Cut Through the Clutter – Just Imitate Ben Hogan
By Ed Sehl, PGA
One of the most effective moves that a golfer can make is illustrated in the book: Five Lessons, The Modern Fundamentals of Golf by Ben Hogan. This classic, published in 1957, would be an excellent starting point for anyone wanting to break 80. In fact Ben Hogan states in this book “I see no reason, truly, why the average golfer, if he goes about it intelligently, shouldn’t play in the 70’s-and I mean by playing the type of shots a fine golfer plays.”
The pictures above illustrate the key move to solid ball striking. This turning of the hips precedes and causes the classic impact position (insert below right) that has been imitated for the past 50 years since this book was first published. He is saying that the pivot starts the downswing and the pivot is more rotational than lateral. One of the benefits of this motion is the ability to control the club face with the rotation of the body and not the hands.
Dave Marr used to tell me about Ben Hogan preparing for the Masters by going to Seminole and practicing. Ben would start out by intentionally hitting a slice. He would keep at it until the slice became a full-release fade. The picture describes the “lowering of the arms and hands.” In my opinion, this lowering not only flattened the swing but also opened the clubface even more; so much so that the right elbow and forearm will be significantly under (and behind) the left forearm and the palm of the right hand will feel pointed to the sky. The right hand remains palm-up to the Plane during the Uncocking of the Left Wrist. This will produce a slice if you don’t rotate the body (note the band stretched from the belt buckle to the left wrist). Keep in mind that the swing is flatter after impact. Down-the-line pictures of Ben Hogan have his hands disappearing to the left, which is on-plane and thereby ensuring consistency. Put the pieces together. Start down with the pivot so the face naturally opens coming down so you can release the face by letting the arms and hands follow the pivot to the left – on plane and not take off, on their own, down-the-line.
Ben Hogan could put the golf ball in the exact spot he wanted. His record in the US Open and his one time British Open win at Carnouste in 1953 exemplified his accuracy. This “move” as pictured has been criticized as getting the club stuck behind you. Again, in my opinion, we should all be stuck like Hogan was – stuck in the ability to hit the ball with an accuracy that has yet to be matched.