What’s the best tip in this book?
That would be: DO NOT RELY on ‘tips’ to improve your game, because they are like band-aids and fall away pretty quickly. 95% of amateur golfers need a SYSTEM . . . and Ben Hogan provides this, par excellence, for those who are willing to do a little work: i.e. fifteen minutes a day for seven days. You learn his system over the week, and ingrain it; and suddenly you have great consistency and new control. My putting average went from 33 per round to 27. They used to call me ‘the 142nd best chipper in the club (like “the 142nd fastest gun in all the West.” Now they argue if I’m 1st or 2nd best.
What can someone easily do to improve their short game?
Learn to use what Hogan playfully called his ‘Magical Device’ so that the club head meets the gall crisply time after time. (That’s why Mr. Hogan’s clubs had a well-worn shiny mark, like a dime, on the sweet-spot.) And this mark was the product of mechanics, not luck. Unfortunately, Mr. Hogan knew how to contact the ball properly, but having virtually dropped out of school in grade 10, he did not have the education to properly use the anatomical terms his artist/illustrator friend used from his anatomy background. (more unfortunate coincidence.) Anthony Ravielli did not know enough about golf to correct Hogan, the master, and so Hogan’s heralded description of his swing in The Five Lessons created chaos, as people tried to apply these incorrectly used directions which focussed on pronation and supination of the hands -- which as you will learn, was exactly what Hogan DID NOT DO.
I was able to talk at length to Stan leonard, Moe Norman and George Knudson about what Hogan did to apply “his secret” and put their slang language into understandable universal terms.
What’s the most common problems newcomers make?
I am not sure of the ‘most common‘ mistake, but I know the most ‘ruinous‘ one:
That is, the uninitiated golfer ‘breaks down‘ his lead hand at impact, hoping for ‘perfect timing‘ which happens just often enough, to make it hard to convince them to spend one week -- 15 minutes a day, to get it right. Over a week you can ingrain it and have it on hand for the rest of your golfing days. (Read the story in ‘Ben Hogan’s Magical Device’ about the last three balls he hit in his 82nd year.)
What was special about Ben Hogan?
His determination. Ben Hogan got so tired of not knowing where the ball was going, that he spent four years, twelve hours a day, in trial and error experimentation to develop his special system so that he could take his impact technique for putting and chipping into long chips, pitches, lobs, half-shots, to the full shot. With a five foot eight body at 140 pounds, he became not only one of the longest hitters in the game, but also the straightest. Although his injured left eye degenerated with age, earning him a reputation for poor putting, he was in fact, the most consistent putter on tour -- many times playing major championships without a single three-putt on those slippery championship greens. You will learn to climb the staircase for the ten stages of his swing to the full shot. You will learn all the parts of the ‘impact-zone’ technique with putting and short chips for one week; then you are ready to climb the staircase which is 55% of our game.
What’s next for you?
I’ve been invited to Augusta this Spring to watch the Master’s. Up to that delightful point, I will continue to nag/cajole/insist that friends who have purchased the two Hogan books will follow his basic formula -- start with 30 short putts (5 feet) to a tee on the putting green -- no holes -- very bad psychology -- or a dime on your carpet; then 30 short (12 feet) chips . . . both for 7 days. For homework, watch your form at home in front of a mirror and critique your form (eg.) No movement below the waist, and your hands DO NOT MOVE . . .the magical device moves them for you. After one week you’re ready for section 2 of Hogan’s swing -- long putts (which will involve a change below the waist. By the end of the 2nd week you will be a changed golfer in: short chips and putts, long chips and long putts, pitches and lobs, and should very quickly pick up on half-shots and three-quarter shots. After a week and a half, I broke my age by three strokes. After three weeks I began a streak of breaking my age nine times in competition. (The sale of the book went up at my club)
All best for the enjoyment of this challenging game.