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The Plane Truth about Swings and Things

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In his book, The Plane Truth for Golfers instructor Jim Hardy says there are at least two ways to swing the golf club:

  • Around the body
  • Up and down out in front of the body

He labels these swings “one-plane” and “two-plane,” respectively. Ben Hogan was a classic one planer, and Tom Watson was a two planer.  I think the book is well worthy of discussion, and possibly much more. Personally, I have great respect for Jim Hardy — he taught us a lot through the years, and The Plane Truth for Golfers, in particular, can be a great help to many players.

There have been thousands of books written on how to play and swing. Most of them suggest a method — one way of swinging the golf club to hit the ball. What is new and noteworthy about Hardy’s work is he is recommending two distinct motions guided by two separate sets of fundamentals.

For so long we have heard about “the fundamentals.” When I was learning the game, I was curious about fundamentals because I saw many of the leading professionals with different grips, stances, backswings, etc.  I always wondered what “fundamentals” those books were talking about. What is standard; what is right?

Well, it didn’t take me long before I figured out there was more than one way to swing. John Jacobs once said,

“The purpose of the golf swing is to reach good solid impact; the method employed is of no consquence, as long as it is repetitive.”

So we have known for some time there are different routes to solid golf shots. But Jim Hardy has actually quantified these diverse styles and describes them in detail in his book. So let’s take a look. I am not going to detail the book, you’ll have to read it for that, but I am going to discuss the theory behind it.

In the book, Hardy uses the analogy of a tire (I have also heard him use a hula hoop as an example). Let’s say the tire or hula hoop is standing up, as it would on your car for example, at 90 degrees to the ground. Very little of the tire is touching the ground.  The circle represented by the tire or hula hoop has a very narrow bottom. This is like an upright golf swing. It has a very narrow bottom, and it is “in and out of” the ground quickly, spending a very short time along the turf.

Now take that tire or hula hoop and tilt it down. You’ll notice that a lot more of the circle is touching or very close to the ground. It is along the ground a longer time. This is the idea behind a flat golf swing. It is wider than an upright one, parallelling the ground for a greater area. The upright, narrow swing is quite steep — the flatter, wider swing is shallow (ariving at low point sooner).

OK, so we have upright = steep, and narrow and flat = shallow and wide. Got that?

Secondly, the golf swing is powered by the body in the one-plane swing and by the arms and club in the two-plane swing. It’s important to get these points because THEY ARE THE BASIS OF THE WHOLE BOOK. Everything Hardy suggests for you to do is based on these concepts. If you swing the club flat, you need certain fundamentals, and if you swing the club upright the fundamentals change. If we go through all the recommended swing and set up positions, you will see that they are designed to facilitate the two basic swing ideas.

One-plane setup recommendations

  • Grip: Strong(ish), 3 knuckles.
  • Stance: A little wider than normal and a little further from the ball with the left foot out.
  • Posture: More bent at the waist with shoulders outside the toe line and the spine centered (no upper body axis tilt).
  • Aim: Square to slightly closed.

Two-plane setup recommendations

inar02-watson-power-key

  • Grip: Neutral to slightly weak, 2 knuckles at most.
  • Stance: A little narrower with the feet inside your shoulders and a square left foot.
  • Posture: More erect with your shoulders over toes and a slight tilt to the right.
  • Aim: Square to slightly open.

Now the key question: Why the differences?

Well, remember the two swings and keep these points in mind: In the one-plane swing, the stronger grip promotes a slightly closed club face, which has a steepening effect on the swing. This balances the natural flatness of the one-plane swing (Note: Jim hardy is all about balance, one position offsets another).

The wider stance in the one-plane swing keeps the body more centered, which balances the width of the one-plane swing (if you’re creating width with the arms, the body cannot get off the ball — that’s two wides!).

The more bent posture for one-plane swing allows the shoulders to turn steeper (read narrower), which balances the flatness (read width) of the arm swing. And the slightly closed aim allows the club to work in and behind, which balances the resistance of the upper body.

In the two-plane swing, the slightly weaker grip allows for an open face and an open face has a flattening effect on swing angles, which balances the upright action. The narrower stance allows the body to move more off the ball. That creates body width, which balances the narrowness of the upright arm swing. The more upright posture in the two-plane swing allows the shoulders to turn flatter, which balances the vertical swing action. And finally the more open aim allows the club to work back a little straighter, which balances the freer turn with the upper body.

So it’s all about balance — one move offsets another, one motion complements another. Yes, you can center your pivot, but you need a wide swing to complement it. Yes, you can move your center but you need a narrower swing; so on and so forth.

As for the swing itself, chapters 3 and 4 (pages 30-110 in the book) detail the motions with considerable illustrations. I will make a few general references about the swing acton here: In a one-plane swing, the club swings in and around with the right elbow going behind the golfer and the left arm staying close to the chest, producing a plane quite similar to the shoulders. The shoulders are turning against a stable lower body, creating coil in the upper body. From the top, the TORSO begins the downswing; remember, the trunk is the power move here and the golf club is behind you, so you must unwind the torso first or it is easy to “get stuck.” The death move in the one-plane swing is a tilt of the shoulders from the top, as it will surely drop the club behind you.

Now in the two-plane swing, the shoulders have turned on a much flatter plane, and the arms have swung on a more vertical plane up OVER you, not behind you. From the top, the shoulders remain passive and the arms (the motor of the two-plane swing) separate immediately from the shoulders, swinging aggressively down to the ball. The hips begin with a LATERAL move toward the target, as getting “stuck” is not as much a concern because the arms are more over and out in front you. After the initial lateral move, the hips and torso turn AS THE ARMS AND CLUB SWING DOWN. As I said, this paints a very general picture of the motions. I highly recommend reading chapters 4 and 5 in the book. But if you read the book, be aware of two things: Swing width and the compatible fundamentals.

The point is this: BOTH WAYS ARE EFFECTIVE, but you cannot randomly choose a set-up position when deciding which swing is for you. Personally, if I were forced to choose, I think the one-plane swing is more consistent, but it does demand more physicality than the free swinging action of the two-plane swing.

Take a look through the book. See where you stand or where you’d like to go, and consider the recommendations for each. I think Jim Hardy is a great teacher who has given us much to think about in this seminal work. Also, Hardy allows and I agree that there are “hybrid” swings, many of them, but these blended efforts are still governed by the starting positions that put them in motion.

I said in my last article about Ben Hogan’s instruction book, Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf that while I believed the information was great, the points in the book were harmful to the vast array of weekend warriors. Jim Hardy’s book is a much more universal prescription that can help everybody.

As always, feel free to send a swing video to my Facebook page and I will do my best to give you my feedback.

Click here for more discussion, and to ask Dennis a question in the “Instruction & Academy” forum. 

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Dennis Clark is a PGA Master Professional. Clark has taught the game of golf for more than 30 years to golfers all across the country, and is recognized as one of the leading teachers in the country by all the major golf publications. He is also is a seven-time PGA award winner who has earned the following distinctions: -- Teacher of the Year, Philadelphia Section PGA -- Teacher of the Year, Golfers Journal -- Top Teacher in Pennsylvania, Golf Magazine -- Top Teacher in Mid Atlantic Region, Golf Digest -- Earned PGA Advanced Specialty certification in Teaching/Coaching Golf -- Achieved Master Professional Status (held by less than 2 percent of PGA members) -- PGA Merchandiser of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Golf Professional of the Year, Tri State Section PGA -- Presidents Plaque Award for Promotion and Growth of the Game of Golf -- Junior Golf Leader, Tri State section PGA -- Served on Tri State PGA Board of Directors. Clark is also former Director of Golf and Instruction at Nemacolin Woodlands Resort. He now directs his own school, The Dennis Clark Golf Academy at the JW Marriott Marco Island in Naples, Fla.. He can be reached at dennisclarkgolf@gmail.com

13 Comments

13 Comments

  1. Dan

    Apr 4, 2014 at 10:01 am

    Interested in getting more info on the “2 Plane Swing”

    How does this book compare to the “LAWS of Golf” by Suttie, Tomasi, Adams? I found this book to be a game changer once I starting working on the “Arc” method.

    Was difficult to learn the “hip bump/move down” , how is this book in explaining that?

  2. Minh Nguyen

    Mar 31, 2014 at 12:34 pm

    Dennis, have you heard of the Haney Blueprint? I watched the infomercial and he talked about a “Parallel Plane”. How does that compare or contrast to a single or two plane swing?

    • Dennis Clark

      Mar 31, 2014 at 4:33 pm

      His concept is more of a one plane one. He likes the golf club parallel to the original shaft plane throughout the swing. IOW, same angle different points of origin. Like so many things- good for some not for others…For average golfers, i prefer more of a one plane swing simply because it’s easier to square the face

  3. tom stickney

    Mar 31, 2014 at 10:56 am

    Good article Dennis…I’m asked the same thing on the lesson tee on a weekly basis.

    All the best.

  4. Martin

    Jan 3, 2013 at 6:47 pm

    Ok, thank you! BTW, I love reading your articles and I am learning a lot, like your approach in the articles, to sort of tell us things we dont read in the articles or the books. I am trying to get a two plane motion to work, so thanks for the input on that!

  5. Martin

    Jan 2, 2013 at 1:12 pm

    Very interesting article. You mention that the one plane swing requires more of psycical ability than the two plane swing. In what way? Are you talking about strength and flexibility or coordination?
    Thank you!

    • Dennis Clark

      Jan 2, 2013 at 6:56 pm

      I think it has more to do with the body and the ability to rotate. So yes more flexibility ansd strength. It is a body dominated motion so to speak. Thx DC

  6. bob

    Dec 26, 2012 at 5:10 pm

    YEA AND HOGAN’S FACE WAS OPEN AS WELL> I thought your ONE PLANNER was meant to have a closed clubface as well.

    • Dennis Clark

      Dec 26, 2012 at 6:18 pm

      Hardy is saying the same thing as you. There are a lot of ways to swing the club, and they must complement the fundamentals you choose-much like the great players to whom you refer. Hogan was a one planer swing who employed a WEAK grip for one reason-to FADE the ball. Tell a student to do that and look quickly to the right for the ball flight. And what Hogan could do most couldn’t.

  7. Richard Montfort

    Dec 18, 2012 at 3:59 pm

    Powerful Golf Concept part 1/2
    Powerful Golf Concept part 2/2
    on you tube

  8. ac930

    Dec 14, 2012 at 12:05 am

    Jim Hardy is the man! Unbelievable how great his instruction is. He didn’t invent the methods, he simply figured it out. I suggest you watch all his DVD’s

  9. andrew cooper

    Dec 12, 2012 at 2:12 pm

    Thanks Dennis, interesting article on The Plane Truth. I’m a fan of Hardy, but have always felt the major flaw in his one plane or two plane idea is that in reality nearly every golfer, including the great ones, have elements of both-the “hybrids”. So basically, one plane, two plane or a combo??!! it kind of doesn’t matter.

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Instruction

The 3 different levels of golf practice

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“I would have practiced as hard, but I would have made my practice more meaningful. I would have worked more on my short game and putting. I would’ve done a lot more drills to make the practice more meaningful, and I would’ve added pressure to the practice as much as possible.” — Lee Westwood

Now here’s the rub. Practice is not monolithic! I approach practice as having three different, distinctive and separate curriculum and criteria.

  • Level 1: Basic
  • Level 2: Advanced
  • Level 3: Extreme

Basic Practice (Level 1) by definition is “repeated exercise in or performance of an activity or skill so as to acquire or maintain proficiency in it.” Basically, it’s doing the same thing over and over again to get better at it. My favorite skill that requires practice is the 76-yard “flighted wedge.” I do it, and I recommend it be done at every range practice session. Additionally, I identify and then practice as many different “skills” that are required to hit different golf shots. I have found that a non-pressurized environment is the best way to practice in a basic model.

It goes without saying that golf is not played in a pressure-free environment, so basic practice doesn’t help us play golf. The prime objective of Level 2 Practice (Advanced Training) is to take what you do in Basic Practice to the golf course.

First, create on-course situations that require you to hit the shots you have practiced. There should be rewards for demonstrations of competence, and there should be consequences for demonstrations of incompetence

“When you practice, try to find a situation to fit the shot you’re trying to practice.” — Ben Hogan

For example, a major problem is the unevenness of the lies you will encounter during play as opposed to the lies you used for your drills. From marginal to extreme, lies are difficult to replicate on the practice tee. So, play a round of golf and move the ball into the most undesirable lie that is very close to where you are.

Another example would be duplicating the creativity that is sometimes required during actual play. The prime example of that would be the sensation of “being in-between clubs.” I would suggest that you play an occasional round of golf using only half of your clubs. Take two wedges instead of four. Take only the “odd” or “even” numbered irons. Look at not taking the driver, or not taking all of your fairway clubs. I have not taken my putter, which forced me putt with my sand wedge!

A third example would be to play a round of golf and deliberately miss every green in regulation. Should your ball accidentally finish on the green in regulation just move it off into the rough, a bunker or whatever else could use the extra attention. You can create games where your opponent moves your ball off the green into something that would be advantageous to him.

Level 2 Practice is conducted on the practice ground as well as on the course. What I do and recommend is to take each of the shots, skills and drills used in Level 1 and add some accountability to the range experience. I have my students and clients use a “Practice Book” to schedule activities and to keep track of improvement.

Author Note: I will send you a sample practice book page that many of my players actually use. Request it at edmyersgolf@gmail.com.

Please be advised that Level 2 Practice can feature games, wagering or other forms of friendly competitions because they should only activate the lesser emotions of irritation, annoyance, anticipation, anxiousness, joy, pleasure and disappointment. Dealing with these feelings in practice will help you recognize and deal with the minor stresses experienced by most recreational golfers.

Stress is the major cause of “CHOKING.”

Stress, by definition “is a state of mental or emotional strain or tension resulting from adverse or very demanding circumstances.” Stress can ruin our ability to perform when we experience the major emotions such as fear, anger, shame, humiliation, euphoria, ridicule, betrayal, doubt and/or disbelief.

Level 3 Practice (Extreme Preparation) is on-course training sessions best suited for very serious competitive golfers. The more a player is able to compete in a simulated or controlled environment that accurately replicates the actual “pressures” that produce the kind of stresses that can effect performance, the better the player will perform when stressed in actual tournaments or events. Please be advised that Extreme Practice DOES NOT feature games, gambling or “friendly” competitions. They don’t control the conditions of play sufficiently to replicate the type of pressure that would induce “stress.”

“Simulation, which  is a technique (not a technology) to replace and amplify real experiences with guided ones, often “immersive” in nature, that evoke or replicate substantial aspects of the real world in a fully interactive fashion.” For many years now, the medical profession has used simulations to train doctors, the military has used simulations to prepare troops for the realities of the battlefield and aviation has used simulators to train pilots. Simulating has the added benefits of being cost and time effective while producing verifiable results.

If it’s possible for airlines to replicate every possible scenario that a pilot could experience in the cockpit by using simulations, then why isn’t it possible to replicate situations, and subsequent emotional responses, that a competitive golfer could experience on the golf course? Let me give you an example of what I mean.

“I got nervous all the time, as nervous as the next guy. It’s just that I caught myself before it became destructive.” Jack Nicklaus

Recent events at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play gives us some evidence of the destructiveness of uncontrolled emotions. Justin Thomas said that he couldn’t get the thought out of his mind of becoming the No. 1-ranked player in the world should he defeat Bubba Watson in the semi-finals, which he failed to do.

“I haven’t had such a hard time not thinking about something so much,” Thomas said. “And that really sucked. I couldn’t stop thinking about it, to be perfectly honest.”

Then there was Ian Poulter being told that with his win over Louis Oosthuizen he had earned a spot in this years’ Masters tournament only to be told 10 minutes before his next match that he had not actually secured the coveted invitation. With elation, joy and satisfaction jerked away and replaced with disappointment, and possibly anger, the Englishman went out and got whipped by Kevin Kisner 8 & 6!

I concede that Justin Thomas’ and Ian Poulter’s situations were so unique that simulation-based practice and preparation techniques may not have been available to them, but now they both must know that their performance was effected negatively by mental stresses. And with that knowledge they may want to get tougher mentally. Level 3 Practice does that!

Not all that long ago, I was approached by a PGA Tour veteran for some on-course, one-on-one training. He was experiencing severe “choking” in pressurized short-game situations. So I took him out on the course and we replicated the exact shots he had problems with in the past. He demonstrated that he could perform each and every shot in a stress-free environment. We went into a “low-stress” training environment and his performance began to suffer. Then, at his urging to get “real,” we went into a “high-stress” practice mode and he melted down. Without going into details, he became so angry that not only couldn’t he hit golf shots, he tried to run me down with the golf cart as he retreated to the safety of his car.

Now, that’s not the end of the story. A few hours later, after some soul searching, he apologized for his lack of self-control and acknowledged that he had recognized the early signs of stress growing internally as we worked. We went back out onto the course and got back to work.

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Instruction

Winning Ways: Here’s what it takes to become a winner in Junior Girls golf

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Every competitive golfer strives to win, and I want to help them achieve their goals. Recently, I wrote a story highlighting the statistics behind winning in junior boys golf, and how they can do it more often. Now, we set out to examine the data on winning in junior girls golf, and provide ways they can improve. The data is based on an analysis of tournament results from all events during the 2017 year from the Junior Tour of Northern California. We then asked stats guru, Peter Sanders, Founder of ShotByShot.com, to provide the stats related to the winning scoring numbers that we found. Finally, we discuss ways that juniors can practice building skills and work towards becoming tournament winners.

The Winning Scores

In 2017 the Junior Tour of Northern California held 26 tournaments with 850+ members. According to our data collection based on information available on the website, the average girl’s tournament course measured 6145 yards. The average winning score for girls was 146 (36 holes), or 73 per round. Ten of the 22 tournaments where won with scores of 144 or better and the low 36 holes total was a whopping 133! In the data collection we also collected the average 10th place scores girls. The average 10th place score for girls was 159 or 79.5.

The Winning Stats

We provided the numbers to statistics expert Peter Sanders. Peter’s company has been providing Strokes Gained analysis for golfers for the last 29 years. Peter is the founder of ShotByShot.com, a website that provides golfers at all levels with Strokes Gained analysis, pinpoints specific strengths and weaknesses and highlights improvement priorities. Since the launch of ShotByShot.com in 2005, Peter has collected over 317,000 rounds. Accordingly, Peter has agreed to share the numbers, below, for a typical female player who averages 73. There are two important points to consider when reviewing these statistics:

  1. In order to have a complete picture of the puzzle that is golf, one must consider the ERRORS, or lack thereof, that play such an important role in scoring at every level. Even the 650+ PGA Tour stats ignore these important miscues. Shot By Shot has included them in their analysis from the beginning and they are highlighted in the infographics below.
  2. The data provided represents only tournament rounds. As such it will primarily represent the high school and college programs that use ShotbyShot.com

Infographics Created by Alexis Bennett

The Winning Preparation

Junior girls are encouraged to use these stats as a benchmark against their own performance to determine where they might need to improve against the “typical 73 player.” After identifying gaps in their game, they can then create practice plans to help improve. For example, a junior might notice they have more 3-putts than the model. To improve, they could work put more time into practice, as well as playing games on the golf course like draw-back and 2-putt.

  • Drawback is a game where after your first putt, you draw the second putt one putter length away from the hole. This often changes a shorter putt (> 2 feet) to a putt of between 3.5 – 5 feet. This putts significantly more pressure on your putting.
  • You may also play Two-Putt, a game where when you reach the green, you (or your playing competitor) tosses the ball away from the hole. You must 2-putt from that spot to move to the next hole (even if it takes a couple attempts!).

Others reading this article might find that they don’t hit enough greens. Improving this area will require more consistent strikes, which may require further technical development and block practice, as well as working on the golf course. To start, I would recommend that every junior implement the yardage rule. The yardage rule works like this; figure out the distance to the very back of the green. For example, this number may be 157. Then figure out what club ALWAYS flies 157, which might be 6-iron. Then choose 7-iron for the shot. This way your best shot will not fly the green, your average shot will likely be in the middle of the green and your less-than-perfect shot will hopefully end up on the front of the green.

During practice rounds, play competitive games with yourself to sharpen your ability to hit greens. For example, if you normally hit 7 greens per round, in practice your goal might be 9. You would track your results over a month and then see your progress.

Beyond building individual skills, like hitting greens or working on putting, junior golfers need times to play competitive rounds on their home golf courses. Ideally, these rounds are played against other people with similar skills and done under tournament like conditions with consequences (loser buys winner a coke or cleans their golf clubs). Playing hundreds of rounds at your home golf course under these conditions gives you a unique opportunity to sharpen your game, learn your tendencies and build skills such as endurance and mental toughness. Most importantly, it teaches you to win and shoot under par!

Please also keep in mind building these skills may take months (or even years). In my own personal experience, when I set out to improve my birdies per round, it took nearly 4 months and 75+ rounds and significant practice to begin to see a change. Depending on your schedule and access to resources like a golf course and instructor, some changes might take a year or more. Regardless, don’t ever worry; building a solid foundation in golf will always lead to rewards!

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Instruction

PNF Drills: How To Turn Onto The Golf Ball

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In this video, I share a great drill to help you turn onto the ball. This will help you rotate through impact.

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