The Hogan We Never Knew

By Adam BarrNovember 25, 2006, 5:00 pm
I have this recurring dream in which Im playing golf with the great Ben Hogan.
Of course, this is something akin to an apprentice barn painter on professional probation dreaming that he is talking shop with Rubens, Picasso and Da Vinci. But the dream persists.
At first, I am nervous about making mistakes and disturbing the great mans rhythm. But as he says very little and maintains an even demeanor, I soon relax and find that Im able to keep pace and enjoy the day.
Long about the 13th hole, after hearing no more than Youre away and Check behind the palmetto, we see a bald eagle fly low over the pond fronting the green of the par-3 where we are about to tee off. We watch it sail into the distance. Mr. Hogan stares into the sky, pronounces a single word ' Pretty. ' and sets up over the 6-iron that he will soon cut to about 18 inches.
Ah, another side. Trouble with history is that it can miss facets, those intriguing tributaries that run parallel to the mainstream of a personality. The stuff that doesnt make it into the primary source material, the basis of written history, is often left outside to erode in the shifting currents of memory.
Fortunately, some material, even some memory, survives. Tom Stites, the veteran club designer and director of product creation for Nike Golf, grew up in Fort Worth, as Mr. Hogan did, and worked at The Hawks right hand when Mr. Hogan was making clubs under his name. Much of what he knows about club design, Stites learned in those years. In the new Nike club development center near Fort Worth, Mr. Hogans loft-and-lie machine still occupies a place of honor.
Researching a story earlier this year, it struck me as odd that Stites, a Hogan disciple, has designed some of the most modern-looking clubs in the market, including the Slingshot irons and the CCi, a players iron that features a half-cavity and tungsten weighting. And how about the square Sumo2 driver?
Or was Mr. Hogan less of a chrome-plated, classic-shape traditionalist than we all took him for?
You are the first to ever ask this or scratch close to the real truth, Stites said. Fact: Mr. Hogan was a pros pro who had knowledge, talent and a love for pure clubs. But another part of him was a self-trained and motivated scientist. From what I have learned about his early career, he was constantly working on his own clubs and finding creative ways to improve. He was much more radical in his experiments than most would ever believe.
Radical? Mr. Khaki-pants-white-shirt-my-eggs-better-be-cooked-just-so? I mean, I understand he was a nice fellow. But Mr. Hogan had a reputation for exacting standards.
He was such a perfectionist (who made and sold pure players clubs), Stites said, that his creative wild side was never really known. He showed me how to fan off the toe of a wood. He was the first (to my knowledge) to put a multiple face bulge on a wood. Both of these things were not obvious, but some of his lab experiences were very non-traditional.
Mr. Hogan cut in a geometry channel in the toe ' essentially, a speed slot. During my time working with him we did several very non-traditional designs that would shock anyone who thought Mr. Hogan was only a pure blade and persimmon block man. These prototype projects came directly out of his head and mouth. I saw how he could have a traditional love of pure clubs and still have a kids fascination for creating unusual prototype clubs.
And ' this is the best part ' there is a legacy.
I learned that it was O.K. to be a traditionalist and a wild inventor, even on the same day, Stites said. So for the last 20 years I have tried to guide my work this way. We make clubs that are pure for look and traditional performance; these clubs have won over one hundred PGA TOUR events and every major several times. We also work hard to craft new techniques and technologies that might be unconventional -- but performance-enhancing ' for those who are less skilled.
Which might lead the dream Hogan to utter another pithy sentence ' Nice shot. ' in the next episode of my dream.
Email your thoughts to Adam Barr

Lexi 'applaud's USGA, R&A for rules change

By Randall MellDecember 11, 2017, 5:15 pm

Lexi Thompson’s pain may prove to be the rest of golf’s gain.

David Rickman, the R&A’s executive director of governance, acknowledged on Golf Channel’s "Morning Drive" Monday that the new protocols that will eliminate the use of TV viewer call-ins and emails to apply penalties was hastened by the controversy following Thompson’s four-shot penalty at the ANA Inspiration in early April. The new protocols also set up rules officials to monitor TV broadcasts beginning next year.

“Clearly, that case has been something of a focus point for us,” Rickman said.

Thompson reacted to the new protocols in an Instagram post.

“I applaud the USGA and the R&A for their willingness to revise the Rules of Golf to address certain unfortunate situations that have arisen several times in the game of golf,” Thompson wrote. “In my case, I am thankful no one else will have to deal with an outcome such as mine in the future.”

Thompson was penalized two shots for improperly returning her ball to its mark on a green during Saturday’s round after a viewer emailed LPGA officials during Sunday’s broadcast. She was penalized two more shots for signing an incorrect scorecard for her Saturday round. Thompson ultimately lost in a playoff to So Yeon Ryu.

The new protocols will also eliminate the additional two-shot penalty a player receives for failing to include a penalty when a player was unaware of the penalty.

Shortly after the ANA Inspiration, the USGA and R&A led the formation of a video review working group, which included the PGA Tour, LPGA, European Tour, Ladies European Tour and PGA of America.

Also, just three weeks after Thompson was hit with the four-shot penalty, the USGA and R&A released a new Rules of Golf decision decision (34-3/10) limiting video evidence in two ways:

1. If an infraction can’t be seen with the naked eye, there’s no penalty, even if video shows otherwise.

2. If a tournament committee determines that a player does “all that can be reasonably expected to make an accurate estimation or measurement” in determining a line or position to play from or to spot a ball, then there will be no penalty even if video replay later shows that to be wrong.

While the USGA and R&A said the new decision wasn’t based on Thompson’s ANA incident, LPGA players immediately began calling it the “Lexi Rule.”

Getty Images

PGA Tour, LPGA react to video review rules changes

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 1:32 pm

The USGA and R&A announced on Monday updates to the Rules of Golf, including no longer accepting call-ins relating to violations. The PGA Tour and LPGA, which were both part of a working group of entities who voted on the changes, issued the following statements:

PGA Tour:

The PGA Tour has worked closely with the USGA and R&A on this issue in recent years, and today's announcement is another positive step to ensure the Rules of Golf align with how the game is presented and viewed globally. The PGA Tour will adopt the new Local Rule beginning January 1, 2018 and evolve our protocols for reviewing video evidence as outlined.


We are encouraged by the willingness of the governing bodies to fully vet the issues and implement real change at a pace much quicker than the sport has seen previously. These new adaptations, coupled with changes announced earlier this year, are true and meaningful advances for the game. The LPGA plans to adopt fully the protocols and new Local Rule as outlined.

Getty Images

Sharma closes on Monday, wins Joburg Open

By Associated PressDecember 11, 2017, 12:43 pm

JOHANNESBURG – Shubhankar Sharma won his first European Tour title by a shooting 3-under 69 Monday in the final round of the weather-delayed Joburg Open.

The 21-year-old Indian resumed his round on the eighth green after play was halted early Sunday afternoon because of storms. He parred that hole, birdied No. 9 and made par on every hole on the back nine.

Full-field scores from the Joburg Open

Sharma finished at 23-under 264, three strokes ahead of the pack, and qualified for next year's British Open, too.

''I actually wasn't going to come here about a week ago ... so I'm really happy that I came,'' said Sharma, who shot 61 in the second round. ''I don't think I'm ever going forget my first time in South Africa.''

Erik van Rooyen (66) was second, three strokes ahead of Shaun Norris (65) and Tapio Pulkkanen (68).

Getty Images

Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017

By Golf Channel DigitalDecember 11, 2017, 12:30 pm