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A look at Ben Hogan’s 60-year-old prototype clubs

A look at Ben Hogan’s 60-year-old prototype clubs

Growing up, Hogan’s father was a blacksmith, but when he committed suicide in 1922, 9-year-old Hogan was left to assist his family financially by selling newspapers. At age 11, he began caddying at Glen Garden Country Club, and he eventually dropped out of high school. While Hogan never gained a higher education in science or engineering, his golf intelligence and knowledge of the golf swing helped him create golf clubs in his later years that were truly forward-thinking.

In 1953, amidst his playing career, Hogan founded his own equipment company.

“He created his own company, and my own substantiated belief is he did that because his previous company couldn’t stay up with how rapidly he was making design changes in equipment,” Stennett said. “So he created his own company in 1953. He had his own scientist. I’m sure Mr. Hogan would draw something out on paper, send it in, they would bring a mockup to him, and then they would go back and forth as they were creating new equipment designs. Gene Sheeley was one of his early scientists. He was there for a long time.”

Hogan had ideas to improve golf club design, and alongside his longtime club maker Gene Sheeley, Hogan had both the access and the means to craft experimental golf clubs. While modern-day technology advancements are tested on robotic machines – such as the “Iron Byron” – due to their repeatability, Hogan also served as his own machine tester.

“Mr. Hogan was the ‘Iron Byron,’” Stennett said. “He didn’t have a hitting machine in his day (to test equipment). He would go into the factory, he would go invent, he would go tinker with a club, and he would bring it out to Shady Oaks and he would be the Iron Byron. He would test it, take it back to the factory, tweak it, and these are some of the experimental clubs Mr. Hogan was tinkering with. Most of them subsequently became very famous clubs.”

While the prototype golf clubs in Stennett’s possession didn’t necessarily make it to the retail market, and Hogan didn’t use them in competition, they illustrate Hogan’s foresight and willingness to push boundaries.

“I just brought five examples here,” Stennett said. “It’s one thing to hear (in) my words how creative and how innovative Mr. Hogan was. It’s another thing to show you a club that no one knows about that was perhaps invented 20, 30 years before you’ve heard of the club … his attention to detail was so amazing and he was so meticulous, and he spent so much time investigating and learning the golf swing that equipment design naturally flowed to his love of golf and his interest in pursuing perfection.”

The collection of prototypes that Stennett revealed on Tuesday include a “hybrid,” a driver made of metal, a driver with modern shapes and weighting ideas, an iron made of aluminum with unique grooves, and a putter with the shaft in the toe section instead of the heel.

Check out the photos below to learn a bit more about what makes the clubs so incredible.

Hogan’s “metal” driver