DRIVER PLAY: How is my swing plane?

Many instructors will talk about swing plane and in some circles this is a huge area of debate.  Instructors debate if the golf swing produces more accuracy with a flatter simpler one plane golf swing or if  two planes in the golf swing simply creates too much power to sacrifice for the accuracy.  The debate can go on for hours about who has “The Secret” to the golf swing, as many think Ben Hogan did in the 50’s and 60’s.  My opinion on this topic is more based around your body type, range of flexibility, and strength.  Although, I am not an advocate of a one plane golf swing, many feel it necessary to consider because of the success of a hand full of PGA Tour players that have converted to this method or similar methods.  The following article will illustrate the definition of one and two plane golf swings and allow you to diagnose yourself and place yourself into a swing plane category that will work both in the direction of power and consistency.

Swing plane is defined as the angle or angles in which the golf club travel around a player’s body and this can most easily be seen by standing behind the player on their target line.  Most instructors will show you on video that there are two vital swing planes in the golf swing, the shaft plane during address and the shoulder plane during address, and suggest that the club and your hands are not to leave the area between the two lines during any point in the golf swing.  Then some instructors will show you that there is only one plane in an efficient golf swing and that the hands and club rairly move away from the angle the shaft makes during the address position, the shaft plane.  The truth is that most great ball strikers are a hybrid model that encompasses elements of both models.  Pictured below are Matt Kuchar and Geoff Ogilvy.  Notice how Kuchar’s club starts at setup and during the backswing and downswing the club or his hands never really leave the initial plane produced with by his club at setup.  This is a fairly good model for the one plane golf swing that Jim Hardy discusses in “The Plane Truth for Golfers”, also take a look at Peter Jacobsen who is the poster boy for the one plane theology would illustrate this point as well.

Now, let’s look at Ogilvy’s swing and where the differences are between the one plane swing and the two plane swing.  Take a look at the third frame in both swing sequences at the hand position and the angle of the club.  Kuchar’s hands and club stay below his right shoulder the entire duration of his backswing and Ogilvy’s hands and club both get above his right shoulder at the top of his backswing.  The angle of the golf club is very different where Kuchar’s has not left the initial plane and Ogilvy’s has started to move up the second plane of the golf swing.  This is the obvious difference between the two swing styles, but there are many smaller parts to get each player into these positions that can be fairly technical.

The argument will also involve discussion if the two plane swing will create more power and if the one plane swing will create more accuracy.  My feeling on this matter is that they are both correct to some extent.  A one plane golf swing is very repeatable and can be very consistent, but the major source of power is the uncoiling of the body and if you’re not a physically strong you will limit yourself on how far the ball carries.  Now, if you look on the PGA Tour website you will notice that these two players actually hit their drives about the same yardage, but when you look at the other 95 player listed above them you will notice a lot of two plane golf swings and very few one planers.  The discussion on generating power would be quick lived, because instead of solely using the uncoiling of the body, in a two plane golf swing you will also be able to use the arms to create power.  I am a firm believer that most of the power is created with the lower body and the uncoiling of the lower body against the resistance of the upper body, but if a player can add in the power of the arm swing that is only going to speed up the clubhead.

So, how do you know if you are or can be a one or two plane swinger?  The best way to see what your current tendency is will be to get your golf swing videotaped and have a professional analyze your over all golf swing, not just the backswing.  This should give you an idea of what your current positions are and your current positions are working properly.  The analysis should look something like this to show you where your current swing plane falls.

Just by looking at these three players Dudly Hart, Adam Scott, and Chad Campbell you can see three distinctive swing plane and how the two planer can vary quit drastically.  I am not suggesting that Campbell is a pure one planner, but he does have some of the characteristics of a one planer and if your video looks similar to this then moving into a pure one plane swing will not be too difficult.  The other two are traditional two planers and this is illustrated by their left arms being higher than their shoulder.

These positions tell us a couple of things about the body type required to make a one plane golf swing.  The evaluations will be able to tell  if you are capable of the level of flexibility and strength in your latissimus muscles (lats), hamstrings, and rotator cuffs to move into a one plane golf swing.

One, you should be able to consistently externally rotate both your forearms past your spine angle at address.  Also, you will need to be able to maintain your setup position during the golf swing to prevent any loss of posture during the backswing or during impact.  There are many things that contribute to keeping your posture during the golf swing, abdominal strength, lat strength, and the elasticity of the hamstrings.  If these three areas are not consistent with the requirements needed you will have difficulty with standing taller in your backswing, during the downswing, and into impact most importantly. When testing the lat muscles and rotator cuff areas try taking your golf posture and then taking your arms up to shoulder height and see if you are able to rotate your forearms behind your head as pictured below.

You should do these evaluations in the mirror or have someone video tape you to see if you were able to comfortably execute these correctly.  A great way to test for hamstring flexibility is to simply see if you can stand with your feet together and touch your toes, if not you should question your ability to move towards a one plane golf swing.

We also mentioned that abdominal strength, lat strength, and flexibility.  If you will take a golf club and stand with your feet shoulder width apart and raise the club above your head and with your hand shoulder width apart, then see how low you can squat with just your knees.  If your arms tend to move in front of your body and not stay on your spine angel, like pictured below then your lat muscles are strong enough to maintain your posture though impact.  Also, if you cannot get into this deep of a squatting position your abdominal muscles are most likely not strong enough to support you though impact either.


For the two plane golfer all these same evaluations are helpful and to become a better two plane player you will want to be able to execute these exercises as well, but these are crucial for a one plane swinger.  So, if you have had thoughts of becoming a one plane player take some time and evaluate your body, game, and long-term goals before  jumping into this type of golf swing.