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One Plane Golf Swing vs. Two Plane Golf Swing - What's the Difference?

As I mentioned, Jim Hardy (learn more) was the first to come up with the idea that there are two sets of fundamentals in golf. I agree, that at its most basic form, there are only two types of golf swings - a one plane swing and a two plane swing. While there are thousands of variations of each swing, every golfer can be classified as one or the other. If you don't know which you are, then that helps explain part of the reason why you are struggling. As Hardy put it, the two swings are like oil and water, they don't mix. He advocates that you can't take parts from a one plane swing and put them into a two plane swing. Unfortunately, little information is available to the golfing public on the differences of the two swings so there is a lot of confusion with golfers hearing conflicting tips on the golf swing. Every swing guru today has his or her trademark "tips" that they use to differentiate themselves and their tips often conflict with another swing guru's opinion of the swing. There is nothing more frustrating for a golfer than reading an article in a magazine from one instructor who says one thing and then to turn a couple pages to another article that says the exact opposite. It is this exact scenario that led me to developing this website, to help educate golfers on the two sets of fundamentals in the swing that Jim Hardy came up with and to bring together a public forum for learning, after all, we are all just students of the game. In explaining how the two golf swings actually work, accoring to Hardy and my own understanding, rather than try and give you tips to help "fix" your golf swing, hopefully you will finally understand the golf swing for what it really is.

Jim Hardy explained that the
simplest way to think of the differences between the two swings is this: In a two plane swing, the arms and shoulders swing on two different planes, in a one plane swing they are on the same plane. For the two plane swing, imagine Davis Love III or David Toms. Their arms swing more upright while their shoulders rotate fairly level. For the one plane swing think of Ben Hogan, David Duval or the new Tiger Woods. In general, the swings are more around with the arms swinging on the same plane as the shoulders.

The following is based completely on what I interpreted Jim Hardy to be saying on The Golf Channel, as well as my interpretations of Ben Hogan's Five Lessons and my own personal experience as a professional player and instruction and is meant solely for educational purposes.


The spine angle tends to be more upright at address in a two plane swing. This erect address position causes the shoulders to rotate on a relatively flat plane, more level to the ground. Some two planers will have the appearance of a more bent over spine angle at address due to the rounding of their shoulders, but they will usually rotate their shoulders on a more level plane, perpindicular to their spine.

David Toms at address
David Toms has a beautiful upright address position with his arms dropping more straight from his shoulders. This will cause them to swing more "up" on the backswing.

The biggest difference in the two swings is seen here. The arms swing up on a more upright plane than that of the shoulders and the club swings well above the plane and to the outside of the turn. In order to do this, the left arm must disconnect from the left chest muscle and then reconnect on the downswing. Also, there is a more pronounced shift of the body to the right creating the need for a greater lateral move back to the target during the transition. This shift creates width in the backswing which is necessary because of the tendency of the two plane swing to be too narrow with the arms swinging more up than around.

David Toms starting back swing
David's club has clearly traveled up above the plane very early in the swing. His arms are now moving independently of his body.

david toms top of swing
Toms is in the perfect two plane position at the top. His arms have a long way to go to get the club back on plane. Tiger Woods used to get in the same position at the top as seen here in 2001, but no more. He is moving more to a one plane swing with Hank Haney.

Tiger Woods British Open two plane swing

This is where things get tricky. Swinging the arms up on a more vertical plane than the shoulders requires that, at some point in the swing, the arms must drop back down on plane before the rotary motion of the body can be used to generate power by aggressively rotating back to the left. In order to do this, there needs to be either a lateral move toward the target with the body that gives the arms time to drop back on plane before the body begins to clear left, or the hips must simply "wait" to turn until the arms have dropped the proper amount. This information is not new or profound, the top teachers of today have all taught that the arms must have time to drop before you can turn, and a bit of common sense would let you know that if your arms are high above your head and you are wanting to hit an object on the ground while your body is turning relatively flat, you have no choice but to get your arms back down. That is, unless, of course, you want to drive the ball straight down into the ground. You've no doubt seen drills that talk about dropping the right leg back at address (for righties) so that you can slow the rotation of the hips. As you can imagine, trying to time these moves consistently proves very difficult over time. This places a high demand on timing and rhythm, which vary from day to day. In a one plane swing, you will see that the inconsistencies that are caused by this motion are far less of an issue. Not, that timing and rhythm are things that can be disregarded in either swing, but in a one plane swing you are far less susceptible to bad golf when your timing is a bit off.

david toms steep and above plane
Toms is too steep to hit the ball at the target, David will continue to "wait" for arms to fall back on plane.

David's arms have dropped dramatically to get the club back parallel to the plane, but still above the shaft plane he established at address.

David Toms swings more behind the ball
Toms "loads up" more on his right side rather than having an aggressive transition. He must do this to give his arms more time to drop back on plane. If he rotated as early and aggressively with his body as Flesch does, the arms would have no time to get back on plane and they would be stuck behind him.

It is critical for the arms to drop back down on plane before the body begins to rotate back to the left. Many two plane golf instructors teach a "looping" motion in the swing where the club swings up on the backswing and is then "flattened" on the downswing in order to get the club back on the proper plane. Jim Furyk is an extreme example of this, but all two planers must due this to some degree. The difficulty is getting the amount of drop correct as well as the timing of the drop, not to mention the patience required to not "hit" the ball from the top of the swing - where the body begins rotating back to the left before the arms have dropped. Those that don't resist the "hit" urge and begin rotating back to the left before the arms drop on plane will swing "over the top" if the arms didn't drop at all or be in a "stuck" position if the arms didn't get back in front of the body.

david toms approaching impact with bowed left wrist
David's hands are well above the plane nearing impact and his right arm is "stuck" behind his hip. Toms' swing is a bit unique in that he uses his body more than his arms on the downswing than most two planers, but for most golfers, this ball would go well right. It would for David, too, if he didn't have a unique move at the top where he deliberately bows his left wrist, in essence closing the clubface so that he can play from this "stuck" position. It's a unique move that takes the timing out of the hands to square the clubface.


The spine angle is more bent over at address allowing the shoulders to rotate on a steeper plane. This, in turn, allows the club to swing up. Ben Hogan, the classic one planer, stood more erect at address and then swung his shoulders on a steeper plane during his swing. The more tilted the spine angle, the less the arms will swing "up" above the shoulders on the backswing. Jim Hardy advocates the hands be inside the chin at address.

singh at address
Vijay Singh has a bit steeper spine angle than David Toms and has his arms out away from his body a bit more. This will create a more "around" swing path.

In the one plane swing, the shoulders and arms swing on very much the same plane. There are far fewer "moving parts" because the left arm never leaves the chest to swing up on a steeper plane. Because the swing is more "around" than "up", the body may stay more to the left with less lateral shift, if any, to the right. This reduces the need to have a large slide back toward the target during the transition. The key in the one plane swing is rotation of the arms around the body rather than lifting of the arms in front of the body. Ben Hogan advocated that the right leg not move back at all during the backswing, keeping the body very centered throughout the swing.

vijay singh starting back swing
Vijay swings the club more around on a more natural swing arc. His arms have done nothing independent here, they are simply following his body's lead.

vijay singh at top of swing
Vijay's left arm and shoulder match up very much on the same plane at the top. But nobody matched up as well as Ben Hogan. Hogan's left arm and shoulders were perfectly on plane, exactly parallel with each other, while Vijay is slightly above. Note how much more upright David Toms' body is compared to Vijay. Singh has his shoulders much more out over his toes, a trademark of the one plane swing.

In Jim Hardy's view, the golfer must swing the arms around the body as far as possible in the backswing. For me, the purpose of the backswing is to get my arms "stuck" behind me. That is my main goal in the backswing, to put my arms in such a position that the chest is now responsible for swinging them back through to impact, the arms are essentially along for the ride. This stores a tremendous amount of energy in the arms as they never release before impact and puts the arms in such a position that the body can be used to control the club.

Because your arms are always on plane and never lift, there is no need to wait for them to drop. Your body can begin to rotate back toward the target as aggressively as you like and the arms will simply follow. The natural instinct at the top of the swing is to get the club head back to the ball as fast as possible in order to strike it with authority. Of course, this is the key detriment to swinging on two planes where you simply must create some sort of delay during the downswing to let the arms fall back down on plane in a position to strike the ball. Hardy points out that in a one plane swing, all you do from the top is rotate the body back to the left. Everything rotates together, reducing the dependency on timing and rhythm to blend the upright swinging of the arms and the flatter turning of the body. Unfortunately, many golfers swing their arms "up" on the backswing and then try and rotate their bodies back to the left as hard as they can. In essence, they are combining characteristics of the two swings, which doesn't work and creates the "over the top" move.

Hardy didn't speak a great deal on Academy Live regarding the transition. I took what he said to mean that once you swing back, you simply rotate everything back to the left together. If you keep your weight more favoring your left side, then this could be true. However, in my opinion, this lack of shift to the right and then back is exactly what gives the top players in the world their power. And, if they make a shift to the right, there must be a transition where they shift back to the left. While I agree with Hardy that you can solidly strike the ball from swinging on just the left leg, I have to disagree that the top golfers of today do this.

number one golf vijay singh one plane golf swing
Vijay gets back parallel to the plane earlier than Toms, and then matches up perfectly halfway down.

vijay singh halfway down
Back on plane, but Hogan never strayed far from it. Vijay stays closer than most today.

steve flesch makes a powerful body transition
Steve Flesch's transition is one of the best in the business. His aggressive body rotation back to the target creates the look of him hanging on his front leg, but this is simply not true. His body began moving back to the target before his club reached the top of the swing, creating a tremendously dynamic position. Because his arms are on plane, he can simply swing back to the target with no waiting.

In the one plane swing, the arms, club and shoulders are already on the proper plane, allowing the golfer the freedom to simply rotate the body back to the left. With the left arm velcroed to the chest, the body can rotate as hard it likes without ever worrying about trying to control the arms. It is important that the golfer properly use his body to swing the club and not the arms. Golfers who are accustomed to swinging their arms to generate power often find this one of the biggest challenges. No longer requiring the arms to try and control the club, the golfer can do what he instinctively wants from the top of the swing - swing hard. You'll quickly find that this swing will feel completely natural, just like hitting a baseball off a tee. A downswing mantra would be "swing left".

vijay singh, number one golfer in the world with a one plane swing
Not sure what to say here. Number one in the world, one plane golf swing. Vijay works hard at keeping his left arm glued to his chest throughout the swing. You've no doubt seen him swing with a golf glove under his left arm. That is a major key to the one plane swing.

The principles that Jim Hardy has come up with make a lot of sense and many of the great ball strikers of today appear to follow closely to what he has said, allowing for variations that are common to all golf swings.