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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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Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 2)



Golf is very much a monkey-see-monkey-do sport. If you ever go to the local range, you are sure to see golfers trying to copy the moves of their favorite player. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it does not. While I understand the logic of trying to mimic the “secret move” of the most recent winner on tour, I always balk when the person trying to create their best impression fails to realize the physical differences between them and the best golfing athletes in the world.

Read part 1 here. 

In addition to most golfers not being at the same fitness levels as the best players in the world, they also do not have bodies that are identical to their favorite player. This single statement proves why there is not one golf swing; we all are different sizes and are going to swing the club differently due to these physical differences.

You have to understand your swing

The biggest reason I believe that golfers are better than they think is most golfers I meet do not understand what their swings should look like. Armed with video after video of their golf swing, I will always hear about the one thing that the golfer wishes they could change. However, that one thing is generally the “glue” or athleticism of the athlete on display and is also the thing that allows them to make decent contact with the ball.

We are just coming out of the “video age” of golf instruction, and while I think that recording your golf swing can be extremely helpful, I think that it is important to understand what you are looking for in your swing. As a young coach, I fell victim to trying to create “pretty swings”, but quickly learned that there is not a trophy for prettiest swing.

It comes down to form or function, and I choose function

The greatest gift I have ever received as an instructor was the recommendation to investigate Mike Adams and BioSwing Dynamics. Mike, E.A. Tischler, and Terry Rowles have done extensive research both with tour-level players as well as club golfers and have developed a way to test or screen each athlete to determine not only how their golf swing will look, but also how they will use the ground to create their maximum speed. This screen can be completed with a tape measure and takes about five minutes, and I have never seen results like I have since I began measuring.

For example, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a golf swing that tracks more to the outside during the backswing and intersects the body more towards the trail shoulder plane during the backswing. A golfer with a shorter wingspan than height will have a swing that tracks more to the inside and intersects the body closer to the trail hip plane. Also, a golfer with a greater wingspan than height will have a more upright dynamic posture than a golfer with a shorter wingspan than height who will be more “bent over” at the address position.

Sport coats and golf swings

Have you ever bought a sport coat or suit for a special occasion? If so, pay attention to whether it is a short, regular, or long. If you buy a long, then it means that your arms are longer than your torso and you can now understand why you produce a “steeper” backswing. Also, if you stand with your feet about shoulder-width apart and your middle-finger tips touching the top of your kneecaps, you will have perfect dynamic posture that matches your anatomy. If it appears that you are in a taller posture, then you have your second clue that your wingspan is greater than your height.

Translation to improvement

Using this and five other screens, we can help the athletes understand a complete blueprint of their golf swing based off their anatomy. It is due to the work of Mike, E.A., and Terry that we can now matchup the player to their swing and help them play their best. The reason that I believe that most golfers are better than they think is that most golfers have most of the correct puzzle pieces already. By screening each athlete, we can make the one or two adjustments to get the player back to trusting their swing and feeling in control. More importantly, the athlete can revisit their screen sheet when things misfire and focus on what they need to do, instead of what not to do.

We are all different and all have different swings. There is no one way to swing a golf club because there is no one kind of golfer. I encourage every golfer to make their swing because it is the only one that fits.

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How golf should be learned



With the COVID-19 pandemic, golf is more popular than ever. Beginners being introduced to the game often find that golf is very hard, much harder than other sports they have played. To simplify the golf swing and make the game easier, it needs to start with a concept.

Golf should first be learned from a horizontal position. If the ball was placed four feet above the ground on a large tee, players would naturally turn in an efficient direction with the proper sequence to strike the ball on the tee.

Take for example, a person throwing a ball towards a target. With their eyes out in front of them? having an awareness to the target, their body would naturally turn in a direction to go forward and around towards the target. In golf, we are bent over from the hips, and we are playing from the side of the golf ball, so players tend to tilt their body or over-rotate, causing an inefficient backswing.

This is why the golf swing should be looked at as a throwing motion. The trail arm folds up as the body coils around. To throw a ball further, the motion doesn’t require more body turn or a tilt of the body.

To get the feeling of this horizontal hitting position or throwing motion, start by taking your golf posture. Make sure your trail elbow is bent and tucked with your trail shoulder below your lead shoulder.

From here, simply lift your arms in front of you while you maintain the bend from your hips. Look over your lead shoulder looking at the target. Get the clubhead traveling first and swing your arms around you. Note how your body coils. Return the club back to its original position.

After a few repetitions, simply lower your arms back to the ball position, swing your arms around you like you did from the horizontal position. Allow your shoulders, chest and hips to be slightly pulled around. This is now your “throwing position” in the golf swing. From here, you are ready to make a downswing with less movement needed to make a proper strike.

Note: Another great drill to get the feel for this motion is practicing Hitting driver off your knees.

Twitter: @KKelley_golf

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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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