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Little-known Moe Norman and the feeling of greatness

I am often asked who was the best ball-striker in golf. You might think of Ben Hogan, Lee Trevino, Justin Rose, Jack Nicklaus, and the list might go on and on.

But, believe it or not, it was a little-known Canadian pro named Moe Norman. Moe used to hit hundreds of balls for me when I was with him in Pinehurst, North Carolina. I even went to the Canadian Open one year and I saw the entire practice range full of PGA Tour professionals stop and watch Moe hit balls.

When Moe hit balls he always said that he had the “feeling of greatness.” And who is to argue with him when every ball went 270 yards and straight? I once asked him when was the last time he hit a ball out of bounds? He quickly told me it was seven years ago and he could retrieve the out-of-bounds ball with his own club.

Yes, Moe was quirky, but he could really play. I once asked him why he teed the ball so high and always left the tee in the ground. He quickly retorted back that he was trying to hit the ball and not the tee. This was a typical response from Moe Norman. He went on to say that sometimes he used the same tee for three weeks because he never touched it when he hit. This would be called a PURE ball-striker.

I noticed that Moe never took a divot and I asked him why. He said he had to learn that because so many greens superintendents would kick him off the practice range because he was taking too many divots. At one time Moe had 45 course records and shot 59 on three different occasions. He didn’t play in a lot of PGA-sanctioned events because he insisted on carrying his own bag.

Moe’s swing also was quirky. He stood extremely far from the ball in a reaching fashion. His ball was positioned at least four inches in front of his left toe and his club’s starting position was a foot behind the ball. When I asked him why he addressed it that way he simply said, “I don’t need that part of my backswing and I am already into my backswing turn.” Pure genius, I thought.

Moe never had a golf lesson. He told me he let his golf ball teach him how to move. I honestly, in the five years I watched Moe hit balls — generally 1,000 balls a day — I never saw him hit a ball more than 10 yards offline. His legs were completely stiff at address, and he looked so bent over from the waist that he looked as if he was going to fall over. His backswing was very flat and around his body. He started his downswing with what he called a “vertical drop” with his arms, as his knees would separate from one another. His head was a good foot behind the ball at impact.

Moe used to tell me he had the longest extension in golf through impact. In typical Moe Norman fashion he would say he extended the club 44 inches back and 22 inches through. His impact was immaculate! His left wrist was flat, his right wrist bent, and his right elbow slightly bent, with the hands slightly ahead of the clubhead.

He always used to tell me he finished with his hands facing the target and not out of bounds as the modern player does. He wasn’t a leg driver on the downswing. He said his legs moved in response to his swing.

Unfortunately, Moe is not with us anymore. But he is further proof that the swing doesn’t have to look a certain way as long as it does three things: (1) Creates sufficient distance, (2) Creates accuracy, and (3) Repeats.

Moe Norman’s swing repeated more than anyone’s.

Dr. Jim Suttie, 2000 National PGA Teacher of the Year, rated in the Top 20 Teachers in the U.S. by Golf Digest, and Top 100 Teachers in America by Golf Magazine. Academy at TwinEagles Golf Club. Lessons open to the public. Call 800-765-3838. At Conway Farms near Chicago from mid-May through mid-September.

Written By

Avi Adkins is a seasoned journalist with a passion for storytelling and a keen eye for detail. With years of experience in the field, Adkins has established himself as a respected figure in journalism.

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