This message is written from one friend to another. It’s intent is to be informative and helpful and to clear up the message that we offer. We often get asked the question, “What is the difference between The Graves Golf Schools and Natural Golf”. In this message, it is likely that you will also find the truth. Some of the things I say here are the things that I have wanted to say for a long time.
For the past five years, Tim and I have been developing the Graves Golf Academy with the focus primarily on helping people play better golf. To me, it has been (and still is) a labor of love. I am passionate about Moe as a human being and as a golfer who achieved a golf swing that continues to challenge the convention of the golf world. Each day I am grateful to Moe and the events that have led me down the path to meeting him and eventually developing a friendship and mentorship. The fact is that I would not be here today if it were not for Moe. I had given up on the game. (And giving up on the game meant giving up a large part of my life.) Moe showed me an easier way. He taught me to believe in myself again and he showed me how I too can achieve greatness if I am willing to pay the price. Our goal as a golf instruction company is simply to share what we learned from Moe with everyone who contacts us. But mostly, we feel honored to be able to help.
The ultimate goal of our Academy is to help you get what you need to improve. But on a deeper level, the real outcome is that you enjoy the process and your life improves, just as my life improved after knowing Moe. In my opinion Moe gave my life back to me. After understanding this, I feel that by learning the things that Moe so graciously shared with me, your life will be better and more enjoyable. That is what Moe did for me, and it is for that reason that I feel that teaching others is a privilege and a responsibility that Tim and I do not take lightly.
Natural Golf and Me
But even since the formation of the Graves Golf Academy, I still hold a place in my heart for Natural Golf (although now maybe just nostalgic). In my initial involvement with the company, it had great potential. I have much history there. Between 1994 and 2000, I was so heavily involved with Natural Golf Corporation that I was featured on the Golf Channel’s “Golf Academy Live” teaching Moe Normans’ golf swing. I was also involved in many of the Natural Golf Corporation instructional products including “Golf Reform is at Hand”, “A Lifetime of Better Golf”, “Faults and Fixes” and “Driving for Distance”. This was part of my attempt to work with Natural Golf in the formation of an instruction company.
As a side note, being involved with these productions was great, but Natural Golf only took a very small part of the instructional material we wrote and included this in their products. This is why Tim and I made the decision to produce our own instructional material in the “Total Game Overview” and now “7 Principles Series”. To tell of Moe’s swing, you cannot just tell a part, you must teach the entirety. I felt that needed to be told, not just a part or pieces here and there. As Tim likes to say, “In an hour of our videos, we’ll give you 60 minutes of instruction, no fluff – just instruction.” I was lucky to get 15 minutes in every hour in the NG productions.
My motives were simple. Tell as many people about Moe Norman’s golf swing, develop the finest most instructive teaching method and materials, and help instructors develop their abilities to teach this information. The focus was completely on instruction and listening to students and customers to learn how we could help them.
Originally, Natural Golf was a company teaching “The simplest way to hit a ball on the ground with a stick”. Moe was the validation of the science of Natural Golf. It was a beautiful fit. Natural Golf had the science and Moe was the model. It was an exciting time for me, until 1998.
It was at that time that a major shift happened in Natural Golf. It is easy to see what happened now. But back then, the struggling company had taken on new investors who unfortunately knew little about the business of golf instruction. Their focus became profit margins and golf club sales profits were on the top of their list. With club sales as the main revenue source instruction went to the bottom.
All of my, (and many others) hard work in developing instruction around Moe’s golf swing was becoming diluted. (During a meeting, the CEO even went as far as to say that “we are moving away from Moe Norman as the model for our (Natural Golf) swing.”) The company leadership was distorting the truth. The fact was that Moe did not have non-tapered grips. (He overlapped for all of his competitive life.) Moe did NOT grip the club in the palm of the lead hand. (He gripped the club in the fingers of the lead hand, palm of the trail hand.). All that I had learned from Moe was becoming corrupted by the greed to sell clubs. Natural Golf’s “equipment sales” mania drove them to cram the golf swing into a “neat” little package called the four fundamentals. In their desire to sell more equipment, Moe’s golf swing had become a gambit to sell clubs.
Now, don’t get me wrong. Until the breakage and fitting problems of 2000, 2001 and 2003, Natural Golf clubs were improving. A bit over priced maybe, but the equipment had some merit. The problem was an integrity issue. Was selling clubs helping people learn to play better golf? And the ploy to use Moe as a way to sell clubs infuriated me. It ate at my soul. Selling clubs for Natural Golf stole my enthusiasm for helping people. It was a betrayal. Even Moe, before his death, told me to “Stay away from Natural Golf”. (He must have known. They must have taken something away from him too.)
My relationship with Natural golf became strained. This turning of company focus was a major turning point for me. Between 1998 and 2000, I found myself struggling to figure out if I was doing the right thing. I felt as though I was not being honest. I knew in my heart that I could not deliver Moe’s message from the constraints of the Natural Golf business model. The company began rating their instructors on club sales. In other words, if you sold the most clubs, you were the best instructor. I couldn’t honestly tell Moe’s message and sell Natural Golf clubs.
Now I may be crossing the line here but I challenge any Natural Golf Instructor out there to convince me that they want to sell clubs for a living. If they do, they are not living their own truth. If they are honest with themselves, they will find that what they really want to teach Moe Norman’s swing and help people because that is what they believe in. The problem is that the company created a compensation structure that is heavily (almost completely) dependent on club sales. This “forced” the instructors to focus their intention on selling students clubs. It wasn’t their fault. They were trying to teach, but it was in their best interest financially to sell clubs. As for me, I couldn’t continue to do it. It was not the truth for me. The truth also included letting the student decide which club he/she wanted to hit rather than someone deciding for them.
So, with our trust in living our truth, Tim and I decided to take a step toward what we now know was based on integrity. It was based on our hearts telling us to do the right thing. It was that year that Tim and I took a step back from our full time professional touring schedule and traveled to Santa Fe, New Mexico and held the first Graves Golf School.
It has been almost five years since that school. And for the last five years, we have been delivering Moe’s message. Our challenge has been finding ways to help everyone in an efficient quick way so that we can help “short cut” the process so that we can save you the trial and error of making all of the mistakes we have made and that others continue to make. And we have also learned many things.
We have learned that teaching golf is an important responsibility. This responsibility is not about a quick fix or selling clubs because we know, from experience, that clubs are just a piece of the puzzle and by themselves, do not reach our (instructor/student) desired outcome.
We have learned that the delivery of the teaching is a critical step. This includes WHAT is being delivered and WHO delivers it. One of the most challenging things for Tim and I is helping everyone who is requesting our help from around the world. We often get approached by students about training other people as instructors so that they can “spread the word” about our teachings. But it is not quite that simple. We believe that great teaching must start at the beginning. Correct information is important. The order you learn it is just as important. The beginning is UNDERSTANDING. Without understanding, you can not go forward. The goal is that instructors lead you down a path of improvement that is founded on solid mechanics and correct information.
Each one of us has had great instructors in our lives. Many of my best teachers did not come with plaques on the wall or graduation papers. This might be the most important part of this message to you. Just as Moe was a great instructor to me, I learned that great instruction comes from the heart of the instructor. It is where the truth comes from. Great instruction is forged with dedication, sculpted with passion and polished with hard work. It is with this form that instruction presents not from the instructor but THROUGH him.
No “certification” can make an instructor, it is not necessary. Real instruction forms in the heart of the instructor through experiences. Once informed, the instructor becomes the messenger because to tell the truth benefits those who hear it and the instructor feels compelled to help others with what he knows. Furthermore, this “message” can not and should not be distorted with any other motivation which includes selling clubs. In a recent conversation with the “Chief” of Natural Golf, I said “…we (the Graves Golf Academy) are an instruction company. That is where we stand. As a student of Moe and his protégé, I teach the fundamentals of Moe Norman a man known for his genius golf swing.
If we, (GGA and Natural Golf) ever have a relationship, it will start and end with helping people learn Moe’s swing.” (And since Natural Golf now offers the Moe Norman Fundamentals Golf Schools, maybe they finally heard me). If they can teach his swing with passion and integrity, I fully support their efforts. Only time will tell.
Now, since our separation from Natural Golf, our instruction is clear and to the point. Our videos are clear and precise information with only ONE thing in mind: helping you learn the game of golf beginning with Moe Norman’s golf swing. In these five years, we have helped thousands of people find a better way to play golf and our instructional videos are extremely well received.
The secret here is just solid truthful instruction with no hidden “agendas. Our goal is to deliver what we promise. This promise is to help you in any way we can whether it be experiences of video production, e- tips, lessons website information or schools.
From one student to another, my advice to you is clear. Go forward with an open mind. Listen. Pay attention to your intuition and the truth will be unmistakable. My hope for you is that in a short period of time, you can “hit from the same tee” as Moe and experience “The Feeling of Greatness”.
I look forward to seeing all of you at a future event.
Todd Graves Co-Founder, Graves Golf Academy