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