The Plane Truth about Swings and Things
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
- 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.