Ben Hogan's Holes-in-One: How Many Aces Did He Make?

In the 1965 PGA Championship, George Knudson made a hole-in-one during the second round. Knudson's fellow-competitor that day was Ben Hogan, and after the round Hogan claimed it was the first ace he had ever witnessed. It wasn't, but that brings up a question: How many holes-in-one did Ben Hogan make? Did he really have zero aces, as some sources claim?

If you search the web for "how many aces did Ben Hogan have?" you'll probably be told one of three different answers: zero, two or four. Zero, we can say definitively, is wrong. So the answer is either two or four. A Golf Magazine article in 2020 gave four as the answer. On we (as do some other golf sources) cite two, because we can point to a time and place for those two aces.

(By the way, Hogan witnessed at least one other ace, contrary to what he said, in 1965, about Knudson's. He also witnessed Claude Harmon make an ace during the 1947 Masters. The Harmon ace led to one of the great legends in golf, that Hogan was so focused on his own game that he didn't even notice Harmon's ace. In fact, Hogan was having some fun with Harmon by pretending not to notice. Perhaps his comment after Knudson's 1965 hole-in-one was just a continuation of that joke.)

Ben Hogan's PGA Tour Holes-in-One

Hogan made two holes-in-one in PGA Tour tournaments, although, oddly, the PGA Tour's listing of golfer aces only credits him with one. (See, even the official golf record-keeping bodies aren't sure about Hogan's aces — that's why different figures are often cited.)

Hogan's first PGA Tour ace was in the 1934 Texas Open. He made the hole-in-one during a third-round 68, on the No. 10 hole at Brackenridge Park Golf Course in San Antonio. It happened four years before Hogan won his first PGA Tour title.

The second of Hogan's PGA Tour aces happened during the 1947 Esmeralda Open in Spokane, Washington. He made that hole-in-one on the 161-yard, No. 4 hole at Indian Canyon Golf Course, during the tournament's final round.

Why So Few Aces for Hogan?

Whether you accept two aces or the other commonly cited figure of four for Hogan, the fact is, Hogan made few holes-in-one — probably far fewer than you were expecting. Why? How does one of the all-time greats, a giant of the game, one of the most accurate approach players ever, come away from a lifetime of golf with just two (or four) holes-in-one?

One explanation is that pure, dumb luck plays such a big role in any hole-in-one. Ben Hogan, all-time great, made two aces in his PGA Tour career. Meanwhile, some hacker who has never even birdied can make two aces in the span of five holes (with a famous golf instructor watching).

But perhaps there's another explanation, one that Hogan sometimes gave himself when asked about his paucity of aces: He didn't aim at the flag.

One of the canonical biographies of Hogan, written by James Dodson and published in 2005, is called Ben Hogan: An American Life (affiliate link). Hogan's uncanny accuracy with irons led to many instances of his shots striking the flagstick during his early tour years in the 1930s. But that wasn't a good thing. Dodson wrote that, "By Hogan's own calculations, striking flagsticks with his increasingly accurate shots — hitting balls too close, as irony would have it — cost him at least half a dozen opportunities to make birdie and win his first tournament as early as 1938."

The problem was those shots bouncing off the flagstick and getting thrown farther away from the hole than if Hogan had aimed instead, say, short of the hole.

Hogan's first PGA Tour win did happen in 1938, after he made an adjustment in strategy. Dodson explained, "Stung by the consequences of perhaps too much accuracy, he began aiming for the flattest portions of every green nearest the hole, preferring to leave himself a short uphill putt for birdie."

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