Moe Norman – Anatomical Assessment of his Golf Swing

Moe Norman’s Golf Swing – an Anatomical Analysis

Many visitors to this blog have suggested an assessment of Moe Norman’s (MN) golf swing. It’s easy to assess the manner in which the joints are positioned at the top of the backswing, versus how they are at impact, to comment on injury potential. However, it is important to study ball-flight in order to study which compensatory moves a golfer is making, in order to arrive at the ball, from his/her top of backswing position. Not that it matters, because the Minimalist Golf Swing will improve ball-flight for any skill-level of golfer, regardless of how good or bad they are (that will be a subject for another day).

Look at MN’s rear-view picture at the top of his backswing. The two main positions to study are the lateral flexion of the torso and the rotation of the shoulder.

The spine has left lateral flexion, so that the right side is higher. This, compounded with a tight right scapula, position the right shoulder in internal rotation. Besides the internally rotated right shoulder, he also does not have much width at his right elbow, and although it cannot be seen here, his right wrist is extended (bent backwards). Screen shot 2014-06-30 at 6.00.42 PM

A down-the line series of pictures shows the compensatory moves he makes from his top-of-backswing position to get to the ball. The very first move during the downswing is a pushing forwards (towards the ball) movement of the right shoulder. As the scapular muscles are strongly contracted to keep the scapula in its excessive retraction, the entire shoulder girdle moves forward as one unit, rather than allowing the arms to drop down at the start of the downswing.

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 5.06.07 PM

By the time the arms finally drop down, The right shoulder has come pretty far forward, so that his right shoulder is not ‘closed’ to his left, and he is therefore not arriving at the ball with an externally rotated shoulder, which would help the club arrive at the ball from the ‘inside’. What saves this swing from an over-the-top impact is the straightening of the right elbow combined with exaggerated shoulder flexion (right arm moving forward) towards the far-away ball!

Note: Moe Norman’s excessive distance from ball should typically produce a rather glancing blow at the ball for most golfers, but his given particular combination of movements and his very internally rotated right shoulder, at least his right elbow is able to straighten out, somehow. This might be a better option than Jim Furyk’s. Furyk also has a very internally rotated right shoulder, along with a backward bent (extended) right wrist, and both these joints are forced to straighten out at the last minute, and in a direction they are not designed to perform ideally from.

Screen shot 2014-07-08 at 5.11.13 PM

Moe Norman’s other idiosyncratic move, besides his excessive distance from the ball, is often termed his ‘single axis’ motion, which apparently refers not to any axis but to his swing plane, which has been shown to be virtually the same going back and through.

A similar swing plane made at the cost of joints positioned in a manner they are not designed to work best from, requires many downswing compensations.

The entire concept of swing plane should be redundant in golf for two reasons:
1. What we in golf term a ‘plane’ is not anything heard of in geometry. A Google result for ‘definition plane’ is “a flat surface on which a straight line joining any two points on it would wholly lie”. Now golf’s idea of a swing plane is that different body and/or club parts are supposed to lie on the same plane at different times!

2. Any club positions are a combination of several joint positions, so to discuss club positions such as swing plane at all seems redundant. So, for instance, an ‘across-the-line’ shaft is created by excessive body or arm rotation. Similarly a closed or open club face at the top is determined by left wrist position at the top, and so on. The Minimalist Golf Swing, if required to define any ‘plane’ during the swing, considers the plane to be that of the left (lead) upper-arm, which has a similar path in the back and through directions.

Special Note: Peter, the owner of the very popular forum ‘Single Axis Golf Forum’ on network54.com, explained what ‘single axis’ means in Moe Norman’s swing (some google hits show ‘axis’ being mixed up with ‘plane’ as regards MN’s swing!). See below for his comments and some additional questions/comments from an anatomical/biomechanical perspective:

Re Moe Norman from Single Axis Golf Forum:

‘Single axis’ is not a reference to swing plane. 

 When the grip is placed in the lifeline of the dominant hand, it creates a single axis, three lever system in the dominant arm. This allow for straight line hammer motions (an Ideal Mechanical Advantage stroke). – From US Patent 5,803,827 

 The only relevance of ‘plane’ is that the movement of the trail wrist into impact has no pronation or supination and therefore the ‘three lever system’ (forearm, hand & club) acts within a plane. 

Questions and comments from the minimalistgolfswingblog:

What would be the common ‘axis’ of rotation of the trail forearm, hand and club? Which is the common ‘plane’ that those joints all remain on into impact, and for how long are they on that plane?

Moe Norman’s ‘hammer’ is one way to straighten out the elbow, not the ideal way.

The elbow is one of the middle joints of the upper ‘closed kinetic chain’, which comprises both shoulders, elbows, forearms and wrists, when they hold onto a golf club. Middle joints (ie. not closest or furthest from the spine, to phrase it in lay terms) inevitably get ‘stuck’ in awkward positions when joints on either side are incorrectly moved.

So, when the trail (Moe’s right) shoulder is in internal rotation, the elbow is  unable to straighten on the sagittal plane, as it is meant to, based on its design. [Anyone performing a bicep curl does so in front of the body, not to the side, because that is how the elbow works best].

Some people jump up on their toes, some straighten or ‘early extend’ their spines, and in Moe’s case he pushes his trail arm forward (technically a shoulder flexion) in order to somehow straighten his right elbow. The ideal way for the elbow to straighten is when the trail shoulder has been kept in external rotation throughout the back- and downswings – not easy to do with most swing styles. Thus, most swings require some downswing compensatory move!

7 Responses to this post.

  1. Patrick's Gravatar

    Posted by Patrick on 08.07.14 at 10:38 pm

    Kiran, as a novice to bio-mechanical golf swing analysis, I would’ve guessed that Moe’s “pre-start” gave him the ability to point that right elbow down so the bicep could extend. How am I incorrect?

    My theory is that the best ball strikers do “better” bio-mechanical things more often than others and that Ben Hogan, Moe Norman, Lorena Ochoa, Babe Zaharias and Sorenstam all did good bio=mechanical stuff more often than there peers.

    Am I wrong on this?

  2. admin's Gravatar

    Posted by admin on 08.07.14 at 10:38 pm

    Patrick. Placing the club a few inches behind the ball at address does not control where the trail (in Moe’s case right) hand, arm and shoulder will move. Similarly, starting ‘inside’ will not control individual joint positions. In all sports we have gross-movement requirements and do not consider whether individual joints of the upper (arm) and lower (leg) kinetic chains, especially when they become ‘closed kinetic chains’ (ie. with ‘distal’ segments ie hands or feet attached to something and not free to move as 2 separate limbs).

    The best strikers make as unsound backswings as the rest of us, but have found a way to re-route their downswings to arrive at the ball from the inside. The problem with rerouting is that so many individual joints need re-positioning that there is no time to do it all when one’s swing looses rhythm when one is too fatigued or aroused.

    Mainly, once the ‘mechanics’ part is understood, all sports movement experts never worry about the ‘bio’ aspect!

  3. joel waldman's Gravatar

    Posted by joel waldman on 08.07.14 at 10:38 pm

    This isn’t specifically a comment on your post…just an empirical observation I have made comparing my more conventional swing to my execution of the mgs. Although I feel a bit “handcuffed” with such restricted body participation and hand height at top of swing, I am consistently achieving 98 to 101 mph with my radar device…while getting 95 to 97 on my conventional swings…and remember I am very new to mgs so my neural pathways are far from ingrained and I am “feeling” my way through the swing rather than just”doing it…aka NIKE”…and my trajectory is far better and my body hurts a lot less and I require almost no warmup even at 66 years of age…In my humble opinion, this is the swing of the future.(As soon as the current conventional teachers and players move on to that great golf course in the sky)

  4. Patrick's Gravatar

    Posted by Patrick on 08.07.14 at 10:38 pm

    Hi Joel! I have turned upon the orthodox golfing community and am in the process of terrorizing their villages!

    http://thesandtrap.com/t/72863/minimalist-golf-swing/36#post_1018460 One of their administrators has repeatedly not bothered to serially consider anything Kiran has shown. I liked Kiran’s stuff right away coming fro “The Golf Machine” perspective where thousands of swings are valid!

  5. Patrick's Gravatar

    Posted by Patrick on 08.07.14 at 10:38 pm

    Thanks for that clarity, Kiran. The “greatest” ball strikers like Hogan and Norman as you say “found a way to re-route their downswings to arrive at the ball from the inside.” Instead of starting with the “fresh thinking” of MGS as you have done, they hit millions of balls to train their bodies to do what their body does not naturally want to do.

    Norman was considered a prodigy for his ball-striking brilliance and shooting multiple “59’s” in competition-it is more correct to say it seems-that the Hogan/Norman triumphs were of the will over their physical limitations.

    With my newly reconstructed right knee, I find the MGS “Pre-sets” easily allow me to slip into the best possible impact positions for any shot shape I wish to produce with any club! My arm lift up my chest is simple as is my return to the ball with my right side below my left! Even with what feels to be a “half-speed” swing, I am hitting the end of the driving range net with my driver on the fly and 3-wood on the roll, 7iron is 160 and PW is 125.

    The MGS swing allows me to feel that all my force is focused “at the bottom” of each swing for a type of “ultimate lag” and the sound of the crack of impact matches the power of the shots. As a result of this new power, I have needed to take my putting/chipping to a new level using MGS. I believe that my “ok” rounds going forward will be near par and that several “59’s” are possible!

    Awesome! Such a joy!

    Patrick

  6. Patrick's Gravatar

    Posted by Patrick on 08.07.14 at 10:38 pm

    OK! First Round played with new knee today-drumroll-on a par 71 I shot a 39/42 making one birdie putt of 5 feet on hole 4 and missing “real” (within 30 feet) birdie chips/putts on holes 1,2, 5, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 14, 15, 16 and 17. My new knee did force me to really twist in and slap the club past the ball with the left arm. Back 9 putting was harder to balance due to new knee and swelling. while 4 some commented on distance and crisp sound of many of my hits!

    My balance was off but I love being able to bomb the ball and control it! Thanks Kiran!

  7. joel waldman's Gravatar

    Posted by joel waldman on 08.07.14 at 10:38 pm

    Hi Patrick…not sure if or when you might get this…my cell is 732 618 0242…would enjoy talking to you more about your minimalist observations…I love what it has done for my game…it sounds like we are of like mind. Kiran is too busy to bother with our little questions so it would be helpful to talk with another mgs’er

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