Is a one-plane swing right for you?

    Before answering the question, it’s necessary to know exactly what the term “one-plane swing” means... also known as "single-plane swing". In a one-plane swing (for a right-hander), the left arm’s position at the top of the back-swing matches the tilt of the shoulders when viewed looking down the target line. In a two-plane swing, the left arm is typically higher (more upright or vertical). In other words, it’s above the shoulder plane.

    The two-plane swing is more common, but the single-plane motion has many advocates. (Some instructors refer to it as a “rotational swing.”) Let’s look at some of the arguments for and against the one-plane swing:

    The case made for the one/single-plane swing

  • It’s simpler and easier to repeat: When done correctly, it’s relatively easy to synchronize the movements of the hips, shoulders, arms and hands in the one-plane swing. No specialized motions – like an abrupt wrist hinge, hip thrust or “dropping” the club onto the plane on the downswing – are required to make an on-plane swing and square the clubface at impact.
  • It produces a consistent draw: Swinging the arms and shoulders on the same plane naturally creates a flatter (more horizontal) swing, with the club arching around the body. This promotes a clubhead path that approaches the ball from inside the target line the essential ingredient to hitting right-to-left shots.
  • Two of history’s greatest ball-strikers were one-planers: Legendary, enigmatic Canadian pro Moe Norman is the epitome of a one-plane swinger. Ben Hogan also utilized a single-plane rotation in his most productive years. If it’s good enough for them, surely the average golfer could benefit from giving it a try.
  • The case made for the two-plane swing

  • It’s tougher to generate power: Actually, this point is up for debate. Some say that because the left arm remains “connected” to the body, it’s difficult to create a wide, powerful arc in the one-plane swing. Others disagree, arguing that rotational force more than compensates in the swing speed department.
  • Fading the ball is difficult: Most golfers who fade the ball feature an upright, two-plane swing. Many players prefer the fade, especially with the driver, because it’s easier to control than a draw.
  • Most great players have been two-plane swingers: Jack Nicklaus, Sam Snead, Tiger Woods (for most of his career, anyway)… The list of great two-plane swingers is considerably longer than the list of single-plane champions. Of course, that could be attributable to the fact that the two-plane swing is more common and better understood by most teaching pros, explaining why the one-plane swing has never gained wider use.
  • If you’re curious about the nature of your swing plane, stand with a mirror or glass window to your right and swing a club back to the top. It should be fairly obvious whether you swing on a single plane (left arm matches shoulders) or two separate angles (left arm above shoulders). Because of the differences, see your PGA professional for tips on getting the most from your particular action.

    One Plane Golf Swing: Pros and Cons 2
    Which Golf Swing Plane is Right for You?

    One of the most important concepts to understand in the golf swing is the idea of golf swing plane. Your swing plane is an imaginary ‘line’ that is created by the club while it is in motion. The angle of the shaft of the club throughout the swing creates your plane, and swing plane is something that can vary wildly from golfer to golfer. While there are definitely some do’s and don’ts when comes to swing plane, there is no one right way to do it. However, making sure that you are swinging on a plane that works for you, and that you can swing on the same plane time after time, is important. While this might be a concept that plenty of amateur golfers are happy to ignore, it is worth your time to understand and practice.

    Among the first things you will need to determine with your own swing is whether you are currently using a one plane golf swing, or a two plane golf swing. A one plane golf swing, as the name would suggest, has the club traveling along one plane throughout the entirety of the swing. In a two plane swing, the club makes a shift, generally during the transition from the backswing to the downswing. It is absolutely possible to play great golf with both options, as each has its own set of advantages and disadvantages. Most often, a golfer is going to be best off by sticking with whichever one comes naturally, though it is possible to make the change to the other option if you have a specific reason for doing so.

    The proper golf swing plane for you is going to vary on a number of factors including your height, the ball flight you like to use, your flexibility, etc. It is impossible to identify one proper golf swing plane for all players simply because there are too many differences between golfers to fit them all into the same model. While there are certain golf swing plane tips that will apply to every player on the course, there is plenty of room for individual style as well.

    Below you will find a variety of golf swing plane tips that you can apply to your own game right away. It should be noted that any instruction found below is going to be written from the perspective of working with a right handed golfer – left handed golfers will need to reverse the directions.

    One Plane Golf Swing: Pros and Cons 3
    One Plane vs. Two Plane

    To get started understanding – and improving – your swing plane, you will first want to figure out if you are using a one plane or two plane swing currently. In order to do that, you obviously need to know what these terms mean, and what makes one option different from the other. After you have a better understanding of one plane and two plane swings, you can decide if you are going to stay with the style of swing that you have, or switch to the other option.

  • One plane swing. In a one plane golf swing, the club stays on the same plane throughout the whole swing from start to finish. That means that the angle of the shaft in relation to the ground on the backswing is the same as it is on the downswing. While there is bound to be some small level of variation between the backswing and downswing, getting them to match up as close as possible is ideal. There are certain one plane golf swing fundamentals that should be followed when this type of swing is used. For example, standing a little bit farther from the ball and using a flatter takeaway are a couple of the common one plane golf swing fundamentals to pay attention to.
  • Two plane swing. Obviously, the two plane golf swing has a shift during the swing that changes the plane of the club shaft – and that shift occurs when you are moving from backswing to downswing. The vast majority of golfers are going to move from an upright plane to a flatter one when they are using a two plane swing. This means that the club swing up on a relatively vertical path during the backswing, then the club is laid down flatter as it changes directions and heads toward the ball. Some players who use a two plane swing will take the opposite approach, and go from a flat backswing to a steeper attack angle toward the ball – however, this is hard to do successfully and will most often lead to problems in your swing. If you are going to be trying to use a two plane swing, you should be thinking in terms of a steeper backswing before dropping the club down for a flatter approach.
  • The best way to analyze your current swing and determine if you are using a one plane or two plane swing is to record your swing on video. Ask a friend to use a cell phone or other recording device to take some video of you hitting balls on the driving range. They should be standing behind you, on an extension of the target line (obviously, far enough back to be out of the way of the swing). Record video of your swing hitting balls with both an iron and your driver so you can have a good overall review of your swing technique with both types of clubs.

    When you watch back your swing on the video, pay particular attention to the transition and note if the club is re-routed at all between backswing and downswing. If possible with the recording equipment that you are using, try to watch the swing in slow motion to make it easier to observe the plane that you are swinging on. After watching a few swings over and over again, you should be able to make the determination of whether you are swinging on one plane or two.

    So what do you do with this information once you have it? Well, you can use it to determine how you are going to move forward with your swing, and what you are going to change. For example, if you are mostly happy with the ball flights that you are hitting and just want to make some minor improvements, you will want to stick with the method that you are using. However, if you are not at all happy with your current swing, changing to the other option might be your best bet to create some change and give yourself a direction to go in.

    In general, the recommendation would be this – taller players should lean toward a two plane swing, while shorter golfers should look carefully at using the one plane option. A one plane swing tends to be a flatter one, which will better suit shorter players more of the time. The upright takeaway used in a two plane swing tends to be easier for taller players to achieve, and their height gives them room to drop the angle of the shaft in the transition and come in on a flatter plane. The choice is ultimately up to you, but be sure to make a decision one way or the other and then stick with it.

    One Plane Golf Swing: Pros and Cons 4
    The Takeaway Sets the Path

    Setting up your club on the right plane for the rest of the swing is as easy as making a good takeaway. Of course, making a good takeaway can be a little bit harder than you might like to think. So much of the success or failure of your swing is decided within the first six inches or so of movement that you would be wise to focus much of your energy on improving this vital part of your swing.

    As you think about your takeaway, picture the club moving as a whole unit, not just the club head. The plane that is formed by the shaft of the club as it moves along is what we are concerned with here, as getting the club on the right plane immediately is going to make the rest of the swing easier. While you could potentially recover from a bad takeaway later in your swing and still hit a good shot, it is going to be much more difficult doing it that way than if you sort our your takeaway right from the start.
    What a good takeaway looks like depends on what kind of swing you are trying to make. First, let’s talk about the right takeaway for a one plane swing. If this is the method you are trying to use, you want your takeaway to be dominated by the rotation of your arms and shoulders. Since you are looking for a flat backswing that never really gets the club high into the air, you don’t want to engage your hands at this point in the swing. You should simply be rotating your shoulders away from the target while your hands just hold on to the club passively. Any extra hand or wrist involvement at this point will only serve to get you above the plane that you are looking for.

    To do this correctly, it is extremely important that you have a good address position and plenty of flex in your knees. Standing too much straight up and down will make it difficult to rotate the club behind your back and you will likely end up with the two plane swing that you are trying to avoid. Engage your lower body right from the start if you are hoping to have a quality one plane swing. As long as you can keep your hands and wrists from getting involved too early in the swing, you should find the club right on plane as you head up toward the transition.

    As you might be able to guess, the proper takeaway for a two plane swing is going to be somewhat the opposite of the one plane technique. Rather than only focusing on rotation, you are going to want to allow your hands and wrists to get involved early in the takeaway to help set the club on that steeper plane that you are looking for. Make no mistake – your shoulders still need to do the majority of the work when the club starts moving, but your hands can also help out by picking the club up within the first foot or so of the backswing.

    Think of the backswing in a two plane swing as a blended motion, where the one plane backswing is a singular motion controlled only by the shoulders. By definition, this does make the two plane swing a little more difficult to execute consistently, especially under pressure. Any time you are adding an extra movement into your golf swing, you run the risk of making is more complicated and harder to repeat reliably. However, if you are a player who is naturally more comfortable with a two plane style swing, this added piece of motion might be worth the trouble.

    One Plane Golf Swing: Pros and Cons 5
    What Your Divot is Trying to Tell You

    When was the last time you paid real close attention to your divot? Despite the fact that your divot can tell you a lot about the shots that you are hitting, many golfers ignore them, other than the chore of picking them up and replacing them. If you are serious about improving your swing and your game overall, you will take the time and effort to examine your divots more closely.
    As far as swing plane goes, looking at your divot path can tell you if your plane is moving too much to the right or left through impact. Next time you are on the golf course, or hitting balls on a grass driving range, make an effort to look at the divots you take with your mid and short irons. It should only take a few shots to quickly notice a pattern to them. If the divots are lined up directly with your target line, then you are in great shape with your swing plane. However, if they are pointing out to the right or left, you might have a problem that needs to be addressed.

    For those of you that find your divots are pointing to the left of the target, you likely have a reverse two plane swing going on that you will want to correct as soon as possible. This is when the club is taking too-flat of a plane on the backswing and is forced to go ‘over the top’ during the transition. This is the opposite of what should be happening in a two plane swing, when the club starts on a steeper line and is dropped into position during the transition. If you find that you hit a combination of pulled shots and sliced shots when you are on the course, your club is almost certainly moving over the top when you go from backswing to downswing.

    In order to correct this issue, try using the one plane swing model and keep the club on that same plane from start to finish. The flatter backswing probably feels natural to you at this point, since you have been doing it automatically. Keep that aspect of your swing as it is, and instead work on eliminating the lift of the club at the top of the swing. Try to swing down right on the same path that you went back on, and you should see your divots straighten out quickly.

    If you are fighting the opposite problem, having your divots pointing out to the right of the target, you might be finding a swing plane that is a little too flat even for a one plane approach. When you go too far with this technique and flatten out your swing too much, the club won’t be able to release properly through impact and your swing plane will direct the ball out to the right. Golfers who notice a pattern of pushed shots along with some hooked shots are the ones that likely fall into this category.

    At this point, you have two choices – either make the change to a two plane style of swing, or keep your one plane swing and just try to increase the tilt in your backswing by a few degrees. Either option can work just fine, and you might want to experiment with both until you find a solution that feels comfortable to you. The important thing here is that you are able to get your divot straightened out and pointing at the target. When you have done that successfully, you will know that your swing plane is on track and will allow you to hit quality shots.

    One Plane Golf Swing: Pros and Cons 6
    Resist the Temptation of Perfect

    You should already know that looking for perfect on the golf course is something that you should just stop doing. Perfect golf is not possible – no one has ever achieved it, and no one will ever achieve it. Even knowing that, many golfers strive to make their technique as perfect as they can, spending hours and hours on the smallest details until they have completely lost all feel and touch in their swing. It is important that while you are working on your swing plane you don’t go too far and turn yourself into a golf robot.

    That isn’t to say you shouldn’t practice your swing – you have to practice your technique if you want to improve. However, you always need to keep in mind that you are working on your technique so that it will be successful on the golf course, not just so you can hit pretty shots on the driving range. Golf is a game that requires the ability to adapt and adjust on the fly, so being able to make the same swing under perfect conditions over and over again doesn’t really do you that much good.

    You want to be a golfer, not a swinger – and there is a big difference. A swinger is someone who has picture perfect technique, yet can’t shoot good scores because they don’t know how to apply their swing on the course to the shots that they actually have to hit. A golfer is someone who might not have the prettiest swing, but can get the ball in the hole one way or another. The goal is to shoot the lowest score, and there are no pictures on the scorecard.

    What does this have to do with swing plane? Simple – you can’t afford to get caught up in the details to the point where you forget how to play the game. Don’t overthink it. Make sure your basic swing plane fundamentals are in good position, and leave it at that. If your one plane swing varies an inch or two from backswing to downswing, it just isn’t that big of a deal. Your will learn how to hit good shots using the swing that you have, and you will be a better player for it. Major swing plane problems need to be addressed and corrected to the best of your ability, but getting too specific – and trying to be too perfect – can lead to frustration and disappointment.

    It doesn’t matter whether you pick the one plane or two plane swing for your preferred technique – both can be highly effective. Take the time to review a video of your current swing to see where you stand at this point before deciding how you are going to proceed. Once the decision is made, make sure to work on your takeaway as that is going to be the main determining factor to how well you are able to get the club on plane. Swing plane is an important concept in your game, and one that you should understand and take some time to work on. At the end of the day, however, remember that golf is about getting the ball in the hole and you don’t need to get too hung up on the small details along the way.