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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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The 3 different levels of golf practice



“I would have practiced as hard, but I would have made my practice more meaningful. I would have worked more on my short game and putting. I would’ve done a lot more drills to make the practice more meaningful, and I would’ve added pressure to the practice as much as possible.” — Lee Westwood

Now here’s the rub. Practice is not monolithic! I approach practice as having three different, distinctive and separate curriculum and criteria.

  • Level 1: Basic
  • Level 2: Advanced
  • Level 3: Extreme

Basic Practice (Level 1) by definition is “repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.” Basically, it’s doing the same thing over and over again to get better at it. My favorite skill that requires practice is the 76-yard “flighted wedge.” I do it, and I recommend it be done at every range practice session. Additionally, I identify and then practice as many different “skills” that are required to hit different golf shots. I have found that a non-pressurized environment is the best way to practice in a basic model.

It goes without saying that golf is not played in a pressure-free environment, so basic practice doesn’t help us play golf. The prime objective of Level 2 Practice (Advanced Training) is to take what you do in Basic Practice to the golf course.

First, create on-course situations that require you to hit the shots you have practiced. There should be rewards for demonstrations of competence, and there should be consequences for demonstrations of incompetence

“When you practice, try to find a situation to fit the shot you’re trying to practice.” — Ben Hogan

For example, a major problem is the unevenness of the lies you will encounter during play as opposed to the lies you used for your drills. From marginal to extreme, lies are difficult to replicate on the practice tee. So, play a round of golf and move the ball into the most undesirable lie that is very close to where you are.

Another example would be duplicating the creativity that is sometimes required during actual play. The prime example of that would be the sensation of “being in-between clubs.” I would suggest that you play an occasional round of golf using only half of your clubs. Take two wedges instead of four. Take only the “odd” or “even” numbered irons. Look at not taking the driver, or not taking all of your fairway clubs. I have not taken my putter, which forced me putt with my sand wedge!

A third example would be to play a round of golf and deliberately miss every green in regulation. Should your ball accidentally finish on the green in regulation just move it off into the rough, a bunker or whatever else could use the extra attention. You can create games where your opponent moves your ball off the green into something that would be advantageous to him.

Level 2 Practice is conducted on the practice ground as well as on the course. What I do and recommend is to take each of the shots, skills and drills used in Level 1 and add some accountability to the range experience. I have my students and clients use a “Practice Book” to schedule activities and to keep track of improvement.

Author Note: I will send you a sample practice book page that many of my players actually use. Request it at

Please be advised that Level 2 Practice can feature games, wagering or other forms of friendly competitions because they should only activate the lesser emotions of irritation, annoyance, anticipation, anxiousness, joy, pleasure and disappointment. Dealing with these feelings in practice will help you recognize and deal with the minor stresses experienced by most recreational golfers.

Stress is the major cause of “CHOKING.”

Stress, by definition “is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Stress can ruin our ability to perform when we experience the major emotions such as fear, anger, shame, humiliation, euphoria, ridicule, betrayal, doubt and/or disbelief.

Level 3 Practice (Extreme Preparation) is on-course training sessions best suited for very serious competitive golfers. The more a player is able to compete in a simulated or controlled environment that accurately replicates the actual “pressures” that produce the kind of stresses that can effect performance, the better the player will perform when stressed in actual tournaments or events. Please be advised that Extreme Practice DOES NOT feature games, gambling or “friendly” competitions. They don’t control the conditions of play sufficiently to replicate the type of pressure that would induce “stress.”

“Simulation, which  is a technique (not a technology) to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones, often “immersive” in nature, that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive fashion.” For many years now, the medical profession has used simulations to train doctors, the military has used simulations to prepare troops for the realities of the battlefield and aviation has used simulators to train pilots. Simulating has the added benefits of being cost and time effective while producing verifiable results.

If it’s possible for airlines to replicate every possible scenario that a pilot could experience in the cockpit by using simulations, then why isn’t it possible to replicate situations, and subsequent emotional responses, that a competitive golfer could experience on the golf course? Let me give you an example of what I mean.

“I got nervous all the time, as nervous as the next guy. It’s just that I caught myself before it became destructive.” Jack Nicklaus

Recent events at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play gives us some evidence of the destructiveness of uncontrolled emotions. Justin Thomas said that he couldn’t get the thought out of his mind of becoming the No. 1-ranked player in the world should he defeat Bubba Watson in the semi-finals, which he failed to do.

“I haven’t had such a hard time not thinking about something so much,” Thomas said. “And that really sucked. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to be perfectly honest.”

Then there was Ian Poulter being told that with his win over Louis Oosthuizen he had earned a spot in this years’ Masters tournament only to be told 10 minutes before his next match that he had not actually secured the coveted invitation. With elation, joy and satisfaction jerked away and replaced with disappointment, and possibly anger, the Englishman went out and got whipped by Kevin Kisner 8 & 6!

I concede that Justin Thomas’ and Ian Poulter’s situations were so unique that simulation-based practice and preparation techniques may not have been available to them, but now they both must know that their performance was effected negatively by mental stresses. And with that knowledge they may want to get tougher mentally. Level 3 Practice does that!

Not all that long ago, I was approached by a PGA Tour veteran for some on-course, one-on-one training. He was experiencing severe “choking” in pressurized short-game situations. So I took him out on the course and we replicated the exact shots he had problems with in the past. He demonstrated that he could perform each and every shot in a stress-free environment. We went into a “low-stress” training environment and his performance began to suffer. Then, at his urging to get “real,” we went into a “high-stress” practice mode and he melted down. Without going into details, he became so angry that not only couldn’t he hit golf shots, he tried to run me down with the golf cart as he retreated to the safety of his car.

Now, that’s not the end of the story. A few hours later, after some soul searching, he apologized for his lack of self-control and acknowledged that he had recognized the early signs of stress growing internally as we worked. We went back out onto the course and got back to work.

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Winning Ways: Here’s what it takes to become a winner in Junior Girls golf



Every competitive golfer strives to win, and I want to help them achieve their goals. Recently, I wrote a story highlighting the statistics behind winning in junior boys golf, and how they can do it more often. Now, we set out to examine the data on winning in junior girls golf, and provide ways they can improve. The data is based on an analysis of tournament results from all events during the 2017 year from the Junior Tour of Northern California. We then asked stats guru, Peter Sanders, Founder of, to provide the stats related to the winning scoring numbers that we found. Finally, we discuss ways that juniors can practice building skills and work towards becoming tournament winners.

The Winning Scores

In 2017 the Junior Tour of Northern California held 26 tournaments with 850+ members. According to our data collection based on information available on the website, the average girl’s tournament course measured 6145 yards. The average winning score for girls was 146 (36 holes), or 73 per round. Ten of the 22 tournaments where won with scores of 144 or better and the low 36 holes total was a whopping 133! In the data collection we also collected the average 10th place scores girls. The average 10th place score for girls was 159 or 79.5.

The Winning Stats

We provided the numbers to statistics expert Peter Sanders. Peter’s company has been providing Strokes Gained analysis for golfers for the last 29 years. Peter is the founder of, a website that provides golfers at all levels with Strokes Gained analysis, pinpoints specific strengths and weaknesses and highlights improvement priorities. Since the launch of in 2005, Peter has collected over 317,000 rounds. Accordingly, Peter has agreed to share the numbers, below, for a typical female player who averages 73. There are two important points to consider when reviewing these statistics:

  1. In order to have a complete picture of the puzzle that is golf, one must consider the ERRORS, or lack thereof, that play such an important role in scoring at every level. Even the 650+ PGA Tour stats ignore these important miscues. Shot By Shot has included them in their analysis from the beginning and they are highlighted in the infographics below.
  2. The data provided represents only tournament rounds. As such it will primarily represent the high school and college programs that use

Infographics Created by Alexis Bennett

The Winning Preparation

Junior girls are encouraged to use these stats as a benchmark against their own performance to determine where they might need to improve against the “typical 73 player.” After identifying gaps in their game, they can then create practice plans to help improve. For example, a junior might notice they have more 3-putts than the model. To improve, they could work put more time into practice, as well as playing games on the golf course like draw-back and 2-putt.

  • Drawback is a game where after your first putt, you draw the second putt one putter length away from the hole. This often changes a shorter putt (> 2 feet) to a putt of between 3.5 – 5 feet. This putts significantly more pressure on your putting.
  • You may also play Two-Putt, a game where when you reach the green, you (or your playing competitor) tosses the ball away from the hole. You must 2-putt from that spot to move to the next hole (even if it takes a couple attempts!).

Others reading this article might find that they don’t hit enough greens. Improving this area will require more consistent strikes, which may require further technical development and block practice, as well as working on the golf course. To start, I would recommend that every junior implement the yardage rule. The yardage rule works like this; figure out the distance to the very back of the green. For example, this number may be 157. Then figure out what club ALWAYS flies 157, which might be 6-iron. Then choose 7-iron for the shot. This way your best shot will not fly the green, your average shot will likely be in the middle of the green and your less-than-perfect shot will hopefully end up on the front of the green.

During practice rounds, play competitive games with yourself to sharpen your ability to hit greens. For example, if you normally hit 7 greens per round, in practice your goal might be 9. You would track your results over a month and then see your progress.

Beyond building individual skills, like hitting greens or working on putting, junior golfers need times to play competitive rounds on their home golf courses. Ideally, these rounds are played against other people with similar skills and done under tournament like conditions with consequences (loser buys winner a coke or cleans their golf clubs). Playing hundreds of rounds at your home golf course under these conditions gives you a unique opportunity to sharpen your game, learn your tendencies and build skills such as endurance and mental toughness. Most importantly, it teaches you to win and shoot under par!

Please also keep in mind building these skills may take months (or even years). In my own personal experience, when I set out to improve my birdies per round, it took nearly 4 months and 75+ rounds and significant practice to begin to see a change. Depending on your schedule and access to resources like a golf course and instructor, some changes might take a year or more. Regardless, don’t ever worry; building a solid foundation in golf will always lead to rewards!

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PNF Drills: How To Turn Onto The Golf Ball



In this video, I share a great drill to help you turn onto the ball. This will help you rotate through impact.

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19th Hole