Many believe that Ben Hogan developed the most powerful and accurate golf swing of all time. Lee Trevino would lend his opinion by saying that he saw Jack Nicklaus watch Ben Hogan practice but he never saw Hogan watch Nicklaus practice.
Legends are created from reality that is embellished over decades. When followers of Hogan speak of him you get the feeling that Hogan never hit an errant shot. Certainly, Hogan would admit that he didn’t hit every shot perfect. During the 1960 US Open at Cherry Hills, in contention, he sucked a wedge off the 17th green and back into the water to make a bogey 6 and then duck hooked a tee shot on 18 to finish with a triple bogey and take him out of contention. He limped in to a ninth place finish. He was 47, irritated at the bogey on 17, and both his concentration and his legs just gave out; you see lag starts with the legs.
He was human after all. Ball striking doesn’t always match up with decision making. Just ask Kyle Stanley who lost the Farmers at Torre Pines by making an 8 on the last hole to eventually lose in a playoff. It can’t happen but it did! I hear Forest Gump saying: “Stupid is as stupid does.” In fairness to Kyle, sometimes when we least expect it; God, fate, circumstances, chance, or bad luck gives us a kick in the gut, a chance to give up or grow even stronger. This warrior gets stronger and wins the next week at Phoenix with help from the third round leader, Spencer Levin. Good for Kyle.
What about Hogan’s swing has generations analyzing his action? Jim McLean and Tom McCarthy just published another book on Hogan entitled The Complete Hogan. I ordered it as we speak. Maybe the fascination comes from his unbelievable comeback. Certainly, there has been no modern era player to overcome the physical injuries from a head-on collision with a Greyhound bus not only to walk again but also to go on to win majors. Maybe the fascination comes from our appreciation for depression era heroes who went to war and came home to distinguish themselves and in so doing – built our great nation.
Ben Hogan’s swing personified lag. The picture you see exemplifies this statement of Homer Kelley’s from The Golfing Machine: “If the Pressure Point pressure that produced the initial Clubshaft flex is maintained it will maintain the flex also.”
I have had many lessons in my career. Every teacher has tried to convey the meaning of lag. The most profound affect on me came from those teachers who taught the ability to keep “pressure” against the shaft. Everything the body does is designed to keep pressure against the shaft. The grip, the left elbow pointing at the target, the cocked left wrist, the bent right wrist, the right forearm aligned with the shaft, the pivot, the push against the shaft, the flex of the right knee, and the push off the right foot.
Lag is the skill of keeping “pressure” against the shaft. It is a skill and can be learned; but only through practice. Hogan dug it out of the dirt and so can you. Practice. Practice. Practice.