golfers with an international taste for golf and food.

Cost: $24.95

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Johnny Miller: Fixing Your Swing

The skinny: Miller has a knack for explaining the golf swing and offering tips that are easy to understand. He focuses heavily on playing, not just beating balls on a practice range.

Cost: $19.95 readers: We value your input and welcome your comments, but please be respectful in this forum.