Moe Norman mined his own gold; so can you

Ezine #11, August 30, 2017 — Moe Norman lived a bittersweet life. He was the best ball-striker in history but he had an excruciating inferiority complex. Not about his ability to hit a golf ball, but he felt inferior in just about every other way.

Most people who are seeking to become better golfers also feel inferior.

It’s part of golf’s culture. The core message that most people take from golf culture is this:  ‘I am broken and I need fixing. I am not smart enough or talented enough to be great at golf.’

By extension, I believe that many people feel the same way about their lives—that they don’t have whatever it takes to truly excel and to find peace and joy. Thus, they look to gurus, social media, books and TV for direction on how to do things right.

That’s the old paradigm and I believe it holds most people back from improving their golf and making changes in their lives.

There’s a new paradigm developing that works from the position that just as a consequence of being a human being, you are innately brilliant. You have everything you need within you to achieve your goals. As psychiatrist Carl Jung said, every person is blessed with his or her own unique gold.

This is the foundation for my coaching, and Moe exemplifies my core conviction.

One of the reasons that I became fascinated with Moe—the second edition of my book, The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story was published in July—was that he became the best ball-striker in history by mining his own gold.

Moe was not the first great ball-striker who was completely or mostly self-taught, especially players from earlier eras such as Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Lee Trevino.

Like them, Moe came from a humble background—a working class family in Kitchener, Ontario. He paid for his golf at Rockway Golf Course by working at factories and in a bowling alley.

Moe was a different cat. He was socially inept, unable to deal with the world outside the ropes of a golf tournament. He was terribly shy and scared of strangers. He was mocked for his mismatched clothes and shunned for poor hygiene. He had suffered a brain injury when he was five.

Despite his challenges, Moe became the best ever at hitting a golf ball. He wasn’t the best player. That’s different. But many of golf’s greatest stars who witnessed Moe said he hit the ball dead-solid perfect, on the screws, flush, pure… every time.

Largely between the ages of 19 and 23, Moe developed his swing on the practice ground and course at Rockway. Just as today, most golfers in the late 1940s and early ‘50s bought into a paradigm that dictated you must follow a model swing and look a certain way. The golfers of that era modelled themselves after the stars of their day: Hogan, Nelson and Sam Snead.

And like today, they all looked much the same at address—fairly athletic with their knees slightly bent, feet about shoulder width apart, butt out, and arms hanging down from the shoulders.

(It’s interesting that—whether it was 60-70 years ago or today—most golfers are concerned about whether they look good; in other words, they worry about how others will judge them.)

But Moe didn’t get caught up in trying to conform to theories or tips on how to address the ball or swing the club. Moe didn’t care what he looked like.

Moe designed his own golf swing, and his swing looked radically different.

With a driver, Moe stood with his legs straight and his feet far wider than shoulder width apart. Rather than standing with his butt out, he looked awkwardly tipped over from the waist. His arms were straight and pointed at the ball.

Many people scoffed at Moe’s swing, saying it was amateurish.

Moe said: “It suited me and felt good. I’m a different type of golfer. Every day it felt better and better. Everyone said it was wrong. All my friends would say, ‘You’ll never be good doing what you’re doing.’

“So I guess I was never any good.

“I was never concerned with the look or beauty of the swing. Just the action of the swing. It was the proper swing for me.”

Moe became the best ball-striker the world has ever known with a homemade swing that was a grand departure from what everyone else was teaching and doing. I find that to be absolutely incredible and inspiring for all golfers.

Like Moe, you have the capability to develop your game and bring your own unique gifts to golf, and to all aspects of your life.

I’m not arguing that you must spend thousands of hours like Moe to achieve mastery and feel good and enjoy yourself. My point is that you already have incredible gifts and talents.

I’m asking you to be open to feeling what your body is doing and to trust your instincts, rather than thinking you must conform to models of the swing that you read or hear about. You already have your own swing—and unique approach to life—within you.*

In future blogs, I will explore what we can learn from Moe and how you can develop your own feeling of greatness.

*I’m not arguing against seeing a golf professional for help. In fact, you can develop faster with a great coach. But a great coach draws your swing out of your experience rather than impose concepts and tips.

The new second edition of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story is available through Amazon. It updates the original 1995 edition with newly researched material, contains 43 first-person stories, new photos and explores Moe’s fascinating legacy.
About Tim O'Connor

Tim O'Connor is a golf coach, an award-winning writer, and speaker. Tim takes a holistic approach, coaching golfers in the physical and mental aspects of golf. He co-hosts the Swing Thoughts podcast with Howard Glassman, and is the author of The Feeling of Greatness: The Moe Norman Story. He plays bass in CID—a Guelph punk band!