Your New Golf Swing?

If you knew with 100% certainty that throwing out your current swing and replacing it with a totally different swing would help you score better, would you give it a try? I think a lot of people would, with the only question being how long would it take to see results. Or course, this is fantasy-land, and nothing is certain with swing changes. Many pros have made even small tweaks to their swings and never returned to the success they once had with their original swings (e.g., Hunter Mahan, Mike Weir, Lydia Ko, list goes on).

Golf instructor Todd Graves was a protege of the late Canadian pro Moe Norman’s, and for those who haven’t heard of Norman, he has the reputation of being one of the best ball strikers in history. Graves’ videos on YouTube generate hundreds of thousands of views as he tries to convert us to Norman’s straight-armed, one-plane swing, which is very similar to Bryson DeChambeau’s swing. If you knew this would result in your hitting more greens, would you be willing to make the switch?

If Collin Morikawa’s swing is classical music, Moe Norman’s one-plane swing is punk rock. From the start, Norman’s setup is similar to DeChambeau’s: arms are extended so that from a down-the-line view, the arms and club form a straight line from the shoulders to the ball. Feet are set pretty far apart, and the upper body is tilted about 15 degrees away from the target. At impact, Graves says the front knee should remain bent, which is contrary to every other modern teacher who preaches straightening the front leg and rotating around that “posted up” leg. Both feet stay planted in their original position through the whole swing until well after impact. The whole thing looks like a beginner’s swing to the traditionalist, but Graves swears by its repeatability and accuracy.    

Here’s Graves’ video demonstrating the keys to the single-plane swing:

Graves claims that this is the best way to swing a golf club, and DeChambeau’s recent performance is at least one data point that would indicate he may be right. Pro golfers are notorious followers when something is proven to work (or even unproven – remember the deer antler spray craze from 2013?), so it will be interesting to see who the second player is to adopt something close to the Moe Norman swing. 

Even if we assume that the single-plane Norman swing is the best way to swing a club, one barrier to getting people to switch is how it looks. If you saw someone on the range practicing this swing, you’d assume they were a 25+ handicap player. Any tour player who switches to that swing had better be ready for some serious ridicule from their fellow pros. Golf isn’t the first sport to wrestle with a dilemma like this. Rick Barry, former NBA player and hall of famer, was probably best known for his two-handed, underhand free throw shooting (informally known as the “granny shot”, although no grannies have ever been photographed shooting this way). He ended up with the 4th highest career free throw percentage in the NBA. Yet despite this success, nobody else in the NBA was willing to endure the inevitable jokes that would be directed to them by teammates, opponents, or the media. Barry showed the world a better way to shoot free throws, and everyone actively chose a less successful method solely because of vanity. Will the single-plane swing be the same story?

For me, I’m not willing to invest the months it would take to ingrain a new swing approach, even if there are more pros who later validate the single-plane method. It’s inevitable that my ball-striking will be worse before it gets better, with no guarantee that I’ll emerge on the other side with the ability to hit more greens. As they say on Shark Tank, “and for that reason, I’m out.”

P.S. I can’t end this post without sharing a link to my favorite YouTube video of all time, which features Moe Norman. The video itself is great, but the comments from fierce defenders of Moe’s who have no sense of humor make it priceless. Enjoy…

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