Do You Think You're Better Than Ben Hogan?
I figured that would get your attention this morning, but my premise is that almost all golfers apparently think they are better at precision shotmaking that Ben Hogan was. Stay with me here, because I really do have a point with this.

We are doing a lot of demo events for SCOR Golf and so we are talking with golfers about their scoring clubs, more particularly the lofts and selection they are equipping themselves with. As we talk with young guns who hit the ball a mile, the conversation gets really interesting. Here’s a case study.

In Corpus Christi, Texas last Saturday, I’m visiting with an aspiring developmental tour professional who is trying to make it playing professionally. In our discussion about his set make-up, he told me he carries 54 and 60 degree wedges, in addition to his set-match ‘P-club’. Moving along, he tells me he hits 7-iron 180 yards, and 9-iron 155-160. Wow. That’s long. So here was my point to him.

In Ben Hogan’s first book, Power Golf, which was published in 1948, Hogan dedicates a chapter to equipment. In that chapter he lists all his yardages with his clubs. What’s really interesting is that for each club, Hogan listed “Regular”, “Maximum” and “Minimum” yardages for each. His driver, he explained, “regularly” is 265, but he shows a maximum of 300, and a minimum of 235. To complement the driver, he then goes on to list 3- and 4-woods, and irons numbered one through nine, plus a pitching wedge and sand wedge. Hogan would remove a couple of those clubs for each tournament, depending on the course.

Where it gets interesting is that Hogan’s “regular” distance with his 5-iron is listed as 155 yards. Before you get all cranked up, realize that the loft and length of Hogan’s 5-iron in 1948 was very close to what most of today’s 7-irons are. But Hogan lists his “maximum” with his 5-iron at 180! In other words, he could add 25 yards to his “regular” 5-iron shots anytime he wanted to. Do you think that guy I just described could do that? Can he hit that 7-iron 205 if he wants? Or can any of you do that? That is, just crank up any of your irons to add 20-25 yards when you need it? Or do you pretty much consider a “regular” 7-iron to be what your maximum really is?

But it gets better, and this is where I’m going with the title of today’s post.

Hogan played courses of 6,500-7,000 yards in his day, and he had 7 clubs that he could use inside 155 yards. This aspiring tour player I was visiting with had THREE! His PW, 54 and 58. Hogan had 10-yard gaps in between his clubs – this guy (and most of his peers) have gaps of 20-25 yards in between their scoring clubs. Therefore, if they are going to score as well as Hogan did in that prime scoring range, they would have to be much more adept than he thought he would be at dissecting those gaps, wouldn’t they?

Well, they aren’t . . . nobody is. The point is that as golfers have gotten stronger, and equipment has gotten jacked up, and the ball has gotten hotter . . . your short range scoring has suffered because the between-club gaps are too big. But too many golfers are hung up on how many “wedges” they should carry. Don’t go there. It’s all about how precise you can be in your distance control when you are in prime scoring range.

If you can stay within 30-50 feet long or short at the long end of the set, that’s fine. But to score, you need pinpoint distance control at the short end. Hogan and all his peers knew that. So they throttled back their power with their irons, and put their sets together so that their “built-in” gaps would be manageable to 10-12 yards between clubs.

Unless you a better ball-striker than Ben Hogan, maybe you should do the same.
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[ comments ]
SteveMM says:
Good column. I'm starting to get good enough (even though my scores don't yet reflect it) to dial in various distances with my wedges, and I find that pretty exciting. Right now, my 52* wedge is my favorite. It can be used for distances from 75-yards up to 95-yards. Distances below (greenside up to 75-yards) are handled by my 56* wedge. Anything above 95 up to about 120 are handled by my pitching wedge. I hope someday to be able to dial in difference distances with the rest of my clubs. Right now I'm just happy to hit them straight and toward the target.
6/29/12
 
gpickin says:
Obviously you can choke down but this is my math with my clubs.
I really dont SWING my clubs like I used to. If I swing hard and hit down I can usually add more than this... but I never do, for consistency.
Club Degree Low Mid High
D 8* 240 - 265 - 300
3H 18* 200 - 220 - 240
4I 22 180 - 190 - 200
5I 25 170 - 175 - 180
6I 28 165 - 170 - 175
7I 32 150 - 155 - 165
8I 36 140 - 145 - 155
9I 41 125 - 130 - 140
PW 46 110 - 120 - 130
AW 50 90 - 100 - 110
W 54 65 - 75 - 85
W 58 45 - 55 - 65
W 64 30 - 40 - 50
6/29/12
 
jrbizzle says:
They just opened a new 9 hole course nearby my house. The last hole is a par 5, right dogleg about 130 yards out. I've played there twice, and both times, I have attempted to lay up my second shot (one 5 iron, one 6 iron). Both times I've made an easy swing, hit the ball dead center and got more distance than I wanted, sending the ball through the dogleg and into the rough.

Lesson learned - easy swing + good contact beats hard swing + bad contact every time.
6/29/12
 
dartboss04 says:
@jrbizzle...if i could hit all my iron shots like i hit layup iron shots, i'd be a single digit cap...

interesting article, but i just don't think it applies to most of the amateur golfers out there now...the people i play with normally, and even get paired up with are lucky to hit a few greens per round, let alone start dialing clubs in...i really only start dialing in at about 130 and in if that, but i've been struggling with my iron game so much lately, that i'll just take center of the green...repeatable solid contact must be achieved first and i don't think a lot of us are there...
6/29/12
 
GBogey says:
I think that the real point is being able to hit scoring clubs accurately, with accurately being different by skill level. I spent a lot of time two years ago working on my short game. Since then I've gotten pretty good at getting down in 3 shots or less from about 120-130 in. Usually it's 3 shots, not 2, but it has still had a huge impact on my scores and handicap. So for me, accurately is hitting the green close enough to the pin to have a reasonably easy two putt. I'd love to get dialed in the way Terry mentions and get down more in 2, and I'm working on it, but I've got a ways to go. I think that Terry's basic message is right, just needs to be translated to various skill levels.
6/29/12
 
Dusty23 says:
I certainly couldn't compare myself to Hogan, but like him I have always tried to maintain a 4 to 5 degree gap between all my clubs, from Driver thru SW. Right now my largest gaps are between Driver and 3WD (10.5 v 15, 4.5 deg)and my Hybrid and 5 Iron (22 v 27, 5 deg) my narrowest gap is PW (47)to GW (50), my old irons PW was a 46 so thats why its only 3 deg, I may have my GW bent or go for a new one next year. I also have always my thought of my distance ability with different clubs, meaning I know my PW is my 100-105 club but an easy swing will go about 95 and if I stand on it I can get 115. Distance range isn't so much my problem, its accuracy that I and I think most of us struggle with.
6/30/12
 
jpjeffery says:
@dartboss04 re repeatable, solid contact: Amen, brother.
7/1/12
 
wedgeguy says:
Thanks for the illustration of my point, gpickin. Your gaps get larger as you get into the shorter 'money clubs', a function of physics. You have to do a lot of manipulating to get those gaps dissected, and that is just not that reliable under heat. But seeing the value of carrying five scoring clubs is certainly a move in the right direction.
7/2/12
 
Wes11point5 says:
The main difference is that Hogan could vary the yardage for each club AT WILL. Just about all of us lack that skill.
7/2/12
 
legitimatebeef says:
I don't think I am better than Hogan in fact I am a little offended to be asked such a question. I am however guilty of ignoring the wisdom of Hogan's distance chart (I have owned a copy of Power Golf for years now). It is only recently that I have started to play iron shots for accuracy instead of distance. It's not an easy mindset to implement but my GIR have improved considerably as a result.
7/2/12
 
CodeSlinger says:
"the loft and length of Hogan’s 5-iron in 1948 was very close to what most of today’s 7-irons are"

I'm interested in this info. Does anyone have a reliable source for standard club lofts from the past? Does Hogan list his lofts in "Power Golf?"
7/3/12
 
onedollarwed says:
This is certainly another interesting way to view a theme that we have discussed "at length" here.... heh. But seriously, are we really talking about dialing in formulas for shots of 50, 45, 40, 35, 30, 25, 20 yds? I am aware of your "Scor" system, but is that what were talking about. I had thought that many of these shots were essentially "feel," or "eye" shots - not just because the distances were less than your shortest club, but because the calculus required with roll out, lie, elevation, wind, slope, trajectory, spin, was too complicated to formularize. So I guess what I'm asking is... in terms of "gaps" for scoring clubs, how far down is it wise to go in terms of a formula?
7/3/12
 
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Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

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