Why Ben Hogan: An American Life by James Dodson Is The Best Book About Ben Hogan
Ben Hogan: An American Life is a well-written and informative biography of one of the greatest golfers to ever wield a golf club and widely known as the greatest ball striker of all time, Ben Hogan. The author, James Dodson, (also the author of Final Rounds and American Triumvirate) does an excellent job of capturing the essence of Hogan’s dynamic life, both on and off the golf course. It is the best book about Ben Hogan that I have ever read.
*Note that this book is a biography. Some might argue that the best Ben Hogan book would be one of his classic instructional books, Ben Hogan’s Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals Of Golf or his earlier book Power Golf.
Five Lessons is amazing because of the clear illustrations and simple language Hogan uses to teach players with average coordination how to properly hit the golf ball. He teaches fundamentals such as the proper grip and the building blocks that make up a proper golf swing.
Reading this book is like getting a personal lesson from the Tiger Woods of his era. Five Lessons is the classic book that every average golfer should read. It is a must-have reference guide for golfers and is a timeless classic.
But I digress…if you want to learn about Ben Hogan’s life in the game of golf as well as his personal life, James Dodson’s biography on the great Hogan is as good as it gets.
Ben Hogan: The Man, The Myth, The Legend
The book starts with Hogan’s childhood, growing up in Texas during the Great Depression. It provides a detailed picture of his early life, his difficult upbringing (including his father’s suicide which Dodson goes into great detail on), his family’s struggle to make ends meet after his father’s death, and his introduction to the game of golf as a caddie at Glen Garden in Fort Worth where he famously caddied along with Byron Nelson.
The author does a great job of highlighting the sacrifices Hogan made to pursue his passion for golf, including leaving school early to work a paper route as well as caddie and eventually making his way to the professional golf circuit in the early 1930’s.
The first part of the book goes into detail about the time before Hogan was winning major titles, when the great man was still honing his skills on the driving range. Hogan basically invented practicing on a driving range the way modern players do it today. Back then, players might try to work on little things here and there, but Hogan took practice to another level. He would spend hours and hours beating balls on the range, trying to get rid of the big miss to the left.
He fought a hook for the first decade of his professional career and had very little success. He even went broke three different times. But he would come out of that decade with the famous Hogan secret and became one of the best golfers of all time. He is known as the greatest ball striker the game has ever seen. He once went an entire U.S. Open without missing a fairway and only missed one green for the week!
Herbert Warren Wind has an excellent book called The Story of American Golf that talks about Hogan being one of the greatest golfers of our generation. Every golf fan should read Wind’s timeless classic.
One of the strengths of Dodson’s book is the depth of research that went into it. The author interviewed many of Hogan’s contemporaries and family members to gain insights into Hogan’s life and also his practice habits, which are legendary. He also had access to Hogan’s personal archives, which allowed him to provide a more complete picture of the private golfer’s life.
Throughout the book, Dodson provides a thorough analysis of Hogan’s golf career, including his major titles and losses. He also highlights Hogan’s impact on the sport through his equipment company and his contributions to golfing technique and strategy.
Hogan was known for his laser-like focus and his ability to consistently hit the ball where he wanted, which earned him the nickname “The Hawk.” He truly owned his own golf swing which only a handful of professional golfers can truly say. He figured out the best way to hit the ball for him by sheer will power and grit. His work has stood up to the test of time.
Hogan was known for his mental toughness and unwavering determination to win, which made him one of the greatest competitors in sports history. In fact, in 1953 Hogan could have won the grand slam if not for the PGA Championship and the Open Championship conflicting back in those days. He won all three major titles that he competed in in 1953, taking home the Masters, the US Open, and the Open Championship.
Dodson’s is one of the best books that recounts that 1953 season, which is one of the greatest seasons in the history of the sport. The only players to do something similar are Bobby Jones with his Grand Slam win in 1930 and Tiger Woods with his “Tiger Slam” in 2000-2001.
One of the most interesting aspects of the book is the discussion of Hogan’s personal life, which was largely unknown to the public. Dodson provides a candid look at Hogan’s marriage and his battles with illness and injury. The chapters covering Hogan’s famous near-death car crash and the subsequent recovery and triumphant return to golf, are some of the best golf writing you will ever come across.
Hogan was known for being a very private individual and was not one to seek public attention, which makes this book a valuable resource for fans of the golfer.
Overall, Ben Hogan: An American Life is a well-written, insightful, and even touching biography of one of the greatest golfers of all time. The author’s thorough research, attention to detail, and ability to bring Hogan’s life to the page make this book a must-read for fans of the great Hogan. Whether you are a fan of Ben Hogan or simply interested in the history of golf in general, this book is a rewarding read.
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