Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Ben Hogan's Secret-The Breakthrough (Part 1)

This is a bit of a long post that chronicles details of his breakthrough in 1946. Its broken into parts so its not too windy (OK, its still windy, but its multiple winds:))

“Nothing from nothing is nothing.”

On 8 April 1946, one day removed from yet another excruciatingly painful missed opportunity to win his first major championship, William Ben Hogan did something extraordinary and without precedent in his adult life; he went the entire day without hitting a golf ball. Hogan took a day off from his usual routine of pounding golf balls from sunup to sundown in order to contemplate his golf game and his future. In fact his self reflection lasted for a reported three days during which time he did not touch a club, such was the seriousness of the undertaking. The resulting self-assessment represented a gut check of his performance and his career.
In keeping with a tradition that spanned and prevailed throughout his career, his views were a stark contrast to the opinions and perceptions of others who had witnessed his improved results and performance from 1940 to this point in his career.

From a surface level or macro viewpoint, he had established a standard that saw him averaging over five wins a year between 1940-45 (not counting his World War II service years). He was also the leading money winner for three years in a row. With such a pattern of success established, it is understandable how most people were largely unaware of his struggles and his desperation to improve himself to achieve better results. Even for those who knew him well, it was somewhat of a puzzlement as to what it was he was trying to achieve and most not only missed the boat entirely, but would have been shocked to hear Hogan’s viewpoint of his own efforts; his frank assessment found him wanting and judged that he was simply not “cutting the mustard.” He had yet to win a major championship and he still suffered from fundamental swing problems that had plagued him since he was a rookie in 1932. He was unable to hit the ball in the manner he sought, which was to control the ball as if it was on a string. Of late, he was increasingly unable to get the ball up in the air and had great difficulty moving it from left to right. These fundamental problems were beyond the point of being a mere aggravation or concern; his inability to hit the ball in the air at will and also to control his hook were impediments to his vision of how he wanted to play the game. This sober assessment of his performance and of his golf game likely hit him like a blow to the stomach, but it was also, in his mind, an assessment long overdue.

In the fraternity that is the golf world, in which you are judged by your performance and results in the big events, Hogan found that he still remained somewhat of an outsider, despite his relative seniority, unable to break into the ranks of the elite golfers of the day. He would certainly be on the list of golfers invited to tee it up when the top golfers of the day were pulsed for an outing or in support of a worthy cause. But he would not have been included in the top tier of golfers, the first “rung” consisting of major championship winners. Hogan knew this and whether somewhat self-imposed by his continued self-reflection intended to improve his golf, while yet for others more imagined than real, it ate at him something fierce, representing a powerful motivation that normally kept him on the grindstone day after day.

Lest we think of this as some bygone concept or old school convention, anyone following golf today is likely well aware of the names of the leading players with the dubious distinction of being on the list of the “best players never to have won a major.” The text is present tense for that very reason, in fact, a replay of the tape capturing the exchange of congratulations between Greg Norman and Corey Pavin upon the latter’s U. S. Open Championship victory in 1995 at Shinnecock Hills corroborates how modern a sentiment this remains, as Greg’s greeting to Corey was “Welcome to the club.” Because of the difference in the way golfers and writers view golf, it is likely that the latter knew exactly what Greg meant, whereas Corey would likely admit to being somewhat puzzled by the remark, as he spent the better part of the last several years debunking the meaning or importance of such artificial labels; but more to the point, the cerebral Pavin knew instinctively that he had just joined an elite club that did not count Norman as a member.

Hogan was similarly on somewhat of a different wavelength than others when it came to an assessment of his results. His three putts from an estimated fourteen feet on the 72d hole of the 1946 Masters Tournament had blown an opportunity to force a playoff that could well have led to his first major championship victory. Coupled with his playoff loss to Byron Nelson in his previous Master’s Tournament in 1942, factoring in his World War II service obligations of the previous years during which the Masters was not held, his desire to win represented a festering ache of some four long years with no relief in sight. His win at the Hale America Open in 1942 was a U.S. Open win by every standard but the one that counted, namely, official sanction by the USGA, which had suspended the championship for the duration of the war. Unlike others who witnessed the Masters action that day, Hogan’s assessment had little to nothing to do with the three putts or improving his capability on the greens and everything to do with what came before the last hole. Relatively speaking, a savings of a mere three shots over the course of 144 holes and 563 strokes would have won him back-to-back major championships. When you account for the additional play represented by his disappointing playoff loss by one stroke to Byron Nelson in 1942, the margin is smaller still. A mere four strokes out of 633 over the course of 162 holes was the difference that separated him from two major championships. While many viewed the results in a different light, Hogan’s harshest critic knew exactly how close he was to breaking through and yet how far away he truly was from closing the margin. He also knew the root cause of the problem and it had nothing to do with putting or play on the greens.

The truth be known, Hogan knew better than anybody that he was quite fortunate to have been in a position to win in the first place. His problematic hook, which he described as akin to having a “rattlesnake” in his golf bag, had increasingly made an unwelcome appearance during his recent tournament play. The deleterious effect on his play, as well as his nerves and his confidence, had become a significant enough problem that he was forced to address the issue, albeit somewhat indirectly, by adapting or modifying his course management techniques. He would later describe this as a time period in which he was having difficulty getting the ball in the air, even with his trusty four wood, to the point where he had to factor the limitation into his shot making and course management decisions throughout the tournament. Hogan’s reaction to this state of affairs and his frank and sober assessment is telling, indicative of his strength of character, convictions and commitment to his goals and standards. But more so indicative of how desperate he was to fix the problem once and for all. The issue had dogged him every step of the way since turning pro in 1932, all the while attempting fixes and temporary cures but ultimately failing to permanently resolve the problem. Hogan was so desperate to resolve his hooking problem that he took time off from the tour and he canceled his obligations for the remainder of the month. Hogan was convinced that he would not compete in the major championships unless he resolved the issue once and for all.

International Shipping

I asked the distributor to add a note to the book order site directing international orders to contact me directly. The bottom line is the distributor charges US $25 for shipping & while that may make sense with UPS Ground and ensuring it makes it through customs, I shipped a book to Vancouver BC recently for $5.23. A book to Australia cost $10.25

Contact me directly for these orders and I will close on an estimate, invoice via Paypal and ship it via book ground.

Good Golfing!


Saturday, December 12, 2009

Henny Bogan and the Secret of Ben Hogan Books are enroute!

For those who have ordered Henny Bogan and the Secret of Ben Hogan, thank-you! I received a notice that the first books have shipped and will arrive 15 Dec (Tuesday).

Good Golfing!


Monday, November 30, 2009

Ben Hogan's Secret-The secret is out!

My website is active and ready to pre-order books. The book went to the printer on 24Nov 2009 and will be printed by 15 Dec 2009 (the First Edition print run).

Anyone wishing to purchase a copy should visit the website below. If you wish to purchase a signed copy, please contact me via email to work out the details. Either way visit the site, read the intro and let me know what you think.

Good Golfing!

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Ben Hogan's Secret

10 April 1946.

This is the date that Hogan discovered his breathrough technique that solved his hook for all time. I used a generic description of April-May 1946 in my book because it was not that germaine to what he did (e.g., the when), but I have since had time to do some research on it and I am convinced that this is the date. I will add the why in a future post.

Good Golfing!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Henny Bogan and the Secret of Ben Hogan book update

I approved the physical proof and made a few minor corrections this past week. The book is being printed as we speak. It was a significant milestone to finally get the physical proof.

While it seems like it has taken forever, it has been just about a year since I started writing the book and closing on a year since I felt I had enough to constitute a book.

In fact, looking at my emails, it was 25 Nov 2008 when I sent my first email to Jules Alexander to broach the idea of using his photography. Time flies

I will send a notice out when the actual booksite is up and running.

Good Golfing!


Monday, October 12, 2009

Henny Bogan and the Secret of Ben Hogan book

I approved the electronic proof for Henny Bogan and the Secret of Ben Hogan on 9 Oct 2009 and I will approve the physical proof this week. I will shortly send an update to the mailing list when this site is activated for purchases.

Meanwhile, book number two is coming together. It is an amplification of aspects of Henny Bogan and the Secret of Ben Hogan intended to clarify many of the instructional elements that were not developed in the first book. I hope to publish the second book by spring in time for the golf season.

Good Golfing!


Sunday, September 20, 2009

Henny Bogan and the Secret of Ben Hogan Cover

This is the cover for Henny Bogan and the Secret of Ben Hogan. I sent some minor revisions (7) back yesterday and should get to approve the changes next week. Back cover and then proofs are next. Should be getting close. I also published an updated Ezine article that discusses more of the facts related to the story.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Henny Bogan and The Secret of Ben Hogan

I wanted to provide an update on the book. I revised the name and this past week I approved the font, style and chapter layout for the book. Once the overall design is approved, we complete the back cover and set a price, it is all systems go for the publishing! I will update and activate the order mechanism available through the web site. I plan to send this note via email, as well, so look for the email as verification that I have you on the list. Thanks for the interest in the book! MC

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Ben Hogan's Secret

My previous blog left us with the question of what Ben Hogan was trying to do with his swing that caused him to hook (in the first place). The subtle or implied issue is that a hook is a symptom of a problem or issue and not something to fix per se, for instance like a faulty grip or an improper swing path or a weight and balance issue. So while it is roundly acknowledged that Hogan had a hooking problem, it is rare indeed to see that issue decomposed to assign cause to his action and to also look at why he did not do more about it before 1946.

The reason Hogan hooked the ball is because of the action he initiated to hit the ball farther when he was competing with the other caddy’s at Glen Garden Country Club, Fort Worth in the 1920s (likely 1924-1927). The caddy’s played a game where they hit balls toward holes for nickels. The winner obviously won money but the loser had to gather all the balls up for the next round. Hogan was younger and smaller than the other caddy’s and found he could not hit the ball nearly as far. At the time he was doing two things over all others; fighting for his place in the pecking order to get choice corners for selling newspapers, as well as with the other caddy’s because that was the nature of the caddy yard, and he was learning to play golf. He combined the two to derive a golf action that enabled him to hit the ball farther and farther as he matured. The action was similar to throwing a punch, with the movement of the arms keyed to the rotation of the hips. He likely worked on his timing in order to have his right arm launch just as quickly as possible to follow the action of the right hip. He staged it off the hip just like throwing a punch, as he would later relate in his books. I should add that this was not the "cartoony" hay maker, often depicted as being wound up behind the head, but the punch of someone who knows how to use his hands, akin to a boxers jab or short punch that travels a short distance propelled off the hip. While it may not be obvious, timing release off the hip, all things being equal, means that everything is rotating powerfully to the left through impact. Without some other form of swing compensation, the shoulders, arms and hands work aggressively left or closing through the ball. The obvious problem with this action is that it causes a low running hook, but this type shot was ideal for the dry fairway conditions of the golf courses he played in Texas. Hogan likely worked on his swing in earnest during this time period, as much if not more so than he did throughout his life while earning a reputation as a tireless ball striker.

It would be no easy feat to change this basic action that had been so ingrained by the time he turned professional in 1932. He would struggle with a hook problem initially through 1938 and then off and on through 1946, when he finally figured out a way to cure the problem once and for all. He revealed pronation as his “secret” in an article in the 8 August 1955 Life Magazine. Pronation is what he added to his swing to solve the problem, and a careful look at his swing reveals that he continued to maintain the link between his hips and his arm swing throughout his career.

If pronation was indeed his secret, what was left to reveal that has had many speculating for years about his real secret?

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Ben Hogan's Secret: The Heart of the Matter

If you ask the next 100 golfers you meet about Ben Hogan’s swing and what he was trying to achieve, you are likely to get the same answer from each golfer. The question is, what was Hogan trying to do with his swing? And the invariable or inevitable answer will be that he was trying to cure his hook. Hogan was a bit dogmatic about answering questions, often pausing for embarrassing amounts of time to give even the most rudimentary of answers. He did not suffer fools and was ice cold to those who misquoted him or who published a story without careful scrutiny of the facts. There is a story told about a dialogue he had with a German professional golfer that involved the topic of hooks and causes and cures. Hogan did not react well to the question of the cause of a hook and the dialogue became somewhat tense when the German pro was a bit insulted at Hogan’s insinuation that if the German golfer was indeed a pro, then he certainly knew what caused a hooking ball flight action in the swing. The German pro had to acknowledge that he did indeed know and a pleasant conversation ensued thereafter.

The somewhat obvious point of my story is that all things being equal, a hook is the result of something done in the swing. Much like a slice, it is the result of a deliberate or inadvertent act or flaw of some type that acts on the ball in a manner that causes the result. To further belabor the obvious, Hogan was attempting to do something with his swing that caused him to hook the ball. He always talked about developing a powerful, consistent, repeating swing. The manner in which he tried to go about it produced a hooking action. What was it that caused the problem in the first place?
Many believe Hogan’s insistence on an inside move, with the right arm close to the side, caused the hooking problems. But many golfers swing from the inside and it is roundly acknowledged as a good players swing. Still others maintain that his flat plane was the obvious cause and that anyone who swung similarly would have the same problems. But Hogan always disputed the characterization of swing planes as flat or upright unless the discussion included some type of context about the golfer’s stature and body type. Hogan felt it was erroneous to characterize swing planes as one or the other without accounting for the golfer. Part of the reason he was adamant about this topic stems from his own stature. Jules Alexander reports on his website that Hogan’s arm length was 35”, which is pretty long for someone 5’7” or 5’8”. The technique that Hogan adopted to cure his hook, often referred to as the old Scottish technique of deliberate pronation, was thought to help golfers get the ball off the ground easier (while helping the average golfer hook). Again, these examples start a bit into the discussion, assuming that Hogan’s problem was the hook.

But what was causing him to hook it in the first place????

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ben Hogan Books and The Secret

Ben Hogan spent a considerable amount of time giving back to the game via his thoughtful books and articles related to the golf swing. He stated that he wanted to give back as much as he had "subtracted" from golf. While I am pretty sure he did not mean that literally, it is equally true that his dedication to golf was complete and he truly felt blessed to have achieved so much doing something that he loved.
Hogan taught millions of golfers over the years, indirectly through his books and directly through the influence of his reputation for high caliber play and his image captured in a variety of media and formats. His books include Ben Hogan's Power Golf, first printed in 1948 and updated or abridged in several printings since that time; Five Lessons, The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, first released in a series of Sports Illustrated articles in March 1957 and released later that year as a book, reprinted over the years including an updated foreword that captures Hogan's interview with Nick Seitz in December 1984; Life Magazine articles related to his secret, including April 5, 1954 and August 8, 1955, the former included top pros of the day guessing his secret and the latter with Hogan disclosing his secret of pronation.
A few interesting notes about these references. Power Golf was clearly written and released prior to Hogan achieving what he described as the "full integration" of his understanding of the golf swing, which was later expressed in Five Lessons. So the majority of Power Golf was likely written prior to Hogan's breakthrough in 1946. From a personal standpoint, I did not realize until 1994 or so that the original and many of the abridged versions had actual pictures vice the line drawings contained in the later version (that I owned). A big difference in many of the pictures related to the book is Hogan still has an extremely long swing, which provides some evidence that the pictures were taken prior to his change to a short thumb in his golf swing, which he modified coming out of the service in 1945. That is not to say that he never swung long after 1945 as can clearly be seen from the Hogan Collection.
A seeming discrepancey between the Life Magazine articles outlining his secret and his book Five Lessons is the glaring ommission of any discussion about pronation. Further, although he described the technique in some detail to Nick Seitz in the updated foreword added in 1985, he also stated emphatically that he would write Five Lessons the same way, "everything I know about the full swing is in here; I don't think the fundamentals will ever change". Hogan obviously believed that deliberate pronation, as espoused in the Life Magazine article, was not a fundamental of the golf swing.
The Life articles have fostered almost 50 years of misunderstanding and confusion over the relative importance of pronation in the golf swing. Hogan himself said it would be ruinous for a bad player and he clearly did not recommend it as a fundamental or basic element of the golf swing.
Many have confused the secret revealed in the Life Magazine article with aspects of the swing that Hogan advocated. That is clearly not the case, as evidenced by the absence of any emphasis on pronation (save for a portion discussing the dangers of early pronation at impact) in the book. Whenever I read about "Hogan's secret being bad for new or beginning golfers" it strikes one as promulgating Hogan's own words, since that is exactly what he said all along. Of course that assumes that the secret outlined in the Life Magazine article and Hogan's secret for his swing are one and the same thing. More on that topic in a later blog.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Secret of Ben Hogan and Henny Bogan

Ben Hogan was in the news quite a bit over the years after he turned professional in 1930 and joined the pro tour around 1932. The first reference to Henny Bogan in printed or written material traces back to at least as early as 1936 and is attributable to Hogan himself. His employees gave Hogan a nameplate for his desk that stated simply "Henny Bogan". He often signed notes or letters or answered the telephome by referring to himself as Henny Bogan. Was this just a comical or lighthearted attempt at humor, simply a play on his name?

Monday, February 16, 2009

Secret of Henny Bogan and Ben Hogan Secret Factoid

Was his 1953 season the greatest golf year of all time? Winning 5 of 6 pro tournaments while sweeping the major championships he entered, including the U.S. Open, the Masters and the Open (Britiish) is a remarkable record. He could not play in the P.G.A. Championship because of a scheduling conflict with the Open.

The only comparable feats in my mind are (1) Bobby Jones Amateur Slams (2) Byron Nelson's 11 victories in a row (3) Tiger Wood's Grand Slam (holding all the championship titles).

These are not quite comparable events in my mind, however it is hard to argue against Byron Nelson's streak as the greatest golf year of all time, regardless of those who denigrate the quality of the competition or fields.

Hogan's is likely second. I think Tiger's is third only because of the difference in schedule emphasis with the modern pros, who largely pace their schedule around the modern majors. Why would that be a factor in a consideration of the greatest season of all time? Consider that Hogan, Snead and Nelson, who won over 200 tournaments between them, only entered the Open (British) a few more times than Tom Watson won it (5). And Hogan batted a 1000 (1 for 1).

The big difference in my mind is the modern stars limit their schedule to focus on and stay fresh for the majors or big events. Hogan's limited play was obviously due to health reasons, playing in only about 32 events from 1950-1955 because of his health. Consider that he won the P.G.A. in 1946 and 1948 and did not play in it again until 1960. So of half of the major championships, including the P.G.A. and the Open, Hogan only played in them a total of 7 times over a 20 year span of time.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Ben Hogan's Secret; Revealed or Concealed?

Ben Hogan supported a series of articles about his secret technique over the years. Chief among these were the Life Magazine articles of April 5, 1954, which was entitled Ben Hogan's Secret: A Debate, in which top pros of the time guessed at his secret (including Walter Burkemo, Claude Harmon, George Fazio, Sam Snead, Fred Gronauer, Mike Turnesa and Gene Sarazen). A little more than a year later, Ben Hogan revealed his secret in the famous 8 August 1955 Life Magazine article. It was his revelation with his endorsement. Why do some believe to this day that there was more information that he did not reveal that allowed the secret to work only for him? And why wasn't the information in Life Magazine repeated in Five Lessons? Was it simply because the information in Life Magazine was not one of "the Modern Fundamentals of Golf?" Sometime later, Hogan offered to reveal his actual secret for a reported sum of 100,000 dollars. The deal never came to fruition. Is there still some relevant information about Hogan's swing that has not already been revealed in the books or magazines or videos of his swing?

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Welcome to The Secret of Henny Bogan!

Welcome to the blog! Just getting started, but look forward to engaging in some free exchanges about golf and in particular, Ben Hogan or Henny Bogan! MC