Hogan's Secret
Ever since the publication of Ben Hogan's second book, "Five Lessons – The Modern Fundamentals of Golf", there has been a running dialog about "Hogans' secret". Teachers and coaches and literary analysts have all weighed in with their opinions and "insight" into just what was the secret that Hogan supposedly took to his grave. If you enjoy a deep dive into the golf swing, and its pieces and parts, you can spend tons of hours reading almost 600,000 results from a Google search for "Hogan's Secret".

I've been a life-long fan of Mr. Hogan. His life, his accomplishments, his style, demeanor, his teachings on the game. And of course, the equipment that bore his name, especially that which was made before the company moved out of Fort Worth and broke the bond of having that fascinating, irascible man heavily involved in each and everything that bore his name.

But this is about Hogan's "secret", if there even was one. Here's my take, and I believe there were several keys to his success and prowess striking a golf ball.
  1. Mental tenacity. He experienced a childhood and young adulthood that was tough. And Hogan became equally tough because of it. I don't think anyone ever kept mental focus like "the Hawk".

  2. Work Ethic. Hogan practically invented the concept of practice. He was notorious for beating hundreds, thousands, of balls to work on a single little thing. He didn't quit until he had it perfected. And it is said that Hogan never attempted to hit a shot in competition that he hadn't practiced relentlessly on the range.

  3. Equipment. If you read about Hogan deeply, you'll learn that he was a headache for MacGregor and any other equipment company he represented. He demanded perfection from himself and would accept nothing less from his tools. The people that worked with him in those early years say he could feel things in a golf club they could hardly measure. And one anecdote has him in the locker room before an event examining a box of new balls with a magnifying glass. As he tossed a significant number of them away, he remarked to a questioner, "there's too much paint in some of the dimples on those." Wow.

  4. The left side pivot. Look up "Hogan's pivot" on YouTube and prepare to learn something about the golf swing. There are a number of videos that dive into this, but Hogan rotated his swing around his entire left side, NOT his sternum, as it so commonly taught today. It's pretty enlightening stuff.

  5. Release of the hands. Get a copy of "Five Lessons" and study, study, study the sequence of illustrations on page 102 of how the left hand rotates through impact. Then refer to the images on pages 98-99 on the release. Examine them until you are sure that you really understand this. Then learn his training exercise on pages 82-83. If you do this, and practice that drill, you WILL improve your ball striking immensely. And you can learn this in your home – no range or golf ball required.
So, did Hogan have a secret? Or a whole bunch of them? He shared with us everything he knew about the golf swing in his book, in my opinion. But you have to read between the lines, practice what he is talking about, and learn from there. The golf swing cannot be reduced to 125 pages, but this is a darn good foundation from which you can learn a better way to strike a golf ball.

Oh, and that secret? I think it was that he knew there were no shortcuts, no quick fixes. I like the explanation that he gave often:
"The secret is in the dirt, and every golfer has to dig it out for himself."
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[ comments ]
snuffyword says:
Terry, thanks for revisiting this topic. I read and studied his book last winter. It's time to read it, again, and focus on your #2, 4 and 5. My goal this winter is to work on hip rotation and impact position. Looks like my homework will be more in-depth.
legitimatebeef says:
Ben Hogan is maybe the most badass golfer in the history of golf.
onedollarwed says:
Well I looked up Hogans's Pivot on YouTube, and well, let's say my head is still spinning. This is awesome! Another way the PGA/golf instructors have failed those in need. Not only could no PGA pro ever diagnose a person's ball flight correctly ever, now it's clear nobody has a clue how to generate the energy to drive the golf ball. Wonderful!

Sadly, golf is mired in a Gilded age of Haves and Have-nots, where those who have it can't share it, and those without it can never acquire it. Just echoing this ongoing WedgeGuy theme of declining participation/ worsening performance. Yes, the industry has helped golfers very unevenly, but gosh it seems the basic fundamentals are no more than grave-bound secrets.

A couple of things that I noticed: a distinct falling to the target, and a very high finish. Gravity sucks him toward the turf, from which the left leg braces and anchors the pivot and the oncoming swing. I wouldn't ever say that his swing is the one swing, but it sure works for him!
BeenWild says:
Definitely read and devour "Five Lessons" then go to golfwrx and look for a post in the instruction sub-forum called 9/3 drill by Slicefixer. Read thru the it and after and while your are reading "Five Lessons". Slicefixer's concepts are built off of the principles found in "Five Lessons".
onedollarwed says:
More on Hogan's Pivot: The old image is of a chicken on a spit. The real image is that of a door, hinged on one side, but a door with a UV joint in the middle to allow for leaning toward the ball. Now for imagery's sake, is this door slamming shut on impact, or opening into the back-swing?
jpjeffery says:
Having watched a couple of the Hogan's Pivot videos, I'm inspired.

Just need to shake off this cold I've got...
Wes11point5 says:
"And of course, the equipment that bore his name, especially that which was made before the company moved out of Fort Worth and broke the bond of having that fascinating, irascible man heavily involved in each and everything that bore his name."

That is the truth. You can almost see the difference in quality. I really miss my Hogan Apex II irons. Should never have given them to my Brother in law.
accarson3 says:
Everyone is always looking for the "magic move" or the "secret" to the golf swing.
Sounds like Hogan's "secret" was a lot of hard work and repetition...and that's a plan worth following.
onedollarwed says:
Anyone up for an analogy? Cars? Music?
Charlie Parker along with other notable Bebop musicians such as Dizzy Gillespie and Thelonius Monk. Parker and Hogan's careers are roughly concurrent in terms of peak years 40s-60s, and though their personalities have no tangent, they both practiced tirelessly always reaching what seemed unreachable for them and others.
But here's the point: Bebop theory, pioneered by Parker et al. (sometimes just called Jazz theory) is a complete school in itself - one which I've studied. And while there are rules/guidelines/suggestions with regards to planned/practiced improvisation (just like golf), the ultimate goal is to find one's own voice. The variations and flaws thus become identifying elements.
So while we memorized and "recited" all the great bebop works, it was always know that we were to eclipse what came before.
So if Hogan is to be studied, emulated, and yes COPIED to a major extent, we are not to become Hogan, but to become "of him," yes?
onedollarwed says:
So through Hogan we shed unnecessary movement, expectations of distance, illusions of innate skill, or other excessive vigor. As we keep noting: you do not need to be big and strong to hit the ball far; you do not need to be the longest hitter to score well.
It was finally proven that the use of heroin was not necessary to play like Charlie Parker - though not before a generation had tried. It doesn't take the latest driver to hit it long - though a generation have tried (oh the addictive yardage!). And so we need to clear our minds of a thousand pounds of garbage and a few personal demons every time we start a round of golf. The course is there and will teach us if we can just focus on the few elements/movements that are actually necessary. Great music, like great golf, doesn't need to be loud or fast or complicated, it's a series of decisions about which notes matter most. You can get caught up in flourishes, and into all kids of interesting territory, but the simplest path to the goal always works best!
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