Moe Norman is one of the best ball-strikers of all time. But that’s where the agreement ends on the subject of Moe.
Ever since Golf Digest introduced Moe to American golfers with a 1995 cover story, his swing has been debated more passionately than any other in the game. His swing also has been marketed more aggressively than any other in the past 15 years. Are those things connected?
The Tragic Story of Moe Norman, the Man
If you don’t know the Moe Norman story, it’s one of the most tragic in all of sports. What could his life have been like? What could he have accomplished? That’s the question we ask when we consider Moe Norman. For an introduction to the subject of Moe, take a look at this piece that ESPN aired in 2005.
And in this video, Lorne Rubenstein helps us frame the Moe Norman discussion:
The Conflicting Explanations of Moe Norman, the Golf Swing
It’s difficult to define the characteristics of Moe’s golf swing, because there are many Moe swings to consider. Do you look at Moe from the 1960s, when he was in his prime? That would be ideal, but there isn’t much video from that era. What about old Moe, when he was in his 60s and 70s? There’s oodles of video from those Moe years. But was it the “true” Moe swing, or a swing that was modified for a broader audience?
Regardless, there are elements that bridge the expanse of Moe Norman golf swings:
• Wide stance
• Grip: neutral left hand, strong right hand. Moe at times used both an overlapping and a 10-finger grip. Why? It’s a question that’s hotly debated.
• Sets up with his head behind the ball
• Sets the club further away from the ball at address than is standard
• He’s underneath the plane in his backswing
• Substantial lateral move in the downswing
• Head moves forward in downswing
• Maintained his spine angle for the entire swing
• Backswing plane is lower than the downswing plane, like Bruce Lietzke but at less-upright angle. (It’s often said that Moe Norman had a one-plane swing. That point is challenged in this Somax analysis of Moe’s swing.)
If you’d like to get a glimpse of the Moe Norman debate, take a look at this 21-page Moe Norman thread at the AdvancedBallstriking.com forum. There’s great insight from John “Lag” Erickson into Moe Norman in this forum thread (Erickson is “lagpressure” in the forum.) Erickson writes:
Moe may have been best ball-striker of all time BUT lets not owe it 100% all to his technique and a mold for others to use. He was a self professed ball beater and, from what I can tell, some sort of savant. Probably beat more balls in his life than any 2 PGA pro’s put together and had the hands/calluses to show it. With no preconceived ideas/concepts or teachings of a golf swing, he tinkered tons with his swing and found what worked for him and then mastered that.
The Lesson We Should Take From Moe Norman and His Swing
I think Erickson’s statement “he tinkered tons with his swing and found what worked for him and then mastered that,” is the lesson we should learn from Moe Norman.
Compare Moe Norman’s Golf Swing To
• Bruce Lietzke (backswing plane is lower than the downswing plane)
• Doug Sanders (wide stance, short backswing)
• Allen Doyle, Chi Chi Rodriguez (distance from body to the ball)
• Ben Hogan, Bobby Jones (inside takeaway, lifting of the left heel during the backswing)
Moe Norman Video Vault
Moe Norman, face on, driver
Moe Norman, face on, slow motion
Moe Norman, down the line, slow motion
Moe Norman’s explanation of why he set the club so far behind the ball at address:
Moe Norman conducting a clinic: