Why You Can’t Learn Ben Hogan’s Swing (And Update With Jordan Spieth)

Originally Posted June 27, 2014, and this is likely one of the videos that annoyed me enough and eventually led to the Wax Golf’s “Ben Hogan Project.”

I will let you know when the original post from June 2014 begins.

First, an aside prompted by a comment from the Chief on how experts flip-flop on iffy swing moves…

Everyone has been talking about Jordan Spieth’s new practice swing move, which I fortunately haven’t yet seen, because the description alone…

Still, this isn’t really about the move itself, but on how “experts” in the golf realm really don’t have a clue about much of what goes on in the golf swing.

If that seems harsh, read the original post below on the Ben Hogan pivot and you’ll see what I mean – the very first couple of weeks looking at Hogan’s pivot and then looking at an analysis by Jim McLean, legendary golf swing “expert,” sent me straight to the blog with my fingers on fire.

I don’t feel I’m picking on him, because I’m sure if someone showed him my thoughts, his reply would be, “DJ Who? Who has he worked with? When did he play on Tour?”

So here is Jim McLean nearly 8 years after I wrote this posting, demonstrating exactly what I’m saying about the experts knowing it all:

After Jordan Spieth won on the weekend:

You might be tempted to say, “Well, it’s Jim McLean, he knows what he’s talking about,” and proceed to wreck your swing for years trying to emulate Spieth.

However take a look at this trenchant reply to JM’s Tweet:

A complete 180 in exactly 8 days.

As Chief stated, this is “results-driven” analysis, which means it’s worthless.  The only analysis one can do of a golf swing is:

  • whether or not it’s mechanically-sound and
  • if it is mechanically-sound, whether or not it is optimal.

The end. It doesn’t matter what one does with it.

I have said that you could win a competition where everyone drives tent stakes with their foreheads, it doesn’t make the technique correct. Heck, you could beat guys with mallets in driving stakes with your forehead, it still doesn’t make it a proper technique.

Back to the original post below – I never really looked closely at Ben Hogan’s pivot move before 2014 because it was said to be “modern” with a planted heel and restricted hip turn, so it wasn’t worth the time, in my opinion.

It was only when I began to look at his action that spring and then compare what I saw to what the “experts” said about it that I wrote the following post:

Why You Can’t Learn Ben Hogan’s Swing

Until now, that is… it’s the same reason you can’t learn another person’s swing model – no one is explaining it accurately or, in some cases even, correctly.

I’m not going to bang on Jim Mclean for the misleading statements in his analysis of Ben Hogan’s swing model, because it’s possible that Hogan deliberately mislead people on his swing mechanics.  I wasn’t there when he gave his “secrets” out, but watching the below clip on Hogan’s swing, I couldn’t get through it before starting to write this post.

Let’s just watch the clip and below that, I’ll tell you where I disagree with the analysis, and not from a point of view of someone who knew Hogan, just where you can see in his own swing that what Mclean is saying is either accurate, inaccurate or simply wrong.

Jim Mclean on Ben Hogan

First, there are some accurate things:

0:30 – If Hogan had a forward press, it would certainly explain the fluidity of that magic pivot move.  I use a press, and use it with my “Hogan” swing model experiment, but Mclean explains that it was a very small press for Hogan and so you might not even see it.

I certainly don’t see a press with Hogan, but I’ll take Mclean’s word for it as it makes sense.

1:15 – The “one-piece takeaway” is certainly accurate.  I have said already that Hogan was a “full body pivot” guy, and you can’t make a full-body pivot if you’re separating the upper and lower body or the body and the arms.  Full agreement here.

But here’s where the confusion starts:

1:36 – Now, Mclean is describing the takeaway.  Fine, as long as you don’t fall for the following huge error in Mclean’s analysis – “Hogan said it was the arms, hands and shoulders taking the golf club away, the upper body…”

ben hogan swing

Whether Hogan said this or not, it’s simply wrong.***

Look at the swing gif. here and you’ll see very clearly that Hogan had a full-body pivot, which means the hips and legs were involved in the back swing from the beginning.

***Update: Turns out Hogan said exactly the opposite of what McLean claims, as you can hear for yourself in the first part of this clip:

So no, Hogan did not swing with only the upper body in the back swing.

Absolutely and completely wrong.  What are you going to believe, Mclean/Hogan’s explanation, or Hogan’s actual motion when you look at his swing, and his actual words in a video?  It gets worse…

2:25Mclean “It becomes quiet easy to restrict your lower body coil. And Hogan definitely wanted that to happen.”

hogan pivot

Everything Mclean says from 2:25 to 3:00 is just wrong, wrong and wrong

In the swing gifs above and here, Hogan is definitely in his post-accident swing, as the video is in color and he’s much older than the late-30’s in which he was at the time of his car wreck (being born in 1912, that would have made him around 37 in ’49, this is much later than ’49, as anyone can see in the above gif).

Look at his hips in both instances – full and free hip motion, no restriction.  Just because you’re building tension in the right hip on the back swing doesn’t mean you’re restricting the action.  In fact, you will only be able to build tension in the right hip if the hips are turning into the right foot and leg.

3:40-4:15 – “Blah, blah, blah, blah-blah-blah-blah…” – Here we have the classic error of thinking Hogan’s secret lay in the little micro-positions that you see when you take a still shot of a swing in action.

Hogan was built differently from you, you’re built differently from me, and no two people can swing the same way and achieve the same angles and positions because of this.

Hogan had flat lie clubs and was short, making his positions and swing plane much different from someone with the same height and regular lie clubs.  How about someone taller?

You’re not going to match anyone’s positions exactly, so all of this is just useless analysis…IMO…

4:25 And Onward – Watch these swings and then get back to me on “restricted hip action.”

Also, have a chuckle at Hogan supposedly having 132 mph swing speed – that would put him at a higher speed than myself, as my “cruising” golf speed is around 115-120 mph on Trackman and in the mid-to-high 120’s on the SSR – either way, it’s a ridiculous number for anyone who knows anything about the golf swing.

And now you know why people haven’t been able to swing like Hogan – they’re listening to the wrong people and not even using their eyes.

Hogan’s swings are all over Youtube, and if you’re going to come away from those swings saying “restricted hip action” when the man’s hips turned virtually away from the target by the top of the back swing, then I don’t know what to tell you except, “Alrighty then…”

So, let’s just go with what we can see in Hogan’s swing and not what others tell us is happening, shall we?

4 thoughts on “Why You Can’t Learn Ben Hogan’s Swing (And Update With Jordan Spieth)

  1. DJ Watts Post author

    Just to say, I was a little out of sorts being laid up with Covid the past week and am beginning to feel normal again, but there’s the fact that it’s currently 3 degrees Celsuis (37F) and snowing outside.

    So, I shouldn’t have even bothered being miffed, as I should be feeling vigorous enough to start the season long before it’s actually golf weather around here.

  2. Mark

    Glad you’re on the mend. You know, unless I’ve missed an interview (entirely likely), I wouldn’t be surprised if Spieth expressly advises others to NOT try and copy his technique. McCormick seems to make it clear that a young Jordan wanted no part of his odd technique challenged and changed. I think Spieth knows his swing is his own creation and not meant for anyone else. He even stated that his little weird preshot routine is all ‘feel’ and ‘not real’ which I think sums up his approach to his full swing. He invented something that ‘felt’ right for whatever he was trying to accomplish.

    He’s obviously not trying to revolutionize swing mechanics. He just wants to win and he thinks he figured the best way for HIM to do that. If nothing else, I admire his stubborn independent streak.🤷‍♂️

    One thing I’ll give him, other than maybe a sprained left ankle, it doesn’t look like a swing that will injure him. I’d be curious to know what you think about that.

    1. DJ Watts Post author

      Good points Mark and agreed. As to the left foot, no he doesn’t swing anywhere near hard enough to seriously damage himself other than incremental strain damage to that joint and even then, likely not. With Spieth it’s about the things that limit his efficacy more than injury risk.

      1. Mark

        yep, that’s how it seems to me. He’ll just have to chip, putt, and chicken wing his way to however many titles he can manage.

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