The Single Plane Golf Swing
The Single Plane Golf Swing
EMBARKING ON THE JOURNEY MEETING MOE NORMAN
One of the lowest points in my career as a touring golf professional came in New Delhi, India, as far away physically and culturally as possible from my home in Oklahoma City.
I was twenty-four years old, playing in the 1991 Indian Open, an Asian Professional Golf Tour event. The narrow fairways of the Delhi Golf Club felt claustrophobic and dangerous. Many holes were framed on either side by twenty-foot-high thorn bushes inhabited by perilous creatures. If your ball strayed off the fairway, the caddies refused to retrieve it.
At one point, I was standing over a tee shot when a small, squirrel-like animal darted in front of my ball.
"What is that?" I exclaimed to my Indian caddy.
A mongoose, he said. "They are hunting the cobras on the golf course."
"Cobras?" I said, alarmed. "Have you seen any?"
"Oh yes," he said serenely. "And a few minute snakes."
"What the hell is a minute snake?"
"A very poisonous snake," he said. "If it bites you, you will die within a minute."
Along with feeling jumpy, I felt small, isolated, and very, very far from home. Not only that, I had lost confidence in my swing. By the fourth round, I was guessing something different on nearly every shot on how to hit one straight. I was petrified of hitting it off line-I was scared of snakes and my own golf swing.
Standing on the final tee with my head down, hands on my hips, I wondered, What am I doing here?
I came home disappointed but determined to get better and find a coach to help me develop a repeatable, reliable swing that would not deteriorate under the intense pressure of professional golf. My roommate, Bob Casper, the son of Billy Casper, encouraged me to search for someone I could relate to. After a few sessions with other well-known teachers, I selected Hank Haney. He worked with a number of big-name players, most notably PGA Tour player Mark O'Meara. I had never expected to work with a coach of Hank's caliber.
Although I had won five high school tournaments-including the conference championship-in my senior year at Putnam City North High School in Oklahoma City, I had not planned to be a touring professional playing to put food on the table. Our middle-class family could not afford to send me around the US playing in American Junior Golf Association events, so I worked at golf clubs where I could play and practice for free. Golf was more of a serious hobby. I was offered a small scholarship at a NCAA Division II college but turned it down. I decided to attend Oklahoma State University and focus on academics. But after playing in Oklahoma's intramural golf tournament, I couldn't stay away from the game. I transferred to the University of Oklahoma to pursue playing again. Encouraged by a few members of the team, including Todd Hamilton, the eventual 2004 British Open Champion, I played my way onto the University of Oklahoma golf team as a walk-on. We won the NCAA Championship in 1989, and I stayed on as assistant coach from 1989 to 1991 when I left to play on the Asian Tour.
I wanted to see if I could play the game for a living. I turned pro and played on development circuits such as the Asian and Canadian professional golf tours. In my first Asian tournament in Hong Kong, Bernhard Langer shot 63-66 in the first two rounds to my 75-77. I knew I had lots to learn.
At his training facility in McKinney, Texas, just north of Dallas, Hank Haney said that improving my swing plane was crucial to my progress. Swing plane is the path the club shaft travels on the backswing and downswing. Hank