The old-school strategy that Moe Norman used to perfect his wedge game
Welcome to Play Smart, a game-improvement column that drops every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday from Director of Game Improvement content Luke Kerr-Dineen to help you play smarter, better golf.
The myth of Moe Norman lives large in golfing lore. How could it not? There’s a seemingly endless number of stories to unpack, and his record speaks for itself: Plying his trade on his native Canadian Tour, he won 55 events, set 33 course records, made 17 holes-in-one and shot 59 three different times.
Norman was above all else a ball-striker — one of just two players in golf history who ever “owned” his swing, according to none other than Tiger Woods himself. But you don’t amass a record like that on ball-striking alone. He was a streaky-but-good putter, and a wildly underrated wedge player — which became an interesting topic of discussion in this fascinating chat between GOLF Hall of Fame Teacher Dr. Jim Suttie, and instructor Todd Graves, who teaches Moe Norman’s golf swing at his Single Plane Golf Academy in Oklahoma.
“Nobody realizes how good a wedge player he was,” Graves says at the 40-minute mark, which you can watch below.
How did he get so good with his wedges? Because he did something that too few golfers do nowadays, as Graves and Dr. Suttie explain….
1. Moe learned to hit different shots with one club
Advances in club technology has been a huge positive for recreational golfers everywhere. But when it comes to wedges, those positive advantage can at times become a crux: Rather than learning the technical tweaks you need to make to hit the ball higher or lower, you simply choose a different club to do the work for you.
Moe Norman didn’t have that luxury and was a better golfer for it, Graves says.
“One of the things that was unique about Moe Norman’s wedge game, and probably a part of the generation he played golf in, is that they didn’t have 60 degree wedges,” Graves says. “He learned to play with a 50 degree wedge, even all the shots you or I would play with a 60 degree wedge…spin it, hit it high and low, different trajectories.”
This isn’t an invitation to throw your own lob wedge in the trash (please do not do that, your scorecard will hate you for it), but it is an interesting insight that you should keep in mind the next time you go and practice. Choose a lower-lofted wedge and practice trying to hit different types of shots with it. You’ll be a better golfer for it.
2. Moe had a short backswing with no deceleration
And out of that process, Graves says, Norman learned to avoid one of the biggest flaws in golfers’ wedge games: Deceleration.
“There’s an absence of hand action in his wedge play,” Dr. Suttie says. “He has a very connected motion with his arms through his body.”
As Dr. Suttie notes: His backswing stays short, and he makes an aggressive motion through the ball without any signs of deceleration. The truest sign of a good wedge player.
It’s a longer interview, but if you’re as interested in Moe Norman as I am, you can watch the full video below: