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Opinion & Analysis

Ben Hogan: The myths, the man

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In the world of books devoted to the great Ben Hogan, a few stand above the rest. James Dodson’s Ben Hogan: An American Life, Curt Sampson’s Hogan, Jody Vasquez’s Afternoons with Mr. Hogan, and Kris Tschetter’s Mr. Hogan: The Man I Knew all fit together to form the most complete portrait of the often misunderstood and mischaracterized golfing legend.

Tim Scott has added an entry to the canon of Hogan texts with Ben Hogan: The Myths Everyone Knows, The Man No One Knew.

Scott worked worked at the Ben Hogan Company from 1969 to 1982, the last eight years as the Vice President of Sales & Marketing. He had the opportunity to know and work with Ben Hogan personally. More importantly for the purposes of his book, however, he had access to Mr. Hogan’s network of close friends, employees of the golf equipment company, and members at Ben Hogan’s home course in his later years, Shady Oaks.

He has organized a compendium of brilliant Hogan anecdotes in his new book, many of which even the most dedicated of Hogan of aficionados will be hearing for the first time.

I spoke with Mr. Scott by phone about meeting and working for Ben Hogan, what inspired a former executive to put pen to paper, and what the process of collecting some of the most revealing Hogan episodes ever contained in a text was like.

B.A.: What was the first time you met Ben Hogan like?

T.S.: The first time I met him, I had just gone to work for AMF. I was on a year training program up in Connecticut in the sports products group. The Hogan company was part of that. I came to Ft. Worth…was taken into Mr. Hogan’s office and introduced…I was very intimidated. Of course, I knew who Mr. Hogan was. I didn’t know much about his image at that time, so I didn’t have any preconceived notions. Certainly, at that time, he was the greatest golfer ever.

He had a good sense of humor. I was a junior member at Shady Oaks [where Hogan played]. I was playing golf over there one Saturday…Hogan walked up and asked if he could join us.

In 1969, Hogan had surgery on his shoulder, so he wasn’t playing in the company golf tournament. He was driving around, saying hello to everybody and watching us play. I was about to tee off. There about six feet away from my ball was the wheel of a cart…in it was Mr. Hogan. I was 25 years old at the time. I had played basketball, so I was in pretty good condition. If I hadn’t been 25 and in real good physical condition, I’d have thought I was having a heart attack. I actually don’t know how I swung the golf club. I was normally a slicer…I hit a duck hook.

I was never comfortable enough to ask him to play golf, but he asked me to play about a half-a-dozen times. That broke down some of the walls I’d kind of self imposed because of his stature.

At this point, after the AMF sale, was he coming into the office every day?

He sold his company to AMF in 1960. I joined the company in 1969. He came into the office every day. He had to be told when it was a holiday. He came in every day and he stayed until about 12 or 1 o’clock. He would go to Shady Oaks in the afternoon and hit balls.

He’d eat lunch before he hit balls…he’d play cards…talk with his friends. When he was hitting balls, he was usually trying something new or different or testing something. He wasn’t just out there hitting for fun…he had a purpose.

Hogan Tim SwingingHoganFrown

Ben Hogan watches Tim Scott swing.

What was his office like?

He had a big office. He had two or three chairs in his office for people. Usually, when he wanted to talk, he invited us to his office to talk. He had a good size desk. He had a picture…he and Clifford Roberts, President Eisenhower…and I don’t know if the fourth was Byron Nelson, but they were sitting on a bench at Augusta.

What was the genesis of wanting to set the record straight, if you will, regarding Mr. Hogan and how did that lead into the book?

Over time, as I got to know him better, and played golf at Shady Oaks and talked with people who knew him there, what I was hearing didn’t mesh with what I was seeing personally and what these other people were communicating to me.

I suggested that he write an autobiography, and that people would really enjoy it…and maybe feel differently toward him. He wasn’t interested.

Did you find him to be very formal?

We had a number of casual conversations. At the sales meetings, he’d stand around talking to people. People would ask, like, what are your favorite golf courses and he’d be happy to talk about that.

One thing he was very guarded about…was that his father committed suicide. From what I understand, he was in the room when his father shot himself.

He and Gary Player had a conversation, I think it was at Westchester…Player said they were standing on the 18th tee. Hogan said, and this was toward the end of his career, “I wouldn’t want to be a professional coming in today because there’s no privacy.”

And if you quoted him, he wanted it quoted exactly right. There were a number of instances where they [reporters] took things and kind of twisted them a little bit…so he just said, “The hell with them.”

So you don’t think he’d be comfortable with the climate of professional golf today?

The media is very intrusive into the private lives of golfers now. They have no problem…asking you questions that…you really don’t want to deal with.

Just recently, you had these NCAA coaches trying to get ready for a tournament and there getting asked questions about this Indiana law. That’s not something that Hogan would want to participate in. It’s not that he didn’t have an opinion…but I guess that he felt that his opinion was his opinion and everybody is entitled to their own opinion.

Indeed. I can’t imagine him maintaining a Twitter presence or being stalked by the paparazzi comfortably…

(Laughing) No. That just doesn’t seem to mesh.

You talked a little about the origin of the book. So from there, that kind of compelled you to reach out to those who knew Mr. Hogan?

I’d finally heard enough of that stuff…eight or 10 years after I left the company. It made me mad. I thought, “This isn’t right.”

I once said to him, “I think it’d be great if you wrote your autobiography.” He said, “It’s too much work. I couldn’t do that.”

So he never did.

The thought crossed my mind, “If I don’t, who will?” I was in kind of a unique position: Being a member at Shady Oaks, being the Sales & Marketing Vice President, and my father died when I was six years old. And I didn’t know about his father, but he knew about mine. I don’t know whether he made compensation for me in that regard or what.

But he treated me very nicely.

And I was no writer, but between my two years at Amos Tuck Business School at Dartmouth, one of the marketing professors asked me to work for him that summer to write business cases for a textbook.

And I was in the marketing area so I did some writing. I thought, “What the heck? I write down my personal experiences with him and what I saw myself, and then talk to some people at the Hogan Company…”

I talked to some people at Shady Oaks that I knew. And then they would suggest, “You need to talk to so-and-so.”

So I talked to people he played golf with…Shelly Mayfield over at Brook Hollow, and Eldridge Miles, who I think at the time was at the Dallas Country Club.

Talking to all them, the same things kept coming from them that I was thinking. I thought, I got something here. This is a totally different side of Ben that, in his privacy, he chose not to make public.

For example, a lot of them saw his generosity that he did through other people on the condition that they never tell who it was that gave them the money or the gifts or whatever.

Ben-Hogan-FRONT

Very interesting. Tell me a little more about the book.

Well, it’s not a typical biography. There’s 47 pages of biography at the front for people who don’t know anything about Ben Hogan. The rest of it is anecdotes, true-life experiences of these people that they had with this man. And I kind of categorized them by different traits of his personality.

I’m not a writer, but the experiences that I’ve had, all those things, I said, “You’re in a pretty unique position, so put it together and see what happens.” It took me 21 years, but I got it done!

What was that process like for you?

As I look back on it, there was a significant learning process. Not about Ben Hogan necessarily, but about life in general.

One of the things I realized was that Ben Hogan was a very humble man. After he won the British Open somebody asked him how he won all these tournaments he said, “I couldn’t have done it without the Lord.”

I hope that he did it as an encouragement for those who have been seriously sick or broken in body as he once was.

I know that after the accident and the outpouring of concern and support he felt he was playing for something greater than himself. But I don’t think he’d ever have said that…

No he wouldn’t. You know, he’d write letters to people, people who’d been stricken with cancer or had been in some serious accident.

And he’d begin his letters…with, with your permission or something to let them know he didn’t want to interrupt their lives. The same thing with golf, he didn’t just walk up there and join our group…he asked first. He was very considerate of others.

But looking back on my life, and how I came to the Ben Hogan company, I came to the conclusion that I was supposed to write this book. [There have been] too many turns in the road, many of which I had nothing to do with — it began with my father passing away when I was six — too many things to call them coincidence.

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15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Paul Daley

    Jul 4, 2016 at 3:11 am

    I have read Tim Scott’s book from cover to cover. It is a wonderful account of the world’s greatest ever golfer.
    My hope is that when my new book on Ben Hogan comes out (15 December 2016), that it does half as good a job as Tim did.
    The books are completely different, as my account is a pictorial depiction of all the big moments in Hogan’s career. Plus, there are many non-golf images of BH, and plenty of memorabilia.
    Strictly limited to 500 copies, and carrying a subscribers’ list on the inside front page, I am happy to reserve anyone a copy. Many of the 125 images have never been seen before by the public.
    Contact Paul Daley on my email: [email protected]

  2. Ben

    May 15, 2015 at 2:10 am

    Best non-instructional article I’ve read on WRX. Does anyone know who owns the rights to the Hogan Company? I didn’t realize they were selling a new iron and wedge model

  3. tooc

    May 11, 2015 at 5:39 pm

    IKE is 100% correct

  4. Ike

    May 11, 2015 at 1:44 pm

    He did cup his left wrist. What he never said in film or in his books is that the first move of the wrist was to make it flat. Jim McClean has many films of Mr. Hogan and has written extensively about his swing. Watch the films and look at the pictures. It is a very telling move that allowed him to take the club back in a relatively shallow plane and start down with the club in a great position for the second plane and the contact he desired. P 31 and 88 in Five Lessons.

    • Gerald Chessen

      May 11, 2015 at 3:33 pm

      He explained the cupping in a Life Magazine article, which he was paid a great deal of money for those times. He was a chronic ‘hooker’ until he went to the cupped wrist. If you didn’t get rid of the cup you would hit the ball dead right.

  5. Jang Hyung-sun

    May 10, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Definitely cupped left wrist. The exact opposite of say Dustin Johnson, which has a bowed left wrist. Not flat, not bowed….but CUPPED!

  6. MHendon

    May 10, 2015 at 3:39 pm

    I think many private or socially shy, awkward people are mistaken as being rude, conceited, d–ks. My guess is one day they’ll be writing this same book about Tiger.

  7. gvogel

    May 10, 2015 at 10:43 am

    Good article. I just picked up the book on Kindle.

  8. Simeon

    May 9, 2015 at 6:25 pm

    Great photo on the cover which clearly shows his cupped left wrist!

    • RG

      May 10, 2015 at 1:19 am

      Dude, Hogan didn’t cup his wrist, he cocked his wrist.

      • slimeone

        May 10, 2015 at 9:44 am

        Nah it’s cupped, that was his “secret” apparently. Cocking is a different motion altogether and not the opposite of cupped, which is bowed.

        • Scott

          May 15, 2015 at 5:24 pm

          Could you explain the difference between cupping and cocking? they seem similar to me.

    • MHendon

      May 10, 2015 at 3:34 pm

      looks basically flat to me

  9. BC

    May 9, 2015 at 9:10 am

    Excellent article about Mr. Hogan. You said that you talked with Eldridge Miles about Mr. Hogan, who played a lot with Mr. Hogan. I know Eldridge (friends call him ‘Big E’) well. I see Big E 3-4 times a week. He lives in North Dallas, is a member of the Texas Golf Hall of Fame and still gives lessons at age 81. Big E played over 200 rounds of golf with Mr. Hogan (the most of anyone still alive), and has a lot of very interesting stories to tell about the man and also his golf swing.

    • Bill

      May 10, 2015 at 10:43 am

      That’s pretty neat. I bet he has some great stories.

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Opinion & Analysis

The Wedge Guy: Why wedge mastery is so elusive

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I have conducted numerous surveys of golfers over my 40-year golf industry career, because I have always believed that if you want to know what people are thinking, you simply have to ask them.

As a gearhead for wedges and a wedge designer over the past 30 years, most of my research and analysis is focused on these short-range scoring clubs and how golfers use them. What this research continually tells me is that most golfers—regardless of handicap–consider the wedges the hardest clubs in the bag to master. That’s because they are. I would even go so far as to say that the difficulty of attaining mastery even extends to the best players in the world.

Watching the Genesis Open this past weekend, for example, it seemed like these guys were hitting wedge approaches on nearly every hole. And while there were certainly many shots that covered the flag—like Max Homa’s approach on 18–there were also a great number that came up woefully short. Not what you would expect when a top-tier tour professional has a sand or gap wedge in their hands.

The simple fact is that wedges are the most difficult clubs in our bags with which to attain consistent shotmaking mastery, and that is because of the sheer design of the clubhead itself. For clarity of this article, I’m talking about those full- or near full-swing wedge shots, not the vast variety of short greenside shots we all face every round. To get mastery of those shots (like the tour pros exhibit every week), you simply have to spend lots of time hitting lots of shots, experimenting and exploring different techniques. There are no shortcuts to a deadly short game.

But today I’m talking about those prime opportunities to score, when you have a full- or near-full swing wedge into a par-five or short par four. We should live for those moments, but all too often we find ourselves disappointed in the outcome.

The good news is that’s not always all your fault.

First of all, you must understand that every wedge shot is, in effect, a glancing blow to the ball because of the loft involved. With 50 to 60 degrees of loft—or even 45 to 48 degrees with a pitching wedge—the loft of the club is such that the ball is given somewhat of a glancing blow. That demands a golf swing with a much higher degree of precision in the strike than say, an 8-iron shot.

I have always believed that most golfers can improve their wedge play by making a slower-paced swing than you might with a longer iron. This allows you to be more precise in making sure that your hands lead the clubhead through impact, which is a must when you have a wedge in your hands. Without getting into too much detail, the heavier, stiffer shaft in most wedges does not allow this club to load and unload in the downswing, so the most common error is for the clubhead to get ahead of the hands before impact, thereby adding loft and aggravating this glancing blow. I hope that makes sense.
The other aspect of wedge design that makes consistent wedge distance so elusive is the distribution of the mass around the clubhead. This illustration of a typical tour design wedge allows me to show you something I have seen time and again in robotic testing of various wedges.

Because all the mass is along the bottom of the clubhead, the ideal impact point is low in the face (A), so that most of the mass is behind the ball. Tour players are good at this, but most recreational golfers whose wedges I’ve examined have a wear pattern at least 2-4 grooves higher on the club than I see on tour players’ wedges.

So, why is this so important?

Understand that every golf club has a single “sweet spot”–that pinpoint place where the smash factor is optimized—where clubhead speed translates to ball speed at the highest efficiency. On almost all wedges, that spot is very low on the clubhead, as indicated by the “A” arrow here, and robotic testing reveals that smash factor to be in the range of 1.16-1.18, meaning the ball speed is 16-18% higher than the clubhead speed.

To put that in perspective, smash factor on drivers can be as high as 1.55 or even a bit more, and it’s barely below that in your modern game improvement 7-iron. The fact is—wedges are just not as efficient in this measure, primarily because of the glancing blow I mentioned earlier.

But–and here’s the kicker–if you move impact up the face of a wedge just half to five-eights of an inch from the typical recreational golfer’s impact point, as indicated by the “B” arrow, smash factor on ‘tour design’ wedges can be reduced to as low as 0.92 to 0.95. That costs you 40 to 60 feet on a 90-yard wedge shot . . . because you missed “perfect” by a half-inch or less!

So, that shot you know all too well—the ball sitting up and caught a bit high in the face—is going fall in the front bunker or worse. That result is not all your fault. The reduced distance is a function of the diminished smash factor of the wedge head itself.

That same half-inch miss with your driver or even your game-improvement 7-iron is hardly noticeable.

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Golf's Perfect Imperfections

Golf’s Perfect Imperfections: Breakthrough mental tools to play the golf of your dreams

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Incredibly important talk! A must listen to the words of Dr. Karl Morris, ham-and-egging with the golf imperfections trio. Like listening to top athletes around a campfire. This talk will helps all ages and skills in any sport.

 

 

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On Spec

On Spec: Homa Wins! And how to avoid “paralysis by analysis”!

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This week’s episode covers a wide array of topics from the world of golf including Max Homa’s win on the PGA Tour, golf course architecture, and how to avoid “paralysis by analysis” when it comes to your golf game.

This week’s show also covers the important topic of mental health, with the catalyst for the conversation being a recent interview published by PGA Tour with Bubba Watson and his struggles.

 

 

 

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