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Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ben Hogan on Leg Drive

Part of the Route 67 series

I quoted Manuel de la Torre as an authority on arm swing; it only makes sense to turn to Ben Hogan for thoughts on leg drive. The following few quotes come from Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, considered by some to be the bible of modern golf technique. Again, I don't like quoting long passages much in my blog, but it's best to let the experts say it in their own words. I'll keep it short. (For you lefties out there... just remember that Hogan is right-handed.)
The downswing is initiated by turning the hips to the left. The shoulders, arms and hands -- in that order -- then release their power. The great speed developed in this chain reaction carries the golfer all the way around to the finish of his follow-through (p85).
Here we are, with the hips and legs driving the swing.
The main thing for the novice or the average golfer is to keep any conscious hand action out of his swing. The correct swing is founded on chain action, and if you use the hands when you shouldn't, you prevent this chain action.

What do the hands do? The answer is that they do nothing active until after the arms have moved on the downswing to a position just above the level of the hips. The arms don't propel this motion themselves. They are carried down by the movement of the hips. To understand just how the hands and arms get this "free ride," pick up a club, swing it back, and hold your position at the top of the backswing. Now, forgetting about your hands and arms entirely, start to move your hips back to the left, in comparative slow motion. Now look where your hands are. This movement of the hips has automatically carried them down from the top -- quite a good ways down, in fact, so that they are just about at hip level. In this position, tied in as they are with the body's ever-building speed and power, the arms and hands should feel absolutely loaded with power (p93).
That's pretty straightforward, right? This position is easy to duplicate using Hogan's explanation, and it may help you understand some of the reasons Tiger went to Hank Haney. (One quick note: The quiet hands Hogan talks about are also part of de la Torre's teaching -- the difference is how they get the hands down to this position.)
After you have initiated the downswing with the hips, you want to think of only one thing: hitting the ball (p96).
Again, pretty straightforward. Hogan had you do the move slowly to see how it worked, but with this line he's talking about doing it at full speed. It happens so fast that after you drive your legs and hips, you don't have much time to do anything but hit the ball. From this position you aren't going to go across the target line before you hit the ball -- in fact, there's a good chance you'll go across the line after you hit the ball. This is what Hogan was after -- an inside-to-out swing, with the ball headed out to the right. If you have squared up the clubface, the ball is going to draw gently back to your target line.

As with the arm-powered swing, the feel of the swing almost creates the technique.

I hope this helps you understand what makes a leg-powered swing so distinctive. And again, neither swing -- arm-powered nor leg-powered -- is intrinsically better than the other. It's just a matter of which is easiest for you to perform consistently. Both share a lot of the same techniques, but they feel different.

1 comment:

  1. “For Ben, the beginning move in the downswing is a hip turn. Ben uses three and one half pages explaining the “how-to” of the move. He covers lateral motion, the hip “arc”, inside left thigh muscles, outside right thigh muscles, etc. He provides a visualized image of an elastic band attached to the forward (in relation to the target) hip stretched out on the backswing and then snapping back to initiate the downswing.
    I (and perhaps you too) need a simpler conception. This one works well for me. The hip turn is always accomplished when the right foot (foot away from the target) pivots from a flat on the ground position to a toe only down position. For the foot to be able to do that the weight must shift to the forward foot. Then the hips will turn by themselves if the golfer focuses on rolling the right foot towards the big toe and then lifts the heel so the sole of the shoe faces directly away from the target.”

    Excerpt From: Mike Stair. “Ben Hogan's Five Lessons.” iBooks.