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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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Instruction

Why you are probably better at golf than you think (Part 1)

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Golf is hard. I spend my career helping people learn that truth, but golfers are better than they give themselves credit for.

As a golf performance specialist, I give a lot of “first time working together” lessons, and most of them start the same way. I hear about all the ways the golfer is cursed and how s/he is never going to “get it” and how s/he should take up another sport. Granted, the last statement generally applies to an 18-plus handicap player, but I hear lots of negatives from better players as well.

Even though the golfers make convincing arguments for why they are cursed, I know the truth. It’s my job to help them realize the fates aren’t conspiring against them.

All golfers can play well consistently

I know this is a bold statement, but I believe this because I know that “well” does not equate to trophies and personal bests. Playing “well” equates to understanding your margin of error and learning to live within it.

With this said, I have arrived at my first point of proving why golfers are not cursed or bad golfers: They typically do not know what “good” looks like.

What does “good” look like from 150 yards out to a center pin?

Depending on your skill level, the answer can change a lot. I frequently ask golfers this same question when selecting a shot on the golf course during a coaching session and am always surprised at the response. I find that most golfers tend to either have a target that is way too vague or a target that is much too small.

The PGA Tour average proximity to the hole from 150 yards is roughly 30 feet. The reason I mention this statistic is that it gives us a frame of reference. The best players in the world are equivalent to a +4 or better handicap. With that said, a 15-handicap player hitting it to 30 feet from the pin from 150 yards out sounds like a good shot to me.

I always encourage golfers to understand the statistics from the PGA Tour not because that should be our benchmark, but because we need to realize that often our expectations are way out of line with our current skill level. I have found that golfers attempting to hold themselves to unrealistic standards tend to perform worse due to the constant feeling of “failing” they create when they do not hit every fairway and green.

Jim Furyk, while playing a limited PGA Tour schedule, was the most accurate driver of the golf ball during the 2020 season on the PGA Tour hitting 73.96 percent of his fairways (roughly 10/14 per round) and ranked T-136 in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Bryson Dechambeau hit the fairway 58.45 percent (roughly 8/14 per round) of the time and ranked first in Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

There are two key takeaways in this comparison

Sometimes the fairway is not the best place to play an approach shot from. Even the best drivers of the golf ball miss fairways.

By using statistics to help athletes gain a better understanding of what “good” looks like, I am able to help them play better golf by being aware that “good” is not always in the middle of the fairway or finishing next to the hole.

Golf is hard. Setting yourself up for failure by having unrealistic expectations is only going to stunt your development as a player. We all know the guy who plays the “tips” or purchases a set of forged blades applying the logic that it will make them better in the long run—how does that story normally end?

Take action

If you are interested in applying some statistics to your golf game, there are a ton of great apps that you can download and use. Also, if you are like me and were unable to pass Math 104 in four attempts and would like to do some reading up on the math behind these statistics, I highly recommend the book by Mark Broadie Every Shot Counts. If you begin to keep statistics and would like how to put them into action and design better strategies for the golf course, then I highly recommend the Decade system designed by Scott Fawcett.

You may not be living up to your expectations on the golf course, but that does not make you a bad or cursed golfer. Human beings are very inconsistent by design, which makes a sport that requires absolute precision exceedingly difficult.

It has been said before: “Golf is not a game of perfect.” It’s time we finally accept that fact and learn to live within our variance.

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Instruction

Walters: Try this practice hack for better bunker shots

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Your ability to hit better bunker shots is dramatically reduced if you have no facility to practice these shots. With so few facilities (especially in the UK) having a practice bunker it’s no wonder I see so many golfers struggle with this skill.

Yet the biggest issue they all seem to have is the inability to get the club to enter the sand (hit the ground) in a consistent spot. So here is a hack to use at the range to improve your bunker shots.

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Golf Blueprint: A plan for productive practice sessions

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Practice range at the Dormie Club. Photo credit: Scott Arden

Stop me if you’ve heard this one.

You’ve gotten lessons.  Several of them.  You’ve been custom fitted for everything in your bag.  You even bought another half a dozen driver shafts last year looking for an extra couple of yards.  And yet, you’re still…stuck.  Either your handicap hasn’t moved at all in years or you keep bouncing back and forth between the same two numbers.  You’ve had all the swing fixes and all the technological advances you could realistically hope to achieve, yet no appreciable result has been achieved in lowering your score.  What gives?

Sample Golf Blueprint practice plan for a client.

One could argue that no one scientifically disassembled and then systematically reassembled the game of golf quite like the great Ben Hogan.  His penchant for doing so created a mystique which is still the stuff of legend even today.  A great many people have tried to decipher his secret over the years and the inevitable conclusion is always a somewhat anticlimactic, “The secret’s in the dirt.”  Mr. Hogan’s ball striking prowess was carved one divot at a time from countless hours on the practice range.  In an interview with golf journalist George Peper in 1987, Mr. Hogan once said:

“You hear stories about me beating my brains out practicing, but the truth is, I was enjoying myself. I couldn’t wait to get up in the morning so I could hit balls. I’d be at the practice tee at the crack of dawn, hit balls for a few hours, then take a break and get right back to it. And I still thoroughly enjoy it. When I’m hitting the ball where I want, hard and crisply—when anyone is— it’s a joy that very few people experience.”

Let me guess.  You’ve tried that before, right?  You’ve hit buckets and buckets of range rocks trying to groove the perfect 7-iron swing and still to no avail, right?  Read that last sentence again closely and you might discover the problem.  There’s a difference between mindful practice and mindless practice.  Mindful practice, like Mr. Hogan undoubtedly employed, is structured, focused, and intentional.  It has specific targets and goals in mind and progresses in a systematic fashion until those goals are met.

This is exactly what Nico Darras and Kevin Moore had in mind when they started Golf Blueprint.  In truth, though, the journey actually started when Nico was a client of Kevin’s Squares2Circles project.  Nico is actually a former DI baseball player who suffered a career-ending injury and took up golf at 22 years old.  In a short time, he was approaching scratch and then getting into some mini tour events.  Kevin, as mentioned in the Squares2Circles piece, is a mathematics education professor and accomplished golfer who has played in several USGA events.  Their conversations quickly changed from refining course strategy to making targeted improvements in Nico’s game.  By analyzing the greatest weaknesses in Nico’s game and designing specific practice sessions (which they call “blueprints”) around them, Nico started reaching his goals.

The transition from client to partners was equal parts swift and organic, as they quickly realized they were on to something.  Nico and Kevin used their experiences to develop an algorithm which, when combined with the client’s feedback, establishes a player profile within Golf Blueprint’s system.  Clients get a plan with weekly, monthly, and long-term goals including all of the specific blueprints that target the areas of their game where they need it most.  Not to mention, clients get direct access to Nico and Kevin through Golf Blueprint.

Nico Darras, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

While this is approaching shades of Mr. Hogan’s practice method above, there is one key distinction here.  Kevin and Nico aren’t recommending practicing for hours at a time.  Far from it.  In Nico’s words:

“We recommend 3 days a week.  You can do more or less, for sure, but we’ve found that 3 days a week is within the realm of possibility for most of our clients.  Practice sessions are roughly 45-70 minutes each, but again, all of this depends on the client and what resources they have at their disposal.  Each blueprint card is roughly 10 minutes each, so you can choose which cards to do if you only have limited time to practice.  Nothing is worse than cranking 7 irons at the range for hours.  We want to make these engaging and rewarding.”

Kevin Moore, co-founder of Golf Blueprint

So far, Golf Blueprint has been working for a wide range of golfers – from tour pros to the No Laying Up crew to amateurs alike.  Kevin shares some key data in that regard:

“When we went into this, we weren’t really sure what to expect.  Were we going to be an elite player product?  Were we going to be an amateur player product?  We didn’t know, honestly.  So far, what’s exciting is that we’ve had success with a huge range of players.  Probably 20-25% of our players (roughly speaking) are in that 7-11 handicap range.  That’s probably the center of the bell curve, if you will, right around that high-single-digit handicap range.  We have a huge range though, scratch handicap and tour players all the way to 20 handicaps.  It runs the full gamut.  What’s been so rewarding is that the handicap dropping has been significantly more than we anticipated.  The average handicap drop for our clients was about 2.7 in just 3 months’ time.”

Needless to say, that’s a pretty significant drop in a short amount of time from only changing how you practice.  Maybe that Hogan guy was on to something.  I think these guys might be too.  To learn more about Golf Blueprint and get involved, visit their website. @Golf_Blueprint is their handle for both Twitter and Instagram.

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