The concept of "natural golf" seems to be, at first, an oxymoron. Or, if you prefer, just moronic.
How can there be a "natural" approach to a game that repeatedly has been described over the years as so "unnatural?" If there is an easier way to strike a golf ball, wouldn't one of the game's legendary teachers have come up with it already?
But, like all new promises to make your swing easier, but not necessarily more affordable, this one has its proponents.
Natural golf was "invented" by a man named Moe Norman, who has a reputation for being one of the game's maverick teachers.
Still, you have to be dubious of anyone who claims he can "give the world talent," which is what Norman does on his Web site www.naturalgolf.com. He claimed the inspiration for the approach came years ago when a carpenter showed him how he gripped a hammer. Understand, Moe is from Canada.
Natural golf promises the "simplest swing" in golf, but it sounds pretty complicated. You grip the club almost like you would a baseball bat, and the wide, "natural" stance reminds me of a stink-bug.
The natural golfer faces the ball at the moment of impact: "This is a significant departure from conventional golf, which requires its rotation of legs, torso and hips," says the instructions at the Web site.
Most of the conventional teachers I contacted had never heard of natural golf, and the few who had would not comment on the record.
Casey Eberting, who runs a school out of Dallas/Ft. Worth, did say he teaches a swing similar to the "natural" swing, but only to those with physical handicaps.
There is a free natural golf video, which I couldn't make any sense of, and of course there are lessons, instructional packages and special clubs - all for a price.
Apparently, there are many people willing to pay.
There are quite a few success stories, if you believe what natural golfers say on various forums.
"Natural Golf is definitely not a gimmick," said a golfer named Mike. "It is a legitimate way to hit a golf ball. In my life I have taken lessons from multiple teachers who taught multiple different methods. I learned the Ballard method, Leadbetter, and Haney methods, but never seemed to improve."
Mike said he took up natural golf four years ago and has improved his handicap by more than 50 percent.
"My goal is to become a scratch golfer," he said. "I definitely recommend it to anybody who has struggled with their game, and is willing to give something new a try."
There are many other positive comments.
"Fortunately, (natural golf) is not for suckers," said one. "It does work. There are hundreds, actually thousands, of us that have proven it works. But you need to truly believe in it and keep at it."
Others aren't so sure.
One "natural" said he was having trouble off the tee: "You can't play this way," he said. "It's too humiliating, not to mention no fun."
One golfer modified the recommended natural practice method by hitting balls off a bar stool.
He didn't say whether he was in a bar or on a golf course at the time.
Skeptical, I went out to the driving range and hit two buckets of balls, one with my conventional swing and one with the "natural" swing. Granted, this was without much instruction, instructional packages or special clubs.
I liked the idea of forgetting all the technical stuff I'd pretended to learn through the years, and just grabbing the club like a lumberjack grabs an axe. In truth, the results weren't much different from my usual swing.
I did get a few weird looks from other golfers, but that's natural for me.
May 2, 2005
Veteran golf writer Tim McDonald keeps one eye on the PGA Tour and another watching golf vacation hotspots and letting travelers in on the best place to vacation.
We all love golf course rankings, but there's quite a bias involved, huh? Host a major championship and you're basically guaranteed a spot on the list. What about the average duffer who's more impressed with the beer list than the slope/rating - or prefers friendliness over the fine, imported lotion in the locker room? Where's our list, hackers? Answer: Right here.
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