The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

The blog is coming from sunny San Diego today as I am spending a little pre Christmas time with the grandkids. This blog as promised, will discuss the book The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, by Ben Hogan. Even though this book is considered one of the classics, I think this book is one of the worst instructional books ever written. Is there any redeeming qualities about the book. Yes, the illustrations are great and the writing itself is very concise and easy to understand. Lets look at the book chapter by chapter.

The Grip

The biggest problem with this chapter is the position of the right hand. Hogan advocates a position where the V’s of the right hand point at the chin. This puts the right hand too much on top of the shaft. A great comparison would be to look at the position of the right hand in Tiger’s book. While is left hand is pretty much with the thumb straight down the shaft, his right hand is in a position where the palm is more or less facing the target with the V’s pointing between the right shoulder and the right ear. With the position that Hogan advises, it is almost impossible for the average golfer to square the club head. A much better explanation of the grip and what it is supposed to do is in John Jacob’s book Practical Golf.

Stance and Posture

This is where the book really goes off on the deep end and advocates things that even Hogan himself did not do. First of all he advises to keep your right foot perpendicular to the line of flight. This may be ok for the really advanced golfer, but to slightly flair the right foot out at a 10 to 15 degree angle will make the hip turn a lot easier for the beginner. The book says that the feet should be shoulder width for a 5 iron shot and then wider for the longer clubs. Again such a wide stance makes turning more difficult. The feet should be about shoulder width for the driver and then begin to get narrower as the clubs get shorter. But the final thing is the instruction to keep the elbows and the arms as close together as possible at address and throughout the entire swing. If you look at pictures of Hogan at address he really did not follow this. If you try this, it just creates a lot of unnecessary tension in the address position.  The other thing that was interesting Hogan used a closed stance for the longer clubs even though he was a fader of the ball. He discussed this at the end of the book. Even with a stance that favors a hook, Hogan could still fade the ball with the technique he describes in the book.

The First Part of the Swing

He writes about the hands starting the swing and the plane concepts really means advocating a one plane swing. He claims that you are heading for disaster if you thrust your arms up above the plane so that they would shatter the imaginary glass plane running from the ball through the shoulders. It makes you wonder how Nicklaus ever won a tournament.

The Second Part of the Swing

There is over emphasis on turning of the hips and not enough on the lateral shift the hips must make in order to clear the hands and arms so they can approach the ball from inside the line. The illustration of Hogan half way down, so ex saturates the inside position with the club shaft almost parallel to the ground, that I defy anybody to duplicate that position and hit a straight shot. Of course we wind up with supination. Try to do that and see how far it gets you.

This book tells how to keep from hitting a duck hook or a hook of any kind. If that had been the emphasis of the book or stated in the forward of book I would have no beef. But to claim that this is the fundamentals of golf, let alone the modern fundamentals, has probably caused more people to quit the game than the book has helped. But if you know anybody that can not keep from hitting a duck hook then give them this book. You will have made a friend for life.

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3 Responses to The Goofy Game of Golf Searching for the Answer

  1. Brian Penn says:

    What’s the best swing instruction book you have read? Any other reads you would recommend on other parts of the game would also be appreciated. Thanks!

    • rossdstarkey says:

      Anything by Harvey Penick will make sense. My favourite though is Sacred Golf: 7 days on the links of utopia. Great read, not for swing instruction, but for the mental approach. Helped me to view golf better, calmer, pragmatically.

  2. Anything by Tommy Armour is good. I particularly like a 1953 book A Round of Golf with Tommy Armour. It is the best book to this day on how to play the game. John Jacobs Practical Golf is excellent. I like Tigers and Annika’s books because of the great pictures. The instruction is not bad but as they say a picture is worth a thousand words. You can find the Armour book on EBay.

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