Monday, 8 August 2016

Hit It Like Moe

There are many who saw Moe Norman who think he might have been the greatest ballstriker ever.  Moe, in his own inimitable style, certainly declared himself to be the best striker of the ball.  He made no bones about the fact that he knew the secret to great ballstriking and it wasn't anything taught by the majority of golf instructors.

Moe had a very peculiar swing.  He stood with his legs wide apart.  He employed a ten finger grip.  He extended his arms way out to the ball.  His swing was short and crisp and the ball almost always came straight out of the center of the clubface.  When asked whether we should copy his swing, Moe, without hesitation, said, "No."

I've always been fascinated with Moe and his near perfect ballstriking.  I even tried copying his swing.  I had some good results, but felt very uncomfortable trying to stand to the ball and swing like Moe.  No mystery there, since I'm built nothing like Moe.  I've watched lots of footage of Moe's swing and listened to his interviews and I have reached the conclusion that Moe was right.  We shouldn't swing like him.  We just need to strike the ball the way he did.

So, how did Moe strike the ball?  He struck it right in the back of the ball, with the club moving straight down the target line. If he took a divot at all, it was a "bacon strip," not a "pork chop."  He didn't try to strike the ball with a descending blow in an effort to add spin, he struck the ball using the natural loft of the club to do the job.  He didn't worry about hitting it far.  He was only concerned with hitting it straight.  He wasn't a short hitter.  He could move it out there if he wanted, but his concern was pure, accurate striking, not distance.  He could hit drive after drive without moving his tee, he struck it so purely.

Moe believed that he kept his club square to the target line longer than any other player in the history of the game.  He felt the face was still square 22 inches after impact.  In fact he practised swinging with a coin or a tee set well in front of the ball and tried to feel that his club remained square to the target as it passed over the coin.  This led to a strong lateral move and a strong pulling action with his left arm. 

It's interesting to note that Byron Nelson used the same lateral action and always pictured the back of his left hand going straight down the target line through impact.  He apparently kept his clubface square to the target line for 12 inches.  Compare that with six inches for Sam Snead and five inches for Ben Hogan.  Byron Nelson hit the ball so well that some people thought he was monotonous to watch.  But, as Byron said, "It may be monotonous, but I sure eat regular."

The secret to Moe's success was the purity of the strike, the squareness of his clubface to the target line, and the ability to keep that clubface square and moving down the target line well after impact.  It had nothing to do with his stance, set up, grip, backswing...  It was the strike.  We want to hit it like Moe, not necessarily swing like him.

So, perhaps, without changing anything in your grip, set up, or swing, just try imagining that perfect strike.  Picture a nail in the back center of the ball.  Now picture driving that nail straight down the target line.  Or, try Moe's drill and try to have your club still square to your target line several inches past the ball, using a coin or a tee.

Don't try to swing like Moe.  Just learn to strike it like he did.

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