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Ben Hogan’s Secret

Anyone who has spent any time studying the swing of Ben Hogan knows about the “secret” that he allegedly came up with in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s that he suggested turned him from an erratic hooker of the ball into a ball-striking machine.  The problem is that Hogan never really revealed exactly what he meant, and if you talk to 20 people who know a bit about the subject you will get 20 opinions as to what it might have been.  Well, since he is my favorite golfer and I base much of my teaching (and playing) on what I believe to be the inner workings of his swing technique I figure I might as well have a go at it myself.
 
The first thing to remember is that Hogan was a super intelligent, highly motivated golfer who practiced relentlessly and always thought about what he was doing, which means he was constantly adding, subtracting, changing and experimenting, just like any other normal golfer with a bag of balls in front of him on the driving range.  If Hogan had a “secret” it was going to be a combination of a number of things that he figured out over time, and since he left it a mystery we can only surmise based on the videos swings that we use here as evidence.  Having the moving video is of utmost importance.  Most of the work available that discusses the possibilities of what the “secret” entailed uses still pictures as the evidence upon which conclusions are drawn, while here I use detailed analysis of his actual swings over time to show what I believe to be his unique method.
 
In my mind Hogan’s “secret” involved a pivot movement that deepened the hips during the swing, lowered him against the ground, and created space for the right arm to move in front of the right hip in the forward swing, an arm movement that sent the arms outward away from the body in a side-arm throwing motion, and a distinct “laying back” of the club against the right index finger which momentarily flattened the shaft to a position far above the original shaft plane, which enabled Hogan to steepen the shaft for the vast majority of the downswing without the club ever moving “over the top”.  I know this sounds complex (and it is), but I think if you watch the video you will get the idea.
 

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9 Responses to Ben Hogan’s Secret

  1. Clinton Stewart July 1, 2011 at 1:27 pm #

    Wayne,

    Great stuff. Thank you very much for the video. Question: the flex in the right leg — I have a tendency to stiffen, a pretty common issue I think, but I’m not sure if that stiffening is actually due to something else (i.e., a symptom) or if right knee flex is more of a root-cause or driver for other issues in the swing? Not seeing my actual swing, I know you can’t comment specifically, but since you mentioned that flex and talked about it being a key indicator in this video (and I see it in virtually all good players), I thought I’d ask if there are any specific drills or swing thoughts you use to maintain that flex in your own swing (other than “keep your right knee flexed” :)?

    Thanks again, Wayne.
    Clinton

  2. Jeff Temple July 1, 2011 at 3:47 pm #

    Different Methods but is this essential the shaft movement Tiger was trying to attain at the 2010 Master’s? When I saw this video I kept thinking of his practice swing …. Could this explain why Harmon seems to teach “out and away” to achieve a position that would allow for a shaft to steepen through the ball?

    I can’t express how much I enjoy your website. Thank you for all your work.

    Jeff

  3. steve strobeck July 1, 2011 at 3:56 pm #

    Thanks Wayne for sharing the results of your diligence and expertise. Most of us could never discern on our own what you provide for us. I know that you will continue your study of Hogan and we all look forward to further revelations. If there is such a thing as a doctorate in golf swing research and analysis, you qualify.

  4. Donagh Corcoran July 1, 2011 at 8:13 pm #

    Ive been trying out hogans technique since I was a kid. My dad had an ancient old copy of The 5 Fundamentals which was given to him by an old friend when he started playing in the 70s. I learnt how to play golf from that book. My swing looks nothing like the great man and never will. Since youtube came along I began scrutinising his swing as much as I could and trying out different things I thought was his secret. The thing is, I don’t think his secret is possible to pass on as if it were the “Holy Grail”. I think every great player has there own secrets which work for them but I think you need to find your own secret. The way to do this is as Hogan said he “found it in the dirt”. Having said that The more swings I watch on this site with Wayne’s lateral thinking style of analysis the closer I feel I am getting to my optimum swing. Nobody can swing exactly like hogan. But you can take a bit here and a bit there and mix it up with your abilities and natural tempo and physical restrictions or advantages. And if you never get anywhere… well at least you had fun in the process.

    I just tried that right forearm move with a few swings on the patio and there is no way in hell I would ever have the time to master that. It is amazing how hogan did everything that he did in that swing and managed to keep it all together in every swing. What a talent… It mind boggling!

    Great stuff Wayne very enjoyable.

  5. Brian Ratcliff July 17, 2011 at 8:13 am #

    Wayne,

    One very interesting thing I see about Hogan’s start down is how far laterally his head moves. I have been having a really hard time clearing my hips 45* while keeping my head still. Watching Hogan slide his head forward along with his left hip may be a key to accomplishing this with less strain and difficulty. Thoughts?

    Thanks… LOVE the site.

    Brian

  6. Michael Piccinino November 21, 2011 at 8:17 pm #

    Wayne,
    I’ve watched this many times and in addition to the right arm movement outward, it’s striking how early Hogan’s weight is shifted to his left side. It seems as if he is centered over his left leg before he completes his backswing. When I do the drill from my last lesson starting with my weight in the impact position , I hit it great! As soon as I move to my normal setup, my contact is inconsistent. Should the drive 45 diagonal start before the completion of the backswing?

  7. Allen Parkes December 16, 2014 at 10:54 am #

    I would say the bio mechanical guys agree with your dissection of Hogan’s secret.

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iuJaSM7Kexw

  8. john greyston January 26, 2015 at 4:37 pm #

    Wayne
    I came across on Youtube the swing of Aussie pro Frank Phillips from the 60s.
    He seems to do everything you recommend. Is there anything you dislike about his swing?

  9. Charlie CHUCK December 3, 2015 at 6:34 am #

    Do we know how a driver swing looks from dtl? In other words, does it steepen as much and at the same points in the swing as this iron dtl?

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