The legendary Ben Hogan
(Images courtesy Ben Hogan Equipment Co.)
No golfer in history has more short stories passed
from player to player like the legendary Ben Hogan.
Most of them involve his work ethic, legendary shot
making, and ascerbic wit. On the equipment side,
Hogan was so exacting that he is said to have
ordered the entire first production run of clubs
destroyed in 1953 because they did not meet his
For all the recycled Ben Hogan stories out there
(we'll leave those for another article), you probably
thought you’d never hear another new one. Well,
here’s one: The company he founded in 1953 is back.
After a seven-year hiatus from the market, the
Ben Hogan Golf Equipment Company re-launched its
brand with a new club line at the PGA Show in
Orlando. The company’s Ft. Worth 15 irons and TK
15 wedges were on display and quickly generated
buzz at the show. First you notice the clubs’ clean,
classic look with the iconic Ben Hogan signature.
Then you notice something else: The clubs are only
designated by loft, no numbers. In response to lofts
being strengthened in the industry over the years,
the Hogan Company dropped the numbering system
and produced clubs in an “unprecedented” range of
44 lofts so golfers know exactly what loft they’re
when they’re trying to gap their set.
Hogan Ft. Worth Irons
come in 44 different lofts
“We believe that’s the way Mr. Hogan would
done it were he here today,” the company said in its
release on the set. Many of them would know,
because there’s a combined 150 years of experience
in the company of people working with Mr. Hogan or
the company. That includes CEO and President Terry
Koehler, a Texan who grew up idolizing Hogan and
was marketing director for his company for three
years in the 1990s. It was Koehler’s idea to bring
back the brand, which fell off after Mr. Hogan’s
passing in 1997.
During the last day of the PGA Merchandise Show,
Koehler spent a few minutes with AmateurGolf.com
to share the reaction to the launch of the iconic
brand and the company’s outlook for 2015.
How would you categorize the response the
company and new club line received this week?
Terry Koehler: (TK): What’s really been gratifying,
humbling actually, is how many golf professionals
have come up to us and said, “I want to thank you
for bringing this brand back to golf.” That’s been
very rewarding. Mr. Hogan and his company touched
a lot of people with their business practices, his
legend and the quality of products that they always
been known for, and we’re very committed to those
principals. This is the real Ben Hogan Company. I
think a lot of people wondered if we were the real
company or just a bunch of guys with the same stuff,
but I think we’ve earned that recognition. The real
Ben Hogan Company is back.
AGC: Your staff has 150 years of
experience working with Mr. Hogan or the company.
That’s a lot of loyalty to the company.
And that number is growing. We have a number of
former field reps and managers who’ve come to us
and said they’d love to be involved again. I think it’s
safe to say that within a year we’ll probably have
another 150 years more experience on our staff.
These are guys that used to sell Hogan and still tell
all the Hogan stories.
AGC: Who was Ben Hogan to the
people who knew him?
TK: People who didn’t know Mr. Hogan will
associate him as being stern and abrupt, but he had
an unbelievable heart and showed an incredible
kindness to people. Sure, he didn’t suffer fools and
idle chit-chat, but he was a very interesting man.
Dignified is probably the best way to describe him.
AGC: What did Hogan’s golf genius
contribute to the craft of club making?
TK: The two things Mr. Hogan was really about
were precision and improvement. And he was
defined by hard work. One of my favorite Ben Hogan
quotes is, “Hard work never bothered me like it does
some people.” That applies to whether you’re
building a business or trying to be the best golfer in
the world. I don’t think anybody really analyzed how
a golf ball really comes off a golf club as deeply as
he did for his day. And that was without the aid of
computers, launch monitors, what have you. He
practically invented practice and was on a constant
quest to improve.
That carried over into club making. He pushed
technology. Who pioneered lightweight steel shafts
(the Apex)? It wasn’t a shaft company. It was the
Ben Hogan Company. Who perfected game-
improvement forging (the Edge)? There might be
debate about how invented it, but there’s no doubt
Ben Hogan Company committed to it bigger than
anybody else. Hogan was the first company to
stretch points out longer so you could hit the ball
further. There’s a room called the Vault where we
have his collection of personalized clubs. There are
clubs with aluminum heads, there’s one with a brass
slab out at the toe. He was always looking for ways
to make this game better. He never stopped, even
into his 70s.
Note: At this point, Koehler looked across
the booth and noticed a video was playing showing
Hogan hitting golf balls at that age.
There’s a great story about that shoot. He was
taping a commercial and the director asked Hogan to
hit a ball up on the green, and Hogan said, “OK, what
do you want me to do?” (Then the director repeated
his request and Hogan repeated his answer.) The
president of the Ben Hogan Company was there and
said, “Ben, hit a nice little soft fade that cuts into
that right flag.” And, sure enough, that’s what he did.
He never hit a golf ball, or did anything, without a
And look at that swing. Even in his 70s, who
wouldn’t take that swing today?
AGC: What’s been the response to the
new irons? How do they combine past and present?
TK: I look back at the company’s club
technology as sort of an observer and an
anthropologist to figure out what he did. He
developed weight schemes and the classic Hogan
shape in the late 60s. I had a golf professional come
up to me and tell me, “Do you know know why the
Apex was such a great iron? You could get away with
a miss on the toe. You couldn’t do that with anybody
else’s blade at the time.” That’s the answer I knew,
but I was glad he had the same one.
What we’ve done with this golf club is combine the
genius of Edge and Apex into one golf club. You don’t
sacrifice distance control or accuracy and it has a
great feel, but you’ve also got forgiveness. And our
lofting and gapping is changing the way irons are
AGC: What does a successful 2015 look
like for the Ben Hogan Equipment Company?
TK: We want to begin to build a nucleus of a group
of golf professionals that share our ideals and are
committed to helping people improve. To me the
mark of success are the emails from people saying,
“I love my golf clubs.” The customer that matters is
the golfer. And golfers never change: they want a
golf club that delivers value that will make them lay
down hard-earned money. Whether that’s better feel,
distance or performance, they want value. Value
means I’m glad I made that purchase. That’s the
reaction I want. That’s success.
AGC: Is the association with the brand
mostly nostalgic senior golfers or are you already
seeing new audiences?
TK: I’m surprised by how many Gen X and Gen
Y people have reacted positively to us. I thought that
might take a few years to resonate with young
people because they were barely alive when the man
died. His legend is bigger than I thought it was. And
someone people have hardly ever heard anything
negative about. He wasn’t perfect, but he was known
for doing things right.
Learn more about the Ben Hogan Golf Equipment