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This is a classic book on the golf swing
on May 24, 2002
Updated review, December 1, 2012:
In my original review of this classic book, I said, "If you have a serious desire to understand the golf swing, buy this book." However, I've come to learn that FIVE LESSONS contains serious flaws as a swing shape instruction book. What Ben Hogan said to do was not in fact what he did in his own swing and most significantly, what he says to do will not facilitate correct, repetitive impact.
For example, this book instructs the golfer to turn his shoulders so they orient down to the target line. Ben didn't do this; he turned his shoulders so at the top of the backswing they were parallel to his set up shaft plane or about two feet outside the ball. What he said to do would make you too steep at the top, while what he actually did produces a more neutral swing.
Most significantly, however, this book shows Hogan leading with the right elbow and pulling outward with his left arm in the downswing. This move causes an in to out shallow angle of attack into the ball with a club face that is too open, causing the player to flip the face closed through the hitting area, resulting in shallow impacts ranging from hooks, to slaps to the left, fats, thins, pushes and even shanks. If you happen to flip the face into the back of the ball you'll hit a good one, but you'll tend to miss both right and left, not a lot of fun. Strangely, Ben Hogan didn't actually do this in his swing after 1948, but if you attempt to replicate the images in this book you'll get the results I just described.
Ben Hogan was probably the greatest ball striker in the history of golf, but this instruction book will lead you astray if you follow it to the letter. What Hogan discovered to correct the very problem illustrated in this book was to square the face right from the top of his backswing (the club face we think of as square at the top is actually 90 degrees open), returning it to square to his swing arc by the time he was halfway down, and he did this by aggressively twisting or rotating his right forearm from the top, which kept his right elbow up and back adjacent to the side seam on his golf shirt and his lead arm close to his body. Consequently, his club face was square to his swing arc through the hitting area (closing to the target line but square to his swing circle), producing the most stable club face possible in the golf swing and the most repetitive, correct impact a player can achieve. Why FIVE LESSONS does not show what Ben Hogan actually did in his swing at the time the content of this book was written for Sports Illustrated, I have not idea, but it's caused a great deal of agony over the years for people trying to emulate exactly what the book shows.
I cannot recommend FIVE LESSONS as THE primary instructional resource for learning the golf swing, but I do recommend it in conjunction with Jim Hardy's two books, THE PLANE TRUTH FOR GOLFERS and THE PLANE TRUTH FOR GOLFERS, MASTER CLASS, because FIVE LESSONS contains some information which will impede you from developing correct, repetitive impact. It's a great classic book on the golf swing that serious students of the swing will want to have in their libraries, but if you make it your bible you will not develop a repeatable neutral golf swing. Jim Hardy's MASTER CLASS discusses in detail what Hogan did to fix his low hook problem. If you take that information together with FIVE LESSONS, you'll be in great shape!