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Ben Hogan’s Timeless Tips



Advice from the legendary ball-striker that ran in Golf Digest through the years
By Alex Myers
Follow on Twitter: @AlexMyers3
December 2011

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In an article on how to hit the ball farther, Hogan emphasized acceleration on the downswing, but more through following a certain sequence of movements than by merely trying to swing hard. Hogan believed following the proper chain of events (hips, then shoulders, then arms and hands) built up more energy. Once you start from the top in that particular order, he said to “execute the remainder of the downswing with gradually increasing tempo” so that the club is traveling its fastest just after impact.

Golf Digest Resource Center

Accelerate through impact (Summer, 1950)

When possible, Hogan preferred to play low chip/pitch shots with spin, since he felt they were easier to control. To do this, he instructed golfers to keep their hands in front of the ball and low through impact. He said to keep actual hand movement to a minimum in order to avoid trying to scoop the ball.

Think Low Around The Greens (Early Summer, 1951)

When possible, Hogan preferred to play low chip/pitch shots with spin, since he felt they were easier to control. To do this, he instructed golfers to keep their hands in front of the ball and low through impact. He said to keep actual hand movement to a minimum in order to avoid trying to scoop the ball.

Make a proper weight shift for crisper contact (May, 1952)

Dallas Jones Studio, Chicago

Hogan thought one of the amateur golfer’s most-common flaws is that they hit the ground before hitting the ball when using their irons. To hit down on the ball properly, he suggested golfers focus on shifting their weight to their front side on the downswing. That move will keep a person from feeling like they are falling back at impact, and it help ensures a golfer will “take turf” after making contact with the ball.

Store Up Your Power (June, 1954)

Golf Digest Resource Center

Hogan’s accuracy was his biggest trademark, especially off the tee. But while he rarely missed fairways, he was also one of the longest hitters of his era. To accomplish both, he keyed on delaying his wrist action during the downswing. The result was his famous lag in which he allowed the clubhead to fall well behind the hands — a move that is probably most closely replicated today by Sergio Garcia.

Pronate To Fade (February, 1956)

AP Photo

After years of struggling with hooking the ball, Hogan discovered a way to cut that dreaded shot out of his game completely by hitting, well, a cut. He did this by pronating his left wrist (turning the palm down) as he took the club back and then cupping it (both part of his famous “secret” he revealed in a Life Magazine article in 1955) at the top. The move got the clubface so open, that no matter how hard he swung coming down, he avoided shutting it too much. The result was a consistent, high, left-to-right ball flight that he relied on to win nine major championships.

Flatten your lead wrist at impact (April, 1956)

Golf Digest Resource Center

Hogan was very rigid in his belief that golfers needed to follow closely a series of proper fundamentals to have a sound swing. However, one thing that jumped out at him when comparing a good ball-striker to a hack is the position of the leading wrist (the left wrist for a right-handed player) at impact. Hogan thought the wrist should supinate or be bowed out toward the target at impact, whereas someone making poorer contact usually pronates their leading wrist into a weaker position. He felt this allowed for crisper contact, while de-lofting the club for more distance.

Don’t Overlook The Grip (October, 1960)

Hogan’s famous instructional book, “Five Lessons,” begins with a chapter on fundamentals, specifically, the grip, which he thought was the foundation of any good golf swing. In an excerpt of the book in the magazine, he demonstrates how one should grip the club and stresses that both hands must be firmly on the club and work together as one unit. “They can’t if you grip the club almost correctly — which really means partially incorrectly,” Hogan

Think Swing Plane instead of swing arc (June, 1985)

Golf Digest Resource Center

In a rare interview with an older Hogan, the golf legend demonstrates his swing and firmly states the advice he gives in his book “Five Lessons”, have held up over time. “I would write it the same way I did in 1957. Everything I know about the full swing is in here. I don’t think the fundamentals will ever change.” One lesson he revisits in particular is that every swing has two planes — one for the backswing and a slightly shallower one for the downswing. His tip to nail this down is to “visualize the backswing plane as a large pane of glass that rests on the shoulders, as it inclines upward from the ball.” Hogan says the plane of the backswing “should remain parallel with the pane to the top of the backswing,” before getting into the shallower downswing. At no point should the club cross through the plane and break the imaginary glass.

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  1. mike

    Feb 15, 2013 at 3:39 pm

    In regards to Hogan’s closed stance. It usually promotes a right to left shot. Look at Fred Couples. He has a open stance and he draws the ball right to left. Open stances most of the time create a fade(left to right). What ever works the best for the individual golfer is most important. That is why you see all different types of swings on the PGA tour. They all have one thing in common. They square the club face at impact and 95% of the weekend golfers do not. Having a simple swing for a amateur golfer that can be repeated time and time again is best suited for them. Hogan tries to instill this in his teaching. Hogan’s book helped me in a lot of ways but I ended up making changes in my swing that allowed me to have a repeated golf swing I could rely on. Not exactly like Hogan’s of course but with his teachings in mind.

    • Jose Nunya

      Feb 23, 2014 at 7:10 am

      If you play enough golf you can have just about any type swing you’ like. If you’d like to work a regular job, raise a family and be able to shoot in the 80’s you should probably have a fundamentally sound swing. Anybody can hack it up and some even have fun. I just hope they aren’t playing in the 4 some in front of me.

  2. scott rank

    Jan 8, 2012 at 2:42 am

    You are crazy if you think hand action manages ball flight.

  3. buteman

    Jan 7, 2012 at 6:56 am

    Excellent comment W.U. I have Hogan’s book and refer to it often in the off season. I firmly believe there are very few amateur golfers that could emmulate Hogan’s swing.
    The three chapters that would be of great help to golfers especially novice golfers are the Grip, Stance and Posture chapters.
    Those three fundamentals are of the utmost importance and I believe that most amateur golfers easily bypass those fundamentals and focus on golf swings that can not be properly executed with poor basic set ups.
    Also ( in my humble opinion ) it would take years of practice to perfect what Hogan states is the proper sequence in the downswing.
    Let’s not forget, the approximate time from start to finish when hitiing a ball with a driver is 6-7 seconds.
    How would the average guy learn to make those moves in that period of time when their principal concern is where the ball is going.
    On a final note, Hogan fought the hook for years but I find it quite incredible that when he set up he did so continually with a closed stance which as we both know simply encourages a right to left shot.


    • AndyG

      Mar 30, 2013 at 3:22 am

      Mr Hogan, may have had his right foot slightly back at address but he’s shoulders hips were all square to target.
      Most of us who try to copy that stance have our hips matching our foot line stance too, promoting that right to left flight.

  4. Rod_cccgolfusa

    Jan 2, 2012 at 10:59 am

    Hogan’s teaching can be better understood through the perspective of Henry Cotton, the Open champion. Cotton made a strong case for understanding how the grip and hand action were to be used in managing the flight of the ball. This aspect of instruction seems to have been lost in the infatuation with driving distance.

  5. W.U.

    Dec 23, 2011 at 10:35 am

    The Myth of Ben Hogan’s swing: people are so in awe of his swing, but in reality, his swing was quite un-conventional. He made it work for him, but a lot of people would find it hard to copy it, as it had its own quirks.
    One, he never turned his shoulders fully. You can see from his heyday in 53 or 54, when they filmed him, his left shoulder never made it all the way down to his chin – not even close. He never made a full shoulder turn. Instead, he had long arms for a short guy, and he was also also able to literally be “Gumby” with his arms and his wrists, with which he had extra flexibility.
    Two, he stood closed. His feet were always set up closed, the longer the club! Which is a totally uncomfortable for most, it would make most players hook it. It’s completely against conventional wisdom to stand shut to target. You would think we have to stand parallel to target – but not Hogan. But that is how Hogan liked to make it look like he was making an extra wide turn with his hips, by standing closed. And in fact, it also meant that he had a very flexible torso, hips and thighs. He could literally weight-shift to his left side and stretch the left side all the way UP high and finish with a long stretch of his rib cage – most people can’t stretch like that, that is why most people tend to rebound or fall backwards.
    Three – he switched from an uncontrollable draw-hook to a cut-fade and that is how he conquered Carnoustie and became a legend. In order to change his ball flight, he changed his grip until he bled. He taught himself to hold off longer down the line and finish higher in order to pulling it over his left shoulder to stop hooking it.

    Don’t be deceived by the myth – he was only 5’7″ with extra long arms for a short man, and he made his physicality work for him. His Five Lessons can only be applied to some, it’s not for everybody.

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A Jedi Mind Trick For Improved Target Awareness



I think all golfers, at some point in their life playing the game of golf, has gotten stuck, or become frozen over the golf ball. Why?  They’re trying to remember which of the 23 different swing thoughts they used for the day performed the best.

The disheartening reality: none of us are going to perform well on a consistent basis with our thoughts being so internally driven. Swing thoughts force our awareness inward. Is the shaft in the correct position? Am I making a proper pressure shift? Was that a reverse pivot? Close that club face! Regardless of the technique you are trying to manage or modify, these kinds of questions make you acquire sensations internally.

To complicate things further, we are taught to look at the golf ball, not the target, while hitting our golf shot. And yet instinctively, in almost all other skills of making a ball or object finish towards a target (throwing a ball or frisbee, kicking a soccer ball, skipping a rock across water, shooting a basket ball) our awareness is not on the ball or the motion itself, but rather the ultimate target.

So, can we develop a skill that allows us to still keep our eye on the ball, like the game of golf encourages, but have awareness of our target, like so many other target sports demand?  Yes, the answer is (third rate Yoda Speak), and the skill can easily be yours.

Here’s where this gets fun. You already have learned this skill set, but under different conditions. Perhaps this example resonates with you. Did you ever play hide-and-seek as a child? Remember how you used to close your eyes and count to 10? During those 10 seconds of having your eyes closed, weren’t you using all of your senses externally, trying to track where your friends were going to hide? Weren’t you, just like a bloodhound, able to go directly to a few of the less skillful hiders’ hiding places and locate them?

Or how about this example. When you are driving down your own local multilane highway, aren’t you aware of all the cars around you while keeping your eyes firmly on the road in front of you? Reconnecting, recognizing and/or developing these skills that all of us already use is the first step in knowing you’re not too far away from doing this with your golf game.

Here’s what I want you to do. Grab a putter and place your golf ball 3 feet away from the hole on a straight putt. Aim your putter, and then look at the hole. As you bring your eyes back to the golf ball, maintain part of your awareness back at the hole. Each successive time your eyes leave your golf ball and head back to the hole, your eyes will be able to confirm your target. It hasn’t moved; it’s still in the same location; your confidence builds.

When you know for certain that your external awareness of the target is locked in while still looking at your golf ball, step up and execute your putt.

The wonderful beauty of this skill set is that you now have the best of both worlds. You are still looking at the golf ball, which gives you a better chance of striking the golf ball solidly… AND you are now target aware just like you are when you are throwing an object at a target.

As always, acquire this skill set from a close target with a slower, smaller motion. If you don’t execute properly, you have a better chance of making the proper corrective assessment from a slower, smaller motion and closer target. As you become more proficient with this skill, allow the target to get farther away and try to add more speed with a larger range of motion.

So give learning this skill set a go. I don’t think there is anything more valuable in playing the game of golf than keeping your “athlete” attached to the target. Become proficient at developing this awareness and you can tell all your friends that the primary reason your scores are getting lower and you’re getting deeper into their wallets is because of Jedi Mind tricks. Good luck!

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6 things to consider before aiming at the flagstick



One of the most impactful improvements you can make for your game is to hit more greens; you’ll have more birdie opportunities and will avoid bogeys more often. In fact, hitting more greens is the key to golfing success, in my opinion… more so than anything else.

However, there is a misconception among players when it comes to hitting approach shots. When people think “greens,” they tend to only think about the flagstick, when the pin may be the last thing you should be looking at. Obviously, we’d like to stick it on every shot, but shooting at the pin at the wrong time can cost you more pain than gain.

So I’d like to give you a few rules for hitting greens and aiming at the flagstick.

1) Avoid Sucker Pins

I want you to think about Hole No. 12 at Augusta and when the pin is on the far right side of the green… you know, the Sunday pin. Where do the pros try and aim? The center of the green! That’s because the right pin is by all means a sucker pin. If they miss the shot just a touch, they’re in the water, in the bunker, or left with an impossible up-and-down.

Sucker pins are the ones at the extreme sides of the green complex, and especially the ones that go against your normal shot pattern.

So go back to No. 12 with a far right pin, and say your natural shot shape is right-to-left. Would you really aim out over the water and move it towards the pin? That would be a terrible idea! It’s a center of the green shot all day, even for those who work it left-to-right. Learn to recognize sucker pins, and you won’t short side yourself ever again.

2) Are You a Good Bunker Player?

A “sucker pin,” or just a difficult hole location, is often tucked behind a bunker. Therefore, you should ask yourself, “am I a good bunker player?” Because if you are not, then you should never aim at a pin stuck behind one. If I wanted to shoot at pins all day, I’d make sure I was the best lob wedge player around. If you are not a short-game wizard, then you will have a serious problem attacking pins all round.

For those who lack confidence in their short game, or simply are not skilled on all the shots, it’s a good idea to hit to the fat part of the green most of the time. You must find ways to work around your weaknesses, and hitting “away” from the pin isn’t a bad thing, it’s a smart thing for your game.

3) Hitting the Correct Shelf

I want you to imagine a pin placed on top of a shelf. What things would you consider in order to attack this type of pin? You should answer: shot trajectory, type of golf ball, your landing angle with the club you’re hitting, the green conditions, and the consequences of your miss. This is where people really struggle as they forget to take into account these factors.

If you don’t consider what you can and cannot do with the shot at hand, you will miss greens, especially when aiming at a pin on a shelf. Sometimes, you will simply have to aim at the wrong level of the green in order to not bring the big number into play. Remember, if you aim for a top shelf and miss, you will leave yourself with an even more difficult pitch shot back onto that same shelf you just missed.

4) Know your Carry Distances

In my opinion, there is no excuse these days to not know your carry distances down to the last yard. Back when I was growing up, I had to go to a flat hole and chart these distances as best I could by the ball marks on the green. Now, I just spend an hour on Trackman.

My question to you is if you don’t know how far you carry the ball, how could you possibly shoot at a pin with any type of confidence? If you cannot determine what specific number you carry the ball, and how the ball will react on the green, then you should hit the ball in the center of the green. However, if the conditions are soft and you know your yardages, then the green becomes a dart board. My advice: spend some time this off-season getting to know your distances, and you’ll have more “green lights” come Spring.

5) When do you have the Green Light?

Do you really know when it’s OK to aim at the pin? Here are some questions to ask yourself that will help:

  • How are you hitting the ball that day?
  • How is your yardage control?
  • What is the slope of the green doing to help or hinder your ball on the green?
  • Do you have a backstop behind the pin?

It’s thoughts such as these that will help you to determine if you should hit at the pin or not. Remember, hitting at the pin (for amateurs) does not happen too often per nine holes of golf. You must leave your ego in the car and make the best decisions based on what information you have at that time. Simple mistakes on your approach shot can easily lead to bogeys and doubles.

6) When is Any Part of the Green Considered a Success?

There are some times when you have a terrible angle, or you’re in the rough/a fairway bunker. These are times when you must accept “anywhere on the green.”

Left in these situations, some players immediatly think to try and pull off the “miracle” shot, and wonder why they compound mistakes during a round. Learn to recognize if you should be happy with anywhere on the green, or the best place to miss the ball for the easiest up and down.

Think of Ben Hogan at Augusta on No. 11; he said that if you see him on that green in regulation then you know he missed the shot. He decided that short right was better than even trying to hit the green… sometimes you must do this too. But for now analyze your situation and make the best choice possible. When in doubt, eliminate the big numbers!

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Is There An Ideal Backswing?



In this video, I talk about the backswing and look into optimal positions. I also discuss the positives and negatives of different backswing positions.

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19th Hole