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The Myth of Hogan and the One Plane Swing

The ascent of the “One Plane Swing”, Jim Hardy’s catchy name for his teaching preferences, is a fairly recent occurrence, coming after Hardy’s success with Peter Jacobsen, Tom Pernice, Olin Browne and other Tour players. Perhaps the most successful of the “one-planers” is Matt Kuchar, who is taught not by Hardy but by Chris O’Connell, a Hardy disciple. I happen to like Kuchar’s swing, and have no problem with anyone teaching what they believe to be viable ways to hit a golf ball, especially when there is evidence that it works, at least for some (which is always the case with every method in the sense that not everyone will benefit from the technique). I happen to believe that the successful tour players who incorporate Hardy’s teaching already had things in place in their swing (that most normal people don’t have) that allowed the method to work for them, but that is not the point of the video.
My problem with Hardy is his erroneous use of Ben Hogan as not only an example of what he claims is the correct way to move the right arm in the golf swing, but the inspiration for his “discovery”. Hardy claims that Hogan changed his swing in his “later competitive years” from one that drove the right arm in front of the right side, elbow first, to one that rolled the left arm down the chest and left the right arm up and back. Hardy’s claim is that Hogan closed the face early in the downswing with this move, then was able to achieve a more neutral, or gradual, release of the clubface through impact, going from closed to open instead of open to closed.
Video evidence completely refutes Hardy’s claim. I have almost every live action Hogan swing ever shot by video camera and Hogan never moves his right arm the way Hardy describes, and that includes Hogan in the late 50’s and 60’s, when he barely played any tournaments due to his ailing body and his problems with the putter. The fact is that people will accept just about anything when it comes to the golf swing if it comes from a credible source, and anything that claims “Hogan did this” gains even more credibility. It is not surprising that no one has stood up to refute Hardy’s misuse of Hogan, as he is an intimidating presence and is one of the best salesmen/cheerleaders you will ever find.
There are a number of other factors at work here, including Hardy’s mystifying dismissal of Hogan’s “early” swings as fatally flawed. Here’s a quote from Hardy’s book, “The Plane Truth for Golfers Master Class”: “For a long time Hogan worked on a move he believed would “delay” the closing of the clubface. In fact, this move is prominently illustrated in his first instructional book, “Power Golf”. What Hogan tried to do, as his hands and arms were about to enter the hitting zone, was to get his right elbow forward so that it was in front of his hands and the club…Hogan figured that the more he could keep his right elbow in front, the more he could keep the clubface open, and if he could keep the clubface open as long as possible before impact he wouldn’t hook the ball…But something was wrong. Despite his careful analysis, and despite the fact that he had gained some success as a professional, Hogan was still plagued at times by an uncontrollable hook”.
There are many things wrong with what Hardy says here, but I will focus on just a few. First, Power Golf was published in 1948, and the swings were taken in 1947. Film of Hogan’s swings from 1948 and 49 show no significant changes from the Power Golf swings. In fact, video of his swings after the accident show no little or no substantive change in technique, although as a constant tinkerer you can bet he was always working on something. The swings he employs in the early fifties to win 6 of his 9 majors are nearly identical to his pre-accident swings. So when did the change Hardy insists happened in Hogan’s “later competitive career” happen? If you watch the swings, the answer is “never”. So what about the “uncontrollable hook” that “plagued” Hogan? What did that hook do to Hogan’s record prior to his “later competitive years”? Well, Hogan won 4 tournaments on Tour in 1940 and was the leading money winner and the Vardon Trophy winner (low stroke average), won 5 tournaments in 1941 and was leading money winner and Vardon Trophy award winner again, won 6 tournaments and was leading money winner in 1942, came back after serving in World War II to win 5 times in 1945, won 13 tournaments and his first major in 1946, won 7 tournaments in 1947, won 11 tournaments including the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship in 1948, then won 2 of the first few tournaments in 1949 before being hit head- on by a bus. How’s that for dealing with an “uncontrollable hook”. Do you qualify that as “some success as a professional?”
Hardy never says what “later competitive years” means, and for good reason. Hogan won one tournament (the 1959 Colonial) after his amazing run in 1953, and rarely played more than a couple of tournaments in any year. Even looking at Hogan’s swings in the 1965 Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match with Sam Snead it is apparent that the swing change Hardy claims inspired him to create the “one plane swing” simple did not exist. Hogan’s right arm and elbow always moved in front of his right hip and never stayed up and behind him as Hardy claims. The video evidence is irrefutable. There are still pictures from odd angles that Hardy uses as evidence of his ideas regarding Hogan’s movements, but every single moving picture tells a totally different story.
The other damning evidence that Hardy is pulling the wool over the public’s eyes by misusing Hogan’s swing is right there in the most popular golf instruction book ever written, Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals. Turn to the chapter entitled “The Second Part of the Swing”, and take a look at the illustrations. You will find at least 5 examples of right arm movement that are exactly the opposite of what Hardy is describing. Hogan’s uses the analogy of the sidearm throw as his most central concept in the action of the right arm in the forward swing. Here is a quote from the book: “It has always seemed to me that, in its general character, this motion (the correct motion of the right arm and hand in the impact area) is quite similar to the one an infielder makes when he throws half underhand, half sidearm [I would call this a “low sidearm” or “submarine motion”] to first after scooping up a ground ball. As he swings his arm forward, his right arm is very close to his right hip. The elbow “leads” the arm-it is the part of the arm nearest the target as he makes the throw”.
If you want the clearest example of why and how Hardy is completely off base just try to throw a ball with a low sidearm motion with the right arm action Hardy describes in his “one plane swing”. You can throw it, but you can’t get anything on the throw. In fact, you might even find yourself thinking that you are “throwing like a girl”, which in fact you would be, if you understood that to mean weakly with your elbow and forearm trailing your hand instead of vice versa. Hardy gives up the leverage gained from this elbow forward position in search of his “inner circle” (shaft plane approach), and presents the action that Hogan used to win all 9 of his majors and 55 other Tour events with a demonstration of the forward driving right arm causing the club to get “stuck” behind him and his body to shoot up under him (like lots of people you see at that driving range who don’t have a clue as to what to do to combine Hogan’s right arm action with proper pivot movement). Make no mistake: Jim Hardy is a genius when it comes to sales and marketing. By coming up with the “one-plane, two-plane” concept he claims to have knowledge of every possible swing type, but his obvious disdain for the two-plane version is hilariously evident in his two plane demonstrations, which tend to look like he is having an epileptic fit. Sure, he can teach both, but why would you want the horrible two plane version when the one-plane is what Hogan did? I find this incredibly irritating.
Again, my point is this: teach what you want, but don’t claim Ben Hogan as your ally and state that he did things that support your theories if you have no evidence of that being the case. The evidence is fully lined up against Hardy’s claims. I would relish the chance to get up on a stage with him and debate this. Just give me my laptop and a screen and I would bury him with Hogan swings from every year you want to look at that prove his ideas to be nonsense.

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