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Ben Hogan Golf
Swing Fundamentals

The Ben Hogan golf swing is a conceptually simple swing. For those interested in trying to learn it, the difficult part is teaching the body to move in ways that are new and different from anything done before.

Watching videos and reading Ben Hogan's book Five Lessons can be very interesting, but does little to help a person understand what Hogan did. Professional golfers Larry Nelson and Jason Dufner reportedly developed their swings based on the book and videos of Hogan swinging, and while they became exceptionally good golfers, neither developed a swing that was much like Hogan's.

If outstanding golfers like these can't learn Hogan's swing from videos and Five Lessons, what chance does an amateur have of figuring out Hogan's secrets? There is still a benefit, however. The fact that Larry and Jason became good players shows that trying to learn Hogan fundamentals, even if only partially successful, can have great benefits!

A Quick Look At Ben Hogan's Golf Swing Fundamentals

Ben Hogan had a nearly perfect golf swing, far closer to perfect than any other player, in my opinion. Following is a brief overview of some of Hogan's more obvious golf swing fundamentals. As lucid as his descriptions were, golfers misinterpret much of the information in the book because some of the more important aspects of his swing were left out and video of his swing is very difficult to interpret, even for instructors who use video all the time!

1) Grip—very well documented in Five Lessons, The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. However, if you don't swing almost exactly like Hogan, adopting his grip will very likely cause problems and adversely affect your golf game! Note—the right hand is somewhat on top of the left hand, it is not parallel the left hand. The crease between thumb and forefinger of the right hand (right handers) is slightly on the left side of the shaft (as you look down at it). Get ready to hit the ball to the right if you insist on trying it!!!

Why did Hogan use a slightly weak grip (what a lot of instructors would call very weak)? Simple, he didn't use his hands to throw the clubhead into the ball. FYI: the stronger the grip, the more leverage the hands have (probably why it is called a strong grip) and it becomes much easier to throw the clubhead forward.

2) Address is well documented, but note that almost all amateurs have a stance that is too narrow. Check the illustration with the dotted lines drawn from the shoulders to the feet (in the book). A wider stance tends to allow a golfer's body to work better during the swing, thus possibly increasing distance, and can possibly help all golfers, not just those trying to learn Hogan's swing.

Beware of the two illustrations in the book on the page where one of the images has his arms wrapped. This was a swing feeling, not the position Hogan used at address, even though he specifically wrote that it was (one of several mistakes and contradictions of the book). To check, look at the images of his setup (page 41 in the paperback version I have) and note that the arms aren't forced together and don't look like the arms on the page with the arms wrapped. In fact, it doesn't look like he is making any effort to keep them close. Instead, the right elbow is out a little and is further away from the body than the left arm, definitely not tucked in.

3) First Part of The Swing (backswing)—there are four main aspects: A) shoulder turn, B) the motion of the arms, C) wrist cock, D) swing plane. The correct motion of the arms is the key to the backswing, and when combined with shoulder turn is what creates swing plane and allows for significantly more cocking of the wrists.

Hogan made a huge deal about swing plane in the book, but didn't tell how to get there, so most everyone gets this simple move wrong. What you need to know is that Hogan actually used swing plane to fine tune his backswing, not develop it. So instead of swing plane, focus on shoulder turn and getting the arms to move correctly. I'm not going to tell you how to move the arms, but you can try to figure it out yourself by using a mirror and film your swing so you can compare to video of Hogan swinging. Don't let your club get inside! Once you get things close to being right, then you can begin to focus on swing plane to pull it all together.

Another very important aspect of Hogan's swing was his steady head, which was a result of both his great body rotation and how he used his arms. Don't force the head to stay still, except maybe as a training drill to be used intermittently. The steady head is the result of correct rotation, there is little body movement in either the back or forward direction (toward or away from the target). If done correctly, it would feel as if the head were floating, almost isolated from the body, as tremendous forces are being generated around it.

4) Second Part of The Swing (forward swing)—Hogan stressed the importance of beginning the forward swing with an unwinding motion of the hips. Except for very good golfers, this is generally disastrous advice because people tend to overdo it, resulting in a spin-out, which is what happens when the body gets out ahead of the arms. The result is a weak shot to the right (right handers) because the club doesn't release.

The arms and body have to work together in a very specific way and focusing only on the hips throws everything out of whack! If you watch slow motion video of Hogan swinging, you should be able to see that Hogan's hips become most active near impact, not at the beginning of the forward swing, as is the likely misinterpretation. Also, you'll often see the right elbow move sooner and more than the hips as he transitioned into the forward swing (don't try to do this, it's a result of flattening the plane during the transition).

As an interesting point, the prevailing swing on Tour now is the Bomb and Gouge swing where the focus is on maximum distance, accuracy has taken a back seat. At the same point where Hogan's hips were moving the fastest, Bomb and Gougers are greatly slowing, and often stopping, their hip rotation. This is so they can throw the clubhead into the ball with arms and hands, which can't happen if the hips are leading the rotation. Obviously Bomb and Gougers swing differently from Hogan, but don't make the mistake of thinking that because they focus on power over accuracy that they would hit further than Hogan.

Hogan is so renown for his accuracy that many golfers today don't know that he was also extremely long, when he wanted to be. I've come across two estimates of Hogan's swing speed, both of which were calculated using video frame rates. Both estimates were in the low 130 mph range. I don't know if these numbers are accurate, but I do know that he could pretty much hit it further than any other Tour player of his time, but because his goal was always accuracy, he rarely swung near his maximum ability. Not bad for someone who was 5'9" tall and who's playing weight ranged from 135 to 145 pounds.

As of the end of 2020, there is only one Tour player who can reach, and even exceed, Hogan's supposed speed. That would be Bryson DeChambeau. While Bryson's accomplishment is truly amazing, trading accuracy, even a slight amount, for maximum power has very significant costs, so it will be interesting to see how Bryson does. I suspect he will have short bursts of excellent play, but overall will struggle with inconsistency. Whatever happens, it sure is fun to watch!

Getting back to Hogan, one very important aspect of his forward swing was making sure the hands (he says left wrist bone) were leading the clubhead into impact. With correct Hogan fundamental movements, everything is closely synchronized and hands ahead can't be overdone, but can be with just about any other swing style, so be careful. Hands ahead can help golfers who draw and hook, but slicers should avoid it.

The key to Hogan's forward swing is something he didn't discuss and it is related to keeping the hands ahead. That is, he didn't manipulate the club. This means he didn't roll his arms or flip the club with his hands and arms, as all other golfers do, even Tour Professionals! While he didn't specifically say not to roll or flip, he did write that trying to control the clubface (which is the purpose of manipulation), is "pure folly" and he had an illustration in Five Lessons that demonstrated this (see his two handed basketball pass illustration).

 

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