Are you a one-plane golfer, or do you swing the club on two planes? If you're like most golfers, you have no idea.
The most basic way to tell the difference is by viewing a golfer at the top of the backswing, looking down the line toward the target. In a one-plane swing, the left arm and shoulders will be on or very near the same plane or level (e.g. one plane). In a two-plane swing, the left arm will typically be on a steeper angle than the shoulders, on a plane between the shoulders and head.
While the two-plane swing is more common, there have been a number of great one-plane swingers – Ben Hogan and Vijay Singh, for example. Famous two-plane swingers include Jack Nicklaus and Davis Love III.
While it's easy to tell them apart at the top of the backswing, there are a number of less obvious differences between the one-plane and two-plane swing. For example:
- The one-plane swing is considered simpler: Because the club is on a single plane from start to finish, no manipulation of the hands, arms, hips or shoulders is required during the swing. The one-plane swing is a basic rotary action matching the various parts (hips, shoulders, torso, arms). Because it's simpler, some believe the one-plane swing is more easily repeated.
- The two-plane swing is more upright: In other words, the arms take the club up on a more vertical route than with a one-plane swing. This means the left arm becomes “disconnected” from the chest on the backswing, which is necessary to create a wide swing arc and generate power.
You can determine whether you're a one-plane or two-plane golfer with a quick check in a full-length mirror or glass window. But your best bet is to visit a local PGA pro, who can not only identify your plane type, he or she can identify areas for improvement that match your style.
Golf Swing Plane – Understanding One vs. Two
If you spend any time reading golf instruction books or articles, you have no doubt seen plenty of discussion on the top of one plane and two plane swings. As you read these discussions, it can be easy to get confused as to what you should be trying to do with the golf club. Is a one plane or two plane swing the better option? How do you know which one you are using? While this topic is an important one, you also don't want to run the risk of overcrowding your mind with unnecessary thoughts. Ideally, you will be able to process this information on the driving range, use it to improve, and then forget all about it when you head out onto the course.
The concept of the 'plane' comes from the position of the golf club at address. When you look at a golfer who is preparing to hit a shot, you can see that the shaft of the club forms a plane as it rises from the ground up to the player's hands. The angle that the shaft makes at address is considered the starting plane. From there, you can either swing the club around your body (which would be a one plane swing), or up and down in front of your body (which would be a two plane swing). In a one plane swing, the club simply rotates as you turn your body back and through the shot. A two plane swing, on the other hand, is slightly more complicated as the club has to change directions in the backswing to get up into a vertical position.
So is one method better than the other? No, not really. There are plenty of examples of great golfers who have played using either method. If you look down the list of the greatest golfers in history, you will find that there are both one plane swingers and two plane swingers as part of that group. However, there is going to be one option that is better than the other for you. As a golfer who is hoping to improve as time goes by, one of the most important things you can do is determine whether you should be a one plane or two plane swinger.
Most likely, this decision will be a natural one based on the way your body wants to swing the swing. If fact, as you are reading this article, you might already have an idea as to which swing suits you best. It is important that you not only pick one style of swing or the other, but that you also tailor the rest of your game to match up with that technique. There are different fundamentals associated with a one plane swing as compared to a two plane swing, so you need to make sure that all of the parts of your swing 'match up' with one another.
For example, if you are making a one plane swing but you are using two plane fundamentals, you are unlikely to see positive results. By understanding how to match up all of the various elements of your swing into one cohesive unit, you can set yourself up for quality ball striking.
All of the content below is based on a right handed golfer. If you happen to play left handed, please reverse the directions as necessary.
Making the Choice
Before going any further, you need to decide if you are going to use a one plane or two plane swing. There really isn't any room for 'gray area' in this decision – you should be picking one or the other. If you are constantly stuck in the middle of these two techniques, you won't have enough clarity in your practice sessions. By making a pick, you can then move on to working on specific mechanics that serve the style of swing you have chosen.
Fortunately, this choice should be relatively easy for most players. Assuming you already play golf, your swing already has a natural path which is follows. The best course of action is to determine whether you are using a one plane or two plane swing currently, and then stick with that direction moving forward. Trying to change your natural swing plane from one method to the other is going to force your body to go against its natural tendencies – and that just isn't a good idea. You always want to do things that come natural to you, so allow your current golf swing to tell you if you should be taking a one plane or two plane approach.
To make that determination, head to the driving range for a short practice session. During that session, ask yourself the following questions –
- What is my natural shot shape? In general, players who use a one plane swing favor a draw, while those using a two plane swing are more likely to hit a fade. There are exceptions to this rule, of course, but it is a good place to start. If you naturally turn the ball over from right to left when hitting a standard shot, there is a good chance you are swinging on just one plane. On the other hand, if a left to right shot comes naturally to you, your swing is most likely on two planes.
- Where are my hands at the top of the swing? Make a practice swing and pause at the top during the transition from the backswing to the downswing. Where are your hands? If they are down low near your right shoulder, you are making a one plane swing. If they are up higher in the air, at the level of your right ear or above, you are using the two plane method. The position of your hands is one of the best ways to determine your swing plane technique, so pay close attention to the results of this easy test.
- How active is my lower body in the golf swing? Players who use a one plane swing tend to use an aggressive lower body action to drive the club through the hitting area. As you might expect, two plane swingers don't tend to use as much body rotation, instead swinging the club through the hitting area mostly with their arms. What sensations do you get as you swing through impact? A powerful leg drive is a sign of a one plane swing, while a quiet lower body would indicate a two planed approach.
Those three points should make it easy for you to decide if you are making a one plane or two plane golf swing. You might not even have to go to the driving range to sort this out – just thinking about the current state of your golf swing in comparison to the points above may be enough to land you on the right conclusion. Once you have settled on identifying yourself as a one plane or two plane golfer, you can move on to refining your technique using fundamentals that apply to your swing shape.
Improving Your One Plane Swing
If you are a one plane swinger, you should be focused on making your motion as simple as possible. That is really the beauty of the one plane swing – it has the potential to be an incredibly consistent, repeatable motion. When executed correctly, there is very little that can go wrong in a one plane swing. There is less timing required, so you can expect to start the ball on your target line over and over again when you are swinging well.
To maximize the results you get from your one plane swing, you want to ensure that you are in the right address position to match with your one plane technique. Check on all of the points below, and work on any that aren't present in your current setup. While these might seem like minor points, they will have a big impact on the shots you are able to hit.
- Build a wide base. You want to use a stance that is on the wider side when you are making a one plane swing. Rotational speed is what this swing is all about, so you need to build a solid base if you want to rotate as quickly as possible. Place your feet slightly outside of shoulder width when hitting a driver, and bring them in a little bit at a time as the clubs get shorter. There is no exact stance width that applies to every golfer, so you will have to experiment on your own until you find the foot positioning that works best for you. However, as long as you keep your stance on the wider side, you should be in good shape.
- Use a strong grip. A strong grip will help you to rotate the club face through impact, which is important since you are swinging down on a flat plane and the club head is coming from the inside. At address, you want to be able to see at least three knuckles on the back of your left hand – and even seeing all four is okay. If you are used to playing with a weak grip, this adjustment is going to take some time. To start your grip change, hit plenty of chip and pitch shots to get comfortable with the new technique. As you gain repetitions, the stronger grip will begin to feel more and more natural.
- Have great balance. Balance is an important fundamental in golf no matter what kind of swing you are using, but it is particularly crucial when you are swinging on one plane. As mentioned above, the rotation of your swing is the key to your success, and balance is vital if you want to rotate quickly and still make solid contact. Before starting any swing, make sure your body feels nicely balanced over your feet, and then work hard to maintain that balance throughout the swinging motion.
- Bend from the hips. A one plane swing is one that rotates the club around the body with very little vertical movement. Since that is the case, you need to bend sufficiently from the hips in order to put the club in a position to strike down on the golf ball. To do that, work on bending over from your hips at address. You don't need to be bent way out over the golf ball, but there should be enough tilt in your spine to provide your swing with a vertical component. Make sure you feel comfortable and athletic at address, as the golf swing is a dynamic motion and your body needs to be ready for the aggressive action that is about to begin.
Incorporating those four elements in your swing setup will go a long way toward allowing you to hit quality golf shots with a one plane swing. Take a look at the current state of your setup to determine which of these points you are already hitting, and which need to be improved upon. As always, the driving range is the best place to work on improving these mechanics. Spend time on the range paying close attention to these small details and your swing should be much improved when you head back to the course.
Improving Your Two Plane Swing
It probably won't come as a surprise to you that many of the fundamentals which are crucial to a two plane swing are the opposite of those listed above for a one plane swing. These two swing techniques are very much different, and the basic fundamentals that support the swings are opposed in a lot of ways. This again highlights why it is so important to choose between a one plane and two plane swing. Confusion between these two methods is only going to lead to disappointment on the course.
Following are a few points that are important when pursuing improving in your two plane golf swing.
- Narrow your stance. The two plane swing is an upright motion, and it requires a narrow stance to put the club into the right position. Where the lower body wants to remain stable in the one plane swing, there is a little more room for movement in the two plane swing mechanics when it comes to your legs. As you swing the club up to the top, you might find that your right hip needs to move back away from the ball in order to make room for your arm swing – and that is okay. With a narrower stance, you can give your lower body the freedom it needs to facilitate a vertical swing plane.
- Try a weaker grip. The club will do a great job of 'releasing itself' in the downswing of a two plane swing, so you won't need the strong grip to turn the club face over for you. With that in mind, try using a weaker grip, which will allow the club head to release naturally through the ball. As an additional benefit, using a weaker grip should allow you to hit a wider variety of shots, so you won't be limited to just one or two ball flights like you might be with a strong grip.
- Stand up straight and tall. You still need to be slightly bent out over the ball when using a two plane swing, but not as much as you do when swinging on just one plane. You can stand up nice and tall at address when swinging on one plane, although you still need to make sure there is plenty of flex in your knees. Keep your back straight and your chin up to provide a great posture for your two plane swing.
- Don't sway. Many golfers who use a two plane swing have a tendency to sway from side to side while swinging the club. This is a bad idea. Although you probably won't use as much body rotation in this kind of swing as you would with a one plane swing, you still need to focus on turning your shoulders rather than rocking from side a side. A swing that moves laterally as opposed to around your body is one that will always lack power, so be sure to keep your weight as centered as you can while the club is in motion.
The two plane golf swing might be a little more complicated than the one plane swing technique, but it can deliver high quality golf shots just the same. This method is probably a little more popular among professionals, simply because of the variety that it offers when it comes to ball flights. Just about any shot is possible from a two plane swing, provided you know how to use the right techniques to produce the flight you desire. Before you go trying to generate new ball flights, however, work on the basic points above to improve the consistency and reliability of your two plane swing.
Carry Your Technique into the Short Game
Consistency is every golfer's best friend, even though it is hard to find on the course. To be a good golfer, you don't even have to hit amazing shots – you just need to be consistent. If you can produce the same kind of shots over and over again, you can shoot good scores. With that in mind, it is important to match up the technique you use in your full swing with the approach you have to the short game. Even though chip and pitch shots are hit with something far less than a full swing, you still want to carry over your basic mechanics to build familiarity throughout your repertoire of shots.
Therefore, when you set up to hit any kind of short pitch or chip, you should be using the same pre-shot fundamentals that were highlighted above for your preferred swing technique. If you are a one plane swinger, you should still have a strong grip and slightly wide stance. For two plane swingers, a narrower stance and weak grip are in order. Changing your fundamentals from one shot to the next is only asking for trouble. These swings won't be long enough to really tell the difference between using one plane and two, but your body will respond positively to the consistency that you are creating. You want to have confidence over every shot that you hit, and consistency is a great way to breed confidence.
When you get the chance to work on hitting chip and pitch shots, think about your full swing and which elements of that technique will work nicely on the short shots. You might even find it helpful to make a full practice swing (as if you were going to hit a long shot) before hitting a practice chip or pitch. This simple practice method will help you remember what your full swing feels like, and how it can be partially replicated to allow you to hit great short shots.
Of course, putting is a whole different animal altogether. When it comes to putting, you can throw out everything else you do on the course and create a technique that is specific just to your putting stroke. Since the process of rolling the ball along the ground is so much different than hitting it up into the air, you don't need to worry about consistency in this area. You want consistency from stroke to stroke, obviously, but your putting stroke doesn't need to have anything to do with your one or two plane swing.
There is no need to have a debate over which is better, a one plane or two plane golf swing – because they can both be great. Each style of swing holds the potential to hit wonderful golf shots, and each method can take you as far as you want to go in the game. With that said, you still need to pick the method that serves you best. Once you have selected either the one or two plane swing, get down to work on matching up your underlying fundamentals to best support your chosen swing style. With a clear direction for your swing now in place, you should be walking the path toward lower scores.