5 Fundamentals of the Golf Swing You Need to Know

Ben Hogan, image: golfdigest.com

Ben Hogan, image: golfdigest.com

There have been hundreds of golf instruction books written over the years. Few have reached “cult status, ” but one that has is Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. On Amazon, the book has around 1,800 reviews with 85% being five stars, and another 11% are four stars. That begs the question, is this the book that will change your game?

Before answering that question, it is helpful to know a little about Ben Hogan the golfer. It took him a long time to become the legend he is today. It’s important to keep in mind that the “modern” fundamentals Mr. Hogan refers to are the evolution of golf club construction from wooden hickory shafts (which young Hogan grew up hitting and required exquisite timing) to steel shafts, which emphasized power. Hogan wrote his classic instruction book in 1957 and declared in a 1985 interview that he would write it exactly the same way. Hogan’s “modern” golf, however, did not include graphite shafts, composite club materials, 460 cc-sized driver heads, perimeter-weighted clubs, hybrids, urethane-covered golf balls and everything else now in the game, 60 years from the release of Five Lessons.

Second, before he became “BEN HOGAN,” Hogan was a struggling professional who was unable to tame a deadly and unreliable hook. He did not win on the PGA tour until he was 28 years old. Everything he preached about how to hit a golf ball was intended to eliminate the hook from the game. If you are a player whose main fault is a slice – like the vast majority of players – you may not find the elusive answers to golf you are seeking in this book.

The Five Lessons

I. The grip

Hogan started his fundamentals with the grip, stressing that a proper grip is a foundation for everything that follows. A grip must be firm and enable both hands to work as a single unit. Few teachers would quibble with this advice today, but the grip demonstrated in the book is one to eliminate any chance of hitting the ball right to left.

Grip Explanation From The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, image: golferholic.com

Grip Explanation From The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, image: golferholic.com

II. Stance and Posture

Hogan believed above all else that a specific series of fundamentals were necessary to perform in order to produce a sound swing. That consistency begins with the way the golfer stands up to the golf ball. That set up should be the same every time, perfectly balanced and poised.

III. The First Part of the Swing

A waggle is a series of miniature swings executed before hitting a shot. A waggle is a chance to release tension and assist in visualizing the shot you are attempting to play. A waggle is part of a pre-shot routine that should accompany every shot and is individual to every golfer – modern or not.

IV. The Second Part of the Swing

Hogan tried to explain that a golf swing should be visualized as having two distinct parts, or planes. The first imaginary plane extends from the golfers’ shoulders on the backswing. The second plane is created in the downswing and should always be below that first plane.

Two Planes on Backswing, image: golfergeeks.com

Two Planes on Backswing, image: golfergeeks.com

V. Summary and Review

In the last lesson, Mr. Hogan shares his philosophies on golf and the golf swings. For instance, he worships at the altar of practice – “The secret is in the dirt.” On the swing itself he says, “Reverse every natural instinct and do the opposite of what you are inclined to do, and you will probably come very close to having a perfect golf swing.”

Ben Hogan's Golf Swing, image leisuregolfbr.com

Ben Hogan’s Golf Swing, image leisuregolfbr.com

Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf grew out of a five-part magazine series Hogan and Herbert Warren Wind wrote for Sports Illustrated and today can be found in paperback.

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