DON’T COPY OTHERS! (ESPECIALLY HOGAN)

 

  • METHODS OF INSTRUCTION
  • PHYSICAL FACTS
  • BRAIN PATTERNS
  • MARGINAL GAINS
  • AVOID OVERHAULS
  • HOGAN SPECULATION
  • HOGAN’S BALL FLIGHT
  • BE ORIGINAL

 METHODS OF INSTRUCTION

Instruction books offer the author a great opportunity to put their thoughts, beliefs and experiences down on paper. The complexity of the game means that it is always possible to cover an aspect of the game in a somewhat original way. The enforced structure of a word heavy book places great emphasis on the authors language skills in conveying technique, physical feelings of performance and associated emotion. What can be successful is powerful imagery such as Hogan’s glass pane or Nick Bradley’s ‘spring’s.

The modern format of an e-book or Youtube video is more suited to a visual faster learning style contrasted to a detailed essay focused on a convincing argument. Sensory, visual and written styles of learning are not separate latest research has shown (click here).

Everybody uses a combination of all methods with each person having a preference or dominance but there is a grey area between visual or sensory styles. Does the student see the performance and successfully interpret how this feels? Or are they only able to access the improvement through knowing what to feel beforehand?

You could strive to create the similar angles or positions of Ben Hogan as many have done since his halcyon days of performance. Perhaps the nostalgia, mystery or desperation to improve has resulted in the proliferation of a TIME article from the 60’s highlighting ‘Hogan’s Secret’. Is it important that we know his secret? I would argue not…

PHYSICAL FACTS

From what is known now about the golf swing through biomechanics (3d imaging, referencing etc) we can see from examples that there are many forms of optimal swings and more importantly appearances can be deceiving. For any desire to replicate Hogan to have value, a very similar body shape (ie shoulder, hip width, height, arm and leg length) and similar attributes such as joint mobility and strength would be required.

This remarkable co-incidence would need further similarities such as tendon strength, muscle speed (ie twitch fibre compilation). And what of Hogan’s car crash? His best results were after this terrible event that left him weakened – the common view is that perhaps it took some of the aggressiveness out of his swing, he learned to play within himself and gained consistency as a result.

BRAIN PATTERNS

Finally and perhaps the winner in all these comparisons is the motor-neuron circuit (thought pattern/brain behaviour) that Hogan developed through his specific style of practice. He displayed a discipline in taking great care in every shot at the range that few can comprehend. The rhythm and consistency that this creates on the course is remarkable and cannot be copied.

What if you were to develop an identical swing with an identical body – you would still probably conceive different methods of adapting to the requirements of certain shots on the course. You would need a similar shot pattern or history to have the same tendencies or visual processing on the course.

MARGINAL GAINS

So what is the purpose of copying or attempting to change to a recommended method? All of the above must be taken into account to guarantee a perfect result. What nearly all sportspeople of a somewhat advanced ability recognise is that the promise of huge performance gains are unlikely – marginal gains are a realistic path to improvement. Why is this?

Habits are very powerful and difficult to change. Once created they never disappear, they can only lessen in their recurrence. So changes or recommendations are applied in a trial and error method, more in hopeful curiosity than instant expectation. It is almost impossible to predict success. The change may be proven to be effective or more efficient but can it be implemented efficiently by the player?

AVOID OVERHAULS

Hogan suffered terribly from hooked shots in his early career of which many reasons may be given. Rather than completely overhaul his swing (a very hard thing to do in his day – the culture of self reliance and coaching by feel was prominent. A regular coach was not the done thing and ‘methods’ did not exist with no marketing or videos to reference and circulate). Players spent a lot more time on what they ‘felt’ was right rather than forcing a position to happen even if it wasn’t comfortable for their body.

To improve, through this process of trial and error rather than method employment, he gradually found a combination of alterations that straightened out his flight. It can be argued that modern teaching has been very focused on ‘neutral’ and players have spent the majority of their time on making a great looking swing rather than having ultimate control of their ball-flight. A neutral methodology (ie 2 ½ knuckle grip / square stance / parallel shaft in backswing / square clubface etc) doesn’t allow for the player’s ability to feel or percieve in the swing. It is much easier to repeat a biased dynamic move than one that could potentially see saw between either side of the fence.

HOGAN SPECULATION

With some introspection and analysis of Hogans swing from historic pictures and video available on the internet we can conceive that his flat swing plane and aggressive lower half would create a path from the inside. A steep angle of attack is likely too (its speculation but older equipment might have encouraged this – ie lower launch and greater spin) which we know from Trackman and D-plane increases the out to in effect of swing path – the longer the club the greater the effect.

Hogan’s method of counter was a grip change -weaker  (significant strength required) and explicit forearm (and thus face) control on the backswing. His release focused on reducing clubface rotation and as a result brought supination and pronation of the wrists into mainstream golf coaching.

Only recently through biomechanic study has the exact wrist movements been exactly specified for certain styles of release and resultant ball flights. Also detailed has been the causal effect of these releases and the amount to which the golfer may affect them ie encourage or prevent.

HOGANS BALL FLIGHT

The result was a powerful push fade (regularly stated by contempary pro’s). With a defined swing path from the inside, Hogans shot pattern would have been consistent. Research (Rice, A) has shown that the expert players show very little variance in (their own) club path when tested – its the ability to control the face that leads to shot variance.

A push fade implies that with a stance aiming open to the target, the player swings with an in to out path and the ball flight starts to the right of the body aim. A clubface that is slightly open to this path then causes a slight curve to the right during flight. (A pull fade would create an identical ball flight finishing on target but would be created differently by the player, an out to in path with a slightly open clubface to the path- the initial body aim accounting for the different path yet similar ball flight)

Typical misses for a push fade include a straight ball flight or an over curved shot to the right. With a player of Hogan’s caliber, with a pattern of a highly dependable push fade ball flight, a miss of curving left would be very unlikely – a miss way outside normal tolerances. This is commonly referred to as ‘taking one side of the course’ out of play.

BE ORIGINAL

Hopefully this detailed introspective look at Hogan has revealed to you the complexity of an individuals technique or performance. You should not dismiss the dominance of habits and they effect they have on your performance, your awareness and your potential to change. Seek to understand your habits before you embark on change. Most importantly be original – do what is best for you.

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