Ben Hogan was not only one of the most dominant golfers of the 40s and 50s, but also a master technician, and the most influential swing analyst of the entire 20th century. Like Bobby Jones twenty years before, Hogan created a number of “lessons” that were given mainstream media exposure. In Hogan’s case it was a series of articles in publications such as Sports Illustrated, Life, Esquire, and Golf Digest.
The famous Hogan “secret” was revealed in Life magazine article in 1955. This involved a cupping of the left wrist at the top of the backswing — creating the sensation of pushing the right hand towards the front. This “secret” let Hogan hit a high fade, and helped him combat the hook he so dreaded. Of course the vast majority of recreational golfers fade or slice the ball, so Hogan’s secret proved to be useless for them.
Another equally (or more) important Hogan insight revealed in Five Lessons has to do with the position of the left (front) wrist and hand at the point of impact. According to Hogan, the front arm and wrist should be leading the swing, and the front wrist bone should actually push out towards the target slightly at the point of impact and beyond. This is known as supination, and according to Hogan, “every good golfer has his left wrist in this supinating position at impact… Every poor golfer does the exact reverse. As his club comes into the ball, he starts to pronate the left wrist — to turn it so that the [left] palm will be facing down.” p. 101, Five Lessons, Fireside Edition, Simon and Schuster, 1957.
According to Hogan, good golfers all supinate their lead wrist, while poorer golfers pronate (or flip). In other words, the “poor golfer” tries to flip his hands to get the ball in the air, and in so doing adds loft to the club, loses distance, and fails to maximize the backspin imparted by striking down on the ball. The “good golfer”, on the other hand, drives down through the ball, “letting the club do the work”, and actually tends to de-loft the club slightly, and thus tends to get more distance as well as a more penetrating ball flight.
If you have studied the swing at all, this will not come as a surprise to you. On the other hand, if you haven’t read Hogan’s Five Lessons, The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, you’re missing perhaps the most important golf swing book ever published. The illustrations alone are worth studying. You should also have a look at David Leadbetter’s excellent commentary called The Fundamentals of Hogan. In a future report I will do a more extensive summary of the most important points made in both of these books.