Blame “5 Lessons” For the Modern Golf Swing (Burn Hogan’s Book)

hogan armsThe only useful thing you’re going to get from Ben Hogan’s “5 Lessons” book on the golf swing will be if you need to grill a steak and have nothing with which to start the fire.

And that’s about the nicest thing I can say about the difference between the way Ben Hogan actually swung and the garbage that is in his “seminal” book on the swing.

Now, I might be labeled as extremely cynical in musing that it all might have been intentional, as Hogan guarded his swing secrets closely, and the man, although he built the perfect pivot that I feature in the MCS swing mechanics, gave the golf world nothing of worth in the book he eventually wrote.

Yes, I’m a little peeved, because I’ve never misled anyone for one minute on how I believe the mechanically-correct and proper way to swing goes, and I’m a little astounded this morning, having re-read some parts of the book forwarded to me by Mr. H. as I once had a copy but never retained it due to the fact that I found it unreadable.

But let’s just go with the pivot that Hogan talks about in parts of his book.

Lesson 1, Stance and Posture:

THERE IS ONE CORRECT BASIC STANCE: THE RIGHT FOOT IS AT A RIGHT ANGLE TO THE LINE OF FLIGHT AND THE LEFT FOOT IS TURNED OUT A QUARTER OF A TURN TO THE LEFT… it allows the hips to be rotated as far around as is advisable, but but it prevents them from being rotated too far around.

Now, if the player stands with his left foot squared (or perpendicular) and not turned out as it should be, when the hips are turned — since they start at a point nearer to the right and rear — they will turn well beyond the point of maximum desirable rotation. If a player’s right foot is turned out instead of squared, this also allows his hips to turn farther around than is advisable…

“When you start from the correct basic stance and complete a full hip turn, your belt buckle should point toward the toe of your squared right foot. However, when you start from the faulty stances described above, your hip turn will carry you well past this check point and your belt buckle will be pointing in almost the direct opposite direction from your target….

Ahem…

hogans pivot


Notice the flare in Hogan’s right foot on the actual swing as opposed to the illustrations, and if that isn’t a nearly 90 degree hip turn in the actual swing, I don’t know what a full hip turn is.

I daresay that if you gave Hogan the “belt-buckle/hip pocket” examination akin to the pivot concept I talk about in “MCS – Dropping The Hammer,” you’ll find that what Hogan says to do and what he’s actually doing aren’t anything remotely similar.

In fact, here is my back swing top position swinging like Hogan, compared to his:

hogan pivot


As you can see, even years after his near-fatal car wreck that crippled his lower body, he has nearly as much hip turn in the pivot as do I above, and I am turning my hips as far as I possibly can…

This, my friends is why I advise against listening to someone talk about their swing – if you’re that curious, watch their swing and you’ll see what they’re doing, and Hogan is doing nothing that he advises in his “5 Lessons,” above.

Now you know why Laser likes this quote of mine so much, as when he gave it back to me yesterday, it was the 2nd or 3rd time he’s brought it up:

“If you listen to anyone talk about the swing, even the best ball-strikers ever, you’ll do so at your own peril, as many of the greatest swingers had no clue exactly what they were doing.”

Mystery Solved

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And below, again from the Ben Hogan’s 5 Lessons, is the money shot in which you will find the origin of the execrable Modern Golf Swing “rubber-band” philosophy:

Some prominent golfers advocate taking a big turn with the hips. I don’t go along with this. If the hips are turned too far around, then you can create no tension in the muscles between the hips and the shoulders

Right there, ladies and gents, is your genesis of the “rubber-band” concept.

So, take a look at the hip turn that won him 53 of his 64 Tour wins – that’s right, friends, if you don’t know the Ben Hogan history as well as I do, he won 53 of his 64 total PGA Tour wins before his car was hit head-on by a bus, nearly killing him and leaving him barely able to stand and swing (he only played 4-6 events a year after that).

In fact, if you throw in the 2 wins he had in the aborted 1949 season (before when he and the bus were introduced at high speed), you can count half of his 64 wins as coming in the 3 seasons before the wreck (’46-48, 30 wins, and the 2 from ’49 make 32), and this is the swing that made Ben Hogan famous:

hogan top 40s


Don’t look now, but that looks like a flared right foot position again, and not one square to the target line, which of course would aid in that pretty healthy hip turn of his… and this is when he was a winning machine, building the Hogan fame that would explode when he nearly died and then came back to win the ’50 U.S. Open at Merion.

So, I think now that I’ve been re-introduced to the stance and pivot instructions in “5 Lessons,” I can lay to rest my search for the origins of the modern golf swing – it was given to the world by one of the best classic golf pivot swingers ever to play golf.

The tragedy is the Pavlovian manner in which everyone began to re-design the golf swing into something that Ben Hogan never did himself.

If you find video clips or pictures of him with a lesser hip turn, I would be you dollars to donuts that those swings came after his car wreck, and at a time when he was so heavily bandaged from hip to ankle to reduce the swelling in his legs when he stood and walked around the golf course.

So, if you want to pivot the way Hogan actually did, and in the way that won him over 50 of his 64 PGA Tour wins, you’ll do it the way he actually swung, and not the way he described it in “5 Lessons.”

This book was originally published in 1957, so that’s how far back you may find the beginnings of the planted-heel back swing.

But I’ll leave you with one thing, and here’s where all of the planted-heel proponents are as guilty of selective reading as anyone else, in this quote from :

From Lesson 2, The First Part of the Swing:

As regards the left heel, how much the left knee breaks in on the backswing determines how much the heel comes up.

I never worry about the left heel. Whether it comes off the ground a half inch or a quarter of an inch or remains on the ground as a result of my body and leg action on the backswing — this is of no importance at all. I pay no attention to it.

Hmm… that sounds familiar.  Oh yes, in “Kinesiology of the MCS Golf Swing,” I mention the same thing – it’s not how much the heel floats, but that you’re not restricting the hip turn by keeping it nailed down.

Kinda like what this young college player did when we worked together last summer and he was driving the ball obscene distances with minimal heel lift:

blake elliot drvr


blake top seq


Some people will require more heel lift due to less hip and leg flexibility, some people are naturally flexible and can get a full hip turn with minimal lift, but as Hogan said, and as I would say, you shouldn’t be focusing on keeping the left heel down.

Hey, Hogan said it, I’m just agreeing with him!

hogan heel lift


So, if you’re deliberately trying to keep that heel down, then you’re not doing what you claim to be doing in trying to swing like Hogan – he paid no attention to his left heel, and of course it floated during his swing.

Even when he could barely stand, he had a visible heel lift.

Ben Hogan's Floating Heel


So it’s a dual problem of Hogan not describing his actual swing in the “5 Lessons,” and of people not looking at what he did, and in ignoring his caveat to not focus on keeping the heel down.


Want to learn more about the MCS Golf Swing Theory? Try one of DJ’s “Secrets of the MCS” video shorts available via download.

“Dropping The Hammer!”

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Or you can download the very latest MCS  video “MCS – Dropping The Hammer , Part 3 of the MCS Golf Swing Trilogy**

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6 thoughts on “Blame “5 Lessons” For the Modern Golf Swing (Burn Hogan’s Book)

  1. Van

    B Chamblee said something like this last year when he was bringing his book out. I can’t recall if it’s actually in his book, but he did mention like what you’re saying now. You two are on the same page!

    1. D Watts Post author

      I think you’re correct, Van – Mr. H said the same thing to me when he sent me the quotes from the Hogan book. Not surprising, as the reason I pushed Chamblee’s book so hard last spring was because he was essentially saying much of what I’ve been pounding on for years.

      It’s only a matter of time before the pendulum swings back, and I thought his book would set things off, but it seems to have been overlooked and ignored by the industry. Big surprise!

  2. Mike Divot

    Let’s not give too much credence to the idea of Hogan being a gimlet-eyed evil genius playing mind-f*** with his opponents, and the golf world at large.

    He was a guy who was a great golfer, the best going around at one time. He played his cards close to his chest but the simplest explanation for the discrepancies in his book is that he was like 99% of all golfers who’ve walked the earth: he confused feel with real.

    Back then, biomechanics and high-speed video were rare and raw. Eyeballing was the main way they did things.

    The blame for the modern swing should not be laid at his feet. Otherwise why weren’t we seeing “modern swings” in the 60s?

    It’s all the apostles who have placed “Mr Hogan” on a pedestal and treated his every word as the literal truth and ended up with closed minds. For them, it’s Mr Hogan’s way or the highway.

    As for Chamblee’s book, be patient. Most revolutions do not happen over night. They’re like dam bursts (they start with a trickle) rather than meteor strikes (bam! out of nowhere).

    1. D Watts Post author

      “5 Lessons, The Modern Fundamentals of Golf”

      I can make a distinction that I hope will satisfy you, MD – I don’t blame Hogan, but I certainly lay the beginning of the modern swing nonsense at the feet of that book.

      It’s been quoted more times as the source of the “modern swing” many times, but I never understood why, ’til Mr. H sent me the relevant passages.

      And that’s all I can tell you. I know it wasn’t me! 😉

  3. Laser

    To be fair to Hogan, he didn’t write the book. He only cooperated with the writer, and I believe that he tried to make it worthwhile.

    This is how it came about. Hogan collaborated with a Life magazine article. But then the parent company (Time, Inc.) used some of that material in Sports Illustrated, so Hogan sued. As part of the settlement, Hogan agreed to collaborate on a project with Sports Illustrated, which became 5 Lessons.

    If you read between the lines, you can sometimes discern what Hogan must have said. Or, we can listen to him and watch him.

    (1:13 Hogan)

    1. D Watts Post author

      This is what I was telling Mr. H when he sent me the quotes, Laser – he certainly didn’t say that stuff in the video above, in fact he stresses the hips and legs in the swing.

      What you say about him not really having written in from the heart makes sense, because he didn’t swing the way he’s quoted in the book.

      Mr. H also thought it was odd that I could have conducted the “Ben Hogan Project” without reading the book – I told him I’d tried to read it in ’98 and couldn’t get through it, and that I figured out his action by watching his swing instead of reading about or listening to others “explain it.

      Worked for me! 😉

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