Sunday, 25 December 2016

Moe Norman's Way

While he was reputed to be one of if not the greatest ballstrikers of all time, Moe Norman was admittedly an odd character. He looked like a 24 handicapper until he struck the ball. When he did, even Major champions stopped to watch. The strike made a different sound and the ball flew dead straight.

While people have studied and tried to teach Moe's rather unique swing, Moe never suggested that anyone try to copy his action. He felt that what golfers in general lacked most was knowledge. He firmly believed, like Bobby Jones, that the game of golf was played in that five and a half inches between your ears and the three feet before and after impact.

"Golf," Moe said, "is hitting an inanimate object to a defined area with the least amount of effort and an alert attitude of indifference." That alert attitude of indifference was vital in Moe's opinion. Interestingly, Sam Snead said pretty much the same thing. You have to learn, as a golfer, to pick a target and hit the ball to it without allowing concern about the result to enter in to it. Moe said that all he saw was the good things--never the bad--playing in height and reaching for the sky when he hit through the ball. He said we should reach for the sky, because there are "no hazards up there."

In terms of effort, Moe felt that we needed to realize that the ball was small. There was no need to hit at it. He always resisted the hit impulse. The key, in Moe's mind, was acceleration through the ball, not at the ball. His swing was so effortless that during the making of one video, Moe hit balls virtually non stop for five hours at the age of 65.

Unlike most players, Moe held the club in his palms not his fingers. He held the club like a tennis player or a batter in baseball. He believed this sort of grip was actually more sensitive, and definitely more reliable, than the Vardon or interlocking grips. The results, at least in Moe's case, were rather hard to argue with.

When striking the ball, Moe wanted to swing in such a way that the blade of his club was still square to the target line 22 inches after the ball. One way he practised this was to place two tees well in front of the ball and ensure that he clipped them with a square clubface after hitting the ball. This produced laser-like, straight shots. Moe believed in playing on a straight line through the course. And, of course, the shortest distance between two points is a straight line.

Moe, when describing his swing, said he was pulling hard with his left hand, his right hand only along for the ride. Jack Nicklaus said the same thing, as did Bobby Jones. He never wanted the hit impulse, which is generally the result of an over-active right hand. Moe said, "I want the swing impulse. I swing to the finish."

In terms of his wide stance and extended arms, there was method in Moe's madness, as there was in his addressing the ball with the club well behind the ball. But it's important to remember that Moe did not recommend that people try to copy him. He believed that everyone had to find their own way, a way that suited their size, shape, level of flexibility, strength, etc. The important thing for Moe when he was swinging was, despite his apparently awkward set up, that he never felt "tied up," he felt "free as a bird."

Moe understood how the ball needed to be struck to produce consistently straight, accurate shots. It all had to do with controlling the clubface. If the clubface went through the ball square to the target, and straight down the target line, the only possible result was a straight shot. And Moe found a way to accomplish this perhaps better than anyone else. 

In Moe's opinion there were only two golfers in the history of the game who had fifteen clubs in their bag. They were Bobby Jones and Jack Nicklaus.  That fifteenth club? Their mind. I have to agree with Moe about Bobby Jones and Jack. They might have swung the club differently, but they were the greatest thinkers and had the strongest powers of concentration, absolutely required to win the big championships, we've probably ever seen. 

So, from what I've gathered listening to Moe, he wanted us to gain knowledge and change the way we think; not necessarily the way we swing. Moe said he gave himself a chance. He didn't beat himself up; and he wasn't afraid to succeed. He thought like a winner and that's what he became. But he never suggested that golf was easy. No one worked harder than he did to find a way that for him made the golf ball behave.

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