How to Hit a Driver: My time with Moe Norman
By Jim Kenesky
As a Canadian growing up in Southern Ontario just west of Toronto, I’ve had the pleasure of watching, meeting and playing with some of the finest golf professionals. I live approximately 30 minutes from Glen Abbey Golf Club and have made the short trip to watch the Canadian Open many times over the years. However, in 1993 at the age of thirteen I had the pleasure of working a Moe Norman clinic as part of our club’s Pro Am event.
The other special aspect to this particular day was that I caddied for my father who was paired with Moe that afternoon. It was an absolute pleasure to watch Moe perform both on the course and during the clinic. Moe was getting on in his career and though he hit every green in regulation (one par 5 in two shots) and posted a one under par 71, his ball striking off the tee was truly amazing. He didn’t seem to care much about the short game but took great pleasure in hitting the ball on a perfect line every time. When he hit his driver, it seemingly looked to have no spin and when it hit the ground, it would take off like a scared rabbit.
During the clinic later that afternoon Moe hit a variety of shots with a variety of clubs. He was both an artist and magician at work. As a young junior golfer, my curiosity got the best of me. I was in charge of picking up his golf balls after the clinic (that’s another story in itself). He must have hit 200 balls. All grouped tightly together for each club he hit. But I was so interested in knowing more about how he hit his driver so straight.
Moe was great with juniors. He would open up and tell his secrets to kids, but never said much in the presence of adults. After the clinic, all the members headed back into the clubhouse while Moe stayed outside and sat on the bench near the first tee with a coke in his hand. It was just me and him. To this day, I’m very proud of the courage I had that gave me the opportunity to speak with him. The things he shared paved a valuable path and helped me to become the professional I am.
I asked him.
“Mr. Norman, I watched you all day and I want to know how you hit the ball so straight with your driver. Mine goes in every direction.”
“Try hitting a couple, it’s easy, it’s easy.”
He then picked up his old Persimmon driver and let me hit two balls with it. It was extremely heavy and the grip was so sticky and fat that my hands seemed to melt into it. The driver was tough to swing for a thirteen year old, and I proceeded to cold top two balls right in front of a living legend.
Here’s what he told me. Keep in mind Moe always repeated himself.
“The key to hitting it straight is practice, practice, practice. Stand wide. Stability, stability, stability. Tee it up high and hit on the upswing. No spin, no spin, no spin. Finally, take the club away low and slow.”
I asked why he leaves such a gap between the ball and the club head before he swings.
He told me it eliminates one eighth of the backswing where most problems happen.
For the next few weeks I practiced hitting golf shots like Moe Norman. I immediately starting hitting my driver much straighter and over the course of my career, I’ve been known as a very accurate ball striker. There were many other times our paths crossed, but I will never forget the lasting memory of getting rare advice from such an amazing legend in the game of golf.
Jim Kenesky is a PGA of Canada Member since 2007 and the owner of the Great Lakes Tour, a professional golf tour in Ontario Canada (www.greatlakestour.com) He can be found on Twitter @JimKeneskyGolf