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Ben Hogan is renowned as one of the most consistent players in the history of the game. He was also one of the sport’s purest ball strikers and best swingers of the club. He isn’t necessarily remembered as one of the longest hitters, his game was one of precision and repeatability rather than outright power. But with his impeccable timing and fluid action, he could shift the ball out there and could often come close to those known for booming drives – he could rival big-hitting Sam Snead on occasion.
Today we have stats for every player at the elite end of the game, across a huge variety of different categories. When it comes to driving, we know how far each player hits the ball on average and we know how accurate they are to boot. Unfortunately, when Ben Hogan was in his prime, such data was not collected so we cannot say with absolute accuracy exactly how far “The Hawk” drove the ball.
We can make a reasonable estimate though based on anecdotal evidence and detective work done by golfing historians over the years.
As a starting point – Golf Digest did a study in a 1953 edition, taking a look at hitting distances from the tee on the 18th hole at Oakmont Country Club in the third round of the US Open (an event won by Ben Hogan.) Interestingly, the study was carried out by Robert Trent Jones.
The wind was slightly behind on the day, and Trent Jones estimated that gave players an extra five to eight yards on average.
The average total length of drive that day (including run) was 261 yards and Ben Hogan drove it 266 yards. (Sam Snead hit it 290 yards!) Admittedly that’s just one drive, on one hole with particular weather and ground conditions. But it does give us a reasonable clue.
A few years earlier, in a 1949 article contained within Time Magazine, the author states that Ben Hogan hit his driver 265 yards – that agrees pretty closely to Trent Jones’ study in 1953. Then, in a 1960s Shell’s Wonderful World of Golf match against Sam Snead, Hogan was still hitting his drives around the 265-yard mark.
In the 1950 US Open at Merion, when Hogan hit that famous 1-iron to the 18th green, the hole was measuring 458 yards and Hogan hit from roughly 200 yards out… That would mean his drive went somewhere around the 258 yard mark. It should be noted that Hogan wasn’t at full strength at that time, given the injuries he’d suffered in a car crash just over a year earlier. Maybe he was losing a few yards… again suggesting a normal hitting distance of around 265…
We don’t know for sure, but it seems likely that during the prime of his career, Ben Hogan would drive the ball around 265 yards on average.
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Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly.
Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?
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