Walk into any pro shop around the world.

Walk into the office of any golfing nut.

I wouldn't hesitate to argue that the image above- Ben Hogan's historic second shot to the 72nd hole of the 1950 US Open at Merion- would adorn the wall of fifty percent of those venues.

I love everything about this photo.

The classic pose finishing well up on the right toe- showing off the extra spike in the sole of Hogan's hand crafted golf shoes.

The gallery circling every corner of the approach all turned and watching the flight of the ball.

The divot- structured with a firmness of contact but shallow enough to suggest the ball was struck perfectly in the sweet spot.

The creases in the pants and the shirt displaying true exertion of the muscles used to create the motion.

The USA flag fluttering from right to left in the background almost flowing in favour for a patented Hogan cut shot against the wind to help soften the landing of the ball.

Perfect harmony for the moment.

The myth. The legend

Hogan would par this final hole and complete a remarkable playoff win the next day.

Defying all the odds makers questioning if Ben Hogan would be able to play golf again or even walk again after his horrific car accident just 16 months earlier.

Not only did he achieve these feats- he was a winner again and would go on to dizzying heights in Major Championship play the next few years even despite a limited playing schedule.

Some refute exactly what club Hogan used on this approach. Many believe it to be a one iron. Later on there was confusion and differing stories evolved that it may have been in fact a two iron approach.

For all intent and purposes we may never exactly know the truth as no zoom lens or magnifying utensil will give us the answer even after honing in on the clubhead in it's perfect poise in the follow through.

We do know however it as become the most historic photograph ever captured through a camera lens in gollf history. 


I now offer the question- in the wake of the great distance debate that is circling the golfing headlines. How would this shot- this photo- hold up in court IF Hogan in fact had a seven iron in his hand?

Imagine if Hogan had busted his titanium headed 460CC driver-- the one with the 8 degrees of loft and the 45 and a 1/2 inch shaft- down the bottom of the hill and needed only a 7 iron or even less-  a wedge in his hardened over worked hands to produce this final act.

Would it be so revered?

What about the winningest Major Champion of them all Jack Nicklaus' one iron into th 71st hole of the 1972 US Open at Pebble Beach?

Stinging low into the wind, drawing right to left totally opposed against Nicklaus' normal fade shot shape and also against mother nature's left to right force. Majestically being swallowed by the flag stick and dropping inches from the hole for a tap in birdie and a guaranteed victory.

Would we all be in such awe of this shot if Nicklaus had drawn an 8 iron into the kidney shaped 17th green at Pebble?

Gary Player pulled off one of the shots of his life on the 16th hole at Oakland Hills the same year in his PGA Championship win.

After a pushed drive Player was in thick rough with a wattle tree and over 125 yards of water between himself and the flagstick- which was cut in it's most difficult spot well over on the right side to bring even more water into play. From a distance closer to a 7 iron yardage Player lashed a 9 iron up and over the tree, cleared the water and ultimately nestled in 3 feet from the hole.

A master stroke at the time- full of peril and consequences. Yet ultimately the winning shot in bringing home another Wannamaker to his trophy cabinet.

Is it feasible to believe that in the version of golf 2020 all Gary Player may have needed was a gap wedge to clear the tree and make the yardage. Surely three quarters of today's field may have been able to pull off that same shot at that same moment?

Distance has always been a weapon. Long somewhat accurate driving has always been of benefit.

Yet at the same time there was always room for the variety player. The Lee Janzen's the Calvin Peete's the Corey Pavins and the Scott Hoch's of the golf landscape could always compete and often topple the home run hitter.

Golf has now become farther and farther away from this model.

Is it good for the game to ask for less prowess in certain areas of the bag and become more length dimensional? 

Is it good for players to frequnetly use irons for almost every approach shot a golf course can ask of them, that have 42 degrees of loft or higher stamped on their bottom?

Is it wise economically to have golf courses remask and retool themselves every few years just to become somewhat of a challenge to these long drives and short irons attack models of play?

Golf has an amazing history. A history we are losing and that is being tainted.

Is the way golf has formed itself now and is shaping up to be in the future destroying these historical moments such as Hogan's Merion and Nicklaus' Pebble Beach?

The reason we as golfers all look at the Merion photo with such admiration is in part because of the club in hand. A difficult long iron approach when the degree of difficulty was high and the tournament outcome was all on the line.

Lee Trevino once joked if you get caught playing golf in a thunderstorm to hold your one iron up over your head and you'll be safe because even God "can't hit a one iron"...

Well Hogan could and Nicklaus could- as could Trevino himself. We aren't too sure about God's playing ability and its suffice to say he has never hit one.

And sadly for many of us- now nobody else ever has to hit one again either.