Any salute of Texans has to begin with the two greatest statesmen to play the game, two of the world’s best. In Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson (at right), the Lone Star State has twin stars, born in the same year, raised in the same city (Fort Worth) and groomed as caddie/players on the same golf course (Glen Garden Country Club).
Hogan and Nelson had as much to do with shaping the modern game as anyone.
They did so with their novel approaches to the sport, with style and tactics that would become blueprints for the players who emerged with them and then followed them.
With steel shafts replacing hickory, with painted persimmon woods in the game, Nelson and Hogan helped change the way the club was swung.
Nelson is often credited for being “The Father of the Modern Golf Swing,” his swing a radical departure from those fashioned when hickory ruled.
“It was about 1934, 1935, that steel shafts replaced hickory,” says James Dodson, author of the new book “American Triumvirate,” the story of Hogan, Nelson and Sam Snead. “If you look at the players who played with hickory, back to (Harry) Vardon and J.H. Taylor and (Walter) Hagen, they kept their hands very low and made almost no shoulder turn. They played with flat swings because of the torque of hickory, which made the club snap at impact. That was the classic swing of the time.
“Byron Nelson was the first great player with a really upright swing.”
Hogan almost singlehandedly turned the mechanics of the modern swing into a science with his best-selling book “Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.”
In Hogan, the game had its first master tactician. He changed the way so many players approached competition. He might not have invented practice, but he popularized it on tour, making the practice range a workshop like it never was before. Hogan’s meticulous game-planning shaped a generation of new players.
“Hogan was the first to memorize golf courses, not just the places where you didn’t want to hit the ball, but the places you wanted to hit it,” Dodson said. “He was the first to really keep notes on golf courses where he wanted to win.”