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

one plane swingAs I mentioned, Jim Hardy (learn more) is credited with being the first to come up with the idea that there are two sets of fundamentals in golf. For a short period of time, Jim Hardy and his one and two plane golf swing ideas were very popular in the golfing world. In my opinion, the lack of distance his players were getting off the tee and strange looking and unnatural positions led to a loss of tour players following his ideas, and eventually the one plane vs two plane ideas started to fade away. This made a perfect segway for Stack and Tilt to flood the market, although, they too have finally begun to lose popularity and players, including their poster child, Aaron Baddeley.

When this article was originally written in 2004, I too, was very entrigued by the one plane and two plane swing ideas. Below you will find my original explanation of the two models that have long since lost favor for most golfers. The Rotary Swing model is quickly replacing all the swing models such as one plane, two plane, Stack and Tilt and others that are based on instructor preference, bias and unfounded ideas about swing plane and such. The Rotary Swing is the only golf instruction model that is based on how the body is designed to move from an anatomical perspective. The movements are the safest, most powerful and efficient movements the human body can make. Tiger Woods is the closest to a perfect model we have on the PGA Tour in terms of how his body moves. If you'd like to learn more about the Rotary Swing, click here. Otherwise, enjoy this older article!

I used to agree, that at its most basic form, there are essentially 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 seen to exhibit traits 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. I do not totally agree with this but do believe that Hardy's ideas can act as useful guidelines for understanding the golf swing in a much simpler form. However, if everyone were required to fall perfectly within these two sets of fundamentals to properly strike the ball, every swing on Tour would fall much more neatly into one set of fundamentals or the other. Of course, it doesn't happen this way, but I do believe these ideas act as a useful guide.

Unfortunately, within the golf instruction community 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, and eventually into developing a swing model not based on opinion, but one on fact - the Rotary Swing.

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 at the top of the swing, in a one plane swing the arms swing up to be more or less on the same plane as the shoulders. 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, their swings are more around with the arms swinging on the same plane as the shoulders at the top of the swing.

The following is based completely on what I interpreted Jim Hardy to be saying on The Golf Channel in 2003, as well as my own interpretations of Ben Hogan's Five Lessons and my own personal experience as a professional golfer and instructor and is meant solely for educational purposes.

START HERE: "Creating a Swing Plane" Video


David Toms at address

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

The biggest difference in the two swings is seen here. In a two plane swing the arms will swing up on a more upright plane than that of the shoulders and the club swings well above the shaft 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 and steep 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 rotating body. David will work to keep his arms more in front of his body throughout the swing and keeping the club working more up than around.

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, although Haney defines a "one plane" swing differently than Hardy. He is not concerned with the arms and shoulders at the top of the swing, rather he is concerned with the club always swinging back and through on the same plane, thus naturally creating a slightly more around swing plane.
(UPDATE March 2006: Tiger has once again moved back to a two plane position at the top his swing)

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 and shoulders must simply "wait" to turn until the arms have dropped the proper amount. Depending on your instructor's school of thought, you may have heard to swing your arms down faster from the top to get them back down on plane or you may have been told to wait and let gravity do the job, or you may have been told to not turn the body and swing the arms back in front of you, either way, these are two plane swing ideas. 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 for those golfers who don't have a good sense of rhythm and timing. 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. In a classic two plane swing, the golfer is striving to get the hands back in front of the chest as soon as possible.

David Toms swings more behind the ball

Toms "loads up" more on his right side rather than staying more centered during the backswing.

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 a lot of two planers will 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 established at address nearing impact and his right arm is "stuck" behind his hip, which is actually a more classic one plane impact position that Hardy is looking for and is very similar to where Ben Hogan was at impact. 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 because in general, a two planer needs to have his arms and hands more in front of his body throughout the swing.



The spine angle is more bent over at address allowing the shoulders to rotate on a steeper plane around the spine. This, in turn, allows the club to swing up on plane. Ben Hogan, the classic one planer, stood more erect at address and then swung his shoulders on a steeper plane during his swing. Jim Hardy advocates the hands be under or just 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 sets the golfer up to have a more "around" swing path.

In the one plane swing, the arms will swing up slightly to a position where they are on plane with the shoulders at the top of the swing. 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. A key in the one plane swing is swinging the arms around behind 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 wider swing arc. His arms have done nothing independent here, they are simply swinging around his body. Hardy would rather see the club closer to the right thigh at this point with the left arm angled more in rather than straight down the line.

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. Below is a picture of me at the top of the swing hitting a mid iron where you can see how the club has a more "laid off" look at the top. This is a perfectly normal thing in a one plane swing.

chuck quinton top of swing

Because your arms are always on plane and never lift high above your shoulders, there is no need to wait for them to drop a great distance to get back on plane. Your body can begin to rotate back toward the target as aggressively as you like and the arms should 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 after setting your weight more on your left side. 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 dreaded "over the top" move creating a pull slice.

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 more 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 drop 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 to the same degree as in the two plane swing, 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 more natural, more 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

Vijay is not in a classic one plane impact position here according to Hardy, but he has done an excellent job of returning the club to its original position established at address. Vijay's swing, like most golfers on tour, is a bit of a hybrid. 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 and helps the body stay more in control of the club and make a full turn on the backswing.

The principles that Jim Hardy has come up with can act as a guideline for golfers to help understand the concept of the two swings. As you learn more about the two swings, you will see that most professional golfers exhibit traits from both swings, although you will benefit from learning the principles and choosing one swing or the other.

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