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Are Hogan’s “Five Lessons” for you?



Ben Hogan stories are the stuff of legends in the game of golf.

“Hey did you hear the one about why Hogan couldn’t play 36 holes in one day? Because his afternoon tee shots would land in his morning divots!”

Or the one about the first time he played Seminole, he was told by the caddie to aim at a group of three palm trees at the corner of the dogleg. “Which one” he replied.

On and on as the years go by, I’m sure there is still some truth to all the stories, although they may be stretched a bit by now. Or not, who knows? Anyway, the legend of Ben Hogan has reached epic proportions over the years due in no small part to his uncanny ability to strike a golf ball. He may have hit 18 greens in regulation more than anyone who ever lived; Moe Norman possibly excepted. But this legendary accuracy was not always the case.

Hogan turned pro at the ripe age of 19 years, and for at least the first 5 to 10 years of his career, he was plagued by a nasty hook. Lee Trevino once famously said, “You can talk to a fade, but a hook wont listen.” And such was the case for young Hogan.

Better players miss the ball RIGHT, rarely left and Hogan knew he wouldnt make it on tour if he didn’t get his hook under control. Well, this was in the days well before teachers, video and all the things we have now, and even if those things were available to him, he probably would not have availed himself to them anyway.  He set out to cure the hook in typical Hogan style and he soon learned that the secret was “in the dirt.”

“You simply beat balls until your hands bleed and your back aches, and then you beat more balls”, he once famously said, and he totally lived this rigid discipline.

He not only cured the hook he became, well, he became Ben Hogan!

In 1957, Hogan wrote a book about what he found in the dirt, “Five Lessons, The Modern Fundamentals of Golf,” which is equally as well known as any instruction book ever and for many years became to “how to” Bible for an entire generation of players. With the possible exception of “Golf My Way,” Jack Nicklaus’ famous work, more people tried to learn to play from Five Fundamentals than any book or video ever. And with good reason; if this is how the great Hogan did it, it’s good eneough for me.  But… all that glitters is not gol(f).

Now that some 50 years have passed since its publication, the book’s legacy may not be as positive as we initially thought.

“Bite your tongue DC, how dare you; who are you to find fault with the “wee ice man” as the Scots affectionately named him?

Well, not fault maybe but there is always a risk in any generic prescription for the all the world’s goling woes and the real danger is in the INTERPRETATION of what the reader THINKS the author said. Even Hogan himself warned us that what worked for him may not work for you. But a lot of golfers never read that part of the book. They set out to do as Hogan did. And they did (sans the talent and dedication of course).

But here’s the problem: remember what he set out to cure — a terrible hook. So he developed a swing and a set of fundamentals to do just that. The only trouble is that about 75 percent of the people who read the book slice! Lets look at a couple points in the book that, interpreted literally, or worse yet, misinterpreted, may not be the best for the average golfer.

  • The grip: The grip pictured on page 29 is a great grip — if you hook! He suggests the “V” in the left handed be pointed to the right eye, when many others suggest a much stronger position with the V pointed to the right shoulder. That difference seems small but it isn’t. I can tell you this: most of the people I have taught over many years cannot hold the club in that positon and square it consistently, for a variety of reasons. Unless they too fight a HOOK.
  • Pinching the knees to resist hip turn while maximizing the shoulder turn to create coil: This is a great idea for a more advanced player but CAN BE TOO RESTRICTIVE for the average golfer, often creating a reverse pivot.
  • The action of the arms is motivated by the movements of the body, and the hands consciously do nothing but maintain a firm grip on the club (page 82): Try this, I’m betting you put the cart an auto pilot to the right.
  • The turning of the hips initiates the downswing:  This is true, but it must be in conjunction with the arms and club lowering onto the delivery plane.  Many over-the-toppers have misinterpreted this and ended up with a horizontal hand path out toward the ball instead of down. We all know how Hogan did this — a slight cup in the left wrist and an early pronation flattened the wrist lowering the club onto downswing plane. But he does not dwell on the lowering of the arms and club. If you turn the “bawdy” first without lowering the club, you can get over the top in a hurry.

And although I don’t believe he mentions it directly, a close look at the illustrations, which incidentally are some of the finest golf renderings ever, clearly show that a cupped wrist and slightly open face at the top of the swing was another of the Hogan secrets that can wreak potential havoc with a high handicapper’s swing. If it is NOT flattened and pronated properly as Hogan suggests, look out right again. Also, the cupped wrist can start the club down on too steep a plane, another cause of potential slice.

A body oriented, passive hands motion with a relatively weak grip is not the best thing if you slice the ball, simple as that. If you grip the club as he suggests, keep it open going back, hold the angle and turn through the ball aggressively, your golf ball certainly will not hook, but you better be prepared to hit it right. That is exactly where too many of you are going already!

Like everything else, trying to learn golf from a book or manual is risky business — even one as great as the Five Fundamentals. And don’t misunderstand me, there is a TON of great golf information in this book. I’m sure all the swing keys Hogan discussed worked perfectly for him, but a literal interpretation of that book may very well have done more harm than good.

It’s intersting to note that most all of the early instruction books were written by playing professionals. The “teacher era” is a relatively new phonomenon starting as late as 1970 when Square to Square, a Dick Aultman and Jim Flick collaboration, was one of the first non-playing professional books ever. The roles have reversed now and very few “players” have time or interest to teach. That part of the game has gone over to the teaching division of the PGA almost exclusively.  It’s probably just as well, as teaching has advanced to such a state that it takes all one’s time and attention to devote to it.

You will find, as in the The Five Fundamentals, that the suggestions of the players differ from those of the teachers in that they are more personal; a more “this is how I did it” approach, as we’ll see next time when we investigate another classic, “Bobby Jones on Golf” by the great man himself.

Finally, I am huge Hogan fan and have nothing but the utmost repsect for what he accomplised and what we learned from him.  The last sentence in the book pretty much sums it up for me:

“Whether my schedule for the following day called for a tournament round or merely a trip to the practice tee, the prospect that there was going to be golf in it made me feel privileged and extremely happy, and I could not wait for the sun to come up the next moring so I could head to the course again.”


As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

Click here for more discussion in the “Instruction & Academy” forum. 

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .



  1. Roy Bean

    May 8, 2017 at 9:29 pm

    I learned golf working with the local pro. He had been a Tour player and taught how he had been taught. No videos, no cameras. Just range work. Later, I took lessons from a PGA Instructor of the Year who had all the fancy video equipment … and while I could see my swing, I didn’t understand the movement. I still played horribly. I then took lessons from a local Master Professional. He had also played the Tour when he was young and he finally got my game going. He emphasized Hogan’s “movements” without being absolute. I was playing. Finally, I took lessons from a “Hogan Instructor” and it blew my mind. Everything, and I mean everything, got tossed out and I totally rebuilt my swing based on four principles. Shot the best golf of my life. The thing I remember most was, “They don’t teach this in the PGA Manual.” True. It is a totally different kind of swing. But when it works, it is a thing of beauty. Is it pure to Five Fundamentals? Probably not 100%. But to the core principles … yes. I think more golfers would benefit if they understood it. Sadly, in 40 years, I have met a grand total of 3 instructors who really understood the Hogan swing and one is nearly 80 now. They just don’t teach it anymore.

  2. Mike

    Jan 5, 2015 at 2:58 pm

    I am self taught and have been playing since I was 9. I took a long extended break from golf between the ages of 15 to 23 in order to play football. I decided to get back into golf and being a person who battles with obsession, I got a job at a Nicklaus designed golf course in the Pro-Shop and proceeded to play 36 holes a day for 6 months, but I wasn’t progressing…so I decided to do a little research. I read “The Swing” by Nick Price which I loved, and me mentioned Hogan quite a few times and “The 5 Fundamentals” and so I read that book as well..but I didn’t just read these books, I studied them. I stood on the range with a highlighter and a pen and scribbled notes in the margins and in the back. I got a nasty, nasty case of the shanks and was baffled at how to fix it…when I finally did fix it, I wrote the cure in the back of the book and highlighted it. The 5 fundamentals for me were two fold..Ben Hogan knows what he is talking about…and I wasn’t Ben Hogan, however, I found that If was able to get these fundamentals down as I understood them then I would be able to keep my ball between the white stakes, make good contact, and have a repeatable, semi consistent swing. I learned early that you take what you can use from Bens book, and discard the rest, Ben wouldn’t mind. I have a short, compact, fairly ugly swing–but the ball goes where I want it to, I generate about 110mph club head speed and I beat guys all the time with much prettier, long, flowing swings….but they cannot repeat theirs consistently. Hitting the ball where you want it 1 out of 10 times isn’t good enough. Ben hammers home the point that you need a swing to be repeatable…if it is repeatable, and it works for you, then that is all that matters.
    I think this is the most important point in the book, at least IMO and DC is dead on in his assessment:
    The action of the arms is motivated by the movements of the body, and the hands consciously do nothing but maintain a firm grip on the club (page 82): Try this, I’m betting you put the cart an auto pilot to the right.

    If you try to let your hands do nothing, you are going to lose your wrist angle long before impact, you are going to cast the club, and not only will you miss the ball to the right….you won’t have very far to walk because it will also go nowhere. You lose everything when you cast that club, accuracy, solid contact, power, and distance…

    If you are a semi competent golfer..Your grip is fine, your stance is fine, you don’t sway, you don’t have a bobble head, you don’t cut across the line, you can maintain your balance etc…And you cast the club, none of the other stuff will matter.

  3. dg7936

    Mar 20, 2013 at 1:15 pm

    Hogan admitted his book had the potential to make a slicer’s game worse. You need to read the book and adapt what works for your particular body type and tendencies. Anyone buying this book to swing LIKE HOGAN is misguided. It really is a hook-prevention manual. He did a lot of things in his swing that are not described in the book. Right foot open, not square as he described jumped out at me. But one thing I noticed, Hogan’s upper arms are tight to his body throughout the entire swing, in all positions, letting his lower arms crack the whip.He never got high hands at all, kept the entire motion shoulder level. Shorter swing with strong leg drive let him time his movements and accumulate all that power. He was a low-hands rotational swinger. Doesn’t fit most body types; you need longer arms and really strong legs.

  4. Joe Golfer

    Dec 20, 2012 at 3:01 am

    A great article by Dennis Clark.
    The book I used to learn the game many years ago was this book. I used that weak grip, and I wound up having to play the ball quite far forward in order to hit it square. Dennis mentioned four aspects of the book with which most average golfers would have trouble. He’s absolutely correct on several counts. I like Dennis’ assessment of the Hogan quote of “The action of the arms is motivated by the movements of the body, and the hands consciously do nothing but maintain a firm grip on the club (page 82): Try this, I’m betting you put the cart an auto pilot to the right.” Dennis is right. With Hogan’s weak grip, many average golfers will end up with a push or push fade, as the hands simply do not release well for most golfers with such a weak grip. Hogan was short in stature and swung in a flat plane. For most golfers, that weak grip will not work well.
    Besides “pinching the knees”, Hogan also promoted having the back foot 90* to the target to resist hip turn, yet if you look at any photo of Hogan hitting the ball, his back foot is open, not perpendicular to the target line. Thus, Hogan wasn’t even following his own printed advice on that one. Those two things might work if a golfer is young and very supple, but not for most.
    I do think that Hogan did a decent job of explaining the theory of the hips initiating the swing. I don’t think his teachings should lead to the “over the top” swing that Dennis mentioned, as Hogan does cover swing plane quite extensively, complete with fantastic diagrams, such that a golfer should automatically make the “magic move” that brings the right elbow towards the right hip, dropping the club into the slot (for righthanded golfers).
    This book is a fantastic primer on the basics of the golf swing, and maybe the best ever on the swing mechanics and proper plane, but it surely does have a few aspects that will do more harm than help to the average golfer. It’s great for teaching the sequence of the swing, but the book really does need some tweaks, just as Dennis Clark has pointed out. David Leadbetter also pointed them out, having written an entire book on this very topic, entitled The Fundamentals of Hogan. He too addressed some of the things that Dennis has mentioned in this article. Leadbetter’s book on Hogan is very good, and I’d recommend it to anyone who has read the Hogan book. Both books belong in your library.

  5. naflack

    Dec 12, 2012 at 6:44 pm

    i own and have read the 5 fundamentals and must say as a 3 digit handicap…i spent more time trying to erase the things that book did to my swing than i did trying to implement them.
    i did think that because my miss is generally to the left that it would help me, it did nothing of the sort. i went back to my right side dominant thrower swing with a slightly weaker grip which straightened me out and brought back my distance.
    from that point on i read golf books not to do what they say but to understand the thinking behind their teaching.
    i think at the end of the day if people more understood their body types and natural strengths more people would stick with the game of golf instead of giving it up…

  6. Joe

    Dec 12, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    After 6 years of playing golf, starting at age 54, and reading Five Fundamentals sometimes a line at a time, I have realized that the 2 main points I have come away with are:
    1) The answer IS “in the dirt”. If you are not willing to practice, expect a static golf game. Most of us are not talented or natural enough to perform well without it.
    2)It IS personal. I have had some wonderful lessons with some great instructors and players. Until I got to the point where I started trusting what I could do and took it from range to course, the lessons didn’t mean much. This is when I realized that “self-taught” was not just for Bubba Watson.(Lessons ARE important!!)
    I am very thankful for Mr. Hogan’s MASSIVE contribution to my game, and it rests primarily in his taking and making the game so personal. He experimented and had loads of failures, but ultimately took a piece of stone and carved away everything that didn’t look like a masterpiece golf swing! I won’t be there if i live to be 100, but pars and birdies are starting to be much more common, and I begin to feel the satisfaction he may have felt not just with a win, but with a perfectly executed shot.

    Dennis – enjoyed this a great deal.

  7. Kirk Clements

    Dec 12, 2012 at 12:01 pm

    It is easy to pull a quote from here or there and ascribe a resulting shot tendency. But if you study the book and work at the applications of what Hogan said, you should be able to develop a good swing that will allow you to play shots and score well. If you just read once and go out there you get what you deserve. Do the studying and the work and you get what you deserve also, a good swing.
    If that is too hard, I just discovered a pill that will give you a great golf game, and it can be yours for just$5,000.00. Limited time offer!!

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 26, 2012 at 6:54 pm

      Study it all you want as-I have for 40 years- and you will come to the same conclusion I have: If I taught the things in the book (as I THOROUGHLY understand them) I would be broke as an instructor. “How to not hook” may have been a better title. The 35,000+ lessons I have given are grateful I decided on this tract. Thx for your comment. DC

  8. Jeremie Walker

    Dec 6, 2012 at 9:39 am

    Funny you should dissect this book. If you remember, amongst other amateur mistakes, I had embraced some of Hogan’s teachings (which are not universal). Immediately, as my coach, you had discerned that my tendency consisted of a ‘reverse pivot’. And yes, before we were introduced, I had read Hogan’s book thinking it was worth its weight in gold. I still think highly of his accomplishments and influences on the game of golf.

    After revisiting the situation and the evolution of a golf swing, my understanding of the process has grown. The message I feel Hogan really conveyed is the discipline and commitment it takes to find a swing that works for you. He was able to share with his readers the intricacies of his swing in such detail that preceeded its time. But that is why he was and is a legacy now.

  9. Scott Hill

    Dec 5, 2012 at 2:46 pm

    Great article Dennis, it is a very astute outline of the pitfalls for the “average” golfer in 5 Fundamentals (my all time favorite golf book… closely followed by George Knudson’s Natural Golf Swing).

    Like many I have read both of Hogans book’s countless times… both are wonderful… both also have many positions illustrated that Hogan thought he created that don’t marry up… the arm position at address… the fanning of the clubface in the takeaway… these are feelings Hogan had… as opposed to positions created.

    Hogan by all accounts had an IQ north of 150 and was decades ahead of his contemporaries in his understanding and application of the swing… he figured out the D Plane 60 years before TrackMan came along and changed the ball flight laws!

    For me Hogan stands alone in so many ways… having said that the science of the movement for the swing has evolved for the better since 5 Fundamentals was written… much as one would be disadvantaged by using Hogans clubs in 2012… you are putting yourself at a disadvantage following his book verbatim slicer or not.

  10. Kent

    Dec 4, 2012 at 3:06 pm

    I agree with Jeff, though I know there is some logic in your analysis. I learned golf young and struggled with a slice/fade most of my life. I had read ‘5Lessons’ when I was young and thought I was doing most everything that Hogan suggested only to find the slice got worse. I developed more of a hitter’s square at impact swing, reduced the slice to a fade.

    Fast forward 25 years, working with a local pro who wanted to help me be more consistent. He has me working on a rotational release and I’m seeing ‘Hogan/5 Lessons’ all over again. But I persevere, stop ‘trying’ to release the club and just turn through. Once I stopped fighting it and just let it happen, not only did I start to hit more consistently than I have ever hit the ball, but I developed a little draw that I can control with my grip strength.

    I think that part of the problem was that when Hogan wrote the book there was little high speed video available, so he was trying to relate how he felt he was swinging, which wasn’t exactly how he swung. If you can find some good video and relate it to what he says it should feel like, I think you can make huge progress over most other methods. But it takes quite a bit of practice to unlearn old habits. I’m still ‘diggin’ it out of the dirt.’

  11. 85renegade

    Dec 4, 2012 at 1:14 pm

    I am not a certified golf instructor but from all of the people that I see slice the ball, it comes from not allowing the club to do what is designed to do. 95% of the people I see have the club closed at address which means the club is closed throughout the swing. This leads people to manipulate their bodies and swings to combat the closed face which leads to bigger slices. Hogan found the pieces to the puzzle and when done correctly, all five lessons, the club is allowed to do what it was designed to do. From Hogan’s positioning you can move the ball either way based on setup. If you are an instructor and you don’t address what the club is designed to do then you are doing your student a disservice. Most golfers don’t even know how the club is supposed to hit the ball. If I was trying to make a living teaching the game of golf, I would start with basic education and go from there and not worry about teaching somebody five fundamentals before they know what those fundamentals are supposed to accomplish.

  12. Andrew

    Dec 4, 2012 at 1:10 pm

    Good article Dennis. I remember John Jacobs saying Hogan’s book was great for his teaching business-fixing all those slicers.
    Hogan was also an athlete, with great speed, flexibility and strength. The regular guy simply isn’t physically capable of swinging like Hogan.
    I’d also say it fired the trend that turned golf instruction into the science of swing mechanics, with the idea of a “perfect” swing that could be copied, and I think that’s not been helpful for the general golfing public.
    That wasn’t Hogan’s fault, but definitely a fault with how the book was interpreted.

  13. Jeff

    Dec 4, 2012 at 11:44 am

    I have read five lessons cover to cover many times and its probably still the best single piece of instruction. The adjustments hogan made in his swing are quite apparent when you read Power Golf then compare it to Five Lessons. The pieces are all there but my opinion is that Jim Hardy’s one plane swing does the best job of adding understanding of hogans details that might have been left out. The golf swing is a mountain of building blocks and it would be a mistake to turn people off of hogans teaching because implementing a piece of hogans teaching makes a slice worse. It may for a time until the next block of knowledge is added..

  14. Nick

    Dec 4, 2012 at 11:01 am

    I completely agree with this. Hogan has been mythologized (forgood reason) and the swing thoughts he needed to keep in mind to keep his perfect motion going are not necessarly the swing thoughts a high handicapper needs to keep his quite imperfect motion going. Certainly, the Five Fundementals is a must read, it contains the blueprint for the modern swing (leaving aside the post modern stack and tilt and other such debates) but some of his recommendations when applied imperfectly by a high handicapper will make things worse, not better.

  15. Will o'the Glen

    Dec 3, 2012 at 2:06 pm

    It’s not often that an article on golf instruction makes me laugh out loud, but I sure as hell did when I read this:

    “The action of the arms is motivated by the movements of the body, and the hands consciously do nothing but maintain a firm grip on the club (page 82): Try this, I’m betting you put the cart an auto pilot to the right.”

    So, since I have basically taught myself everything I (think I) know about the golf swing by reading “Five Lessons”, I guess I can blame Ben Hogan for my slice? ;^)

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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)



Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots



Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.

Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.

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Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions



Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You’ve gotten lessons.  Several of them.  You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag.  You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards.  And yet, you’re still…stuck.  Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers.  You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score.  What gives?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan.  His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today.  A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.”  Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range.  In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:

“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Let me guess.  You’ve tried that before, right?  You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right?  Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem.  There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice.  Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional.  It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.

This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint.  In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project.  Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old.  In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events.  Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events.  Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game.  By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.

The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something.  Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system.  Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most.  Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.

Nico Darras, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here.  Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time.  Far from it.  In Nico’s words:

“We recommend 3 days a week.  You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients.  Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal.  Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice.  Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours.  We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike.  Kevin shares some key data in that regard:

“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Were we going to be an elite player product?  Were we going to be an amateur player product?  We didn’t know, honestly.  So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players.  Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range.  That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range.  We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps.  It runs the full gamut.  What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated.  The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”

Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice.  Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something.  I think these guys might be too.  To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.

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