Hogan’s Five Lessons Can Hurt You

Ben Hogan’s book, Five Lessons, is perhaps the most influential golf instruction ever written.

And yet it gives no help to almost any recreational golfer.

Every instruction book is really titled, How I Play Golf, by [you name it].

Hogan had a hook that kept him in the ranks of mediocrity. Five Lessons teaches us how he came to hit the ball to the right, and not to the left, and became Ben Hogan the legend.

Given that most recreational golfers slice, these five lessons are probably the worst instruction they could get.

For the rest, who do play right to left, the book is still full of bad advice, not about how to play more rightward, but about the swing in general.

Let’s start with the grip. From page 27: “School yourself when you’re taking your grip so that the thumb and the adjoining part of the hand across the V – the part that is the upper extension of the forefinger – press up against each other tightly, as inseparable Siamese twins. Keep them pressed together as you begin to affix your grip and maintain this airtight pressure between them when you fold the right hand over the left toward [your] target.”

The stance, from page 48: “A word of emphasis about the elbows. You want to press them as closely together as you can.” And the caption on page 49:” Keep the elbows and arms as close together as possible throughout the entire swing.” Page 56: “A word further about the knees. During the golf swing, the knees work ‘toward each other.’ Since they do, let’s start them that way to begin with, each knee pointing in.” and “If the right knee is pointed in it helps brace the right leg on the backswing, and the right leg must be sturdily braced to prevent the golfer from swaying his body laterally to the right as he swings the club back.”

The backswing. Page 71: “If the hips are turned too far around, then you can create no tension in the muscles between the hips and shoulders. A golfer wants to have this tension; he wants the midsection of his body to be tightened up, for this tension is the key to the whole downswing.” page 74: “Maximum tension in the muscles between the hips and shoulders produces maximum speed.” “The tighter the tension in these muscles, the faster the upper part of the body will unwind… .” p. 81: “Start in the position of address with the upper part of your arms and your elbows glued to the sides of your chest. Exaggerate this adhesion, if anything.”

The forward swing: from page 91, a section too long for me to quote in full, but a few key phrases are, “…these muscles [of the hips] must be stretched taut with tension that is just waiting for the golfer’s signal to be released.” “Same thing with the hips. The greater the tension the faster you can move them.”

Add this all up and you would such a ball of tension that could barely move.

This is how Ben Hogan swung the club, but you are not Ben Hogan. No one else is, either.

2 thoughts on “Hogan’s Five Lessons Can Hurt You”

  1. Excellent commentary, Bob. Too much “tension” is the enemy of the golf swing. I know a very good golfer whose basic swing mantra is: “I want as little tension in my swing as possible.

    I get hung up in watching the pros keep a “straight left arm.” When I try too hard to do that, I feel tension I don’t want to feel.

    So, I find the pre-swing thought “Relax and Release” gives me less tension and better swing tempo through the ball, and out to the target.

    My left arm is not as “straight” as that of the pros, but the relaxation factor helps make up for it. So, too, does striking the ball in the center of the club face, instead of all over the place!

    1. Craig,
      As long as your left arm stays in the same shape it had at address you’ll be fine. If limited flexibility prevents that, a work-around should not be difficult to find.

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