There is hardly another golfer of the 20th century who influenced golf in the same way as Ben Hogan: his typical “Ben Hogan swing” in particular is still remembered today and inspired many golfers to put a lot of energy into improving their swing. Ben Hogan even wrote books on how to achieve the perfect golf swing.   
Who was Ben Hogan, who had a lasting influence on the sport of golf, not least with his golf swing?   
After the young Ben Hogan tragically lost his father, he and his siblings were responsible for supporting his family. At first, he delivered newspapers – a classic job for a youngster who needed to earn money at the time. 

His job as a caddy laid the foundations for a career in golf for the young Hogan.   

First experiences as a caddy

However, this situation did not last very long: A friend soon made the young Hogan a tempting offer: If he wanted to earn “real money”, then he should apply to carry golf bags after golfers at the nearby golf course. At first, Ben Hogan didn’t have the qualifications to be a “fully-fledged” caddy – he didn’t have enough golfing experience for that. He simply carried the golfers’ equipment behind them.  

In the short term, this job gave the young Ben Hogan a decent income for his age – but in the long run, it wasn’t the amount of money he earned that changed Ben Hogan’s life: this job laid the foundations for a career in golf for the young Hogan.   
Later, Hogan must have been glad to have listened to his friend’s advice – it wasn’t long before the young man was working as a “proper” caddy at Glen Garden Country Club in his home town of Fort Worth (Texas). 

Infected by the “golf bug”

Back then, working as a caddy was a unique opportunity for aspiring players to socialise with experienced golfers: After all, it is also the caddy’s job to advise golfers on their choice of clubs.   

“It was through the caddy experience that I got the golf bug,” Ben Hogan later said. In those days, the caddy experience was essential to becoming a good golfer – one worked one’s way up, so to speak, by starting out as a caddy and observing the golfers at first.   
Later, Hogan also said that he regretted the “rich kids” of today – because they would never experience what it means to work your way up from the bottom.

“Great Depression”

Ben Hogan’s golf career began in the midst of a period of deepest poverty for most Americans: the so-called “Great Depression” at the end of the 1920s left an unmistakable mark on society – and golf was not spared. Not only were many golf clubs in an existential crisis, many golf enthusiasts simply could no longer afford to watch the sportsmen and women at work. In the midst of this period of depression, 17-year-old Ben Hogan was given the opportunity to take part in the Texas Open.   

Even during the “Great Depression”, golf did not completely disappear from the scene: miniature golf enjoyed great popularity, and because many people had more time than ever before, they pursued the “sport of golf” outside of fixed courses.   
Golf survived the economic crisis and perhaps opened doors for many a golfer from modest backgrounds that would otherwise never have opened… 

A second-hand Buick solved urgent problems

Although Ben Hogan’s first tournaments were not overly successful, he still found a way to hold his own as a professional golfer at a competitive level. At that time, it wasn’t so much about achieving great success in golf tournaments: One might almost think that success was not the most important thing for Ben Hogan in the early years of his career as a golfer.   

Rather, he was constantly faced with the – seeming primitive from today’s perspective – problem of how to travel to a golf tournament at all. Back then, playing golf was not necessarily a financially lucrative activity if one did nothing else – when Hogan was able to buy a second-hand Buick, some of his biggest problems were already solved. Now all he needed was success… 

No overnight success

Ben Hogan’s career was by no means an overnight success story. To earn a living, Ben Hogan gave golf lessons part-time: However, when he wasn’t teaching a pupil his approach to golf, he could always be found practising on the golf course.   

At the end of his thirties, Hogan’s efforts gradually began to pay off: Slowly, the first successes began to materialise for him. It was around this time that Ben Hogan’s aversion to some journalists developed: every time a newspaper used an unauthorised picture or “signature” of him and advertised “golf tips” of his, he wanted to take action against it – for the rest of his career, he always kept his distance from many journalists. 

The doctors doubted whether he would ever be able to walk normally again, let alone play golf again. 

Stroke of fate: Away from the golf course forever?

Just as Ben Hogan’s golf career was really taking off, world history threw a spanner in the works: with the start of the Second World War, most of the major golf tournaments were cancelled or only played to a limited extent.   Ben Hogan was called up for military service in 1943, but most professional athletes did not take an active part in the war effort.  
This meant that the Second World War passed without any further restrictions for Ben Hogan – except that he was unable to pursue professional golf.  

In 1949, Ben Hogan was hit by a heavy stroke of fate: In February 1949, he was involved in a serious car accident that left him seriously injured. The doctors doubted whether he would ever be able to walk normally again, let alone play golf again. 
Ben Hogan must have had an extraordinary will to play golf: A year later, he was back on the golf course in Los Angeles and his comeback was celebrated by thousands.   

In the years from 1946 to 1953, Ben Hogan won a total of nine majors. The year 1953 was undoubtedly the highlight of his career: In that year, he won the Masters, the US Open and The Open Championship – no professional golfer had ever achieved such success before and it was not equalled again until Tiger Woods in 2000. 

Legacy

The legendary golfer from Dublin, Texas immortalised himself forever in the world of golf: the typical “Ben Hogan golf swing” still exists today.    

It is even said that since Ben Hogan’s golfing successes, golfers have spent a lot of time on the driving range to improve their swing technique: The influences of golfer Ben Hogan on the sport of golf are manifold and can still be felt today.   
After his active golf career, Hogan founded a company that manufactured high-quality golf clubs: But what good is a high-quality golf club if one doesn’t know how to use it? 
In later years, Hogan therefore published various books on golf playing technique. Many golf instructors today draw on his assumptions about the game of golf. 

Simon von Ludwig


Main source: Sampson, Curt: Hogan, 1996 Rutledge Hill Press

Cover picture: Ben Hogan in July 1953 at a parade on Broadway to mark his homecoming, Photographer Dick DeMarsico, Libaray of Congress, Public Domain, taken from Wikimedia Commons


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