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Posts Tagged ‘Ben Hogan’

The Man Behind the Putter – Part Deux

This past Sunday I made 8 birdies in 27 holes.  I actually heard the words from a competitor as I struck a putt from 20 feet into the hole for a second straight birdie, “Okay, we’re just about sick of this performance…”  Corey Pavin, thank you for the “palms out” putter grip.  Also, Odyssey putters, thanks for the white hot mallet!  34″ of pure joy and perfection. Yes, I changed again ONE FINAL TIME!

This Wednesday I play in a Virginia State Amateur qualifier at Virginia Beach National Golf Club (formerly a TPC).  It was to take place last Wednesday, but a tropical depression precluded play.  I actually avoided getting wet because my tee time was so late, most were soaked after – for some 8 or more holes – and relieved beyond words that it was finally cancelled.  I played one practice round a couple of weeks ago and timing and schedule has precluded another.  I am hoping that putting as described above coupled with the Hogan chipping technique on the par 5s discussed in the previous post will win the day (thanks Tom McCarthy, Jim McLean, and Mr. Hogan).  My iron play has improved dramatically (thanks PING S56s), but my driving has been a bit streaky.  Driving the ball is a personal thing requiring confidence, connection, and care.  Patience and trust will be their own reward I think.  I am a nearly 52 year old man who will be competing with high school and college players as well as established amateurs in the area.

I am a long shot and underdog.  I love underdogs!  My morning tee time is the next to the last on number 10, which means, for the afternoon round (of 36 holes total) I will be in the next to last group playing into number 18.  I want to own this opportunity – I want people waiting for MY SCORE!

Oh yeah – how can I forget my inspiration?!  My wife encourages success for me at the golf course every step of the way.  The photo shows not only the red, white and blue club head covers she made for me, but also the putter head cover – my “Sock Monkey” putter head cover.  The other night sitting in the den watching television she suddenly declares – “I made something for you!”  Hmm…”what is it sweetheart?”  “A putter head cover Chris!”  I immediately loved the idea of it, my wife making something for me without coaxing – a surprise – and something as cool as a sock monkey for my putter!  How can I putt badly after that?!  Look at that sock monkey peaking out over the top of the bag…he really wants the putter to be great…

The Ben Hogan Collection and More!

I bought The Ben Hogan Collection interactive CD set a couple of years ago. It had been some time since I reviewed it in any detail, so I broke it out a week or so ago and went through all of it again.  I am as impressed now as I was then with the quality of work, archive films, and the analysis of Jim McLean.  The folks at McTee’s Champions LLC have done a wonderful job of putting this together.

The set provides a “Legacy DVD” which is a brief biopic of Ben Hogan, two instructional DVDs (Swing Revealed 1 & 2), and a software CD.  I normally look for things on Amazon.com first and the package can be purchased there for just under $60.00.  Unfortunately, the set is “temporarily out of stock” on the Amazon website.  With a quick google, I found the set on PracticeRange.com for $35.00.  If you are any kind of a golf aficionado then this is a must for your library and continuous review.   

As I re-reviewed it and listened carefully to McLean’s analysis while watching the vintage footage, I had a couple of epiphanies.  One especially enlightening segment for me was in the chipping/pitching segment.  McLean shows the viewer in detail how Ben Hogan pitches the ball with a “mini-swing.”  Interestingly, McLean uses the cigarette, still in Hogan’s mouth, as a reference point for analyzing his head movement through the pitch.  I have incorporated Hogan’s pitching technique to great reward!  (8 birdies in 27 holes yesterday!!!  Won a few “cuts” thanks to Mr. Hogan, Jim, and McTee…)

McTee Champions LLC has some exciting new products out and coming.   Tom McCarthy of McTee –  “Thanks for the compliments on the dvd set.  I worked really hard to get that done over the course of several years and Jim McLean was terrific. 

We have put together a couple of new things recently.  One is the iPad app called Ben Hogan 5 Lessons.  It works on the iPad and Android type tablets.  The spirit of the Five Lessons book is in there plus some!  We are also building and soon to release the Ben Hogan 5 Lessons mobile app that marries the critical information in the Five Lessons book to the V1 instructional software.  It will include some Hogan video clips for swing comparisons. 

Jim McLean and I just finished in January a new book with Wiley & Sons called ‘The Complete Hogan.’  I took old pre-accident footage of Mr. Hogan’s swings and made stills with Jim providing observations and analysis over 30+ frames for each of 3 swings.  Plus, Jim has some incredible additional information in the book.  I am pretty hyped up about it.” 

Whether a seasoned player or a beginner, The Ben Hogan Collection will inform and entertain.  Spend the few dollars and put it in your library.  Also, look for the new McTee products  – I am excited to get the mobile APP and book Tom describes above!

 

 

The Eternal Summer Review

Summer of 1960 – The Eternal Summer

Curt Sampson wrote The Eternal Summer which was published in 1992, almost 20 years ago.  I happened to find a signed copy of the book and read it over the course of the last couple of weeks.  It is required reading for those who profess to follow and know golf.  1960 was a year to remember.  It was literally a turning point for American society shifting out of the post World War II Eisenhower era and the societal innocence of the 1950s into a more hip and rebellious period.  It was also the year I was born – an important year indeed…

The Eternal Summer and the Changing of the Guard

Television was a catalyst for this change – it changed how we viewed candidates for president of the United States and how we viewed golf and its heroes.  It was the year Arnold Palmer was born as a golfing superstar, the birth of Arnie’s Army and a seed for sports management that sparked the path for players to treat the PGA Tour as a major business venture.  It was also the year that the U.S. Open at Cherry Hills marked the changing of the old guard in golf through Ben Hogan’s last stand, Arnold Palmer’s triumph, and a glimpse of the promise of the champion to come, Jack Nicklaus.

In The Eternal Summer, Curt Sampson takes us through the year by way of the brief histories of the three gentlemen mentioned above and the year’s major tournaments.  He fills in the blanks with personalities of golf, personalities around golf, the birth of the modern PGA Tour, and the shift of golf as an exclusively rich past-time to a game of the masses.

Irrepressible Dan Jenkins provides the forward where he calls 1960 one of four significant years of the game.  Arguably, there are now five as we have since realized the “Tiger Era,” but of course, that is accounted for I am sure in countless books that I have yet to read.  Come to think of it, we may have six as I believe we are in the “post-Tiger Era” now defined by his instant downfall a couple of years ago.  More of that in my analysis of the implications of Tiger’s fall in a later post.

The Eternal Summer – A Must Read

As I said, it is a must read about what Curt Sampson calls “golf’s golden year.”  The Eternal Summmer is entertaining, informative, and quick.  It will stay on my shelf as a reference for this important historical point for the game we love.  It is a great place to start, a nexus if you will for exploration of the history of the game.  Buy and read The Eternal Summer, you won’t be disappointed.

Golf Coaches and Owning Your Swing

Everyone is covering the “clash of the coaches.”  That is, the Sean Foley and Hank Haney thing.  But it is more than those two really, it’s also Brandel Chamblee and Johnny Miller, and I guess you could say Jack Nicklaus.  Lots of people are commenting on Tiger Woods’ difficulties and decision to retool his game at this point in his career, a third retooling I believe.  It is getting to the he said, they said place and is ridiculous.  Some are coming off as rich arrogant a-holes with more identity pride than common sense. 

But lets move past the “Tiger thing” for a moment and talk a little about swing coaches in general.  As quoted in the 28 March GolfWorld, Nicklaus talked about his teacher, Jack Grout, and his hands off approach during tournament prep and play. Grout believed and Nicklaus followed that a golfer needed to be in charge of his own swing.  He also referred to commentary received from Bobby Jones that “he only reached his potential after being less reliant on teacher Stewart Maiden.”  Also in the 28 March edition of GolfWorld, Jack Burke Jr.  commented in an unrelated story that  “I don’t think you can do anything well if you don’t teach it….A lot of the kids on the tour nowadays hire instructors, so they aren’t really thinking for themselves about their technique and how to improve.  They don’t trust themselves, and when things start going badly, they have nowhere to turn.  In the middle of a round, they can’t call their coach to come over and give them a tip…if the young fellas on tour now had some teaching experience, they could stand for themselves and be richer for it.  Ben Hogan didn’t have an instructor.  Neither did Byron Nelson or any of us from our generation.”  There is some old school wisdom for you.

I don’t know about instructing per se, but owning your own swing is something a pro had to do in those days, now many seem to delegate the responsibility to someone else.  Now back to Tiger – the question is however, how much is Tiger Woods “in charge of his own golf swing?”  How much influence do the swing gurus have on his changes when he changes?  Everyone knows that its helpful to have the right set of eyes on you and reinforcing commentary when tinkering with a swing.  (Although, Ben Hogan would tell you the flight of the ball says all you need to know.)  But, this is Tiger Woods and I believe he is in complete charge.  He is human and requires support and the expert set of eyes, but don’t be mistaken in thinking that he is a “product” of Harmon, Haney, or now Foley.   The problem I see here is not the coach, but the stuff between Tiger’s ears.  He seems to be on an ever present quest for perfection.  I am not sure that is not a Don Quixote endeavor, but it is in a way brave of him to  make the changes.  I’d like to see him chill out a little and have fun with his swing and his game.  I think he – and we – would be better for it.

“The Match” and Harvie Ward

He’s arguably the best golfer you have never heard of…or at least the best one I have never heard of anyway.  It’s probably a little presumptuous of me to say that you have never heard of him, but before reading “The Match” I hadn’t and I’ve a pretty good knowledge of golfers and golf history.  His name is Harvie Ward. 

I read “The Match” a couple of months ago.  A friend gave me the book to read knowing I would enjoy it.  And I did enjoy it, very much – so much so that I bought a copy after returning the book to my friend.  Mark Frost documented the true story and he does a terrific job of framing the title match between the professionals, Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan, and the amateurs, Ken Venturi and Harvie Ward, by weaving the match hole by hole with a biographical treatment for each golfer.  It is a once in a lifetime meeting of two of the greatest professional golfers of all time, albeit in their waning years with Nelson having already been retired from tournament golf, and two of the best and most promising amateurs.  It is the moment and the vehicle for illustrating the inevitable transition from the heyday of amateur golf to the world of professional golf we know it today.  Harvie Ward and Ken Venturi were among the best amateurs in the world at a time when the game was still searching for a replacement for Bobby Jones – long since retired.  Harvie Ward could have been that man, but for the ascendency of professional golf and associated growing purses and notoriety it garnered with the public – and some heartbreaking setbacks caused in part by actions taken by the USGA attempting to maintain a firm line on the rules of amateur status.  The outcome of the match?  Read the book, but I bet you can guess.

I, of course, know Byron Nelson and Ben Hogan – again, two of the best professional golfers who ever walked the links.  I also know Ken Venturi, but as the professional he ultimately became, winning the 1964 U.S. Open at Congressional in a storybook manner, PGA Player of the Year in 1964, and Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the year in 1964 and several other professional titles.  He was also a regular golf commentator throughout the 1970s, 80s and 90s with CBS.  I learned of his amateur prowess in the book.  I had never heard of Harvie Ward. 

Harvie Ward had an impressive amateur career.  He won the North and South Amateur at Pinehurst in 1948, the NCAA Championship in 1949, the British Amateur in 1952, and the Canadian Amateur in 1954.  He also participated in three Walker Cup teams (1953, 1955 and 1959) and won many city, state and regional amateur events.  His presence was also felt at many U.S. Open and Masters tournaments finishing high in both on several occasions.  Then the USGA challenged his amateur status and the bottom fell out for Harvie.  “After losing his amateur status, Harvie Ward spent the better part of twenty years, by his own admission, wandering in a wilderness of sorrow, confusion, and loss.”  (The Match, 2007)  He resurfaced years later, ultimately becoming a teacher and legend in Pinehurst, NC. 

Harvie’s story is compelling, I searched for more information on him, there isn’t much out there.  There are some obituaries and he is mentioned in some books I have yet to read, but not much more.  This story introduced me to him and I am glad I know him now.  Read the book, it is entertaining whether a golfer or not.  But, if you are a golfer, it is a must read.

Chips and Putts

–  Congratulations to “Roar-y” McIlroy on his win at Quail Hollow in Charlotte!  That was the kind of finish I think we all love to see.  A terrific talent, I have his swing sequence on power point (and a few others).   As I turn 50 this summer, I doubt I can get his full turn in, but his move to the ball is spectacular.

–  Update on Hogan instruction and my progress.  I am going out most days at lunch and either hitting balls, chipping, or playing nine.  Marked improvement since my “epiphany” last post.  My key swing thought is Hogan’s shoulder to chin key.  You may recall he stated in his book that it got so that he would wear out the left shoulder of his golf shirts.  When I am doing that, I am really striking the ball.  I am finally getting a turn in that means something.  I was having real issues with my 3 wood, but since the swing key I have been killing it.  I am letting the swing happen and it feels great!

–  Trying out a new ball.  Srixon Z-STAR.  I was previously using the Pro V1x.  The Srixon ball feels markedly softer, yet it is at least as long as the Pro V1x  and even seems a bit longer…it may be the swing improvement though.  It seems to spin more, I get more zip on short wedge shots (100 yards and in) than my Pro V1x.  Srixon’s website has the following to say about the Z-STAR:

  • Contains a large, varying stiffness core (Energetic Gradient Growth Core Technology), providing high ball speed and low spin off the driver, resulting in longer drives
  • The Z-STAR’s enhanced Powershear® dimple technology keeps ball flight straight and long even in windy conditions
  • Iron impacts feel soft and pure, providing a tour-proven response
  • Players wanting more spin on approach shots will benefit from the Z-STAR’s thin, soft urethane cover

I concur with the soft feel, wind play, and more spin.  The length may be attributable to a better swing, but maybe not.  The price is right, about $10 less a dozen than Pro V1x has convinced me to switch.  Uh oh, just got a notice that Andy Giles, the pro at Bide-A-Wee (number 1 Muni in Virginia!), is sponsoring the Bridgestone people in a couple of weeks for “ball fittings.”   More later on that!

–  The Players this week.  Chris’ prediction – “Young gun” week again…Mickelson…another second…Tiger…favorite on the Golf Channel…wild card in my book until he fixes “getting stuck.”

–  We all love weddings, don’t we?  I missed playing golf this past weekend because I traveled with my wife and daughter to a wedding Saturday in Pennsylvania.  OK…I took some “executive time” Friday afternoon to make up for it (and shot 75 – thanks Mr. Hogan).  We are friends of the bride and her parents, the lovely girl she is, and I thoroughly enjoyed meeting the extended family, the groom, and his family.  It seems, that on that day like on the golf course, I met some terrific people.  Lots of baseball coaches, tennis players, and guys who just want to hit a golf ball better.  Funny how in a conversation with athletes these days, no matter their age and no matter the venue, the talk eventually moves toward golf.  It is a common theme these days.  Like “how ’bout those Bears” in times past.  Our best to AJ – the Groom and Jill-Bean – the Bride…what a wonderful adventure you have before you.  AJ, I think you need a lesson on the course…1 a side in a $5 nassau sounds about right.

Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons

Wouldn’t it be great if there was such a thing as a “golf whisperer?”  Someone out there you could visit who, by merely suggesting a few things, could completely turn your game around and get you on the right track to improvement.  There are a lot of people out there who would imply to be such a person, but unfortunately there’s a lot more noise than there is music where golf instruction is concerned.  I just finished reading Ben Hogan’s  FIVE LESSONS and there seems to be a lot of music in there.

I have been playing golf since I was given my first set of irons by my then future father-in-law back in 1984 or 5.  In the time since, I have had one paid lesson (in the early 90’s). Most of my instruction has come from my former father-in-law, observation, reading the tips in publications like Golf Magazine and Golf Digest, and finally, a lot of “pissin’ on the electric fence.”  I have perused many books on golf and even own a few that I have acquired through the years – Seve Ballesteros’ book, Greg Norman’s book, etc., but never really read them as a serious student.  I tend to be attracted to the funny and anecdotal books.  Over the course of the last couple of nights, I read Mr. Hogan’s book as a student and for the first time and there are a few things that struck me as I read it.

First, the book is small, the font is large, and the illustrations are beautiful.  That, my friends, is a winning combination right off the bat in my world of 12 pounds of to-dos for my 5 pound to-do bag.  Mongo like a quick read.  Mongo like pictures. And these pictures, drawn wonderfully by Anthony Ravielli and “closely supervised” by The Hawk for accuracy, alone provide a great pocket guide to fundamentals without ever reading the text.      

Next, I found solace and hope in Mr. Hogan’s words in his introductory chapter, The Fundamentals, regarding the average golfer and what is possible:

“I see no reason, truly, why the average golfer, if he goes about it intelligently, shouldn’t play in the 70’s – and I mean by playing the type of shots a fine golfer plays…THE AVERAGE GOLFER IS ENTIRELY CAPABLE OF BUILDING A REPEATING SWING AND BREAKING 80, if he learns to perform a small number of correct movements and conversely, it follows, eliminates a lot of movements which tend to keep the swing from repeating.  In these lessons we will certainly not be attempting to cover all of golf or even one-hundredth of that almost inexhaustible subject.  What we will be concerning ourselves with are the facts of golf which have proved themselves to be the true fundamentals – fundamentals that can be checked and not simply left to the imagination or to guesswork.  This is all that is really needed.”  

These are words not from a self-proclaimed “golf whisperer” trying to sell you his 3  DVD set for a mere $149.95, but a legend who’s reputation and ethos precluded saying anything but what he believed to be the absolute truth about his business and his passion.  These words are promising!  A few fundamentals, followed closely, is attractive to the “left-brain” part of me and, if promise holds true, will allow the “right-brain” part of me play the game

Finally, as I finished the book, I realized how simple and few the fundamentals are as described by Mr. Hogan.  They are easy to comprehend and conceptualize.  I also recognized myself in some of his descriptions of what not to do and how not to do it.  In these years of “pissin’ on the electric fence” and trying the quick-fix tips found in magazines and videos, I have managed to get my handicap down to a low of 2 and now hover at a 5.  Pretty good, except my handicap is built on lots of golf course buffoonery with the occasional brilliant round.  We all know that the handicap system is built to grab onto those brilliant rounds and keep them in the system like the words of the ten commandments on the stone tablets.  Therefore, I may be a 5, but usually I play in the low to mid 80’s.  My desire, like I am sure it is for all, is to minimize the buffoonery and maximize the potential for brilliance – always break 80. 

Is Mr. Hogan a “golf whisperer?”  No, I don’t think so, but he does give us the benefit of his many years of hardnosed self-evaluation and experimentation with the golf swing.  His personal results are undeniable.  The sub-title of his book is The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.  Since the original copyright is 1957, it’s not so modern anymore.  Who cares?  It’s still a ball and it’s still a club.  Professionals still revere his swing.  I think his fundamentals are likely timeless.  Will his instruction make us as good as he?  No, unless you have the nearly fanatic work ethic for practice and talent for striking the ball that he had.  Can he make us better with his instruction – intuitively, I believe that to be true.  His instruction hit my ah-ha button too many times to doubt it altogether, but I reserve final opinion until I go through the training myself.  I have already begun and have already seen positive results. 

So, I will ensure my cup is empty, maintain an open mind, and keep my expectations realistic…sorry, that’s another book I am reading – Zen Golf.   Maybe there really is a “golf whisperer,” only he wears leather sandals, meditates, and drinks green tea…