Hogan was one of three children of rural Texas blacksmith Chester Hogan and his wife, Clara. The family moved to Fort Worth in 1921, and shortly thereafter, on Valentine's Day 1922, Chester Hogan shot himself, in the family home, with his wife and children in the house. After Chester Hogan's death, the Hogan family's life became financially precarious. Clara Hogan took a
job as a seamstress, and Hogan's fourteen-year-old brother, Royal, quit school and became a deliveryman. Hogan, then nine, sold newspapers at a nearby train station after school for a time, but a few years later he discovered that he could make much better money working as a caddie at the Glen Garden Country Club: fifty cents or more for each bag carried.
Boys were only allowed to caddie at Glen Garden until they were sixteen, so at that point Hogan was forced to broaden his horizons to the affordable public courses in the area. He, his brother Royal, and some other friends, sometimes including fellow former Glen Garden caddy and future fellow golfing star Byron Nelson, would often play together, although Hogan spent much time practicing alone as well. He had dropped out of high school during his senior year, so he had all day to work on his game. Soon his obsessive practicing began to pay off: Hogan placed second in the first amateur tournament he competed in, in the summer of 1928, and achieved another second place in the summer of 1929.