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Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hogan VS Wright

Since we don't have much going on in the golf world for the next couple of weeks -- after all, this is Christmas week! -- I thought I'd try to focus on some classic instruction and year-end review stuff. Today I found this cool comparison video by PGA certified pro Todd Dugan. Check out the side-by-side views of legends Ben Hogan and Mickey Wright!

Let me point out a few interesting things that you might otherwise miss:
  • Both players are set up to play draws. You can tell because their feet are lined up to the right, and that's not just the camera angle. Their shoulders are lined up straight away from the camera, not parallel to their toe lines.
  • Todd mentions that both players have their arms extended away from their bodies. If you look at my "Basic Principles of the Game" posts, which are in the category of the same name, you'll find that Principle #4 is that the forearms and the club shaft should form a straight line. Doing so eliminates a lot of possible changes in the angle of contact, and that's what Hogan and Wright are doing. (Nancy Lopez lifts her hands to start her backswing. That serves the same purpose.) Please note that they don't have to form a perfectly-straight line; what's important is that you minimize any wrist angles if you can. You'll see why later in this video.
  • Note that Hogan bends his right elbow more on the backswing than Wright. That's because he swings on a flatter plane than she does... and apparently doesn't turn his shoulders as early in the swing as she does. Look at Hogan and Wright's hands at the 2:11 mark -- you can see that Wright's hands are more centered between her shoulders than Hogan's. This is a combination of having his elbow bent more and his shoulders turned less. Sound familiar?
  • Also note that Hogan bends his right elbow backward while she bends it downward. Again, that's a function of their planes. But the interesting comparison of backswing positions is at around 3:06 on the video, when both players' left arms are parallel to the bottom edge of the video -- Hogan's swing may be flatter, but his hands are actually higher above the shaft line than Wright's! He's lifting his hands, which is just what you'd expect when he doesn't turn his shoulders early enough. The reason he doesn't come over the top is because he tucks his elbow into his side so tightly on both his backswing and downswing. Otherwise, he'd come over the top big time! Bobby Jones also had a flat swing... and made a similar move.
  • At about 3:20, ignore Todd's line for Hogan's shaft position at the top of the swing. Look carefully -- you'll see the club head peeking over his left forearm. That's because he's overswung a bit; when he starts down, the club head moves behind his hands, then the shaft reappears and points at the ground about halfway between the ball and his feet -- that's the classic Hogan "laid-off shaft" move. Hogan is above the original shaft line all the way down, while Wright gets back on it at waist high and stays there. The lesson? As long as your swing works, don't get too hung up over perfect positions!
  • Back to the forearm/shaft alignment: Notice at impact that Wright's shaft and right forearm look almost perfectly straight while Hogan's wrists seem to "bump up" a bit so the line from elbow to club head isn't quite straight. (Hogan's position is clearer before Todd draws in the shaft line at 4:51.) That's because of Hogan's weak left hand grip -- he's rotating it hard so the club face doesn't point to the right at contact. Remember, he's set up for a draw.
Like I said, this is a pretty cool video since it shows two greats of the game side-by-side. It also demonstrates how two players with similar swings can be so different technically.


  1. Great analysis Mike. Interesting that the video was of both players pretty advanced in years. Sure makes it easier for us to copy than trying to do what Hogan did in his prime.

    However - Hogan despised any shot that turned left. He pulled his right foot back so he could rotate his hips - not to hit a draw.

  2. I agree with you, Court. Perhaps I should have said "closed" setup rather than "draw" setup, but most players probably think of them in those terms anyway.

    You're right that Hogan was paranoid about hooks. In fact, in Five Lessons he never really talks about fades or draws, but recommends a standard setup that would cause most players to draw the long shots and fade the short ones. And you're also right that he says he sets up for the fade on short shots to "get the left hip out of the way before you begin to play your stroke" (page 125) and his stance diagram shows a fade setup for short shots and a draw setup for long shots.

    It's interesting to compare the differences between Five Lessons and his earlier book Power Golf (1948). Among other things, he had a much stronger grip then -- he said you should be able to see 3 knuckles at setup. No wonder he used to hit duck hooks!

    Hogan did play a draw on occasion, but it was a very slight one. That slight "over the top" move may have been intentional, to help him minimize the "in-to-out" movement his setup encourages. On the shorter shots, he wouldn't have made it because swings don't go over the top until you reach the change of direction. (I mentioned that in the series I did for Dexter, when I said the bent elbow was actually useful for some short game shots.)

    BTW, have you ever noticed that most pros seem to prefer shots that go against their natural shot shape? A few guys (Kenny Perry comes to mind) do play their natural shot, but most of them say "I used to play such-and-such a shot, then I learned to work it the other way and that's what I do now." And Hogan's the classic example.

  3. Wow - I never looked at the original printing dates on the two books. Always had the Five Fundamentals as his first book...compiled from the magazine articles, of course.

    Every pro can hit every shot in the book when they need to. Of course Hogan hit a draw or a hook on occassion if he got into trouble or if a particular hole demanded it. That's what makes Colonial so much fun to watch - twists and turns in all directions.

    Harvey Penick taught the draw as a more natural shot and better for the average player. The big hitters like the fade for control once the ball hits the ground. They don't want the ball running off. Remember - "you can talk to a fade." :-)

    "There is no such individual as a born golfer. Some have more natural ability than others, but they’ve all been made." — Ben Hogan

  4. Fades don't listen to either Phil or Tiger. Perhaps they don't understand "english"... or maybe the big boys just aren't speaking clearly enough. ;-)

  5. Fades do - but the tee shots those guys hit more often than they would like aren't anything like a fade.

    What's amazing to think about is that they are probably no more late (or early) with squaring their clubface than you or I - but their clubhead speed sends their ball miles off line.

    I wonder what would happen to Tiger's driving if he went back to a steel shaft that doesn't torque like graphite.

  6. Here's what happens: Tiger gets stuck (which Foley seems to be fixing) and Phil hangs back on his left leg (that's what Butch says). Both are timing problems which cause the player to tilt backward, so they swing more in-to-out than they intended. Essentially, they hit a straight push out to the side.

    It's just a timing problem between their upper and lower bodies.