Back in the late 90’s, I would often drive to Titusville, Florida and meet Moe Norman at Royal Oak golf club to practice. Tracking him down wasn’t difficult but talking to him was. Moe didn’t have a phone so I would have to set up the meeting by calling Neil Hunt, the head pro in the Royal Oak shop. I asked Neil to tell Moe that I would be arriving at 10 O’clock. Neil would then tell Moe when I would be arriving and, like clockwork (forgive the pun), Moe would always be there waiting.
From where I was staying in Orlando, it was a forty-five-minute drive which sometimes took over an hour. On this particular day the drive took an hour and a half. When I arrived, Moe was agitated.
“Ten O’clock, where have you been pal, where have you been?” Moe asked.
“Traffic Moe. Terrible traffic on the Bee-Line.” I answered.
The Bee-Line was highway 528 a stretch of road the East from Orlando directly to the Florida coast. Moe wasn’t satisfied with my excuse.
Moe mumbled as we walked into the clubhouse to get a coke. “Ten O’clock, Ten O’clock, you know the Bee-Line, always busy, always busy.”
Moe had an affinity for time often wore two watches and sometimes three. (Thanks to my friend Larry Olson. I’ll save that story for another time). He always became frustrated when I was even one minute late.
We drank a coke and to distract him I randomly chatted about how busy the world is getting. It took a few minutes to sidetrack him from obsessing on my lateness. Luckily, it worked.
As usual, our conversation hooked back to the golf swing and eventually we walked across the green to the range. Any golf swing discussions captured Moe’s attention. He loved to talk about it, especially with me. He knew how fanatical I was about his swing.
In typical fashion, I stood and watched as Moe started with wedge, crisply hitting perfectly straight shots painting a stripe in the sky. Each ball on exactly the same trajectory. He moved to a seven iron. Now the line was lower. I remember the piercing snap of each strike.
After about the fourth shot Moe turned to me and said, “I don’t know how to swing it badly. This is all I know”. He immediately turned, with his club in his left hand, dragged another ball from the pile and “thwack” struck another one on a pipeline.
After knowing Moe for almost six years, this was just another display of incredible ballstriking. I had become used to it, but I never got used to Moe’s definition of it. He always had a way of describing the indescribable.
What Moe was describing was how he had grooved his swing to a level of consistency where, he had only one neurological pattern. Like riding a bike. He didn’t think about any of it.
I knew how Moe became a ball-striking machine. That was easy to understand. He hit millions of balls. As Ben Hogan so eloquently put it “He dug it out of the dirt.” What I wondered was; how can I do it without working so hard? What could I do to make it easier?
What is the absolutely, without a doubt, one hundred percent effective, best way to practice?
Here’s the thing. We all know that we have to practice learning something. That is a given. But what is practice anyway? Isn’t practice for learning? If so, then learning what? It was the “what” that had me asking Moe so many questions.
That’s when I asked, “How did you learn your swing so well that you don’t think about it Moe?”
“Hit your positions, practice your positions” Moe said as he raked another ball from the pile – “thack”.
“Not just your swing positions, but all positions”, Moe added.
There it was. Another subtly. Moe was talking about his address position. I was typically focusing on swing positions and Moe was referring to ball position and foot position. Moe was referring to what I now call the “little-big” things that are so often ignored.
The main little-big things are ball position, foot position, stance width and distance from the ball. The final little-big thing is to have the proper shaft lean (hands forward) at address. This only works if you have all of the main things. There were many times when I have a bad round. I used to blame my swing but soon realized that most of time it was because of an incorrect ball position.
Moe didn’t worry about these things anymore. At some point, he figured out all of these “little” things when he “memorized” his swing.
This answered my question of what is the absolute best way to practice? I realized that mastering the little things is exactly how you get better – faster. When you can stop thinking about the little-big things, you are on your way to perfecting your swing, like Moe.
The day I was late with Moe was the day I realized that all I had to do was build something that would help me memorize the little-big things. That was my inspiration to develop the alignment and ball position trainer, the ABT. The ABT is designed to be positioned on the ground every time I practice so I could build consistency into my positions. It helped me focus on my swing and not the little things.
Being late for my practice session with Moe was nerve racking. Even though the day got off to a rough start, nothing was more fun that discussing the golf swing with Moe and watching him demonstrate ballstriking perfection. Best of all, it inspired the ABT which I still use today.
This week Graves Golf is running a promotion on the ABT. You can find the special here: