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Mike Cortson, author of "The Secret," is not your typical golf instructor.
Mike Cortson, author of "The Secret," is not your typical golf instructor. (Courtesy Michael Cortson)

"The Secret": New golf instruction book reveals Ben Hogan's secret

Kiel ChristiansonBy Kiel Christianson,
Senior Writer

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — In golf, there are many tips and tricks, swing thoughts and methods. There are even lots of secrets (like, what does Tabitha Furyk see in Jim?). However, there is only one secret big enough to be known simply as The Secret.

As any golfer knows, The Secret refers to legendary Ben Hogan's secret. It is believed that whatever this secret was, it allowed Hogan to overcome his natural, vicious hook and go on to become arguably the best ball-striker in the history of the game, winning 63 total tournaments and nine majors.

A new book by former PGA Tour player manager Michael Cortson, titled "The Secret to a Great Golf Swing" (Seven Locks Publishing, $13), claims to share The Secret with all of us for the first time.

The Secret and The Secret

For nearly a half-century, people have speculated as to Hogan's secret. Theories ranged from the psychological and philosophical, as in Bob Thomas's book, "Hogan's Secret", to the mechanical (cupping the wrist).

So what makes Cortson's book different?

Well, without letting the cat completely out of the bag, The Secret detailed here is mechanical, and it does indeed have to do with the wrist, and the right arm. To find out the details, however, you'll have to read the book.

That's not what makes Cortson's slim 80-page book unique, however. There are two other factors that add a unique legitimacy to The Secret. First, Cortson is not your typical scratch-handicap, too-cool-for-you teaching pro. Second, he learned The Secret from Ben Hogan's one and only student, John Schlee.

Cortson, who now lives in Michigan, was at one time a PGA Tour player manager. Then things went downhill.

"In 2003 I had cancer and died twice during surgery," Cortson said. "I was sent home to die. I called in hospice and rotted away until Oct. 10, 2003, when I had a massive stroke leaving me a (quadriplegic). In January of 2004, I regained my lucidity but was pretty much a mess physically.

"I was in a nursing home on an end of life program. I was determined to beat it all, and I did! The cancer (pancreas, liver and colon) cleared up! The docs freaked out!"

Cortson worked hard to recover, learning to read, write, walk, talk and dress himself again.

"I hobbled out of the nursing home on June 11, 2004," Cortson said. "In the winter I tried to swing a club. My right side was still a mess and my natural arm swing when I walked was totally shot. I had to make my arm move."

Cortson had met Schlee many years earlier, on a driving range in Pasadena, Calif. According to Cortson, Schlee watched him spray balls all over until finally calling him over.

When Cortson asked why he was sharing The Secret — which he had been sworn never to do — he simply said: "I'm sick, and no one will believe you anyway."

After Cortson beat cancer, he remained paralyzed on his left side. But he still wanted to play golf.

"I sat and thought hard about what John had taught me, The Secret, and I had never done it right before this," Cortson said. "The natural arm swing coupled with the secret allows me to hit the ball straight and reasonably long for a 54-year-old permanently/totally disabled person.

"Well enough in fact that I started teaching it when the guys at the course saw how I was shooting in the 70s regularly, knowing all I had been through limping around the course."

The verdict

Cortson's book is very easy to digest and relatively clearly written, despite a certain lack of polish. Whether it contains The Secret is, we suppose, a matter of faith. Whether it will allow you to hit the ball like Hogan or not, well, that's something you'll need to determine for yourself.

One thing is indisputable, however: There is no instructional book on the market with quite as unique a story behind it. In fact, it's difficult to imagine that the story, as improbable as it sounds, is made up, which adds a certain amount of legitimacy to The Secret.

For more information:

Web sites: michaelcortson.com or sevenlockspublishing.com

Kiel Christianson has lived, worked, traveled and golfed extensively on three continents. As senior writer and equipment editor for WorldGolf.com, he has reviewed courses, resorts, and golf academies from California to Ireland, including his home course, Lake of the Woods G.C. in Mahomet, Ill. Read his golf blog here and follow him on Twitter @GolfWriterKiel.

Reader Comments / Reviews Leave a comment
  • Cortson's Secret Book

    Tim Flaherty wrote on: Jan 18, 2012

    I have read it and applied the technique to my ball striking. I dropped 7 shots off of my 10 handicap within 30 days. I have never been lower than an 8 in my 30 years of golf. I find golf alot easier and alot more enjoyable. Then best golf book in my 30 years worth of collecting and goiong to two top 100 instructors previously.