The Plane Truth
Ever since I started writing this column in 2000, I have always kept my eye out for what’s new in golf instruction, and often have been lucky enough to be directly involved with a controversial teacher who actually presents a new theory about golf. This is something extraordinary, considering we know there really is nothing that is truly “new-new.”
Recently, while working on a new instruction book, The Plane Truth for Golfers, with nationally-ranked teacher Jim Hardy, coach to several top pros (most notably Peter Jacobsen), I was exposed to something that’s genuinely new that I’d like to share with you.
The central focal point of the book, available in major bookstores, revolves around two distinctly different swing types – the one-plane and two-plane swinger – and the sets of fundamentals that govern each.
It is Hardy’s belief that the problem with most golfers, including pros that fall into a slump, is that they mix one- and two-plane fundamentals. Hardy told me, “That’s as bad as putting a BMW part into a Mercedes.”
In part two of this series, I will get into the ins and outs of the actual swings in detail, but for now let me give you a glimpse into Hardy’s thinking and provide you with some basic elements governing each technique. That way, at least, you can start preparing your students for something that could be revolutionary.
According to Hardy, the one-plane swing is best envisioned as a baseball swing at the ground. The spine is bent over, the shoulders are turning on an inclined plane, and the arms are swinging across and around the chest. Ernie Els is a “pure” one-planer, as is the teenage phenomenon Michelle Wie. Other one-plane swingers include legends Ben Hogan and Sam Snead, Chad Campbell, and Tiger Woods.
As Hardy explained to me, the two-plane swinger stands fairly erect, turns fairly level to the ground, and swings the arms in a fairly vertical manner. Golf legend Tom Watson is the most pure of all two-plane swingers. Other good pro examples include David Toms, Davis Love, Karrie Webb, Nancy Lopez, and Hale Irwin.
Both the flatter one-plane swing and the more upright two-plane swing are good techniques. However, as Hardy points out, in making your choice, you must assess your hand-eye coordination, flexibility, and athletic ability. Specifically, if you are strong in the chest, abdominal, back, and shoulder muscles, and aggressive, too, the one-plane swing will suit you better. On the other hand, if you lack body or arm strength (like most women), but are flexible, coordinated, and a good dancer, the two-plane action should be your choice of swing.
In teaching a student a One-Plane setup and swing, this is what Hardy emphasizes:
Firmer grip to prevent exaggerated wrist-cocking action
Neutralor strong grip
Flat left wrist position at the top
Arms moving around torso onto the same plane as shoulder turn
Early hip clearance on the downswing
In teaching a student a Two-Plane setup and swing, this is what Hardy emphasizes:
Relatively light grip pressure to encourage free wrist hinging
Cupped left wrist at the top of the backswing
Square-to-open clubface position
More upright, up-and-down arms swing
Lateral hip bump on the downswing
I’m sure you will see Hardy on The Golf Channel, explaining his new theory in more detail with Peter Jacobsen. Until then, I hope you are excited enough to anticipate reading the next issue of Golf Teaching Pro, when I give you a much more up-close-and-personal look at the two swing techniques taught to me by Jim Hardy.