Skilled golfers swing their clubs on a repeatable route around their bodies. Golf instructors such as Jim Hardy call that route “the swing plane.” Hardy, a former tour player and coach to several PGA Tour stars, popularized the term “one-plane swing” to describe a swing style he believes can make some players more consistent. The one-plane swing has its own set of fundamentals that you must learn to make the method work effectively.
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The Swing Plane
Because you stand to the side of the golf ball instead of directly over it, you have to swing the club on an inclined path around your body. That path is the swing plane. In the one-plane swing, your arms and shoulders move on a plane that matches the club’s plane. Hardy compares the movement to a baseball swing that has been angled to hit the ball off the ground. As the club circles the body, the one-plane swing depends more on body rotation than well-timed hand action, making it more repeatable, Hardy says. Hardy names Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, and Tiger Woods as some of the best one-plane swingers in golf history.
To make a one-plane swing, you need to make a few changes to the way you set up to the ball. First, you need to lean over more from the waist than normal and reach a little further for the ball. Hardy says your hands should be under your chin. This will make it easier to turn your shoulders more steeply while swinging your arms more around your torso, allowing the planes to match up. Hardy also suggests a wide stance with your weight favoring the balls of your feet, which will help your balance.
Jeff Ritter, an Arizona-based PGA professional, offers a simple plan for making a one-plane backswing. To make your arm swing match your shoulder turn, a key to performing a one-plane swing, he teaches right-handed players to swing their left arm back across their chest. He says it should feel as if you are trying to squash the logo on your shirt. To check your plane angles, Ritter recommends setting up with a stand bag to your right and positioned so the clubheads point behind you. When you swing back, your club path, arm swing and shoulder turn should all match the angle at which the bag is inclined to the ground, which is about 45 degrees.
Downswing and Follow-Through Plane
One reason a one-plane swing can make you a more consistent player is that you swing the club down on the same path it followed going back. Hardy emphasizes body rotation as the key. While keeping your head still and your arms passive, rotate your shoulders and hips rapidly toward your target. There should be almost no lateral movement in this part of the swing. Keeping your arms passive will allow them to follow the body and stay on plane. To check your follow through, Ritter suggests setting your stand bag to your left. As you turn through the shot, your club, arms and shoulders should move up and around on the same angle as your bag.