This is the most important part of the swing, said golf’s greatest ball-striker

In today's edition of Play Smart, we're taking a look at the most important part of the swing, according to legendary ball-striker Moe Norman.

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Welcome to Play Smart, a regular game-improvement column that will help you play smarter, better golf.

Moe Norman is among the most legendary ball-strikers golf has ever seen. Although his PGA Tour career never quite took off, his command of the golf ball is undeniable. In 2005, Tiger Woods said Norman was one of only two golfers to ever “own” their swing. Before that, Sam Snead called Norman the “greatest striker of the ball.” When you’re receiving that sort of praise from those kinds of golfers, you’re doing something right.

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A dominant force on the Canadian Tour, Norman won 55 times, made 17 holes-in-one and shot 59 three times. His swing was odd, and his personality odder, but none of that mattered when the clubface made contact with the ball. Seemingly every time he hit it, it went where he wanted.

The legend of Norman lives on in golf today, but the brilliance of his swing has never been replicated. Sure, the pros today can hit it a mile and muscle it out of gnarly rough, but no one can hit the ball as straight as Norman did.

Perhaps that’s because Norman’s swing was not conventional — far from it. He stood with a wide stance and gripped the club in his palms. He placed the clubhead almost a foot behind the ball, and his backswing was incredibly short. The move was unorthodox (to say the least) but it was consistent and repeatable, and it was the vehicle for the greatest ball-striker of all time.

While the swing was out of the ordinary, there was a certain beauty to it — and that beauty lies in its simplicity. Norman did not worry about the minutiae of the swing that often short circuits even the best players’ brains. Instead, his only objective was to get the clubface back to square at impact.

“I’m the only golfer in the world that’s got the feeling of greatness,” Norman said. “The only one living.”

It might sound a bit brash, but he was right. No one could do it like Norman.

It’s impossible to say exactly how Norman was able to make such a consistent swing for his entire life, but it’s fair to assume it lies in the simplicity that he operated with. While so many golfers are worried about wrist angles and backswing length and release patterns, Norman was the opposite.

“The swing is only three feet long,” Norman said. “I keep it in this area in the game of golf. How you arrive from here to here.”

The area Norman spoke of is the three-foot space behind and in front of the ball. The only thing he worried about were his positions in that money area.

“That’s where I arrive so good every time,” Norman said. “From three feet behind the ball to three feet in front of it.”

The simpler you can make the golf swing, the better off you’ll be. And Moe Norman was the living embodiment of that simplicity.


Zephyr Melton Editor

Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at