One Plane Golf Swing in Depth

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Understanding the One Plane Swing in Depth

In teaching the one plane golf swing, by far the most difficult task I have found is helping golfers "unlearn" everything they already "know" about the golf swing. The second most difficult task is finding the balances by not over exagerrating certain movements in the swing. The ideas I present below are a blend of what Jim Hardy calls a one plane swing and how I teach the swing. Interestingly enough, with all the buzz around this idea of a one plane swing, Jim Hardy openly admits that his one plane swing is a more difficult swing to learn as it requires more athleticism. The swing that I teach is a blend between the two that I have experienced great success with golfers of all abilities, not just those with Tour caliber athleticism. It is, in my mind, a much simpler swing and more natural.

What I am writing below goes completely against helping you learn the swing and is not even close to how I teach the swing. It is meant strictly as a reference and is for all those super technical golfers out there who want to know way more than they need to about the golf swing. If that's you, read on as you'll be able to completely overwhelm yourself with the technical detail below and ensure that you won't be able to swing the club to save your life :-) After writing this, I had to put my clubs down for a week until I "forgot" everything I wrote. For those of you who want to actually learn how to do the one plane swing and not read about the details, click the link >>>
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Backswing

Jim Hardy believes there are a few fundamentals that must be performed properly that differ significantly from that of a two plane swing. Hardy firmly believes that there are no interchangable parts between the two swings, he calls them oil and water. However, if this were true, every golfer on the PGA Tour would neatly fall into one or the other and strictly follow Hardy's fundamentals. Of course, this is simply not the case and almost every golfer on tour is more of a hybrid than anything else. If you are looking for the purest demonstration of Hardy's ideas of a one plane swing, I highly recommend you study Peter Jacobsen's swing, as well as Scott McCarron. Of course, you will notice that not very many other golfers' swings look like Jacobsen or McCarron's, but if you want to follow Hardy to a "T", that is where you should look. Below I will talk about the swings in more detail and attempt to point out areas that I differ from Hardy, but will mostly stick with Hardy's theories here so as to provide a more complete reference of the two swings.

Watch this video on the golf backswing:


1. The shoulders swing on a steeper plane

The shoulders should always turn perpindicular to the spine in either swing, this is nothing new. The spine should be tilted over more at address in a one plane swing, which will allow the shoulders to rotate on a steeper plane allowing the arms to swing up on plane. Compare the two photos below of myself and David Toms. Note how David swings the club above the shaft plane he established at address very early in the swing. He keeps the club outside of his hands in order to keep it from coming too far inside. This is a commonly taught position in today's modern teaching and David performs it perfectly. You can already see how his arms are separating from his torso in an effort to create width. In a one plane swing, too much width is a bad characteristic according to Hardy, so the arms swing more to the inside and across the chest. Hogan also talked a great deal about his arms swinging across his chest and the connection he maintained of his upper arms to his chest throughout his swing. At this position, Hardy would like to see the arms more into my right hip and closer to my body at this point. I don't do that because I like for the club to flow a bit more on its natural arc rather than pulling my arms across my chest very early with my right arm.



One of the very small nuances that is very important in the one plane swing is the clockwise rotation of the left arm. David Leadbetter pointed this out in his book on Hogan's Five Fundamentals. In a two plane swing, there is no rotation of the forearm because you are trying to get the club up and rotating the left arm makes the club swing more "around" as the club goes more into the "depth" dimension of the swing. The rotation of the arm in the one plane swing allows the left arm to more naturally swing across the body. If you stand up and make a baseball swing, you will notice that there is some clockwise rotation of the left forearm. If you do not allow the left forearm to rotate, the club will be "maneuvered" onto a more upright plane rather than being allowed to "swing" on it's natural, more "around" plane. This is not something that you will concsiously do if you allow yourself to make a natural swing, it is something that will happen on its own. I simply point it out here because you have likely heard not to allow the left forearm to rotate, which is true for a two plane swing, but not true for a one plane swing. The problem is see most, however, is with people over doing this move and getting the club too far behind their hands and body and swinging the club on too much around. So don't overdo it, simply allow your left arm to rotate slightly on the backswing.

2. The left arm stays connected to the chest and rotates

One of Hardy's key fundamentals is to keep the arms in close to the body with the left arm connected to the chest.
The left arm staying connected to the chest is a key element in a one plane swing that allows the body to control the arms - a key to power and accuracy. As I mentioned, Hogan talked about this in his book, Five Fundamentals. Both arms stay close to the body to decrease width and give control of the golf club over to the torso, removing the responsibility from the much more difficult to control arms. This allows you to use the big muscles of your body to swing the club because the arms are a completely unreliable source of power and control. This swinging motion happens naturally because the arms are simply being led by the rotating body and are being allowed to swing back behind the chest similar to a baseball swing. You can clearly see here that David's arms are continuing their very upward movement whereas mine are swinging more around behind me. A simple way to look at this is that in a one plane swing the arms and body are more in sync, with the arms naturally swinging with the rotation of the body on the same plane. In the two plane swing the body rotates and the arms lift. Hardy differs here a fair bit and you will see that as the arms reach this 9 o'clock position that the shaft will be more upright and pointing at a place somewhere between the golfer's feet and the ball. My shaft points directly at the ball, as does Toms, although my hands are much deeper at this point.


one plane swing backswing david toms backswing


3. The arms swing back on the same plane as the shoulders

This is where Hardy and Hogan differ significantly from today's teaching. Both speak of how the left arm swings on a plane that is very close to parallel to that of the shoulders. In order to do this, you may feel that you are swinging much more around than up. The club is, however traveling up due to the steeper shoulder plane established at address. You'll find that it feels very natural to swing around your body without lifting your arms. It is just how you would swing a baseball bat or an axe if you were chopping a tree.

Observe the photo below of Steve Flesch from 2003, before he started to work with Butch Harmon on swinging more upright, or more on two planes. At the top of the swing, his left arm and shoulders are perfectly on plane together.

 


Top of the Swing

Compare the following two photos of me and David Toms. Both of us have arrived in solid positions at the top, but there are obvious differences. First, David's hands are directly above his right shoulder, a textbook position for a two plane swing. My hands are outside my right shoulder and are further "behind" my body, as Hardy would put it. Toms' right arm has swung up and away, disconnecting from his body, whereas mine has stayed in a bit closer. It should be noted that Hardy wants the right elbow pointing back behind you, similar to the photo above of Steve Flesch. I like to keep my arms in a bit closer to my torso for a more connected feeling more similar to Ben Hogan. Also, note the flatter shoulder plane that David has at the top of the swing.

Video on Jason Days Backswing Position at the Top


Many people have said to me that I look "laid off" at the top of the swing much the way Ben Hogan used to look. However, this is NOT a laid off position. In the picture below, the club is perfectly on plane with my left arm and shoulders. Because of the more around nature of the swing, the only way the club would point at the target to not "look" laid off would be if I made a bigger shoulder turn or increased my wrist cock. I could also manipulate the club with my hands to point the club at the target by rotating my left forearm counterclockwise - all of which would be completely unnecessary movements. At this point, I've simply swung the club on an arc with no manipulations.

On the downswing, David's arms must drop a great distance to get back on plane. He must delay his body turn until his arms have dropped back in front of his chest. My arms do not have to drop because they are already on plane with my shoulders. My only task from here is to rotate my body back to the left - or "swing left" as Jim Hardy puts it, with the whole body while rotating my shoulders on the same plane. Hogan talked about how hard he drove with his lower body in his book and in Jody Vasquez' book "Afternoons with Mr. Hogan" (a great read, btw) he talked about how one of Hogan's secrets was to drive his right knee "into the back of the ball." For most, this causes them to come out of posture so driving with the hips is something that must be done with caution and a smooth transition. Hardy doesn't want a golfer to drive much with the hips, he states that they should be allowed to turn slightly from the top to initiate the downswing. I have no problem with a golfer turning his hips agressively as long as it works with all the other pieces of his or her swing.

 

chuck quinton one plane golf swingdavid toms two plane golf swing

In order to arrive in this one plane position at the top, the arms must stay connected to the body, although Hardy would rather see the right arm pointing more behind me. The right forearm pointing straight down at the ground is a very Hoganesque positiong that I think provides a golfer with a significant amount of control over the club. You can see that you could place a headcover under each of my arms and they would stay securely in place throughout the swing. My visual is that my left arm is velcroed to my chest. I like this image because velcro gives a little, allowing for some feeling in the arm, but it also gives me the feeling that my arm is securely held in place without me "holding" it in place by being tense. I believe that the arm must be allowed to swing into this position, not be forced into it. You should feel as if you are in a very connected and powerful position at the top of the swing, all the while feeling alive and dynamic.

 

Transition

The transition in any golf swing is perhaps the most important move and the most difficult for most to understand. It is what gives a golf swing its athleticism, grace and power. In both swings, the body must begin moving back to the target before the club reaches the top of swing. In any good golf swing, the arms do nothing active from the top of the swing until they get back down to atleast hip high, this allows them to store potential energy to be used exclusively through the hitting area. The longer they stay passive, the better, as this allows the body to control the club rather than the arms.

Key Move to Sequence the Downswing Transition



The transition is the single most important move for storing power in the golf swing. It is the transition that allows the golfer to maintain lag in the wrists that allow the club to whip through impact with little apparent effort from the body. Ben Hogan was, of course, the absolute master of this. Hogan began moving his body back to the target very aggressively well before he reached the top of the swing and he, himself, stressed the emphasis of getting the hips moving while the arms stay passive. Hogan said that his "arms were getting a free ride." For many, getting the lower body to move in one direction while the club continues to move back is a difficult task. One way I teach this move is this that as long as the club is moving back away from the target on the backswing, the body can be rotating back away from the target. However, after the club is perpendicular to the ground, it begins moving "back" toward the target as it approaches the top of the swing. It is during this time that the body must be "preparing" to move back toward the target. It does not happen this early, but if you think of it happening in this way it will give the body time to respond to the minds instructions while you are learning the idea. It is at this point, when the body begins rotating back to the left that you can't rotate your torso too fast. The jeopardy in the two plane swing of rotating the body too fast is the don't have time to get the arms back down on plane and they get stuck behind you. In the one plane swing, that is the exact desired effect. You want the left arm to feel as if it were being drug or forced through the downswing by the body. It is as if the left arm were velcroed to the chest, very relaxed but whipping through impact. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of the transition. It is the transition that stretches the muscles to their fullest extent and this stretching is what allows them to "snap" back like a rubber band to generate tremendous speed with very little effort. Hardy's idea of the transition differs from what I teach as he wants the upper torso to dominate the downswing, creating a mirror image of the backswing on the downswing. I will not go in depth on this point here.

At impact, I want to see the lower body clearing to the left and the shoulders open, or pointing somewhat left at impact. You can see in the picture below that my hips have rotated more than my shoulders, but I have maintained my spine angle.

 

golf swing impact

Downswing

In initiating the downswing, there are several things to consider. The mantra of the one plane swing might be something like "get to the left side" or "rotate the shoulders on the same plane." While these are proper things that you need to do in the downswing, I first will address the one thing that you must NEVER do. It is a killer to the swing, one plane or two. Your right hip must never, ever, under any circumstance kick your right hip toward the ball at the start of the downswing. This move is an absolute destroyer of all golf swings. It is such a quick, seemingly harmless motion, but it changes more things in your downswing than any other single action. It is a problem that plagues many, many golfers at all levels. When the right hip kicks in toward the ball during the transition, the spine angle changes, becoming more upright. No matter how hard you try and maintain your spine angle, your lower back will straighten, even if you manage to maintain the angle with your mid and upper back.

Downswing Sequence


Shoulder Turn vs. Shoulder Tilt
One of the most eye opening things I thought that Hardy spoke about was the shoulder turn/tilt. Like Hardy, I place an emphasis on the way the shoulders rotate in the one plane golf swing. He believes, they must rotate perpendicular to your spine at all times. If they do not, they are tilting, not turning. On the backswing, most all better golfers turn their shoulders rather than tilt them, but it is during the downswing that the turning becomes more of a concern. If your right hip moves toward the target as I mentioned above, the shoulders will stop turning left and "tilt."

As the club moves past impact, it will begin moving immediately to the left as it moves on its natural arc. It will not go out down the line as many golfers have been taught for years. However, in a two plane swing, it is ok to swing more from the inside out and releasing the arms and hands. This will create a shot that starts right and works back to the left, or a draw.

Video on Impact and Release

Follow Through


Because the swing is more rotational and around than up and down, the finish will be more around as well. I like to see a golfer maintain their spine angle throughout the swing and finish with the club in a relaxed position.

 

quinton follow through

 

Learn more about the One Plane Swing at these great golf instruction resources:

http://www.RotarySwing.com

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