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Moe Norman - Greatest ball striker of all time

Updated on August 2, 2015
Moe Norman just before he passed away in 2004.
Moe Norman just before he passed away in 2004.

July 19, 2014

What they said about Moe

Two of the great ball strikers of all time, Sam Sneed and Lee Trevino were asked who they thought the greatest ball striker ever was and they both said, "Moe Norman".

Tiger Woods, after winning his 9th major championship said to Golf Digest's, Jamie Diaz, "Only two golfers ever owned their swing; Ben Hogan and Moe Norman".

There are photos online that show the biggest names in golf standing around Moe on the practice range of a tournament site watching him strike the ball. You just do not see that with any other player.

Below are Fred Couples, Ben Crenshaw, Nick Price and Nick Faldo watching Moe hit balls

Early Years

There are many reports that Moe was an autistic savant. Other reports claim an injury in a car accident caused his abnormal behavior. Everyone, including his family thought he was strange and acted weird. Moe was terribly shy and inward. He spent most of his time hitting 1,000 golf balls a day with clubs that he kept hidden under his home in Canada. His dad tried to discourage him from golf and wanted him to be like his siblings.

Moe perfected his own unique swing and worked on it seven days a week. To earn a little money, he set pins in a bowling alley. He was doing so when he won his second straight Canadian Amateur title at age 26. Bobby Jones heard about him and invited him to play in the Masters. Moe was shocked to read this invitation with his name on it.

Moe was so shy that when he was winning a tournament in Canada that required the winner to speak afterwards, he would three-putt the final green to lose by one stroke and avoid the frightening alternative of winning. The tournament committees soon learned what he was doing and asked the second place finisher to speak as well. After that, he just started winning.

He arrived at the Masters with half a set of old clubs and no caddie. He talked funny to those that did not understand him and acted strange to those that played with him. He shot a decent round of 75 that first day and went straight to the range where Sam Sneed took an interest in him. Sam gave him a pointer and Moe spent hours working on the suggestion. The next day, Moe had blisters on his hand from all the balls hit with the new technique and missed the cut. He would play the Masters again the following year only to miss the cut by one stroke.

While playing in the PGA event in New Orleans, Moe was surrounded in the locker room after the first round by officials and one player. They informed him that there was no room for his kind of behavior on tour. They were not aware, nor did they understand his psychological makeup back then. This embarrassed Moe and he returned to Canada never to play on the PGA tour again.

Moe's Records

In Canada, all Moe did was win 55 tournaments on the Canadian Tour, have 9 double eagles, 17 hole in one's and shoot 59 three times! He did this with a very unique swing that is copied today, but not necessarily on tour. Why isn't the purest ball striker and the straightest ball hitter ever copied by tour players? Well, it may be a macho thing. You see, even Moe himself responded to a reporter when asked if he would recommend his swing to others, "Hell no! Why would anyone want to swing like this?"

Moe's Swing

It is far from the conventional swing. Moe extended his arms out to the ball with his arms perfectly straight rather than hanging his hands below his chin with an angle from his hands to the ball as the tour player tends to do. He takes the club back flat without turning his hips and brings it back down on the same plane and extends down the target line without finishing the swing with his club wrapped around his neck as most players do.

Ben Hogan took the club back approximately 14 inches before taking the club up and around. Moe eliminated that first step and simply set the club down 14 inches behind the ball at address. The tour player swings the club down the target line after impact for approximately 10-12 inches. Moe takes the club down the target line 22 inches. That is why he hits the ball so straight. There is very little turning of the hips and spine and therefore the back is less likely to have damage from years of playing as with the twisting and turning and rotating of the spine in the conventional swing.

There are the nay-sayers that say Moe could not hit the ball very far with his swing. In a radio interview, Moe told the interviewer that his longest drive was 340 yards. This was in his 20's when equipment and balls were far inferior to today's equipment and balls. In a video, when Moe was 72 years old he was asked how far he was hitting his 3-wood off the ground and he replied, "290".

So much for being a short hitter.

Murray Irwin Norman

Moe was born, Murray Irwin Norman on July 10, 1929 in Kitchener, Ontario, Canada and died in Kitchener on September 4, 2004 at age 75. He twice was Canadian PGA champion and set 33 records on tour. After turning 50, Moe won 8 out of his first 9 tournaments on the Canadian Senior tour. In one day, while playing 54 holes of golf, Moe had 3 hole in one's; one in each round. He was inducted into the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Sports Hall of Fame.

Moe played in just 27 events on the PGA Tour making all but two cuts with one top ten and 7 top 25's. He played only a short period on the Senior PGA Tour in the U.S., playing in just 5 events, but would have one top 3 and 2 top 10's.

Moe was asked if he ever got a penalty stroke. He replied that just once his ball went out of bounds by two feet and he was penalized. Another reporter asked how long he had been using the tee in the ground and Moe responded, "7 years".

When not living out of his car, he lived in hotels. He only dated three times, never married, never had a phone and usually ate at the same place. He never went to the doctor until he had a heart bypass at age 69. He had a heart attack four years later and would die from complications two years after that in 2004 at age 75.

If not for being so different, we would have all heard about Moe Norman. Personally, I am still surprised when I ask a golfing friend if he ever heard of Moe and the response is always the same, "Who?".

Yours truly watched Moe's videos for the very first time four weeks ago and went to a nearby course the next morning. My first ball was high, straight and long. I only misshit two shots that day. It was the purest I had ever struck a golf ball. Man, was I excited! It is so easy for me and leaves me with no discomfort in my back and I feel like I could play another 18.

As in any swing, I have had a couple of setbacks. That is to be expected. However, after watching more of Moe's videos it comes back to me. Now, am I saying it is easy to imitate? No. It just came easy for me. However, I am known in my circle of friends as someone who changes swings as often as some change their underwear and I tend to do a pretty fair job of resembling swings that I copy. There has been Trevino, Heard, Mickelson, Zach Johnson and others.

Moe, himself said he would not recommend his swing to others. It is unique to him. I just happen to have the eye for golf technique and picked up on it rather quickly.

Golf is fun again. Thank you, Moe!



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