He had a more traditional-looking swing when he made his name in the game of golf, winning 2 Canadian Amateur titles which then earned him a berth at the Masters two years running in the 1950s.
None of that matters because the swing action for which he was later known is an excellent example of a swing model that allows one to set up over the ball and simply swing, letting the ball get in the way of the club at impact.
If you don’t know anything about Moe Norman, I am sad to say you’ve missed out on a legendary ball-striker as famous for his personality as his shot-making, but it was superb.
In the above picture, you see none other than Fred Couples, Ben Crenshaw and the two Nicks Price & Faldo watching him hitting balls on the range, likely at a 1990’s era Canadian Open.
You will never hear of Moe Norman watching others hit balls – but even the incomparable Ben Hogan watched Moe Norman hit balls because, in his words, any ball that was struck and flew dead straight was a “fluke.”
He was said to have watched Moe one day when word of his accuracy began to spread, and also was said to have said, “Fluke,” with every ball Moe hit, until he finally walked away saying, “Keep hittin’ those flukes, kid.”
Moe also told a tale of how he challenged short-game wizard Dave Pelz to a bet where Moe asserted he could hit a pole in the fairway 250 yards distant with his driver before Pelz could sink a 100 foot putt.
Pelz declined the challenge. He was fortunate, as Moe would likely have nailed the pole half a dozen times in a few minutes.
There are too many stories of Moe’s prowess to recount, but suffice to say that you don’t see the legends in that above picture watching Moe hit balls because of any reason other than they were in awe.
This is machine-like. If you think I’m exaggerating, I remember the story (can’t remember which pro told it, unfortunately) that the first time Moe ever hit balls on a launch monitor, the technician thought the monitor was broken or malfunctioning because it couldn’t detect any sidespin on the launched balls.
He could draw and fade the ball at will of course, but when Moe wanted to hit a ball dead straight, he could hit the ball dead straight.
Watching Moe set up over balls and swinging, you can see clearly that he wasn’t swinging at the ball, but merely swinging back and then through, letting the ball get in the way, like an Iron Byron would be set up to do.
Warning: Don’t actually listen to Moe describing his swing action if you’re not familiar with him, because he is usually describing “feel” and not what’s real, plus he let a lot of people put words into his mouth over the years, so he might at times be just repeating something said to him.
The only problem is that with his particular technique, Moe was a very short hitter whose technique also was very much like Ben Hogan’s – self-taught through years of hitting millions of balls, and which required daily hours of hitting balls on the range or playing on the course to keep it working as designed.
That is the problem you get with a swing that, while it may certainly be mechanically-sound (neither Hogan nor Moe would every have injured themselves swinging their swings), it wasn’t optimal, which is why it required intensive practice to keep the machine-like accuracy.
You could even say that Hogan’s swing model was machine-like as well, and Byron Nelson’s also (Tom Watson said he rarely played a round with Nelson where he didn’t’ nail a flagstick at least twice on his approaches to the greens) but Moe was the standard for machine-like accuracy.
Now, as I’ve said before about mechanically-optimal models in sport and that my theory is the optimal swing in golf would deliver maximum leverage and accuracy and repeatability, imagine being able to build a swing model where you set up, swing back and through – and send the ball as long as a Sam Snead with the accuracy of a Hogan or Nelson without the hours-per-day requirement?
Results would vary of course, depending upon the ability of the swinger and the amount of work the swinger put into building and nailing the model, but wouldn’t even a weekend player benefit greatly from an optimal model that didn’t take more than a few warm-up balls in order to find that groove?
One last word here – it all begins and ends with the setup. That’s the stance, ball position and grip.
If you don’t get the setup nailed, you’ll have to make compensations in the swing, which is what will then detract from your leverage, accuracy and repeatability without hours and years of daily grinding.
It’s much easier to figure out that optimal setup, then begin to work on swinging and letting the ball get in the way. Which is what I’ve been in the process of doing.
Trust me. I’ve tried both and only the second option is acceptable to me.