They Did it Their Way – Intuitive Engineering

In the 1968 Olympics Richard Douglas Fosbury would win the gold medal in the high jump and became one of the most influential athletes in the history of track and field.  Besides winning a gold medal, Dick Fosbury revolutionized the high jump event with a “back-first” technique, now known as the Fosbury Flop. “The Flop” is adopted by almost all high jumpers today. As a matter of fact, of the 36 Olympic medalists in the event from 1972 through 2000, 34 used “the Flop”

Dick Fosbury’s “Flop” challenged conventional thinking.

In later interviews, Fosbury provided a more candid and accurate account of the Flop’s development, revealing that it actually unfolded over many years and involved countless trials and errors.

“It was not based on science or analysis or thought or design. None of those things. Just intuition. It was simply a natural technique that evolved. The interesting thing was that the technique developed in competition and was a reaction to my trying to get over the bar. I never thought about how to change it, and I’m sure my coach was going crazy because it kept evolving. I adapted an antiquated style and modernized it to something that was efficient. I didn’t know anyone else in the world would be able to use it and I never imagined it would revolutionize the event. I wasn’t trying to create anything, but it evolved that way.”

What did Fosbury think of the seeming awkwardness of his Flop?

After all, when he first competed with the Flop, competitors and spectators alike teased and derided him. “I believe that the flop was a natural style and I was just the first to find it. I can say that because the Canadian jumper, Debbie Brill was a few years younger than I was and also developed the same technique, only a few years after me and without ever having seen me.”

Through trial and error and a bit of intuitive engineering, Dick Fosbury found a Natural way to move his body more efficiently. His intuitive “easier way” can now be validated with physics.

Would it be surprising if the same exact thing, a discovery of a more natural and easier way, has already happened with Golf?  I believe it already has.

Meet Moe Norman an obscure and possibly autistic genius golfer from Canada.  Like Dick Fosbury’s unconventional style, his golf swing techniques were considered idiosyncratic and often ridiculed – yet his record tells Fosbury-like story, winning 55 tournaments in Canada and at one time holding 41 course records in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s.

Moe Norman 69

Reclusive and shy, Moe Norman avoided the spotlight never becoming a house-hold name but the professionals who played with Moe regarded him as one of the greatest ball-strikers to ever play the game.  Even Ben Hogan, one of golf’s greatest ball-strikers, who rarely would watch other players, was known to watch Moe hit balls.

like Dick Fosbury, is it a coincidence that, Moe’s idiosyncratic swing just happened to be one of the most consistent and accurate golf swings of all time? David Owen (Golf Digest, 1995) puts it, “Whatever form of autism he had allowed him to do what others don’t have the courage to do is defy conventional wisdom and pursue something on your own.  Whether he just invented something and just worked hard enough and make it work or he discovered something that maybe everybody should do.”

I had heard of Moe in my younger days – a fictional character of unbelievable stories and exploits.  A year earlier a College Teammate, Matthew Lane, showed me to a video of Moe taken in Canada during a Canadian Tour event.

Seeing Moe for the first time on Matthew’s video I was immediately astounded at the idiosyncratic way Moe stood at address and the subsequent simplicity of his golf swing.  My friend Matthew put it best when he said “You should see how great Moe hits a golf ball, he’s a freak.”

I met Moe in 1994 at a Clinic in Chicago Illinois. What I would soon learn is that Moe’s freakish and idiosyncratic golf swing was actually a more natural and scientific way to pay golf.

To understand Moe’s swing and how it simplifies the striking of a golf ball you must understand the basic principles of the conventional and traditional golf swing methods and the most important objectives of the golf swing – to produce speed and consistently achieve the moment of the strike – impact.

Consistent Impact

Like Dick Fosbury intuitively discovering the ability to get his body higher by rotating his body as he jumped, Moe was able to reach the moment of impact more consistently than other players because of his unique address position.

Where conventional golfers bent their knees and hung their arms below their shoulders, Moe straightened his legs and stretched his arms into a straight line with the club.  Moe also tilted his body further to the side dropping his right shoulder substantially placing the club almost a foot behind the ball at the start.

Moe didn’t know it but his intuitive starting position simplified the movement of the body into impact.  Like Fosbury’s roll over the bar lowered the body’s center of gravity, Moe’s address position simplified the ability of the body to achieve impact by eliminating many of the problems with the traditional method.

It is interesting that both Moe and Dick Fosbury when asked would say “I did it my way”.  I also find it interesting that they related their discoveries and talents to intuition.



2 comments on “They Did it Their Way – Intuitive Engineering”
  1. James says:

    Great article!


  2. harryinaz says:

    How did Mo avoid standing up at the start of his backswing? My biggest problem.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s