The Swing, Before And After

By Jim McLean Photos by Getty Images
April 28, 2009

On this page are photos of Ben Hogan hitting a fairway wood in 1948 at Riviera (below, top) and hitting a fairway wood in early 1953 at Tamarisk (below, bottom), where for two years he spent his off-season as the head pro.

Though Hogan's technique remained superb in the early 1950s, his swing was a bit more athletic before his accident in 1949. In essence, the engine that drove his swing was better before the accident than after. An analysis shows that Hogan's injuries to his knee, hips and shoulder took a visible toll on his swing.

It's evident at the top of his swing. The 1948 sequence features a shoulder turn about 10 degrees more than in 1953. The result is more weight loaded and coiled onto his right leg, giving him more stored power.

As the downswing begins, the dynamic action of Hogan's legs in 1948 exceeds the later swing. There is a bit more flex in his knees as he starts down in 1948. Also, in the earlier swing, his left knee stays ahead of the left hip longer into the downswing.

No one has ever looked better than Hogan at impact. But in 1948, the right heel is closer to the ground than in 1953. This is a more technically correct and power-producing position than the higher right heel and straighter right leg of 1953.

Past impact, in the 1948 swing Hogan is pushing up harder out of the ground, a huge power move employed by the longest hitters.

It's possible that the slightly less explosive swing of 1953 was easier to repeat and control. But the photos support Hogan's view that he played his best golf in 1948 and 1949.