Golf's Heretic: Mo Norman
The Mad Heretic of Golf Moe Norman Preaches A Revolutionary Swing Technique Known As "Natural Golf"
From the Print Edition:
Demi Moore, Autumn 96
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It's rare that putting, the constant lament of most golfers, gets such early attention. Most schools move right into full-swing mechanics, but according to Peter Fox, the Natural Golf teacher (and corporate communications director) who greeted me, "We want a small number of students to get their feet wet slowly, in an easygoing atmosphere. Putting is a first step, a confidence builder, which will hopefully have students saying, 'Gee, if Natural Golf is right about that, I wonder if they're right about the swing.' "
Natural Golf is such a nascent movement (the firm was founded in 1991 by Jack Kuykendall, an entrepreneur and frustrated professional golfer, who in turn hired Norman to conduct clinics) that it's dependent on word-of-mouth reviews. The learning process must be intimate and relaxed, so clinics are usually limited to three students for each teacher, with an assistant.
Having attended golf camps where large groups moved from one activity to another on veritable assembly lines, I was still surprised to find only one other camper joining me. George Imperial, a New Jersey attorney "naturalized" once before, was so focused on his own putting that he barely watched the magic show taking place around him.
Nearby, a svelte, 30-year-old Oklahoman kept sinking (or lipping) putts--from eight feet, then from 10 feet, 15 feet, 20 feet and beyond. It was Todd "Little Moe" Graves, a player on the Asian and Canadian tours, making everything look easy with an odd, football-shaped putter.
"It's dynamically balanced, center-shafted and zero degrees of loft, so the ball rolls truer," says Fox, showing me a Natural Golf putter, with its uniquely styled fat, square grip. Holding the club tightly in his right hand and positioning it one to four inches behind a ball, Fox continues. "Nerve endings are concentrated in your dominant hand. We engineered the grip so that an optimum amount of space connects with an optimum amount of nerves, sending your brain signals on where to putt."
Instead of using a looping "pendulum" stroke long favored by Ben Crenshaw and other green-side masters, Fox drives into the ball, hitting it with a piston-like motion. "Pendulum putting comes inside the [intended] line of a putt, down to square and back inside again. Yet by taking the shoulders out of putting, using the left arm only as a stabilizer and turning your right arm into a piston, we keep that putter on line longer. Much longer!"
Overthrowing years of St. Andrews orthodoxy for the Orwellian prospect of being "programmed into a piston" wasn't all that enticing--or easy. Fox kept citing Newtonian physics to speed my conversion (my hotel room was also stocked with books and videos stressing the "scientific truths" behind the Natural Golf revolution). To his credit, this former ESPN executive tried to dispel my doubts by encouraging me to stroke ball after ball. But even with his highly personalized attention and coaching--"Take a deep breath, focus, separate the hands and with as much right palm as possible, piston...piston... bang!"--I was a loose cannon, booming balls off the green.
Thankfully, after retreating to The Registry's CaddyMaster's shop for a soothing cigar (this golf shop also arranges lessons and tee times), it was time for lunch. Then I had little trouble with my touch, for whatever mound of salad, fish or dessert I dug into, everything was mouth-watering.
Once the group stopped talking about golf and Norman's erratic driving (in his new Cadillac, that is), we drove to Kensington, a lush private course a few minutes away from The Registry. Waiting for us at the range were a dozen buckets of balls and three golf bags crammed with "ideal mechanical advantage" clubs, specifically designed for the Natural Golf system.
A far cry from the forged or classic irons, which have an expanded "sweet spot" for less proficient players, or the newer cavity-backed clubs, Natural Golf's sticks (a set costs $1,100) are slightly larger than standard length with smaller, more upright heads and much fatter grips.
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