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Golf has a way of keeping its mysteries secret


I learned to play golf from my father and grandfather when I was 11 and 12 years old. My Grandpa, Charles Hauser, was an expert golfer, who won many tournaments hosted by the Cleveland Executives Association from 1940 to 1960 at some of the top golf clubs in Cleveland. In my golf studio at home I have a half-dozen of his two-foot high trophies that were handed down to me from him.

Throughout my youth, Grandpa Hauser always talked about the “secret” to golf. Every few months he would demonstrate something new with the swing – “the answer” –  he would say, that he picked up from what he read or from golf pros he was friendly with. He had custom made clubs, the last set of which I have stored in my garage. His idol was Ben Hogan.

At the height of his playing powers, during the 1940s and ‘50s Ben Hogan was thought to possess the “secret” to the golf swing and mastering the game of golf, a notion popularized by the media and that he promoted himself. In 1954, Hogan was paid $10,000 by Time magazine for a story entitled “Ben Hogan’s Secret: a Debate.” Seven golf pros tried to guess what the secret was, to no avail.

At the time, rival tour pro Sam Snead cynically quipped “anybody can say he’s got a secret if he won’t tell what it is.” Then Life magazine featured Hogan on the cover of its August 8, 1955, issue (an original copy is valuable), and in its “Hogan’s Secret” article Hogan revealed the truth about cupping (pronating) his left wrist, which he discovered after hitting thousands of balls on the practice range, in an effort to eliminate the dreaded hook. In his best-selling book, Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons (1957), he does share diagrams of the positions of his left wrist from the backswing through impact. After those two magazine articles came, out a book titled “Golf Secrets of the Pros” suddenly appeared in 1956 featuring 18 of the biggest name pros at the time, except Hogan.

Over the years there have been thousands of articles and books dealing with golfing “secrets” (including some of my own) as if we are still searching for the one golden key.

According to the Modern University Dictionary the definition of SECRET is: The key to a mystery, the governing principle of anything, known only to the initiated.

Back in the day of Charles Hauser, pro golfers were the “initiated” and all others were on the outside having to learn by lessons.

With all the information and products available in this post-modern age there should be no real secrets. But a prime example of how themes persist is the book “The Secret of Golf: A Century of Groundbreaking, Innovative and Occasionally Outlandish Ways To Master The World’s Most Vexing Game” (2005), Edited by George Pepper; it’s really good.

Yes, there are solid fundamentals, but no hidden secrets. Golf is too complicated for there to be one (secret) right way. As Mr. Herb Wimberly used to say, “the golf swing is simple; it’s the game that’s complicated.” Even with tour professionals no two golfers have the same swing. There’s Jim Furyk and John Daly; Lee Trevino and Jack Nicklaus; Jon Rahm and Sungjae Im. And on and on.

My friend Jay Golden, PGA of America Life Member, golf teacher, motivational speaker and renaissance man, offers this: “Golf’s greatest gift is that golfers keep searching for the secret to golf. The secret is an element of the golf swing which will provide excellent shots consistently. We’ve all hit great shots in our life. What did we do on that swing that we haven’t done on other swings? That is a never-ending search. It is the search which brings us to the driving range, the golf course, reading books, watching videos and taking lessons. What they’re doing is trying to find the ‘secret’ that will enable them to hit excellent shots almost all the time. I have searched for the secret almost every day for the last 60 years. In some ways it’s easy to find because I found it over 3,000 times.”

My secret is that there is no secret to the game of golf, or life.