Home' Golf Plus : Golf Plus Issue 26 Contents sam’s soapbox
golfer’s shoulders to the ball. It is arguably
the best-known image in golf instruction.
Generally, if you sit down with a group
of teachers, after they stop talking about
Hogan, they start talking about the key that
unlocks good ball striking—swinging on
plane. As Hank Haney says, “Swinging on
the correct plane is the most difficult thing
in golf because it is the most important
thing. In fact, the swing plane isn’t just the
most important thing, it is the only thing.”
In my opinion, if you want the best
understanding yet of what made Hogan’s
swing tick, refer to Jim Hardy’s ground-
breaking book The Plane Truth for Golfers,
detailing the workings of the one-plane
Swing. Hogan was its ultimate exponent.
But I think what fascinates people the most
about the development of Hogan’s game is not
just that he was the ultimate technician. There’s
been plenty of other great ball strikers such as
Jack Nicklaus, Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth and
Rory Mcllroy. All were or are great ball strikers.
What separates them is that they were always
great. When they were 15-year-olds, they were
all one of the best 15-year-olds in the world.
Because of this, people admire them, but they
can’t necessarily identify with them. Trust
me, whatever average golfers say about “just
playing for the fun of it”, scratch just under the
surface and they all generally believe that with
enough work, they could be a decent player.
I believe what’s intriguing to them about
Hogan is that he seems to have made this
progression. He was really pretty average
during his first 10 years on tour. Having
a tendency to hit duck-hooks doesn’t
generally lead to instant success.
But Hogan was one of the first great
practisers. Saying that he “dug it out of the
earth” is a quite literal explanation of the
process he went through. In fact, considering it
was the time of the Great Depression, he was
lucky he lived in Texas and not the Midwest;
with the amount of soil he shifted, people
might have though he was responsible for
creating the Kansas dust bowl! But when he
did finally find his personal secret, he cured
the hook, and was phenomenally successful.
For the average golfer, believing that their
own swing secret, however elusive, may be
just around the corner is integral to their
enjoyment of the game. In fact, for many it’s
the only reason they keep playing. Hogan’s
progression from average to immortal
is this philosophy taken to its ultimate
expression, proof positive that you can
find that one swing thought, that holy grail,
which for you makes it all hang together.
Of course, it takes work to find it. In later
years, when people quizzed him about his
famous secret, Hogan was fond of saying, “The
secret is in the ground.” Guess what? The bad
news for most people, this writer included, is,
unfortunately, it still seems to be in there!
I’d be remiss if I didn’t share at least a
couple of my favourite Hogan stories with
you. Ben Hogan was famously taciturn,
supposedly without humour, and these
stories about him have passed into golfing
folklore. The first one involves a young Gary
Player ringing him late one night to ask a
question about the golf swing only to be
asked what brand of clubs he was playing.
“Why, I’m playing Slazenger clubs
Mr. Hogan,” replied Player.
“Well, maybe you should ask Mr. Slazenger
your question,” Hogan retorted, promptly
hanging up. (Hogan had just recently started
manufacturing his own line of clubs).
Or his reply to 1959 USPGA champion Dave
Marr. As a young assistant professional,
Marr passed him on the clubhouse steps
and good naturedly said,“Good morning,
Mr. Hogan.” Hogan stopped him dead in
his tracks with his trademark steely gaze.
“Son, don’t ever call someone mister that
you might have to play someday.”
Hogan was brutally honest, with the
world and himself, and it often jarred.
So there you have it—innovator, battler,
genius, legend. Hogan was all of those, and
more. I would say we’re highly unlikely again
to see anyone have the kind of influence he’s
had. In a way it makes perfect sense that
only the greatest of men should have had
such a lasting impact on this great game.
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