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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. Dennis now teaches at Bobby Clampett's Impact Zone Golf Indoor Performance Center in Naples, FL. .

15 Comments

15 Comments

  1. Bernard Sullivan

    Feb 6, 2019 at 10:32 am

    I played one plane swing by mistake,as I started of 2 plane,and just picked it up on the range,as I was bending over more, trying it get an angle in to do a draw shot, anyway I became very armsy and rotating the body around me,but I lacked distance,and my back started hurting after a while,so I’ve gone back to 2 plane,but the problem I have now is, on the takeaway I keep bringing the club low and along the ground,and then swinging around and behind,and either hit the ground or just goes out right,I’ve totally lost the correct swing path,but now I realized you have to lift the club and turn in the two plane,but I can’t seem to do consistently,but when I do it right I hit the ball miles and seems like I hardly moved,but I do remember getting up high in the takeaway,can anyone give me a good tip to get the club up,and not keep sloping back into low and bringing club across instead of up and over me,it’s doing my head in,I only had 3 lessons in my life and that was only with a 7 iron,and I got an 18 handicap,but I play more like a 28, please, many thanks,

    • Jason

      Feb 20, 2020 at 10:41 pm

      Try taking some practice swings with your heels about 6-8 inches from a wall behind you, this will not allow the club to get behind your body. The goal is to make a back swing without hitting the wall.

  2. 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?

  3. 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

  4. 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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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

  7. 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.

  8. Richard Montfort

    Dec 18, 2012 at 3:59 pm

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

  9. 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

  10. 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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Clement: Find big power in the flying elbow!

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Matt Wolff, Bubba Watson, Jack Nicklaus, and so many more have been criticized for their golf swings and the flying elbow has been a subject of those criticisms.

When you watch a baseball hitter, a baseball pitcher, a tennis player, a lumberjack and so many more sports and disciplines, you realize they were all good to go all along!

This video will hopefully nudge you to experience this power for yourself too!

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This video is chock full of fairway wood wisdom that will allow you to understand several things including why a low spinning 5-wood would go much farther and what to focus on feel wise and sound wise with the SOLE of the club through the turf and ground. At least four solid nuggets throughout this video that will be sure to sharpen your fairway woods and hybrids!

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The Wedge Guy: Chipping away strokes

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I’ve always admired golfers who can really chip the ball well. Through my years in golf, I have seen players of all handicaps who are excellent chippers, and all tour professionals are masters of chipping it close. But for such a simple little stroke and challenge, chipping seems to be a part of the game that eludes many of us.

A good short game just cannot be achieved without a commitment to both learning and practicing. In watching the best chippers, it seems that their technique or chipping “stroke” is very similar to their putting stroke in style, form and pace. I think that’s because both chipping and putting are primarily “feel” shots. Yes, technique is important, but I’ve seen good chippers with all kinds of form and fundamentals.

This brings to mind two of my golf buddies who are both good chippers of the ball while employing totally different styles, but each one closely resembles their individual putting style. One uses a more stiff-wristed technique and quicker pace and tempo — just like his putting. The other, who is a doctor with a delicate touch, uses a more rhythmical pace not dissimilar from his syrupy smooth putting stroke.

Now let’s talk about techniques.

I personally prefer to use two different chipping techniques, depending on the chip I am facing. If I simply have to carry a few feet of collar and then get the ball rolling, I’ll choose a mid-iron or short iron, depending on the balance of carry and roll, and grip down on the club so that I can essentially “putt” the ball with the club I’ve chosen.

In employing this technique, however, realize that the club you are “putting” with weighs much less than your putter, so you want to grip the club much lighter to make the club feel heavier. It takes just a little practice to see what different clubs will do with this putt/chip technique.

On chips where the ball has to be carried more than just a few feet, I prefer a chipping technique that is more like a short pitching swing. I position the ball back of center of my stance to ensure clean contact and set up more like a short pitch shot. I usually hit this kind of chip with one of my wedges, depending on the balance of carry and roll needed to get the ball to the hole.

On that note, I read the green and pick an exact spot where I want the ball to land, and from there until impact, I forget the hole location and focus my “aim” on that spot. Your eyes guide your swing speed on chips and short pitch shots, and if you return your eyes to the hole, you are “programming” your body to fly the ball to the hole.

So, while sizing up the shot, I find a very distinct spot on the green where I think the ball needs to land to roll out with the club/trajectory I envision. From that point on, my complete focus is on that spot, NOT the hole. That loads my brain with the input it needs to tap into my eye/hand coordination. I think many golfers chip long too often because they focus on the hole, rather than where the shot needs to land, so their “wiring” imparts too much power. Just my thinking there.

One of my favorite drills for practicing chipping like this is to take a bucket/bag of balls to the end of the range where no one is hitting, and practice chipping to different spots – divots, pieces of turf, etc. – at various ranges, from 2-3 feet out to 20-30. I do this with different wedges and practice achieving different trajectories, just to load my memory banks with the feel of hitting to a spot with different clubs. Then, when I face a chip on the course, I’m prepared.

I’m totally convinced the majority of recreational golfers can make the quickest and biggest improvement in our scoring if we will just dedicate the time to learn good chipping technique and to practicing that technique with a purpose.

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