“The greatest pleasure is obtained by improving.”
Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons is a charming book.
I am not much of a golfer. In fact, one of my friends advised me to just say “no” when people asked if I golfed. This despite the fact that I do like to get out on the course and play.
Yet I found much to like in this book.
His core philosophy comes down to an emphasis on the fundamentals.
These fundamentals need to be repeated over and over again until they are perfected to the point that they can be done under enormous pressure. He believes this is true even for competitors at the highest level.
This makes great sense to me.
My old college coach used to say you should train in front of the goal so much that when your big moment comes in a game “you feel like you’ve been there before.” Of course in my sport this includes defenders, decisions and randomized service, but the idea of repetition is the same.
Hogan writes of the pain he felt watching amateurs train repeatedly with the wrong swing. They can practice all they want, but they will never improve. Rather, the purpose of training is get a “correct powerful repeating swing.”
The quality of your training really does matter.
This reminded me of an Anders Ericcson lecture I attended in which he differentiated the pro from the amateur. Professionals train in a different manner. They are consistent with their habits. They seek a teacher for feedback and information, but then it’s about training based on what they’ve learned. Each puts in the time and maintains focus. When you lose focus–quit training, otherwise you develop bad habits.
Hogan has no time for theory. Everything is practical. It all boils down to mechanics for him.
Learning is in doing.
“I have never seen a great player whose method of striking a ball did not include the fundamentals we emphasize. Otherwise–it’s as simple as that–that player would not be great.”
For you golfers the areas he explains in detail are the grip, stance and posture, the first part of the swing and the second part of the swing. His fifth lesson is a review of the first four. He uses illustrations, which will help visual learners, and keeps the instruction direct and simple.
I am not (yet) a golfer, but still found Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons valuable.