The Hogan Golf Swing

The hogan golf swing is something I have been chasing my entire life. It fits every aspect of how I want to perform as a player. It originates way before Ben Hogan from players like Wild Bill Melhorn (who mr Hogan considered to be the best ball striker of all time). Back in that era you would swing higher like Bobby Jones or around yourself like Mr Melhorn. At least that’s what I've gathered.

They had zero technology, played with non offset knife edge thin blades and did this with a ball that was so spinny that you basically had no choice but to perfect your movement. These players hit high risk shots as standard and displayed, in my opinion, the best ball striking in golf history.

This article is mainly about this old school swing but in the end I'll also highlight how the modern swing uses its components.

And by the way, my name is Petter Tärbe and I have a history as a decent scratch player, a golf instructor for some years, but first and foremost I’m a huge golf development nerd that loves to pass on what I know.

And I have a terminology list all the way below for weird words I'm using.

The General Look of the Old School Variation

A low swing plane natural motion that has no limitations, hesitations or funny quirks to it. Completely pure in my opinion.

The backswing is straight to the inside with a low, deep and narrow hand position with a cupped left wrist in an "open" club face position. The hips are mobile and fully rotated and the shoulder rotation appears without tension.

The downswing sequence further opens the club face and puts the players in the perfect striking position.

Thereafter the complete strike and follow through is in unison and accelerating all the way through. Maximum power without mechanical breakdowns. 

The swing is very much a hit and a player's move. These golfing gods could work the ball in any shot shape.

Furthermore, none of them lived on the gym and somehow managed to avoid injury... The power is optimized without you being forced to have a body building physique.

Does the Hogan Golf Swing Fit you?

Matching your golfing persona with the technique you want to pursue is key to your success. (read more about this in my change guide)

This swing is suitable for both you that are laid back and you that are a bit more quick/nervous in your personlity (like me). 

It’s a perfect match for golfers that feel their golf in their hands, forearms and in the club. 

Finally, it is very good for you that have a hard time “to think” in your golf swing. The only two thoughts you need to master, once transitioned into this framework, are a light backswing emotion and a follow through emotion. That’s it.

Technique Deeply Explained - Understanding It

Planting a seed

If you are supposed to rotate and be as aggressive as the old timers in the follow through, can you do this with a your normal backswing position? And how do you actually do such an aggressive follow through?

Chronological Walkthrough

The backswing start is to take the hands straight to the inside and make a full body rotation straight away (the complete opposite of some modern teachings). When the club is over the right foot the players start opening the club face through spiraling the lead arm. This takes the club back on a MUCH shallower swing plane. And why the lead arm? Since the lead arm now is positioned better in the shoulder socket for the coming chest rotation. 

Now, the coolest stuff starts happening (dynamically without you “having to do it”). Somewhere in the mid backswing, as the club has traveled around you and the clubhead starts moving towards the target, the momentum of the club and body starts shifting your pressure towards your lead foot. This together with a slight secondary axis tilt away from the target. This happens WAY BEFORE how it happens in the modern swing.

Maybe you’ve heard of Pete Cowen’s term the spiral staircase? This is the same story but done way more horizontally. The spiraling of the left arm makes it possible to rotate your chest (not only drift your arms) more freely and in a longer range. Many of these players were 50-60 degrees open with the hips and 110-120 degrees open with the chest in the backswing. And there was NO tension in their bodies.

In the final parts of the backswing the cupping of the lead wrist appears and this is crucial. You’ll see why soon.

Since the top backswing position is now so deep, so low and so rotated (both from club and body perspective) you are set up for a swing plane that is so shallow that it provides you with the opportunity to do what the greats did.

The downswing is characterized by the magic move (a Harvey Penick term) which is to get your right elbow to your right pocket and after this the lead arm spiral starts to unwind rapidly. The lagged forces in your shaft wants to be set free.

From the magic move position (think a bit before shaft parallel in the downswing) the players now start their hand path charge with pulling the hands straight towards their body in time and space. This is almost like you try to cut the ball. And since you are in such an "hooky" backswing position you have the full go ahead. Again, the cupping of the lead wrist in the backswing top position is the initiator of the lead arm unspiraling in the downswing. 

The pressure now shifts automatically in the downswing towards your trail foot toe (remember that hogan had an extra spike on his right golf shoe toe) and you can now explode the body in a full turn that includes a much bigger chest rotation compared to most modern swings. I reiterate that this pressure shift creates a platform to hit from that happens dynamic and without you having to do something about it. And it happens MUCH EARLIER compared to modern swings.

Furthermore, this is accompanied by the club that now flies past your hands (since you did a hand path brake with the quick “left and towards you move”). Since you have been so low in the backswing and in the downswing you don’t need any unnatural amounts of right lateral bend or other injury inducing garbage to strike the ball. 

Finally, you explode up to a high completely “followed through” follow through.

The Power Sources

The design of a golf club makes it mechanically optimal if you rotate the shaft. If you do a half backswing and apply 20% power and don’t rotate you’ll hit the ball 40 meters. If you do the same backswing but you also rotate your club you hit it 55 meters. There’s a lot of power in this spiraling/rotation of the shaft. Further down in this article, I’ll propose how you train this spiral unwind and how you build proper strength.

The other power source is the most effective braking mechanism in golf. Since you come so massively from the inside your follow through hand path shift intentions completely releases the club. Think about driving a car with max traction and a lawn mower just sitting on top of a trailer. If you do a quick turn in max traction, will the machine still be on the trailer or will it continue down the path you had before the turn? It will fly off in the direction of your initial driving path. The golf club works exactly the same. And this is where Mr Hogan's statement - I wish I had three right hands - comes into play. Once the braking mechanism is initiated the trail hand takes over from the lead hand and continues/assists accelerating the forces in the shaft and hence creating a powerful strike. A hitters protocol indeed. (This is why you sometimes see the shaft of these old timers shoot back from the follow through position = they assisted the release so efficiently that the follow through top position forces a bounce back.)

Since you are so opened up in the backswing this creates an automatic body unwind that creates a stretch in the arms = a sling. This is a power sources in itself.

These three sources create all the power you’ll need and the cool thing is that the power is without injury and done with accuracy.

Grip, Arms & Face Closure

Depending on your body constitution you will take an either weak or semi weak left hand grip. This matches up with hands that are tight to the body at impact. If you would play a strong grip here you would likely hook the ball severely.

The trail arm is slightly bent at impact and when it straightens the face closure will happen rapidly. Most players of this era have their “face closing chaos (that it flips over)” a good 10-20 cm after the ball is struck. Hence it is a “perceived flip” but nothing to worry about. Think of it as a full release instead.

The fans of the term rate of closure will likely have a field day with this article but I think that face closure is gravely misunderstood. Proper clubface is about using a technique that takes the chaotic right arm extension face closure out of the question. If you can do that, then you are golden, and rate of closure isn’t a discussion anymore. E.g. Mr Hogan's accuracy speaks for itself.

Also, this style of closure isn’t to be bundled together with using your trail hand thumb and index finger to close the face. Rather, what I’m talking about is using the forearms (and primarily lead forearm) to close the face.

Key Drivers for the Old School Variation

Most of what I write are my own findings and interpretations of old swings but the key component of the left arm backswing spiraling wasn’t (credit coming below). It is however the key component to come as deep and “under plane” that is needed in the backswing. Without this position you can’t do the aggressive follow through. You set up for an enormous hook.

The other key component is an aggressive hand path to the left in the follow through accompanied with an aggressive chest turn (without any weird angles). This doesn’t only provide the braking mechanism for the club to release but it also ensures that you come enough “outside in” in the follow through. As mentioned, the backswing sets you up for a big hook and the follow through is basically an aggressive slice of the ball.

This backswing and follow through marriage is my personal holy grail of ball striking. It’s the easiest and most natural way I have ever hit a golf ball.

The last component, that rely on the above, is that you allow yourself to pressure shift to the lead foot already in the mid backswing. In the beginning it feels weird to come over so early (because that’s wrong right…) but it couldn’t be better. Because now you have a platform to start you follow through early and since the pressure was over left so early you will shift back to your right toe just in time for the climax of the swing (that's why you see these players having their right foot planted a pretty long time = the opposite of early extension).

Transition into The Hogan Golf Swing - How You Do It

This is the easiest transition I’ve ever done and I’ve done maybe 10+ swing changes (because I’m nuts and have been searching for a swing that provides proper striking and injury free golf for a long time). It took me ten 1-hour-sessions to completely change my feel for the swing.

Below is a lot of text but don’t worry, it's actually quite easy to perform.

Part 1 - The Big Hook Backswing - living room training

Drilling the Backswing. In the beginning it will feel strange to come to the inside straight away. I do it in three separate pieces:

1) Full body (I move everything together) take away that puts my hands over my right foot from my eyes point of view. The hands shall be tight on the body, no seperation please.

2) Then I start spiraling my left arm and "somewhere" in the spiral i start to allow my pressure shift to my lead foot. It happens as soon as the club starts moving towards the target and i make sure to cup my lead wrist.

See the spiral explanation here

3) I start rotating my chest since it has basically been unlocked by the spiraling.

Do this for a couple of hours. Don’t underestimate how weird it feels to spiral the lead arm in the beginning and don't let the feeling of that this is zero effort fool you to thinking this is wrong.

Take these backswing pieces and fuse them. With the sole purpose of creating an easily accessible feel. For me it feels like a spiral and a weight shift early once I’m done. A very easy feeling to accomplish from an athletic standpoint.

Part 2 - The Car Tire Drill - garden training

You need to learn to close down the club face with the right muscles and I would assume that 95% of all golfers lack proficient skills in this area.

Get a car tire (no rim please). Place it where the ball would be. Take 4-6 iron and go to your backswing top position (with spiraling etc) and then use the tire to square the blade and also pull your hands towards the body to activate even more braking mechanism. This will also teach you that it's pointless to add the spiraling power too early.

See it here and please notice that the lead arm is in charge of the closing. The trail arm comes in and helps in the last segment before impact.

Very important - take your trail hand index finger and thumb off the grip. Then you can’t cheat but rather need to use the proper muscles.

Part 3 - The Big Hook Downswing Drill - trackman studio

You have probably come across the term inside out path. Well, with this backswing position you can actually do it!

This is not a full swing but a training for your transition (so you don’t have to think about it in the future). In other words a proper athletic drill. I call it the big hook downswing drill.

Go to a studio with e.g. Trackman. You need the path value to track your progress. Use a 6 iron.

Set up with the ball way back in your stance (behind center), do your backswing (spiral and allow the pressure shift) and then hit a 30-50% shot with the sole intention of coming inside-out in the path.

Do it until you can achieve 15-20 degrees from the inside (I sh*t you not). The blade should be open in relation to the path since it is so early in the stance (not enough time to close the blade). My normal drill shot is 15 degree inside path with a 18 degree open blade. Somewhere along those lines is good enough. 

It took me 4 sessions a 20 minutes to do this. In the beginning I couldn’t get to more than 3-4 degrees from the inside but through putting out a marker in an extension of the inside out path I could turn athletic and start swinging more inside out. That took me to 7-10 degrees. Then I figured out I wasn’t allowing my pressure shift (to the lead foot) in mid backswing and in the two following sessions I managed a 15 degrees inside path. Now, after having done it 10+ times, I can get to 16-20 degrees on my first try. 

What this means from a technical standpoint is that you're athletically working on your transition and setting you up for the follow through. In other words, you set up for a big hook and the follow through is the matching response to this = a big slice.

This is a drill and something that you just pursue to foster muscle memory. You do the drill instead of having to “think in the transition”, as this is nothing good for anyone. You’d much rather have your mental thinking space open for thoughts that are about the most important part in golf = the follow through.

Let’s move on.

Part 4 - The Cutting Hands & Hit From Your Knees & Real Slice Acceleration Follow Through Drills - trackman studio

Your hands are with 99% certainty not moving enough to the left after the ball is struck. Now you start harvesting your sensations from the car tire drill over to a proper swing on a golf ball.

Place the ball somewhere in front of mid stance and perform your old backswing (I’m sure you remember it). Cut the ball as much as you can with shoulders that are level (so you don’t raise the right shoulder). This becomes the easy accessible feel of the car tire drill in swing form. Do it until you are 6-8 degrees from the outside. You will likely have a face that is pretty much in line with your path (or maybe a bit open). I normally get something like 6 degrees outside in with a 4-5 degrees closed face. I call this my Cutting Hands Drill.

6-8 degrees outside with level shoulders is a lot right? But it’s not enough. 

The final push is the chest rotation. Your previous backswing position has NEVER ALLOWED you to move your chest properly unless you engage in some strange injury inducing tilts. (this swing is done with level shoulders which is great for your body)

Take your 6 iron, tee it up slightly, get on your knees, put the ball dead center in your knee stance. You have now completely immobilized your hips = you are naked for your chest rotation. And good luck adding some nonsense tilts… This is the Hit From Your Knees Drill.

In the beginning i would fat the ball with 20 cm. Then I started to spiral my club properly in the backswing and started turning my chest through the ball. 20 shots later I was starting to get a strike. I created a sensation in my chest rotation I had never felt (likely not you either). Easy rotation without any weird tilts.

Now, stand up again and fuse the Cutting Hands and Hit From Your Knees sensations. This is what I call my Slice Feeling. If you do this from your old backswing position it will allow you to do something like 10-11 degrees from the outside but then the shanks start happening. Fear not. This is only because your old backswing position was so bad for the old timer powerful maximum slice follow through.

Perform this drill for 10 shots with the sole ambition to hit the easiest chain of thought for doing this in an accelerating manner. Acceleration is the mother of all good golfers.

When you add acceleration this becomes your Real Slice Acceleration Follow Through Drill. This will be your go to feeling in all golf in the future. It will help you with the non-break-down awesome accelerating rotational based follow through. Just similar to the greats.

Now start alternating between the Big Hook Inside Downswing Drill and the Real Slice Acceleration Drill. Why? Because you are so vulnerable now in the beginning and the Real Slice Acceleration Drill is so potent that it will draw you out of positions. You will master the balance over time.

Continue with this until you really start to simplify the drills into easy accessible feelings from a brain perspective.

Part 5 - The Marriage - Big Hook loves Big Slice

You now know the Big Hook Backswing position, the Big Hook Downswing Drill and the Real Slice Acceleration Follow Through Drill. The backswing has generated a feel, the downswing drill has trained your motor pattern and the follow through has generated the most crucial feel of golf.

Warning. Do not start with the next steps until you have created easily accessible feels or have managed to get to 15+ degrees in the inside downswing drill. Go back and work on it if you aren’t there yet.

Good to go? Great! Let’s marry the Big Hook Backswing and the Real Slice Acceleration Follow Through.

You start at 40% power for 10 balls. Then 60% for 10 balls. Then 80-90% power 10 balls. Rinse and repeat. Between each shot, step out of your stance and make room for the two easy feels.

Focus your brain on the acceleration. It is so important for consistency in the future. 

For me it feels like this when I’m on top of my “feel game”: The backswing is just a full body rotation and spiral feel where I allow my pressure shift. Then after the backswing top position my real slice acceleration feeling is planted softly and it becomes more potent for every inch that the club travels until it reaches its full potency long after impact. 

The late potency of the real slice acceleration feeling becomes my control in my swing. This is my most important resource and I only want this in my head space after the backswing feel disappears. I fully immerse myself in the acceleration feeling. 

The better you become at this, the better you become at golf. That’s how important it is.

Part 6 - The Long Lasting Marriage

Now you are set. You have all the components to accomplish your best ball striking but the relationship between hook and slice need constant maintenance.

The thing is that all swing thoughts that fit with your athletic motion will eventually draw you out of your perfect strike zone. This is why “swing tips” only work for a while.

Therefore I always train the big hook inside drill on every practice session I make. I know that my real slice acceleration follow through feel is very potent and will, if done enough times, draw me out of my perfect strike zone.

Nicklaus played a fade his entire competitive career but on his practice sessions he mostly hit draws. Tiger Woods winning the 97 masters was so much from the inside that he felt a big fade on each shot but in reality produced a push draw. Again, the best golf is played with your favorite feelings, and you need to cater to these feeling’s needs.

That’s how you transition into this swing. The time needed is minimal from a change perspective.

Variations in the Old School Hogan Golf Swing

I ALWAYS do the same backswing.

The low slice follow through. Now after having perfected this for a while I use a lower real slice acceleration feeling for anything from SW to maybe a 4 iron. I usually hit my mid irons with a small fade and maybe 2 degrees outside in.

The high slice follow through. For the longer clubs I just feel that my slice is finishing higher. Technically this will put more pressure on my trail foot toe before impact (opposite of early extension) and will create a 1st axis tilt (2nd axis is from the hips. 1st axis is from the feet). From a trackman perspective this shifts the path more inside out gives you a more positive angle of attack (more up on the ball). My "high slice driver" is 1-2 degrees from the inside and 1-3 degrees up AOA. The "low slice driver" is 4-5 degrees from the outside and maybe 1-2 degrees down AOA).

This is a player's pattern meaning that you can hit all kinds of shots with it. 

From a ball position perspective the earlier in the stance the less time for the face closure to happen = more open face and likely more inside path. The more forward in the stance gives your blade more time to close.

From a club face angle address position you can open your blade the further forward you have the ball in the stance to offset the additional clubface closure.

Some examples. For a high push draw drive with good flight I play the ball up in my stance and open the blade maybe 2 degrees. With a low slice feeling this would be 2-3 degrees outside in but since I use my high slice feeling it shifts the path to 2-4 degrees inside out.

For a low fade mid iron fade I would play it up in a bit forward in my stance with an open blade at address and pursue my low slice feeling. 

I’m still working out all the different patterns and I assume that it will be very individual according to how much you close your face and body idiosyncrasies etc.

Troubleshooting in the Old School Variation

You just can’t turn your chest in the backswing drill final part? Are you spiraling enough? It’s a big deal.

You have a hard time to come to 15 degrees in the inside drill? Are you allowing your pressure to shift mid backswing? 

You are a good old handle puller and can’t close the face enough when performing the real swing? Have you done the tire drill enough? Have you really got a cupped wrist on top of the backswing? (the cupping will automatically start unspiraling your lead arm)

Some shots get a lot of speed and some don’t? Have you remembered to apply the “pull your hands” towards you in the Cutting hands drill? Have you hit the tire enough? The braking mechanism of this hand path move is the icing on the cake for the additional 20% speed. 

You chunk from the knees? Spiral more in the backswing and go to a more flat swing plane. Rotate your chest more.

You shank the ball in your full swing? Pull your hands towards you in the slice feeling and likely stand a touch further from the ball.

You hit toe heavy shots with some lacking power? You likely don’t get the pressure over to the lead foot in the mid backswing. This is your platform to perform your real slice acceleration feeling. A bad platform = bad delivery.

You have great acceleration through the ball but hit the occasional chunk hooked iron or the snap hooked drive? You are likely cheating the face closing with your trail hand thumb and index finger. Back to the car tire drill and train without these fingers touching the shaft.

Experts with more information

As mentioned I mostly worked this out myself from playing around and deciphering loads of swings and an array of spread out information. What I’m portraying to you is a simplification of a much larger knowledge pool (most of it useless for this pattern) so it’s hard to give credit but I can say this.

Without the videos from Chris Hudson I would never have understood how to achieve the low swing plane of the old school era. You should check out this clip for deep information about it: 

Also John Erickson and Bradley Hughes did influence this article. I read The Great Ball Strikers Ebook many years ago and it planted a seed for me. Thank you.

The Modern Swing Variation

The modern version is honestly pretty similar but differs in some ways.

You can see the Mr Hogan's legacy in players like Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Ludvig Åberg, Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Graeme McDowell, Jason Dufner, Brandt Snedeker and the list goes on and on.

I see three differences and will use Ludvig Åberg as an example since his chest rotation through the ball is maybe the most “hogan” I’ve seen in the last years:

Watch his swing here: 

The first difference is that he uses a high and wide backswing top position. He doesn’t need to be as deep and low as Ben Hogan because he has such a wide backswing position. His width will create a much more shallow path than someone that is high and narrow (like e.g. Colin Montgomery). If I could do this I probably would do it, but I can’t because my body says no.

The second difference is that most players today use a flat left wrist on the top. They spiral (forearm rotate) just a tad less and don't need the reversal key that the old timers had. This is in my opinion due to equipment that just goes longer by nature. Back in the day you needed to make the most of what you had.

The third difference is that all players that have a slightly steeper swing plane need to add a bit of tilting to the right. It’s nothing compared to e.g. Dustin Johnson (another swing protocol) but it’s still more than the old timers.

With that said. I basically see the core old school fundamentals of the Hogan Golf Swing (=spiraling, early pressure shift and the slice follow through) to live on in the modern swings.

Summary and Thank You

You’ve read like 5 pages of pure text. For this I thank you but mostly, thank yourself. This golf technique is just great.

Fair word of warning. People around you will say that you are doing something crazy and that it’s wrong, but that’s likely just a verification of you doing the right thing.

Play well and good luck out there!

Wish to read more?

Interested in the dynamics of how you actually go about and change your swing? Go into my How to change your golf swing guide here.

The Slingshot Golf Swing. What Dustin Johnson, Victor Hovland, Cameron Champ, Cameron Young etc are pursuing.

The Old School Swinger Golf Swing. This would be more Bobby Jones, Nicklaus or Scheffler.

The MORAD 86 Golf Swing. One of the best swings ever of course by Mac O'Grady.

Or by all means - just go to the main page for much more heavily researched golf information.

Terminology used in Article

AOA = Angle of Attack. A number in measuring equipment to tell you how much down or up on the ball you are hitting. Hitting up on the ball on a driver generally creates less spin = longer distance and more roll.

Cupping & Bowing = Bowing is Dustin Johnson's left hand on top of the backswing. Cupping is the opposite. Hold your right arm straight out in front of you with your thumb pointing straight up. Hinge to the right = cupping (or extension). Hinge to the left = bowing (or flexion)

P6 = Shaft parallel to the ground in the downswing. It’s a Mac O Grady term.

Humerus bone = The bone inside of your biceps and triceps

Shoulder external and internal = Take your right arm and hold it straight out in front of you with thumb straight up. Rotate your entire arm to make the thumb go 90 degrees to the right. This puts your right shoulder in external rotation. The opposite is internal.

Hand path = The club head and the hands don’t follow each other even though it might feel like it. In this article the described hand path

Braking mechanism = For the club to fully release you need to create a deceleration of the hand path in relation to where they came from. The deceleration happens from dragging your hands to the body in a sharp "left turn" in this pattern. This will make the club fly through.

Club head travel = the path that the clubhead takes in a swing. If the path is long in the downswing it has more room to accelerate.

Shaft lean = how many degrees does the shaft lean in a face on camera angle of a freeze frame impact position. Nothing more to it than that.

Dynamic loft = the actual loft that the ball is launching at which is a result of your clubs loft and the amount of shaft lean you have.