I enjoy talking to all of you about the golf swing. I find that many of you are as passionate as I am about Moe and his easier way to play. Sometimes you might even defend the Single Plane Swing against attacks from conventional instructors who might say that the SPS is Idiosyncratic to Moe and only he can do it. Or they might say that you can’t achieve as much speed as a conventional swing yet they offer no scientific evidence to back-up their theory.
They almost always conclude that since nobody is using it on the PGA Tour that it must be inferior to what the PGA players are doing.
Let me restate the scientific facts from my research to propose that Moe Norman’s golf swing is 1) an easier way to play 2) easier on the body / back, especially for the aging golfer and 3) is more consistent and 4) is able to achieve equal amounts of speed to a conventional golf swing.
Moe’s golf swing is an easier way to play.
The goal of all golf swings is to achieve impact consistently with a square cub-face and power. To tackle this – you must define “easy” and an assumption must be made – that easier means less movement, rotation and stress on the body. Therefore, to prove a swing is easier you must prove that it achieves impact with less rotation, less movement (lateral and rotational) and less stress to the body.
To do this a comparison must be made. This posed a problem. Who do you chose as a “conventional” model? There are literally hundreds of golf swing variations on the PGA Tour. Finding one model is impossible. To solve this problem I connected with Dr. Rob Neal of Golf Biodynamics – who had compiled thousands of conventional golf swings – to develop a “composite” of the ideal swing. I used this “composite” as a starting point for comparison.
The way biomechanical analysis works is pretty simple. You place a sensor on the main parts of the body including the head, Torso, Pelvis, lead arm and Lead hand. Each part of the body is calibrated with the target line being based at “0”. For example, if the shoulders were perfectly square to the target line, they would be at “0” rotation. In the backswing they might be at -80 degrees at the top of the swing and then +35 at impact. The positive numbers represent rotation toward the target and negative numbers represent rotation away from the target – all based on the “0” starting position.
Lateral Movement (Sway) and Thrust Data
Lateral Movement is pretty self explanatory. Each body part either moves in a linear way either toward or away from the target. Thrust is a little less clear. Thrust is where the body part moves toward or away from the ball (closer or further away). For example, the head might move up during the backswing and then down and towards the ball into impact. This would be Thrust.
One of the most important factors of the golf swing is the Kinematic sequencing. Kinematic Sequencing is really about the timing and speed of the body parts and when and how fast they move relative to each other.
The ideal sequence of the downswing is the following:
- Lower body moves first.
- Torso moves second
- Arms move third.
- Hands move fourth.
- Club moves last.
The Kinematic sequence / timing sequence has some critical variables. For example, if you fail to rotate enough in the backswing, you obviously will not be able to produce speed in the downswing – due to the fact that there is no rotational “distance”. If the torso doesn’t have rotational “distance” speed it can not effectively pull the arms. Furthermore, the arms do not have enough “time” to generate speed.
Lag is a term used for the differential between backward movement of the arms and club and forward movement of the body. Lag occurs because of proper sequencing of the lower body and upper body where as the upper body, arms and club are moving back the lower body begins movement forward.
“I’m going back as I’m coming down” – Moe Norman
With the help of Dr. Neal, Jim McLain became known for the term X-Factor. X-factor describes the differential between the torso rotation and the pelvis rotation in the backswing. The difference between the two is a major factor for lag whereby, without this differential, the lower body does not have enough time or rotational space to move first – thus limiting movement and speed production.
Dr. Neal developed a proprietary software to measure golf swing movement in detail. His software can literally calculate hundreds of data points and variables. If you follow my instruction, you know how I like to take the most complicated things and break them down to simple and understandable elements. For clarification, simplification and to make sure the focus is on the most important variables, I have identified FOUR main components to how the Single Plane Swing simplifies the golf swing.
A fundamental factor is the spine position at impact. Every good golfer has 25 degrees of spine tilt and around 35 degrees of torso rotation. The key question is how much movement is required to get to this position? This is where the analysis gets interesting and critical.
Data Point 1 – Spine Tilt
“I have less moving parts, my swing is like a pendulum” – Moe Norman
Conventional Golf Swing – The average conventional golfer starts with approximately 6 degrees of spine tilt at address. This requires him to create 19 degrees (4 degrees back and 15 forward) of tilt in the backswing and downswing to achieve impact.
Single Plane Golf Swing – Moe started with 15 to 20 degrees of spine tilt at address. His head could remain in position as he simply moved his lower body forward into impact. This created 10 degrees of additional tilt in the spine.
Datapoint 2 Pelvis movement downward vs. pelvis movement up.
“No stress. Buckle, sit, slide, bump” – Moe Norman
A significant difference measured between the conventional golf swing and the Single Plane golf swing was how the pelvis moved into the impact sequence of the swing. During the downswing, the pelvis of the conventional golfer moved 2 to 3 inches upward in the transitional to impact phase of the swing. The single plane swing showed a level to downward movement of the pelvis (.9 inches downward movement). This data verifies the upward push of the pelvis onto the spine where as the Single Plane swing the lead kneed staying flexed into impact, reduces compression on the spine.
Furthermore, during the Single plane swing, the pelvis rotation mirrored the shoulder rotation showing a minimal “shear” of the spine vs. pelvis movement from the downswing into impact.
Datapoint 3: Zero Rotation of Trail arm into impact and Release
“No twisting, no turning. I can eat off of the clubface (througswing)” – Moe Norman
A significant finding during the Single plane swing was how the Trail arm moves during the swing. During the Swing Motion, The Trail arm Rotation was minimal – if not existent both during the backswing and through swing. I found it extremely interesting that the trail arm did not rotate even on release of the club.
In comparison to the Conventional Swing, where since the trail hand is rotated on the top of the club at the start of the swing, the trail hand must rotate in the backswing and then re-rotate in the downswing to square the clubface.
Datapoint 4: Shaft lift at impact
“I can keep the club square 22 inches past the ball, low to the ground – longer than anyone” – Moe Norman
A conventional golfer must, as they approach impact, lift the shaft to shallow the clubpath. The data shows the average shaft lift for the conventional golfer to be approximately 2 to 3 inches (similar to the amount of lift of the pelvis). The Single Plane swing showed minimal shaft-lift into impact (approximately .5 inches). The shaft lift results show that the ideal spacing (distance from the ball) and setting up the club on the impact plane at address reduces the need for a lifting of the club into impact.
The primary objective of this analysis was to compare the Conventional Swing to the Single Plane swing to determine the differences and verify the hypothesis of the Single Plane swing being an easier swing (simplicity) and less stressful on the body and back.
The data clearly shows that there is less movement during the single plane swing WITHOUT loss of speed. The sequencing of events, kinematic sequence data, exactly matched up with the conventional sequence model regarding speed production during the swing. What the data did show was that there was less spine movement from a Primary (DTL) and Secondary (FO) perspective.
Less movement of the spine and rotation of the right arm indicates both repeatability, consistency and (from a stress standpoint) less compression and shear (rotation while compressing) on the lower back.
Speed is a function of Rotation and Kinematic Sequence. Both the Conventional Golf Swing and the Single Plane Swing have equal amounts of rotation and they sequence the exact same way. The only difference is the pelvis lift / shaft lift. There is nothing in the Data that shows that without pelvis lift the swing slows down or conversely, if you have more pelvis lift, the club speeds up.
If you ask me, other than spine tilt at address, the main difference between two planes and one plane is simply a spatial one where the conventional golfer stands close to the ball and must “jump” into impact. This “jump” is a straightening of the lead leg to push the lower body upward – causing pelvis lift.
My data shows that both swings need a stable lead hip so that the pelvis can “slow” down to allow the torso, arms and hands to speed up. The conventional golf swing locks the lead leg to stop the pelvis. The Single Plane Swing moves into a flexed lead knee. Both stabilize the lead hip. As long as the lead hip is stable, the torso can rotate and allow the arms to produce speed.
Finally, I don’t see the single plane swing as a “radical” way to swing a golf club. From the perspective of biomechanics, I see a better, more efficient and safer way to get through impact.