by Tom Bertrand and Printer Bowler
Teacher’s Comments: An “A” for Hogan fans. A “B” for the serious student of golf. Perhaps a “C” for someone looking for a basic instruction book.
As I was reading this volume, it occurred to me just how much the search for Hogan’s swing is like the quest for the Holy Grail. Like the Grail, Hogan’s secret always seems to lie just out of reach. Rumors of its existence abound, but only a chosen few have actually seen it. Even so, some who have seen it didn’t recognize it for what it was. And it’s possible—if you subscribe to Baigent and Lincoln’s Holy Blood Holy Grail theory—that many seekers are looking for the wrong thing entirely.
Tom Bertrand is the latest in a series of Parsifals in search of Golf’s Holy Grail. In the Secrets of Hogan’s Swing, Bertrand lays out his own ideas for the secret of Hogan’s swing, based on information he gleaned from a PGA Tour player who says he received instruction from Hogan himself.The instruction is clear and well illustrated with photos. In a way, it provides some clarity and fills in the gaps in Hogan’s Five Lessons. For that, it’s well worth a read if you think of yourself as a Hogan disciple.
Curiously, however, the actual instruction comprises less than half the book. Like many a Grail story, most of the telling is in the quest. The remainder is comprised of the story of John Schlee, the golf professional who was entrusted with Hogan’s Secret and who went on to found the Maximum Golf School. It’s actually a fascinating little biography, and it makes me wish that the volume was entirely about Schlee—although that surely would have sold few copies. Schlee was runner up to Johnny Miller at Oakmont, he had just one professional win, but managed thirty top tens. Back injuries ultimately doomed his career. But along the way, he had the luck to be one of a handful whom Ben Hogan mentored. In addition to teaching, Schlee also dabbled in club design, developing—among other things—an early long putter design.
Tom Bertrand came into the picture in 1985, when he in turn became a protege of Schlee. Aside from his Maximum Golf program, Schlee took Hogan’s Secret to the grave, but Bertrand had decided to pass on what he learned.
Does Bertrand hold the Key to Hogan’s Secret? I don’t know. It seems as though I’ve read a dozen books over the last few years that make that claim. This one, however, seems as likely as any.
I’ll add one more thought about Hogan’s Secret: I wonder if—after all these years and the changes in equipment, instruction and training—it’s still relevant. Hogan played with persimmon heads, forged blade irons, steel shafted drivers and woods and balata balls. That’s world’s away from today’s equipment and perhaps worlds away from the techniques modern players should learn. Bobby Jones also had a marvelous swing, but none would suggest that we adopt a hickory shaft technique.
Does Hogan still have meaning in the modern world? I think that’s the same question that somemay ask of the Holy Grail.