Ben Hogan's Swing from Down the Line

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Published: February 18, 2014

Ben Hogan's golf swing is full of myth and mystery and in this video, I hope to disspell a couple of those myths as they can actually be harmful for someone trying to learn the one plane swing.

Using Hogan as a model for the swing should be done with a very strong understanding of the swing and strong amount of caution as his swing was built completely around his own personal tendencies of hooking the ball, and ridding himself of that tendency.

There are countless anti-hook moves in his swing, so take that into consideration in your studies.

Perhaps the most important myth in Hogan's swing is the misconception of him coming down on a plane beneath that of the one he took the club back on.

Hogan certainly felt this in his swing because of his strong lateral move during the downswing, but the fact of the matter is that it simply didn't happen this way.

As you'll see in the video, Hogan actually came down on nearly the EXACT same plane he took the club back on, very similar to Vijay Singh, both of whom use a strong lower body move to generate power and allow the club to come back down on plane.

Perhaps the most important practical thing I can share of Hogan's swing that I see 90% of amateurs struggle with is the shaft plane when the arms are at 9 o'clock.

Undoubtedly, the most common fault happens right from the takeaway when the club moves too far inside. By the time the left arm is parallel to the ground, the shaft is pointing well outside the ball and is too flat.

While Hogan was known for swinging on what was considered a more flat plane, it must be understood that Hogan did NOT swing flat.

As you can see from the photo below, Hogan's shaft plane at this crucial position is actually steeper than his plane at address. You can also see the same of my swing to the left.

Ideally, the club is pointing at the ball or just inside it at this point. 9 out of every 10 amateurs' shafts will be pointing outside the ball at this point and be swinging on a plane that is flatter than the shaft plane established at address.

Check your shaft at 9 o'clock and see if your overall swing needs a little tune up.

ben hogan chuck quinton

Checkpoints for Practice

  • There are several misconceptions regarding Ben Hogan's swing - we analyze it to see what's really going on
  • Hogan felt he flattened out, creating a two plane swing, but he actually comes down very much on the same plane
  • He starts out with his hips and shoulders slightly open
  • The club moves back on a plane slightly steeper than the one established at address
  • Contrary to popular belief, he comes down on almost exactly on the same plane as the backswing
  • Like Tiger and other powerful golfers, Hogan drives aggressively with the lower body
  • He stands up out of the shot slightly, which helps prevent him from hooking left
  • Hogan's spine angle remains very constant throughout the swing, and his shoulder plane is fairly flat

Video Transcription: Ben Hogan's Swing Down the Line

We'll talk a little bit about Ben Hogan's swing today, from the down the line view. One of the most important things that I hope to do with this analysis is to actually dispel some of the myths of Hogan's swing that I think are pretty prevalent among the one plane swing crowd.

I think it's really important to take a look at his swing from the down the line view to get a better understanding of exactly what he actually did in his swing, rather than just what he felt he did, and what he wrote about in his book.

Shaft plane at addressShaft plane at address

One of the most important things that we'll talk about is the swing plane, particularly the downswing plane, which has often been said by many people to be considered a two plane downswing, because of the fact that he felt like he flattened out and came in on a shallower plane.

As you'll see shortly, that's actually not true by any stretch of the imagination. It actually comes down very much on the same plane. We'll take a look at that first.

As I draw a line here to represent the shaft plane established at address, which will be the first thing we look at, we can see it's pretty standard for many professional golfers. His hands aren't too high or too low.

Typically what you'll see is the shaft plane will go somewhat up near toward the belt buckle, through the middle of the body. There's nothing unusual about this.

You will notice that his hips, or particularly his right knee, is rotated around, getting his hips more open at address. You can actually see part of his left butt cheek here, showing that he's actually rotated his hips a little open, and his shoulders are just a touch open.

Feet closed, aim as shownFeet quite closed, aim shown by line on right

You can't see his left shoulder here at address. His right shoulder is actually above it, and his right forearm is actually above his left forearm here at address as well, again showing that he's set up with his body a little bit more to the left of his target, while at the same time if we drew a line on his feet, his feet are actually quite closed.

He's actually aiming this direction here. He's aiming one direction with his feet, and the rest of his body all lines up to the left, which is a well-known trait in Hogan's swing.

I'm going to take it back to discuss certain things at certain times; I may skip over a few pieces here.

As he takes the club back, the first thing we want to note is that the club moves pretty much parallel to the shaft plane established at address, but a little bit below. As he takes it back, he keeps going back into his position, he actually matches up quite closely with the shaft plane at this point, moving very much parallel to the plane.

Shaft plane slightly steeperHogan's shaft plane is slightly steeper (above) - Amateurs tend to be on the flatter line (below)

As his arm gets to about 9:00, which is a position that I check quite often, if we drew a line here you can see that his shaft plane is actually just a touch - I'll change the color here - just a touch steeper than where he was at address.

There's no significant issue here. Typically, you can see guys in a range here of a foot on either side of the ball. What I see most amateurs do, who are new to a one plane swing, is that their shaft, when their arm is at 9:00 to the ground or parallel to the ground, that the shaft would actually be pointing well out here, demonstrating that they're way too flat on the way back, and typically that they've rolled their wrists very aggressively over the club face, etc.

Range, ideally pointing at the ball, in my opinion is pretty much dead on at this point, but there's certainly nothing wrong with this. This is just demonstrating that his hands are a little deep, which of course is a well-known trait of Hogan's swing, and it's a great trait of the one plane swing.

The fact that he's just a little bit inside of the ball here, there's nothing special about this whatsoever. It's a great position to be in.

As we continue the club back to the top of the swing, this is where Hogan's magic can start to be seen. He's really loading up here and getting ready to drive really aggressively with his body, but as we move down the thing that I want to point out is that, one, you notice that the club head is actually back in this point here right now.

Club head is at cursor positionClub head is at cursor position

As he starts his downswing, watch where the club actually ends up. It moves from this position here over into this area. It actually moves behind him. This is actually a position that almost all better golfers will fall into at some point.

It's just a demonstration that their arms and hands haven't done anything during the transition. They're actually the last part of the swing to move, but the body is really moving aggressively and the arms are just kind of falling back down on plane.

I see a lot of amateurs who, from this position here, the club will actually start to go back towards their head or up, and it's just a demonstration that their body hasn't really done anything but their arms and hands are trying to control the path and the angle of the club face.

It's really important that the arms and hands don't do anything here, and Hogan demonstrates this beautifully.

The next piece I want to talk about is, as he moves down, you'll see that as we come back into position here - we're just like half a frame past where his arm would be parallel to the ground here so it's really close - if we had that extra half a frame we'd see that the club is actually pretty much exactly on the same plane that he swung it back on.

Club on same planeThe club is on the same plane

When his arm was at 9:00 on the way back, it was represented by this red line. Then as he swung down, if his arm was parallel to the ground again here, he would be exactly matching up on that plane here so it's a very, very tight swing plane that Hogan swung on.

But most importantly, there's a misconception out there that Hogan actually came well beneath his swing plane on the way down, because he talked about how he dropped his right arm and feeling like he tilted that "pane of glass," in his book, back to feel like he's swinging more from the inside.

The fact of the matter is, Hogan actually swung back down almost on the identical swing plane that he swung back on. It's really important to dispel that myth about Hogan's swing. He didn't come well beneath the plane, as everybody thinks he did. It's not true at all; he actually came down right on the same plane.

As we keep going down into impact, you'll see that the shaft is right on the plane here. It's right through his forearm, dead on plane with where he was at address. Again, if he did have more of a drop or loop in his swing, as he felt he did, the club would end up more in this position here, but of course it's swinging more on top of the ball, right down the plane that he established at address.

Right elbow behind hip, right heel off groundRight elbow behind hip, right heel off ground

As he keeps moving into impact, we'll notice some of the key characteristics of his swing. His right elbow is still well behind his hip.

An important thing about this move, that again I think is a misconception, is that it's nearly impossible to be in this position without an aggressive move, laterally, during the downswing because you actually are getting your body to somewhat outrace your arms, down into impact.

If you just swing from the top with your arms and don't have a lot of lower body and overall body movement, the arms will actually be flung more out over the top and the right elbow will be working away from the body at this point, but Hogan was able to have a very aggressive leg drive and keep those arms back later into the swing than most.

You can also see that, at this point, he's really driving aggressively with his lower body. His right heel is already off the ground, something characteristic you see in a lot of powerful players, such as Tiger Woods, these days, who use their lower body and hip rotation to generate a lot of club head speed.

As he keeps coming down into impact, one of the things that I think is kind of interesting at this point, if you watch you'll see he actually almost stands up out of the shot just a little bit from where he was coming down.

Hogan stands up out of the shotHogan stands up out of the shot

If we drew a line - we'll get rid of these for a second - if we look at his spine angle here, that's pretty close; as he's coming down into impact, he's actually going to start to stand up just a little bit to give his arms room to swing around and left.

You can watch his head. From this position if I drew another line on top of his head here, he's actually going to start to come up right in here and stand up out of the shot just a little bit.

This is going to help keep him from coming too much from the inside, and actually be able to release the club aggressively and not worry about hitting the ball left.

This is another one of Hogan's characteristic anti-hook moves. It's kind of a prevalent to you once you look at it and go back and forth, you can see that he's actually coming up out of it just a tiny bit; maintaining his spine angle very well, but he's actually coming up just a touch.

As he comes through and releases the club, immediately - the next frame after impact - from here to here, the club's moving aggressively to the left. Immediately, the club's going right back around his body.

Club beneath left shoulderClub beneath left shoulder

As we watch the release, it's going to come out beneath his left shoulder, which is classic one plane position. It's a fantastic position. He just keeps rotating and swinging on around, releasing the rest of his body through the shot.

If we go back to address again, there's a couple of other things I want to talk about now that we've gotten the downswing plane out of the way.

I'm going to draw a line here by his right knee. When he takes the club back, watch how much his right knee moves off the ball, or off where it was at address. From the top of his swing - I'll change the color here to make this a little easier to see - it's moved several inches.

He's actually stood up just a bit. He hasn't lost much knee flex in there, but the point of this is that I see people work so hard to keep their knee locked in place, and when you're making a more rotary move on the backswing, it's very difficult unless you have great flexibility, to keep that right leg in the exact same place.

Change in knee positionChange in right knee position

Not only is it, not necessarily undesirable, but it creates a lot of unnecessary tension in the swing as well. You can see, even Ben Hogan had a ton of movement in his lower body. His left knee came out quite a bit, his right knee moved back and straightened up quite a bit, and you can see that pretty obviously here.

The motion is more important than being stuck in some static position. It's really important to note that obviously you don't want your hips to stand up and get posted up on this right leg, because that's going to require you to drive really hard with your lower body on the downswing. Keeping it a bit more quiet is ideal, unless you're very athletic as Hogan was. But this is an important thing to note in his swing.

Another important thing to note, that's also talked about quite a lot, is his spine angle at address. If I draw a line here, we'll measure his spine angle. That roughly is about parallel there. We'll get that vertical. Roughly, somewhere in the mid-30s - 33 degrees or so, 35 degrees - at address.

As he swings back it doesn't really change much. It's been talked about, how he steepens his spine angle during the backswing. Perhaps it's just a touch, but it's not dramatic by any stretch of the imagination. As he comes through, it actually matches up quite well with where he was at address.

Spine angle through swingSpine angle at address, at the top, and after impact

Another interesting thing of note is, from the top of the swing, if we drew a line showing where his shoulders were in relation to the ball, his shoulder plane is actually quite flat, relatively.

If he was a much taller guy it would probably be a bit steeper here, but the conception of swinging your shoulders into a certain range outside of the ball, Hogan definitely didn't do that, and there's many other great one planers who don't do that as well.

It's just something to be aware of in the swing, that trying to get your shoulders too steep can often cause people to come down too steeply on the ball because they don't rotate very aggressively on the way through, and it causes a number of other faults.

Shoulder plane through swingShoulder plane at address, at the top, and at follow through

It's more important to have a more natural motion swinging back and through. You can see that actually his shoulder plane at the top of his swing pretty closely matches where it was at address, which is perpendicular to his spine.

As he swings back, it pretty much ends up right on plane. As he swings down he comes out pretty much on the same plane there.

Address with driverAddress with driver

There's a lot of interesting characteristics of Hogan's swing. Those are a few that I think are really important, to dispel some myths about Hogan's swing at address.

There's a couple of other things that I want to point out here. At address with the driver - if I drew a line down from his chin - with the driver, as most golfers will, because the swing arc is naturally more round, he had his hands more out underneath his chin.

Now, if you looked at a shot with his irons, his hands would actually be very, very close to his body with most of his irons. With the driver it's a bit more out. This is pretty standard. Most golfers will do this, whether it be one plane or two plane.

With the driver, with the longer clubs, you will find your arms a little bit more out away from your body than with the irons, but certainly not dramatic and overstretched.

You can see from Hogan's address position it's just a great, athletic, balanced setup. He's not hunched over too far. He doesn't have his arms outstretched a great deal away from him. There are many great things that you can model from his swing. I hope this helps dispel some of the myths about Hogan's swing.

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