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Johnny Miller: This was Ben Hogan's golf swing 'secret'

February 06, 2023
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Augusta National

The story of Ben Hogan is well known to golf fans by now. Hogan struggled with a wicked duck hook, the byproduct of being a junior golfer trying to hit the ball far at any cost. That hook stuck around, though, and plagued the early part of his career—until he figured out how to negate it. That ruthless hook turned into a baby fade—and transformed Hogan into one of the best ball-strikers in golf history.

What was Hogan's 'secret'? The move that helped him solve his hook, and presumably could help other golfers, too?

The answer is likely more nuanced than any secret recipe would entail. It was a process of countless hours of trial-and-error tinkering until, slowly, he figured something he could repeat. And Golf Digest, back in 1994, proved as much.

In the March 1994 edition, writer Guy Yocom asked a swath of experts what they thought Hogan's secret was. A wide array of answers came back, but one, from the legendary Johnny Miller, was particularly interesting . . .

Miller's take on Hogan

(Editor's Note: If you're a golf nerd like me you can have fun diving into the full Golf Digest archive right here).

"To me, Hogan was a little bit like Jesus in that he talked in parables. He gave you the picture but he really didn't give the whole picture. He talked about how he opened the clubface so far going back that he couldn't close it coming through, no matter how fast he rotated his hands, but in fact there was hardly any rotation at all. When he rotated and cupped his left wrist going back, the clubface truly did open. But on the downswing it stayed open or at least square through impact due to the way he "uncupped" his left wrist. By buckling his left wrist outward through impact, he took rotation out of the equation. He stabilized the clubface so it couldn't fan shut. The clubface stayed square for a very long time through impact, and he eliminated the closed clubface that caused a hook."

The "buckling" and "uncupping" of his left wrist that Miller is referring to in the piece is what we now know as "bowing" or "flexing" your lead wrist. It's an increasingly common move on tour. You'll recognize it in the swings of Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm or Collin Morikawa.

Players like Morikawa and Hovland "bow" or "flex" their lead wrist on the backswing, but most golfers, whether they realize it or not, will gradually bow their lead wrist more and more on the downswing. This, Miller explains, was Hogan's secret. He had a weak grip and cupped left wrist at the top of his swing, and as he swung through, Miller said his flexing of his lead wrist prevented him from rolling the clubface closed too quickly.

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"He eliminated the closed clubface that caused a hook," he ends. "He couldn't close it coming through, no matter how fast he rotated his hands."

Brooks Koepka, back in 2017, told us something very similar:

"A bowed left wrist is considered a power position, but it makes me a lot more accurate, too, by minimizing the need for clubface rotation to hit the ball on target."

It seems like Miller's take was slightly ahead of its time. But before you go trying to replicate this 'secret' yourself, be warned. It won't be a magic bullet for every golfer. It's all about finding what works for you.

Once you again, here's how you can read the article in its original form.

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