One plane vs. two plane

Jim Hardy


To determine if you’re a one-plane or two-plane swinger, try the drills above. First, stand farther from the ball, bend over and hold your driver like a hockey stick. Swing in a flatter, more “around” path. Then try the second drill: Stand upright, swing back and thrust your hips at the ball before your arms swing through. If you hit better shots from the hockey position, you’re probably a one-planer. If the upright shots are better, you’re probably a two-planer. Match the following drills to your swing type.



Think of the basic one-plane and two-plane swings as models. There are lots of different variations within the models, but if you copy the basic elements of the one-plane or two-plane swing, you’re going to be a pretty darn good player. Mixing them is where golfers get into trouble. Don’t buy into the idea that there’s only one way to play golf. If that were true, Jim Furyk and Lee Trevino should give back all the money and trophies they’ve won. Find the model that suits you, then work on the things that make your kind of swing better.

If you’re going to live your golfing life as a one-planer, here’s the kind of advice you should listen to–and the kind you should avoid. (1) Bend over more at address. Standing tall or transferring your weight aggressively is wrong for your swing. (2) Keep your head relatively still on the backswing, which means you shouldn’t be “getting behind the ball,” like you’ve heard teachers say. (3) Your swing thoughts should incorporate swinging the club around your body. (4) You never want to feel as if you’re pulling with your left arm. (5) Your downswing keys should be turning your body as hard as you can and hitting aggressively with your right hand.


Two-planers have their own instructions they should be listening to–and some they should be ignoring. The good advice is designed to get you swinging the club more shallow through impact and on a more in-to-out swing path.

(1) Keep your arms relatively relaxed and hanging in front of you at address, not reaching for the ball. (2) Your posture should be more upright than a one-planer’s. (3) On the backswing, never listen to the old advice “keep your head still.” You need to transfer your weight pretty substantially to generate your clubhead speed. As I demonstrated on the first page, you have to push your hips toward the ball on the downswing to keep them in front of your arms, which automatically gets your club moving on an in-to-out path. (4) Pull the club down from the top with your left arm. (5) Resist the temptation to try to swing your arms really fast. Timing, tempo, rhythm and balance are the keywords that are going to work the best for your type of swing.



The one-planer is blessed with a long flat spot at the bottom of the swing that makes hitting short irons really easy–think of Gary Player, Lee Trevino or Paul Azinger. The flip side is that it’s difficult for a one-planer to get enough height on shots hit with a flat-faced club, such as a 4- or 5-iron.

First, you need to invest in a hybrid and throw out that 3-iron. Hybrids are designed to hit the ball higher, and you’ll get a tremendous amount of help from that. Mechanically, you need to make your swing more up-and-down. The way to do that is to bend over more at address, and get your rear end extended behind your heels. You see Tiger Woods do this every time he launches one of his famous super-high shots with a long iron.

A good way to feel this is to imagine that your rear end is pushed against a wall at address and stays against the wall during the swing (right). This automatically tilts your shoulder plane more upright, and adds that up-and-down element to your swing. I’ve worked with Azinger on this exact thing because he wasn’t hitting his longer irons high enough to be competitive on the PGA Tour anymore.

You don’t want to turn your shoulders on a steeper angle. If you do that, you’ll just tilt forward on the backswing and tilt back on the forward swing in a reverse pivot.



A two-planer comes down on the ball from a steep angle. That can make hitting short irons a challenge. The drill below with a rubber tee on a range mat helps two-planers feel a longer, flatter bottom of the swing.


Get your wedge, and set up to the ball on a high tee. Make some short, knee-high swings, and practice clipping the ball off the tee. Work on catching the ball cleanly, without hitting any of the tee with the clubhead. Once you’ve grooved that swing, move the ball off the tee and make the same short, flat swings, brushing the ball cleanly off the mat.

Another way to make the bottom of your short-iron swing flatter is to hit more three-quarter punch shots. Restrict your backswing and follow-through. You’re essentially taking out most of the “up” part of your swing and leaving the “around” part. Try it the next time you play a round.



All great players have a go-to shot–something they can hit under even the most pressure-packed situations.

For the one-plane swinger, that’s probably going to be a shot that curves from right to left. But how do you hit that shot without worrying about snap-hooking? The trick is to hit an intentional draw. The shot that just destroys the one-planer is the snap hook, which happens when your right arm stays under your left too long, then flips over at impact (above, left).

When you hit an intentional draw, your right arm begins rotating earlier in the swing (above, right), and you hit a more controlled draw. With that shot, you can aim at the right edge of the fairway and swing away without worrying about the lake on the left.



The two-plane swinger is probably going to favor a left-to-right shape for a go-to shot. Jack Nicklaus won a lot of tournaments pounding a cut drive out there 285 yards.

The danger for a two-planer is that the act of shallowing out a steep angle through impact opens the clubface. If you don’t play the ball far enough forward in your stance, that gentle fade can become a weak push slice.

When you move the ball forward, opposite your front heel, make sure you don’t push your hands forward as well (far left). That pulls your right shoulder toward the ball and skews your aim to the left. Keep your hands slightly behind the ball (near left) to maintain the correct shoulder alignment. You’ll hit a nice, controlled fade.



The simplest way to visualize swing plane is to imagine an airplane landing on a runway. You must have the right combination of forward movement and up-and-down movement to land. If you have too much forward, your plane just circles the runway. If you have too much up-and-down, your plane crashes nose-first into the ground.



Every player comes with a natural fingerprint for the kind of swing he or she should use.

If you grew up playing sports like baseball or tennis, you have a feel for propelling a ball forward. You’re probably going to lean toward being a one-plane swinger. If your sense for the golf ball is that you need to lift it in the air to send it on its way, you’re probably going to be a two-plane swinger.

neither is better or worse. players have won countless millions using both methods. I just want you to use the set of fundamentals that works for your kind of swing. Mixing them is what produces bad golfers.



A two-planer who wants to hit a fade tends to line up too square to the target. You have to be sure to allow for enough left-to-right curve when you set your aim. If you don’t, you end up hitting the ball to the right of your target or, even worse, overcorrecting mid-swing and double-crossing yourself with a pull hook.

For more than a decade, Golf Digest and the PGA of America have been teaming up to present PGA Free Lesson Month. To get a free 10-minute lesson from a PGA professional during the month of May, check the list on pages 249-252 for participating teachers in your area or click or Fill out the coupon at the end of the list, and present it to the teacher for your free lesson.


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COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale, Cengage Learning

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