Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons, by Herbert Warren Wind

hoganWhat’s a golf book doing among the rest of these literary books? Because it has stylized, lofty, quirky writing. It’s the most interesting and entertaining book about how to swing a golf club that I ever read.

Herbert Warren Wind was a sportswriter, of golf primarily. He wrote for Sports Illustrated a while and for The New Yorker for several decades. He lived to nearly 90 and died in 2005. The Hogan book came out in 1957.

It is the most famous golf instruction book ever produced. Many golf books after it are repackaged derivatives. The language is formal and wordy and over-wrought. Half Eisenhower didactic and half Victorian ornate. The info is still there.

Hogan said he actually meant to understate his golf tips and allow the readers to study and learn by implication. The aha! moments would make them better golfers.  The dense eloquence of Wind’s stern and repetitive instructions makes this difficult. But the advice is there, ready to be mined and refined. There are subtleties if one looks for them. The expert drawings by Tony Ravielli help make the book succeed.

Some examples of Wind’s eccentric writing style (based on Hogan’s SME input, of course):

“It may seem that we have gone into unwarranted detail about the elements of the correct grip. This is anything but the case. Too often golfers mistake the generality for the detail.”

“While it is dynamically important for a golfer not to depart from his plane at any time during the second part of his swing, being consciously attentive to it does not help him the way a consciousness of his backswing plane promotes a fine, functional backswing.”

“Interestingly enough, drinking some ginger ale, because of its effect on the kidneys, seems to prevent the hands from feeling too fat and puffy.”

“Consciously trying to control the face of the club at impact is folly. You cannot time such a delicate and devillish thing.”

“Don’t groove your waggles.”