On Jon Rahm: The Secret Is Out
Golfers have long been obsessed with Ben Hogan’s Secret. Hogan supposedly uncovered The Secret sometime in the late 1940s, after years of kicking around with mixed success in the early days of the PGA Tour. He was in his mid-30s by then, and for the next 20-plus years, despite being in a car accident that almost killed him, Hogan hit golf balls with such uncanny precision and consistency that he seemed almost supernatural.
And when people asked him how in the world he did it, he grimaced.
“I have a secret,” he said. “It’s easy to see if I tell you where to look.”
What was The Secret? There have been countless theories, thanks in large part to Hogan himself, who kept offering conflicting thoughts. Funny, Hogan was mum on pretty much all other subjects — the Scots called him The Wee Ice Mon and fellow golfers reported playing rounds with him where the only words he ever uttered were “You’re still away” — but when it came to The Secret, he couldn’t stop dropping hints.
At one point, he said the secret had something to do with a training routine he taught himself involving practicing with the feet together to develop balance. At another, he said something about how the secret involved cupping under the ball. He talked about the right knee action being the key to the secret. Most famously, Life Magazine paid him $10,000 to offer The Secret, and he said it had something to do with “pronation,” which involved cocking his wrist at the top of the backswing and turning the grip on the left hand a bit.
Pronation probably ruined more amateur golfers in the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s than anything else.
My favorite Hogan explanation of The Secret was the time he told Ben Crenshaw that it comes down to hitting the ball on the second groove of the clubface.
“I always had the feeling he was laughing at us,” Golf Magazine editor Jim Frank said.
In his later years, Hogan became something of a recluse. He gave no interviews and did his best to stay out of the public eye. But people would still see him around town, and when they did, they often asked him about The Secret. They usually got scowls in return.
But once in a while, he would tell them this: “It’s in the dirt. Go dig it up for yourself.”
I don’t play golf, and even so, for years — going back to before I wrote The Secret of Golf — I’ve been utterly fascinated by what Hogan meant. For the longest time, I assumed that he was simply saying that The Secret can only be found with the sort of obsessive practice he did. You want The Secret. Go hit a million golf balls the way I did.
But watching Jon Rahm win the Masters on Sunday has made me think that there’s another possibility.
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