What can you say about Ben Hogan that hasn’t been said a million times already? The guy worked harder, concentrated harder, and was more driven than anyone else. The greatest testament to what Hogan meant to the game, however, is the fact that his swing is the most studied, most talked about and most copied of all time.
A lot of the talk has centered on his supposed left-wrist cup at the top of the backswing, which was said to fight his tendency to hook the ball. Yet most pictures of Hogan at the top show little proof of this. I think he learned how to fight the hook in a different way. Check out the famous picture of Hogan on his approach shot on the 72nd hole during the 1950 U.S. Open at Merion and you’ll see something interesting. Hogan hasn’t rotated the club so that his right hand is all the way on top of his left hand with the clubface pointing behind him in the finish, like you see in most good swings. Instead, his hands are about even and the back of the clubhead and the palm of his left hand are facing the target (as in the photo at right, snapped in 1955). It’s a classic cut-release, a move that enabled Hogan to fade anything from a sand wedge to his famous 1-iron.
Very few golfers used this move during Hogan’s era. In my time, Ray Floyd was about the only one to do it, but you see a lot of the younger and stronger Tour players do it today, including Tiger Woods. Hogan’s left-palm-forward finish, lost for 40 years, is suddenly in style.
Here’s how to do it: As you swing into impact, square the face as you normally would, but then curl your right hand under your left as though you’re purposefully cupping your left wrist. If you continue your arm swing as you do this, you’ll hold the face open and get to the Hogan finish with the club held off and the ball curving gently to the right. If you’re a slicer, this might not be a good move. But if your bad miss is a hook, Hogan’s real secret allows you to swing as hard as you want from the top without fear of going left.