Some Thoughts About Distance and Control
As you know, I am a huge fan of the way Mr. Ben Hogan played the game. I grew up learning from his books Power Golf and Five Lessons – The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. And of course, now I am the man responsible for the effort to bring the Ben Hogan legacy back to the golf equipment industry. It is both an honor and a great responsibility to be able to lead this team to that end.

One of the most fascinating things to me about the way Mr. Hogan played the game was the way he outlined his club distance chart in Power Golf. Now, bear in mind that the ball and equipment were quite primitive to what we have today. For example, his irons were a full inch shorter than the modern 'standard,' and his lofts were 5° to 7° weaker at the short end, but only 1° to 2° weaker at the long end of the set... but that's another equipment story.

In Power Golf, Mr. Hogan shared his own personal distances, and as you would expect, his 'regular' distance with each club was considerably shorter than even most recreational golfers today would report. For example, he listed a 'regular' five-iron to be 155 yards. Again, as you process this, understand that the loft and length of his 5-iron was about the same as your 7-iron — or even weaker than that, depending on what brand of irons you play.

But here's the amazing part: For each club in this chart, Mr. Hogan also listed his 'minimum' and 'maximum' distance. The former was 10 yards shorter than his 'regular' distance, but his 'maximum' was 25 yards further! So, he played the game with a full 25 yards in the tank as a reserve for every club in the bag.

Who plays the game that way anymore?

Even more remarkable: For his driver, Mr. Hogan listed the 'regular' at 265 yards and the 'maximum' at 300 yards. Think about hitting driver 300 yards with circa-1948 clubs and ball!

But maybe, just maybe, that was why he was noted for just dominating a golf course from tee to green. When you are swinging every iron approach shot like it was a nice soft wedge distance — and even your driver that far below your capability — your ball-striking consistency just has to improve, right?

Maybe there is something to be learned from this exercise in analysis of Mr. Hogan's approach to distance. He was one of the longer hitters on tour, but held back that power most of the time, only calling on it when it was absolutely necessary. The old political adage of Teddy Roosevelt comes to mind:
"Speak softly and carry a big stick."
Mr. Hogan certainly did both.
The Wedge Guy is sponsored by SCOR Golf, where Terry Koehler is President/CEO. He encourages you to submit your questions or topics to be considered for his columns on Tuesdays and Fridays. Each submission automatically enters you to win a SCOR4161 wedge to be given away monthly. Click the button below to submit your question or topic today.

[ comments ]
jasonfish11 says:
I think everyone should do this.

My "max" on my irons is usually 10-15 yards more than my comfortable yardage. When I started doing this my handicap dropped a couple points.

Now if I just didn't always have to hack out of the trees before my approach I'd be happy.
GBogey says:
My reality, and I think that I qualify as at least an average golfer, is that I don't have these options. If I try to swing easy, contact is inconsistent and leads to lots of thin shots. If I swing hard, ball will go way right or left. My only option is to try to swing full but smoothly and play my normal distance, not more not less.
e_c_poirier says:
I somewhat follow this method of thought, but when it all comes down to it, I couldn't blame a 10-15 yard difference in one 7iron shot to the next 7iron shot due to club head speed or whatever else - it's ME.

Recently I follow an entirely different course management style - I tend to ignore the pin location and just try to aim for "center mass". Center of the fairway + center of the green + 2 putt = fantastic scores at the course.

July 2013 - Handicap Index 16
July 2014 - Handicap Index 12.5
jasonfish11 says:
Bogey that is what I meant. I also struggle with swinging easy. But have realized my 90% swing is more consistent than my 100% swing; yet still firm enough to not be considered swinging "easy".
birdieXris says:
I attempted to play like mister Hogan after the 3rd time this article was posted. It was the worst round i've shot in a long time. My swing speed and angle of approach due to decreasing the loft of the approach iron were no match for the un-receptive and short greens in my area. Only when i hit a "normal" iron could i gain enough spin to properly hold the green and put the ball in scoring position.
bsta93 says:
I agree with you birdieXris. It becomes more difficult if you play courses that have the turtleback greens or that the greens are heavily bunkered in front. If you don't hit a hard shot, the green will not hold the ball.
kayagum says:
There was a fascinating article in today's paper about the All Star Futures game, and comments from the coaches (I live in MN). Coaches unanimously say that both pitchers and hitters go all out, which has netted in more injuries (think Tommy John elbow surgery) and strikeouts. Control and on base pct (especially for the top of the order) seems to be passe for younger players, but that doesn't translate to better baseball. All or nothing- 100mph fastball or nothing, HR or K.

As I was reading the article, I immediately thought back to the many posts here about the obsession of distance and spin at the expense for consistency and accuracy. Perhaps the faster shorter cut greens have caused the cycle for shorter approach shots and more spin, and causing a vicious cycle where those advancements begets even shorter cut greens.
elliottgaryusa says:
Last week, at a friends suggestion, I played 9 holes with 4 clubs; 4h, 7i, Gw and Putter. I played from the shorter white tees and shot a 42 (including 2 3 putts). Hit 5 GIR (way more than I usually do). Only 4 FIR (lower than I often do but they didn't miss by much and were very playable). With a couple of better lag putts and chips and I could have easily broke 40. VERY GOOD for a hack like me!

I never tried to kill the ball because, after all I'm supposed to be way back without my driver. Well I ended up with one of the best ball striking rounds in a while. Somehow I was able to hit the 4h from 175 to 210y when the situation called for it. I was also able to dial the 7i and Gw +/- 20y when needed.

Now I do practice choking down on the different clubs and hitting 1/2, 3/4 and full shots with everything on occasion. So I kind of get where Mr Hogan is coming from. Wish I had his range though.
Tim Horan says:
I am not so sure that I could tell you what my maximum or minimum distances are for each club in the bag are. In using my laser distance finder I am able to determine whether for instance I should hit an easy six or step on a seven which will depend on wind conditions, lie and whether or not the green falls away from me or bunkers need to be flown etc. Gripping down on the longer club and playing my normal tempo mostly achieves the desired effect without opening myself up to a less committed half shot with the longer club. In my experience the half shot often lays you open to a flat or inside the line take-away, jerky transition and pulled or smothered impact caused by the lower body and legs not turning through the impact zone and the hands taking over.
[ post comment ]
Terry Koehler is "The Wedge Guy" and President of SCOR Golf- The Short Game Company.

Click here to learn more about Terry.
Click here to for Terry's blogroll.
    Golf Talk
Most Popular: