There is an old story of a boilermaker who was hired to fix a vast steamship boiler system that was not working well. After listening to the engineer’s description of the problems and asking a few questions, he went to the boiler room. He looked at the maze of twisting pipes, listened to the thump of the boiler and the hiss of escaping steam for a few minutes, and felt some pipes with his hands. Then he hummed softly to himself, reached into his overalls and took out a small hammer, and tapped a bright red valve, once. Immediately the entire system began working correctly, and the boilermaker went home.
When the steamship owner received a bill for $1,000, he complained that the boilermaker had only been in the engine room for fifteen minutes, and requested an itemized bill. These is what the boilermaker sent him:
For tapping with hammer: $ .50
For knowing where to tap: 999.50
(Story took from: Knowing Where to Tap, by Tom Dotz)
Golf instructors are Boilermakers. We must know where to tap to get the best results. We usually tap with mechanical swing thoughts. Something to the effect of “Move your hand to the right” or “Turn the hips more in the backswing.”
However, most people are afraid of swing mechanics. They think that knowing too much about the swing and changing mechanical things will make them rigid and procedural. Students are so scared that if we tap too much, we will make the game challenging and confusing. Thanks to Dr. Neal who I contacted three years ago, I have discovered just the opposite. The more I know about the biomechanics, the easier it becomes to know where to tap the faster my students improve. Dr. Neal has deepened my understanding of why Moe was so great.
It started when I wanted to compare Moe Norman’s swing to the conventional swing.
To make this comparison, I didn’t know where to start. What exactly is a conventional swing? There were thousands of traditional rhythms to choose from ranging from Fred Couples to Tiger Woods. Many traditional swings were somewhat similar but still all very different. Some players held their hands low, and others are higher. I needed an “average” conventional model that matched what a typical golf instructor would teach. These are where Dr. Neal’s expertise came in.
Over the years, Dr. Neal has measured and analyzed thousands of golfers to develop what he calls a “composite” model. The composite is the ideal range of movement for a conventional golf motion. These are exactly what was looking. With Dr. Neal’s composite model, I could directly compare his model against the Moe Norman model and quantify the movements to determine WHY his swing was a more relaxed (simple) way to play golf.
The possible theory of our study was that the goal of every golf swing is to produce speed and consistency at impact. Both of these elements are important for an efficient golf swing as all good golfers achieve an adequate amount of speed and a relatively repeatable impact moment.
With Speed and Consistency as our basis; to simplify the golf swing, you must prove one or all of the following: 1) Reduce or eliminate rotation of the parts of the body between address and impact. 2) Reduce or eliminate the stress on the body between address and impact. 3) Reduce or eliminate movement of the body between address and impact.
What we discovered is what I consider one of the most profound discoveries of my mission to simplify golf.
What we discovered was that Moe Norman’s Single Plane swing simplified the motion of the golf swing in the following areas: 1) Reducing lead hand and arm rotation and eliminating trial hand rotation from address to impact, 2. Reducing stress on the back. 3) Removing body lift into effects, subsequently removing club shaft lift and 4) Quantitatively reducing the movement of the spine from address to impact.
Together we quantified simplicity and proved why Moe Norman discovered the easiest way to play golf.
Moe’s starting position establishes an ideal spacing from the ball. He starts the club shaft on the impact plane. By doing so, he could move the club into the backswing and return to impact with less movement. Moe’s Single Plane address is the foundation of his simplicity. This ideal spatial starting position allowed Moe to simplify the entire swing motion.
In non-scientific terms and without detailing all of the data, here is how Moe intuitively simplified golf.
- Moe Tilted his spine (at address) to assist in achieving impact.
From a face on view you see that Moe’s spine is tilted at approximately 15 degrees away from the target. Most conventional golfers have around 10 degrees of tilt. All good players have up to 25 degrees of tilt into impact. By Starting with more tilt at address Moe moved less from address to impact.
2. Moe’s trail hand did not rotate
A conventional golfer turns the trial hand approximately 13 degrees from address to impact. At address, Moe’s spine is more tilted, and his trail shoulder is lower than a regular golfer. These places the trailing arm in an “underneath” rotation when placed on the club. By placing the hand in this “underneath” position, Moe eliminated rotation of the trial hand from address to impact.
3. Moe reduced pelvis Rotation and eliminated pelvis lift
A conventional golfer rotates the pelvis between 25 and 55 degrees, lifting the pelvis
approximately 2 to 3 inches from
Address to impact. Moe’s shoulders were rotated on the shallow side of the corridor at 28 degrees at the effect, and not surprisingly, he eliminated pelvis lift – actually lowering his pelvis one inch.
When a conventional golfer swings he usually straightens the lead leg into impact. (This is the result of the lower two planes lifting into one plane). As the conventional golfer swings the arms and torso down, the straightening leg lifts the lower body upward as the golfer turns. This creates shear and compression on the lower back – often resulting in back pain.
Because Moe moved into impact with a flexed lead knee, he lowered his pelvis equal to his head movement. By dropping his lead knee, he took pressure off of his back eliminating the cause of most back pain.
Furthermore, I discovered that when it came to the rotations of the golf swing, Moe’s swing rotated on the lowest side of the conventional corridors. This included shoulders, torso, pelvis and lead arm rotations. With less rotation, there is less error, and less club faces rotations making it easier to return the club to impact.
I hear it every day – that a conventional golf instructor has found a “secret” or a simple fix to a traditional golf swing. After my research with Dr. Neal, I reinforced my belief that there is no fix to a conventional swing. The traditional swing is fundamentally more difficult than the Single Plane Swing.
I’m not saying that the conventional golf swing is wrong or ineffective. We saw them on the PGA Tour every day. What I am saying, however, is that the conventional swing is biomechanically more difficult to repeat than the Single Plane Swing. Moe discovered a more natural way to move the body to strike a golf ball.
As Moe said, “I have the simplest move in golf, I have less moving parts”. Thanks to Dr. Neal and his help, we now have science to prove it.