GOLF TEACHING PRO®
The Semi-Mysterious Golf Instructor
USGTF Course Director, Guyton, Georgia
Norwood became a golf professional in 1910. He was in the era of
Harry Vardon, Francis Ouimet, Walter Travis Jr., and other greats.
He gained his fame by teaching Horton Smith, Charlie Sifford, Marilynn
Smith, Mac O'Grady, and many present and future pros. To the men
and women pro golfers of that era, he was very well known. Strange
as it may seem though, he was not that famous to the general public.
Back then, golf teachers were not as well-recognized as they are
today. Somehow, he seemed to have been bypassed in recognition.
in Norwood's life, Stanley Blicker wrote a book on the “Norwood
System.” Unfortunately, the book was scrambled with a lack of progression
in the skill process. The book seems to be written in code, and
may well be the reason Norwood did not receive the recognition he
deserved. If willing however, the reader can receive valuable information
on the golf swing as his teachings were well ahead of his time.
of the Norwood swing
The golf swing of his era was into a big body turn or rotation with
strong hand action. Joe's swing philosophy was to eliminate body
rotation and hand action. Joe claimed that 90 percent of golfing
errors were caused by body rotation. He wanted little or no body
rotation. The body is to enter into the swing after impact by following
with the follow-through. The body is to be still at impact for better
precision to the shot. Passive hands and no body rotation are the
basis of the Norwood swing.
The grip is the same for all clubs, even the putter. In fact, Joe
desires a round grip on the putter for a consistent feel to all
clubs, driver to wedge to putter. The thumb and forefinger of each
hand control the club. This helps to give a light feel to the grip
as opposed to the squeezing action of the hands; particularly, the
palms. By griping with the thumb and forefinger first and then letting
the remainder of the fingers take their positions lightly, the grip
becomes lighter in feel. The thumbs are pulled up to a short position
and are not lying long on the shaft. The short thumb helps to give
a firm or locked grip. By keeping the last three fingers of the
hands light on the grip with the thumb and forefinger firm, the
right elbow is freer for strong swing action. Norwood teaches the
overlapping, interlocking and baseball grips. His placement of the
hands is the important factor. The left hand is strong by being
well turned to the right, so that the left wrist is concave. He
then wants the hands lowered closer to the ground more than usual.
He claims the position of the left wrist, being low at address and
concave, should give the left arm and hand a look similar to a golf
club, as if the arm is the shaft and the hand is the club head sticking
out. He then places the right hand high on top of the shaft. Remember,
the grip is still firm with the thumb and forefinger of each hand.
The feet are the base of the swing. The legs hold the body for the
often-called “quiet” position. The feet and legs give power to the
golf swing, by stabilizing the body movement into a still position
for the strong arm and shoulder action. Body movement is detrimental
to power, consistency in shot making, and accuracy. Norwood also
places the right leg from the knee to the foot in a straight line,
perpendicular to the ground and holding 70 percent of the body weight.
The inward knock of the left knee puts the right hip higher than
the left hip. The right leg maintains this position for the backswing.
The right foot (back foot) is perpendicular to the target line while
the left foot (front foot) is pointing out at a 45-degree angle.
Oddly, there is no mention of ball position for the shots. Passive
hands in the swing are achieved by lowering the hands at address
more than usual, so that the toe of the clubhead is slightly up.
This sets the arms in a hanging-straight-down position, with a strong
angle at the wrists from the straight left arm and golf club. This
means the arms are not out in front of the body, but fairly close
to the body. The hands are now locked into a preset position for
the swing. With no hand movement, the arms swing to the top and
the wrists will be in a cocked position, with no movement of the
wrists to achieve this position. The cocking was present at address.
Take a club and try it. There is no wrist movement, and the wrists
are cocked at the top and ready to go.
Joe preaches that the golfer must stay down on the shot. This means
staying down for the backswing, as in the address position, and
going even lower on the downswing. The golfer must not come up on
the shot. The legs are not moved in starting the swing, except the
left leg is knocked in slightly into a backward press. There is
no forward press. This backward press of the left leg will let the
right hip raise slightly on the backswing, and then lower on the
downswing, as the left hip rises. The famous Mike Austin, who still
holds the longest drive in competition, stresses this move.
Most golfers over-swing in trying for distance. Norwood demands
a three-quarter backswing, as the three-quarter swing will give
the same distance as the long over-swing power stroke. Don Trahan
did a study and verified the accuracy of this statement.
Joe wants the right elbow close to the body throughout the swing
as Ben Hogan did. The right elbow is the key to power and accuracy.
For the backswing the right arm is swung back to a horizontal and
not a vertical position. The right elbow is at a 45-degree angle.
Norwood loved baseball, especially the baseball swing, as he felt
it was a variation to the golf swing.
The hands and arms control the club while the feet provide the balance.
All the moves down to the ball are with the arms and shoulders.
Hit down, or “hit doon,” as Joe says, to use your arms and legs.
Leave your body at home. This may be a slight exaggeration, but
it does give the essence of the swing. Pulling or pushing the golf
club are the only two ways to hit a golf ball. Norwood recommends
the push. Pulling the club with the left arm causes a rotating action
by the body. With untrained legs, the body easily rotates and feels
natural. Despite this natural feel, it is a poor stroke. Practice,
and more practice, is essential to prevent pulling the swing.
The first move on the downswing is the Vardon move of dropping the
hands down towards the right heel before any other movement. This
is a short move, but it is important in preventing hitting over-the-top
and cutting into the ball. Make this dropping move and the swing
takes care of itself. In the downswing the golfer swings down and
under his hips.
Modern thinking is to hit against a solid left side. If a golfer
takes a golf stance in a doorframe with his left leg and upper body
against the frame and swings his arms like a golf swing, he will
feel the body swing into the left side, a solid left side with no
rotation or swaying forward. Adrian Gideon, a biomechanics scientist
(the study of human movement) with the USA Olympic teams, reinforces
this hitting into the solid left side in his video, The Biomechanics
of the Golf Swing. With no body rotation, Joe wants the golfer to
hold the left arm and hit it with the right arm. Tommy Armour, of
playing and teaching fame, stressed the same procedure. Joe claims
that some body rotation will occur but it is not a conscious move.
Back For Impact
Norwood wanted the body to stay behind the ball at impact by staying
on a flat right foot at impact. This helps to keep the body still
at impact. This procedure leads to the famous “sit-down” position,
where the knees seem to separate wider at impact as the body lowers
into impact. Sam Snead and Ben Hogan were highly noticeable with
this sit-down or “squat.” This sit-down position also helps the
body in being still for impact. Joe stresses this position, as he
claims the body at impact is lower than at address. This position
lowers the hips into the thighs to aid in balance.
From the hands dropping into the slot, the right hip drives down
into the right leg, which does not move. During the backswing, the
left shoulder goes down to put solid feeling into the right hip.
The right hip is now ready for its move, and the feeling of the
move is as follows: take the stance. Place the right hand on the
right hip or hip pocket. Now push down and forward with the butt
of the right hand, and you should feel the hips go down into the
squat position like Hogan and Snead for impact. The right leg does
not move forward and stays in position with the right heel flat
on the ground.
It is interesting to note that Norwood uses the hammer action of
hitting a nail. Kuykendall used this image and feel in inventing
his Natural Golf swing. Hammer a nail and you should feel how the
wrist is locked as you hit the nail with the arm. The elbow extends,
the wrist stays locked and the nail is struck. Try hitting the nail
with the wrists and you will notice how difficult it is to hit the
nail square and with power. Use the wrists and the nail may well
be struck on an angle to bend the nail. Some recent teachings have
even stressed to hammer the ball (like a nail) with the image in
the mind of a nail through the center of the ball. You strike the
“nail” to the target.
There is a controversy on whether the golf swing is mechanics or
feel. Norwood sums this up easily: you have to learn the mechanics
and then you get the feel. Relying on feel can be elusive, especially
when one loses the feel for the swing during a round of golf. Feel
must be acquired by learning the knowledge of the mechanics of the
swing. This is like a piano player who must learn the scales and
other procedures to acquire a feel for playing. Regaining the feel
process can be difficult, as one will often start thinking too much
and pressing the action. Norwood recommended to always go back to
fundamentals and knowledge in order to regain feel.
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