I have said it many times – that Moe Norman did not understand the actual perfection that he had achieved.
He did not know his golf swing. When Jack Kuykendall, the scientist behind Natural Golf, explained the science to Moe he said “Thanks for showing me why I’m the best in the world”. Moe didn’t need to know the science to become the best in the world, which begs the question, can understand the science help you?
One of my greatest experiences was practicing with Moe. Observing the simplicity, power, effectiveness, and grace was mesmerizing. I couldn’t get enough of watching this perfection. However, no matter how much I watched, I didn’t learn how to swing like Moe until I tried to compare myself to him.
Moe would often explain his feelings. This helped me understand his swing from a different perspective, however, even Moe’s own feelings didn’t match what I observed in his swing. For example, he claimed that in his backswing, with a driver, he would keep the club on the ground 41 inches behind the ball. When he actually hit his driver, the club would move inside and above the ground. What Moe said and what actually happened were dramatically different.
Why would Moe say this if it weren’t true? The reason is that this is what Moe felt. the tilt of Moe’s torso and the extension of his arms in the backswing created a feeling of the club that moved very low the ground in the backswing. What I found most important about this information was that he felt extended into the first movement of the swing. This has biomechanical significance.
The Backswing Move
Even those who study golf swings tend to ignore the significance of the backswing motion mostly focusing on the sequencing, motion, and speed of the downswing. I have found that the backswing is critically important part of the downswing for many reasons. One of the most important reasons is that it “connects” the lead arm to the torso. There is a proper sequence to the backswing which allows for the proper downswing.
Before the backswing, the address position plays a major role. This is because the position of the spine (tilt) allows the lead arm to align with the club and form an alignment. Moe called this alignment the “rod”. Moe’s “rod” is connected to this lead shoulder. When Moe turns into the backswing, the straight line of the lead arm rod moves in the same relationship to the turn. The torso turns matches the arm rotation. This is where Moe felt the 41-inch “extension” into the backswing.
As Moe’s hips and torso continued to turn into the backswing the lead arm “rod” stayed connected to this torso turn. It stays connected throughout the entire backswing. As Moe completes his backswing and transitions into the downswing, this lead arm’s connection to the body is “pulled” by the tilted torso. This is why Moe felt that there was a dramatic “pulling” sensation with his left arm and that the right arm was “along for the ride”.
Moe’s feelings, although not exactly accurate, had important biomechanical significance. When he felt that the club was staying on the ground 41 inches behind the ball, he was referencing that it was connected to his torso rotation and tilt. This connection linked everything together as he turned his body into the backswing.
My description of the backswing is similar to Moe’s. I feel as though from address, everything moves together as the club moves naturally inward. The inward motion of the club is the natural rotation of the arm and club “rod” moving around the lead shoulder as it turns. The hips begin to stop their rotation around the stable trail knee. It is at this point that the trailing arm begins to fold and the arms lift upward as the torso continues to turn. The hands top at about shoulder height. The lead arm still feels connected to the turn of the lead shoulder. I never lose the connection.
As difficult as it is to explain the golf swing with words, the concept of connection is a good description of the feeling of how the lead arm can easily get pulled by the turn of the torso in the downswing. This connection continues as the rotation of the arms matches the speed of the rotation of the torso almost all of the way into impact.
I often tell my students that it is not necessary to know the details of your golf swing. The most important aspect of learning is doing.
I have found, however, that knowing the biomechanics of Moe’s helps me understand the “causes” and “effects” of movement. For example, if you hitting behind the ball is often caused by the lack of torso rotation. Lack of torso rotation is often caused by improper pelvis rotation and improper pelvis rotation is often caused from the lateral shift of the trail knee.
Understanding the sequence of the golf swing biomechanically can help you solve swing problems quickly and effectively, then you can feel the correct movement – the most important part of learning.
This is great! One sentence in your description caught my eye in particular. “The inward motion of the club is the natural rotation of the arm and club “rod” moving around the lead shoulder as it turns.” I recall that Moe had said the club moves underneath him. That is the sensation I feel in the backswing when I hit the ball crisply down the line. If I make this backswing movement in slow motion I can feel the pelvis rotating in a good way. By contrast, the lack of an underneath sensation in the backswing is associated with a certain amount of sliding rather than good rotation of the pelvis (into the backswing). The resulting shot is not so good. And so, the approach I have taken is to cultivate that underneath feeling along with checking to make sure my mechanics are correct (as instructed).
Does this make sense? Thanks Todd!
Makes perfect sense. The inward motion of the club- the natural rotation of the arm and club moving around the shoulder is an underneath movement because the spine it tilted forward toward the ball.
This may be a good thing for me. I now have an arthritic lead shoulder. (left) I can no longer rotate my lead arm around me like I use to. I can only continue rotation by allowing my hips and torso to complete the rotation. My swing plain now feels very flat to what it use to be with my old swing. However the ball flight is much straighter than it ever was before. But I am loosing some distance. Does this sound Correct?