First, take nothing Moe says for granted. Most of Moe’s ideas of the golf swing were his way of explaining the unexplainable. Moe was doing his best to describe his feelings. Second, try not to judge it until you understand it. There are many things in the golf swing that don’t make sense but once you finally understand them they are almost common sense. Have you ever experienced that? (This is where you ask yourself how you could have been so dumb?)
When I talked to Moe about his golf swing, he often said “Swing the handle, not the head”.
I found this insight to be a jewel and when I understood Moe’s golf swing. This meant that you have a relationship to the golf club not the golf ball. If you maintain this relationship, the ball simply gets in the way of the movement of the club.
With this understanding, I began to understand his address position and discovered that some of the things I thought of as “idiosyncratic” were quite possibly “secrets” to great ball-striking and consistency.
Consistency is a characteristic of great ball-strikers and Moe was the personification of it.
Let me introduce you to a few concepts, which many find idiosyncratic, that I want you to experiment with and see if they can help you swing like Moe.
Club Behind the Ball – a key to simplicity and alignment?
When it came to Moe’s golf swing, Moe did something very unique at address. He placed the golf club well behind the ball. This club head position established a relationship to the handle of the golf club.
You can see at address that Moe placed his club head well behind the golf ball relative to the target line. When you look at Moe’s address position with every club, you will see a similar relationship and shaft angle. I found this to be an important geometry. Moe has established a relationship to the handle of the golf club. This angle shows how his hands are ahead of the club head (relative to the target).
Although, swing plane is established at address and returned at impact, address is not impact. There is a lateral element to the golf swing where the hands, while centered at address, are more forward at impact. Moe found a solution for this dynamic in the golf swing by placing the club behind the ball and by doing so, maintained the relationship of the handle of the golf club to the body.
Remember the pivot point? This point is a reference point for the golf club as it relates to the body. This relationship is critical when swinging the club into the correct impact position. The pivot point relationship establishes and ideal address position relationship. Notice that the pivot point relationship at address places the line of the lead arm and club-shaft in a position where the club head is in the center of the feet but depending on the club you are hitting, the ball is not there, it is forward of the club head. Also notice that from the Down The Line View that the club is also in a perfect single axis. This pivot point relationship and subsequent single axis are related. Moe’s genius is reflected in his ability to do what no other golfer has ever done, place the club behind the ball to simplify swinging on plane.
If the goal is to establish the plane at address and impact the ball on this plane, then you will find it important to experiment with the pivot point relationship which will mean placing the club behind the ball.
During one practice session with Moe, I was standing adjacent to him on the driving range where he was hitting balls in the station behind me. I turned to watch him hit and as he addressed the ball, with my club, I pushed his clubhead directly against the ball and said “hit it from there”.
Moe paused and looked up a bit bewildered. With a moment of thought, he said “I can’t”.
“Why not?” I questioned.
“It’s not me”, he responded.
“I know it’s not you Moe”, I protested, “but what happens if you start the club from directly behind the golf ball?”
Moe thought for a second and said “I take it outside”.
Moe demonstrated by taking the club in an outward movement away from the ball. “This is what happens”, Moe said.
When Moe placed the club behind the ball, he was ensuring perfect club movement away from the ball. With much of golf instruction talking about how it is important to take the club back low to the ground and with slow rhythm; “How can it be any lower and slower than that?” was Moe’s comment.
Both Feet on the Ground at Impact
A common noticeable characteristic of Moe’s golf swing was his impact position where both feet were firmly flat on the ground. Often interpreted as weight being on his trail (right) foot at impact, the opposite we actually true. While both feet are flat on the ground, most of the weight during this position is on his left foot.
Defying convention, the feet on the ground at impact is the most stable and perfect body position at impact yet it is only achievable from a single plane position due to the mechanical movement of the golf club on a single plane.
This position also demonstrates that the spine can maintain its angle and position from address through impact – reducing stress and compression.
Ball Position Always the same Place with every Club
When I asked Moe to describe the placement of his ball in his stance, he told me that he never moves the ball. It remains in the same position with every club, inside his lead heel.
This is an interesting phenomenon. It is a matter of perception. If you keep the ball at the lead heel position, and move your trail foot, you will notice a significantly different position of the ball relative to the body.
In other words, the ball didn’t move. Moe did.
So, as the club was longer, Moe’s stance would widen. Without moving the ball position relative to his lead foot, the ball would move forward for the longer clubs as his stance widened.
The Club Never Goes Behind You
As you move the club away the club stays low to the ground however when it reaches a point just past the coin, The hands hinge and the trail arm folds. Because of the relationship established at address with the “pivot point” and the hands ahead of the club head, the hands are always leading the club.
Even when you are in your backswing, the handle / club head relationship remains. Anywhere in the golf swing you will find this relationship. What this means is that since the hands are leading the club, the club will “follow” the handle.
Further in the backswing, the hands hinge and the trail arm folds. “Up and never around” Moe Said.
This hinging and folding moves the club on plane. It is impossible to be on plane if the hands are not correctly leading the golf club.
These relationships, established at address and throughout the swing are the “geometrical equivalent” of the framework to a car. They establish a foundation for the club movement. When you begin there, you can maintain it throughout the motion.
By establishing and maintaining this framework, Moe would comment that the club went “up and never around, like a pendulum”. Moe felt as though the club never went behind him. In fact, he felt as though there was a wall behind him and the club would never hit it. This hinging of the hands, when done correctly, creates an on plane club shaft and club face.
Moe’s Way of dealing with Mental Distractions
Interestingly enough, Moe Norman would hum when hitting balls and on the golf course. When I investigated this phenomenon, and I tried it myself I found one fascinating phenomenon;
I can’t think golf swing thoughts when I hum. As a matter of fact, I can’t think any thoughts when I hum.
My minds occupation with the tune keeps it occupied and out of the way. My golf swing became subconscious.
It only makes sense. If you are occupying the mind by humming, how can you consciously swing the golf club? It must be subconscious.
The humming also helped my swing rhythm.
If I hummed and got out of Sync with my swing, I found that the humming would get louder and softer. In other words, I could “hear” my swing effort. If I kept the humming at an even audible level, I could create a rhythm to my swing movement.
The 747 of golf
Moe called himself the “747” of golf. This was because he played so fast.
Moe played so fast, he would zig-zag down the fairways to keep from getting to his ball to soon where he would have to wait for the green to clear. This is why Moe didn’t like having a caddy. It slowed him down.
One story of Moe’s “speed” was when he was playing at Westmount Golf Club in the Canadian PGA in the final round. Moe wanted to get finished with his round and when he teed off, he began playing so fast he putted between his playing partners legs. As the round continued, the officials, wanting to keep the round at a “spectator” pace, tried to slow Moe by standing in the fairway in front of Moe.
Moe proceeded to hit the ball over the officials.
Moe was known for his fast play.
Moe did not take practice swings. “One look and I hit” Moe said.
When playing with Moe, I found that it wasn’t necessarily about the speed he played but about eliminating thought and negative thinking.
When you stand around too much you begin to think.
Too much time can cause negative thoughts can creep in. The mind can begin to play games with your confidence.
This happened to me on the Canadian Tour. I was playing an event where the conditions made easy shots difficult. I was on the 10th tee, the first hole of my first round. It was about 225 yards over water to the fairway directly into the wind. Rain was making it difficult to hold the club.
Because of the hole’s difficulty, I arrived at the tee to find that there was a delay in the round. Three groups of players were waiting on the tee. I had at least 30 minutes to wait before I hit my first shot.
What was worse, I would discover, was watching the 9 players in front of me hit their shots.. After the 4th player found the water, I turned my back to the tee. I couldn’t watch anymore. Six of the 9 players hit their ball into the water.
My mind started doubting my ability to get the ball into the fairway. I remember thoughts like “This must really be a hard shot if all of those tour players hit the ball in the water. If they can’t get it across, I wonder if I can”.
“Maybe I should hit a different club”
“I can’t wait to get this shot over with”
Fortunately, I hit a good drive and carried the hazard by about 3 yards.
The problems of “too much thought” is common for amateurs.
Practice swings, in my opinion are a wasted “time for thought”. I don’t know how many times I play with amateurs who rely on their practice swings to determine if they are going to make a good swing.
“That was a good one, I’m ready”
If they take a bad swing, they swing again until it feels right.
They say “I wasted that one” if they make a good practice swing.
As we have discussed earlier, the brain is running a program. The program is in your brain. It is an engram. And that brain program involves a golf ball. A practice swing does not.
This means that nothing is going to change between your practice swing and your real swing. The ball has a psychological effect and it determines which program runs.
“You got what you show up with” Moe would say.
So why not just do what Moe did: take one look and swing.
Moe describes his golf swing
The Coin drill
One of the ways Moe felt his backswing and described his feelings was by placing two coins on the ground. Moe would demonstrate his swing feeling by placing two coins on the ground, one 27 inches ahead and one coin 40 inches behind his golf ball.
Moe claimed that the club would go back low to the ground and touch the coin before it came off of the ground. By doing this, you create the correct arm distance from your body to the golf ball. This arm distance or “width” is a major reason for correct arm motion and speed. By moving the arms correctly, the shoulders also move correctly on plane. The “coin” seems to help the entire first move in the golf swing, a common question we often get asked by our students.
This described the feelings Moe had in his downswing. Moe felt as though, from the top of the backswing, the club dropped under the plane vertically. The club moves from the inside and into the perfect impact position.
Moe first described this vertical drop the day I met him in Chicago. He was carrying a heavy metal shaft about 2 feet long with a golf grip.
Moe held the position of the vertical drop to describe the sensations he was getting in his downswing.
(Pic of Moe Describing his Vertical Drop)
Moe’s pure divots
“I take bacon strips not pork chops”
This was Moe’s way of describing the shallow divots of his golf shots.
Maybe not so much a secret of Moe’s greatness as a result, but the way Moe struck a golf ball left perfect contact with ball and ground. The club, because of his perfect angle and release, impacted and compressed the golf ball with a shallow and precise angle. This strike removed as shallow strip of ground Moe called a bacon strip. He compared this to the steep divot of many golfers which Moe called a pork chop.