Below is an article which David Leadbetter wrote for Golf Digest in fall of 2000 summarizing Ben Hogan's fundamentals. Why did he prefer to have up to three hands? Does this not imply that arguably the most sought after swing is right side dominant? And could he possibly be classified as a switter?
Over the years, it seems there has been discussion over semantics,,, what Ben Hogan said and did may have been different. David discusses this.
How does the principles of Tom Tomasello fit into Hogan's swing if at all? Both seem to favor the right side. Yet, a huge difference between the two happens to be what initiates the downswing. Hogan says hip turn (the masses say lateral slide), Tomasello says the arms. It seems both are at polar opposites of why they feel their move is essential to avoid the dreaded over the top move.
TD on the hands...
Brian has mentioned two wonderful tips that have worked for me. Dragging the knuckles of the left hand. At the same time, I also have practiced the right hand heel pad exerting the power. Now, putting it together is the challege without one overpowering the other. If I think dragging the knuckles, the swing feels left side, and the dirt seems to fly a bit more. If I think right heel pad, the swing feels right side, more of a switter, and appears to be more powerful. Putting the two together results in what I think Ben Hogan has achieved.
All golfers need to be careful about what they take from their reading of Hogan, or anybody else. It is important to sift through the vast amount of information available so that you can discover what works best for you. Be discerning. Be discriminating. Use what you feel applies to your situation and discard the rest. Try something, and work at it deliberately. Be patient and enjoy your experimentation, because this is all part of the search and the journey. Be your own master, however, and let the strike and the ball flight be your ultimate guides. Let them tell you whether you need to change.
Hogan gained deep satisfaction when he made flush contact with the ball, especially when it traveled on his intended line and trajectory. But Hogan himself acknowledged that he hit only one or two shots a round that came off exactly as he planned them. In reality, the best players build swings that produce playable misses--the fewer the misses, and the better the misses are, the more consistent a player becomes.
Here we will discuss the part of the swing during which the player hits the ball: the downswing.
Hogan on the hips
The hips start the downswing by turning to the left, an idea that Hogan introduced in his book Power Golf. A slight lateral motion accompanies this turning of the hips back to the ball, so that the golfer can transfer weight to the left foot.
The hip action starts a chain reaction. The weight moves smoothly to the left leg, and the right knee kicks in toward the target. The multiplying power generated by the synchronized motion of the torso, hips and shoulders transfers the power down through the arms, then into the hands, and finally it is multiplied again into the clubhead as it swings aggressively through the ball.
The one sure way to destroy the powerful multiplying factor of the torso, Hogan believed, is to start the downswing with the hands. This forces the body out and over, which produces an outside-in swing. The results are all too apparent to golfers: They hit weak slices and pulls. To counteract this, Hogan cautioned novices and average golfers to keep conscious hand action out of the swing. He contended that the hands really do nothing on the downswing until the arms have dropped into a position just above hip height. The arms get there because the motion of the hips carries them down.
Hogan liked to have his hips opening up toward the target with the left leg bowing outward and the weight moving to the outside of that foot. His final thought for the downswing was always to hit the ball hard. Hogan felt that many golfers tried to steer the ball on line and curtail their power, thinking that by doing so they are reducing any potential error. His opinion was--and he certainly demonstrated this--that with good fundamentals, the harder one hits the ball, the straighter it would go.
In summary, Hogan said repeatedly that, while playing, he thought of only two things regarding the downswing: He thought of starting the hips first, and of hitting the ball as hard as possible with the body, arms and hands, in that sequence. He felt that not much could go wrong for the golfer who produced the correct sequence of events during the swing.
Hogan on the hands
To understand the correct motion of the right hand and arm, Hogan advised the golfer to think of a baseball infielder throwing the ball in an underhanded, sidearm fashion. As the arm swings forward, the right elbow is close to the hip and the elbow leads the arm. Eventually, the forearm and hand catch up with the elbow and the arm is fairly straight when it releases the ball. As the follow-through of the throw takes place, the wrist and hand rotate over and the palm points downward at the finish. This is a very similar motion to the one that occurs during the hitting segment in the golf swing.
On full shots, Hogan wanted to hit the ball as hard as he could with his right hand, without it overpowering the left. He also paid attention to the fact that coming into impact, the left wrist and the back of the left hand began to gradually supinate--that is, they rotate from nearly a palm-down position at the top of the swing (knuckles pointing up), toward more of a palm-up position coming into the ball (knuckles beginning to point down). At impact, the back of the left hand faces toward the target. The wrist bone is raised, too, as shown in the illustration to the right; the result is that when the clubhead contacts the ball, the wrist bone is nearer the target than any other part of the hand. In this position, the left wrist won't interrupt the power flow and the right hand won't take over.
Hogan wished he had as many as three right hands to pour on the power at this stage of the swing, as long as his left hand remained in control. According to him, every good golfer is in a supinating position at impact, while every poor golfer does just the opposite--pronates. That is, they flip the wrists in an attempt to manipulate the clubhead, believing this will square the clubface at impact. But in doing so, they scoop the ball in the air and lose power. Hogan wrote the following in an April 1956 article in Golf Digest: "I've noticed one thing that all good golfers do and all bad golfers do not. The good ones have their left wrist leading at impact. It seems a small thing, but I've found it to be universally true. At impact the left wrist of a good player is slightly convex, while that of a poor player is generally concave."
My view: the hips
Hogan was very progressive in his thinking, especially in the downswing area, where his general thoughts about the significant role of the lower body have been proved correct by teachers, players, and even biomechanical experts. I do think, however, that some of Hogan's thoughts have been misinterpreted over the years. But in offering some alternative ideas, I do not want in any way to diminish Hogan's superb ability to analyze how he struck the ball; he was years ahead of his time in thinking about the swing.
Hogan wrote: "The hips initiate the downswing." He emphasized his point by making two pertinent comments: "To begin the downswing, turn your hips back to the left," and "The hips cannot go too fast." I think that these statements have been misinterpreted, and that many golfers have been confused by them. Although Hogan did qualify his assertions by stating that "there must be enough lateral motion forward to transfer the weight to the left foot," I feel that this lateral move has been overlooked, especially when, for example, Hogan in his book provided the image of an elastic strap pulling and spinning the hips left as if he were swinging in a barrel. It's clear on film of Hogan that he had a pronounced lateral move on his downswing before his hips really started to turn to the left.
This move is important to appreciate, because Hogan was so emphatic in his advice about turning the hips back to the left to start the downswing. But the millions of golfers who fail to coil correctly on the backswing will run into serious problems when they try to turn their hips as Hogan advised. Turning the hips back to the left would force these players to heave and spin the upper body forward and over, resulting in the club swinging down on a steep plane and an outside-in path. The effect of this motion is that the player will chop down on the ball, producing slices, pulls, weak pop-ups with the driver, and divots looking to the left. This move represents a severe case of what the pros call "coming over the top," and it does not lead to effective golf. Hogan was evidently not conscious of his hip slide toward the target, which in slow-motion film can be seen to take place long before he has completed his backswing. It was a very powerful move in Hogan's case and it gave him a squatty, sit-down look with his legs. This look is there in many great ball-strikers.
Hogan's sequence went like this: He made his initial lateral move, and after his arms started their downward movement he then fully rotated his entire torso at speed--not just his hips but also his upper body. I'm sure that Hogan's focus was on his strong glute and hip muscles clearing and opening up to the target. But I feel they got fully into the act much later than he thought; when he is halfway down, his hips are still square, not open. I've seen tremendous improvement in consistency in better players when they learn to develop a calmer, quieter lower-body and hip action.
Further into the swing, I firmly believe that at impact the left leg is not totally locked, but should be straightening as it receives the full force of the hit. It has to resist as the arms and the club fly by; many better players over the years have thought about a braced left leg through impact, and I believe players should apply this thought today. Keeping the left leg too bent, in my opinion, doesn't supply the necessary resistance. Hogan in action did bow his left knee to some degree coming into the ball, but I'm absolutely sure that in the impact area it straightened earlier than he felt; his foot seems very well planted with only a little weight to its outside. It really is an unbelievably powerful, dynamic position, and offers a superb image for golfers to copy.
My view: The hands
Hogan talks in depth about supinating the left wrist, where the palm goes from being downward to upward through the impact area so that the wrist bone is raised--the left hand having the appearance of being bowed and arched. He, in effect, thought in terms of the back of the left hand being the clubface, and was then able to control the trajectory and shape of the shot through this supination.
A couple of things to bear in mind regarding supination: It takes quite a bit of practice, and many better golfers who attempt it tend to initially hook or smother the ball. Golfers with stronger grips than Hogan's and squarer faces coming down will get the clubface very closed at impact if they try to get into the impact position that he is exaggeratedly posing for in the photos shown earlier.
One further point regarding supination: It is easier and more desirable to supinate with the irons, where in order to take a divot it is crucial that you make a slight descending blow. However, as a general rule, when using the driver, it is preferable to imagine fully releasing the clubhead; the reasons are simply that you want to sweep the ball off the tee and not take a divot with a driver. Imagine that in the impact zone the top of the grip almost points backward, toward the navel, rather than leading the clubhead all the way through, as with an iron. In other words, the clubhead is being released and encouraged to swing past the hands as you try to hit the ball slightly on the upswing.
In Five Lessons Hogan makes a very interesting statement about the hands, a comment to which I referred earlier. "As far as applying power goes, I wish that I had three right hands," he writes. His natural left-handedness enabled him to support the club through impact, and his open clubface coming into impact allowed him to hit as aggressively as possible with the right hand without fear of it taking over. Although Hogan may have felt it was his right hand, he was actually using his whole right side, and maybe the statement should have been "three right sides." Not only was his right hand involved with hitting the ball, but so were his right foot, knee, hip, arm and shoulder. This is a great thought, and for players in a good position halfway down, the right side should play a major role in the hit--just like throwing a ball, as Hogan describes.
I like golfers to make practice swings and even hit balls with only the right hand to get the feel for the right side. Nick Price, like Hogan, is a natural left-hander, and his game really benefited when he learned to hit balls with his less dominant (that is, his right) side. Try it yourself with a 9-iron, initially, hitting off tees. In a short space of time, you'll be amazed at the good feelings that you begin to sense, and you'll realize that your right side really does have a big role to play in hitting the ball.
How to become an 80-breaker or better
I have always believed that when building a solid swing, one has to be aware of the various components involved and how they interact. Obviously, once you have established a good, solid setup (grip and posture), the two major components remaining are that of the body and that of the arms and hands. By working on them separately, then putting them together, you can achieve a comprehensive understanding of the parts and the whole.
Here is a drill that gives you a good sense of how the body works on the downswing:
Without a club, fold your arms across your midsection. Get into a good setup posture and make the backswing motion. Make a full turn, sensing the stability in the lower body as you wind up. Be aware of your stomach muscles tightening. As you are completing the motion back, and moving into your right side, start the motion forward simultaneously by a lateral move of the left knee toward the target, followed fractionally thereafter by the left hip. Feel some weight moving to the front of the left foot, and most importantly, feel pressure going down from the left foot into the ground. Almost at the same time, you should feel pressure and weight going down through the right foot into the ground. I call this sensation "being grounded." It is a strong move in which you are pushing your lower body down into the ground and using the ground to enhance your resistance and stability. The weight distribution at this stage feels about 50/50 between the left foot and the right foot.
Many players go wrong in that they feel no downward pressure and try to slide too much weight over to the left side too early. The legs, and, more vitally, the ground, do not then provide the stability or resistance necessary to create speed or generate consistency on the downswing.
You might wonder: What about the weight transfer to the left? This does occur, but it should be subtle and in conjunction with the slight lateral move forward. If you go overboard in thinking about weight transfer, it's easy to slide your body too far forward, compromising your stability and getting out of sync with your arm motion.
You should really sense the "groundedness" you have created. Sense pressure being built up through your feet bearing down on the ground. This vital "sit-down" move, or bracing of the legs, provides balance and resistance; it adds further leverage to the swing.
A particularly poetic observation that I once read about Hogan was that "he had a wonderful liaison with the turf." What an image! Hogan felt this contact with the turf was so important that he insisted an extra spike be placed in his right shoe under the ball of his foot.
As you continue the arms-folded drill, try to keep your right foot on the turf as long as possible, until your rotating body pulls it off the ground. Hogan did this so well, especially with his middle and short irons. The longer you keep your right foot on the ground through impact, the more likely it is that you will retain your spine angle there. Golfers whose legs are too active often lose their spine angle.
The golfer who maintains through impact the spine angle and posture formed at address will have gone a long way toward creating consistency, most particularly with the irons. Maintaining spine angle is a major factor in allowing the golfer to return the club into a repetitive "slot" at impact.
Now let's move on to the other component of the downswing: the motion of the arms and hands.
While supination is more a move for the better player, I also like it for less-accomplished golfers who tend to hit fat or thin iron shots, or whose ball flight has no penetration as a result of an open or scoopy clubface making contact with the ball. These players, as Hogan said earlier, get their hands behind the clubhead at impact, often resulting in a glancing blow and a weak hit. Supination will encourage the face to close through the ball, ensuring a more powerful square-face hit. It can help players who hit weak fades or slices, enabling them to hit solid draws. Rather than getting too technical with higher-handicappers, I try to limit them to the simple image of the watch face looking toward the ground at impact. To get the feel of this, practice making smooth half-swings holding the club with your left hand alone and swinging waist-high to waist-high. Focus on the face of your watch, trying to feel it going from looking at the sky from the top of your swing to looking toward the ground through impact.
A closing thought on the downswing: There's no question about whether impact is the most important position in the swing. Of course it is. However, it is but the culmination of what has transpired before. Having an awareness of where you should be at impact and also at the finish can really help in building a swing.
To this end, I suggest this two-part drill. First, with the aid of a mirror, looking at yourself face-on, adopt a perfect impact position (and Hogan wouldn't be a bad person to copy). Hogan's impact position looked like this: hands ahead of the clubhead; left arm extended and linked to the chest; right arm bent; right elbow adjacent to the right hip and the inner part of the elbow pointing to the sky; head behind the ball; right shoulder set lower than the left; right knee and right foot working inward toward the target; left leg braced, supporting the transfer of weight.
Hold this position and repeat it a few times. Now go to the range and move into the second phase of the drill. With the ball in front of you, again assume your impact position. Remain in this spot for a few seconds, making it as dynamic as possible. Push the clubhead into the ground if necessary. Then, starting from this modified address, pause a couple of seconds, make your backswing, and then hit the ball. It might take you a few shots to get your timing right but it won't be long before you're hitting them solidly.
Upon reverting to your normal address position, try to re-create the same impact sensations during your actual swing on the way to the finish. With his classic, balanced finish to a classic swing, Ben Hogan looked like he could hit a shot and hold his finish for an eternity.