One-Plane vs. Two-Plane Golf Swing

By Matthew DeBord

The easiest way to picture the swing plane in golf is to think of a wagon wheel. Your head is in the middle of the wheel, which is tilted at an angle. The ball is at the bottom of the wheel. The top of your backswing is at the rear. The golf swing occurs along this plane. For quite some time, golfers and coaches have thought about the swing plane and broken it down into parts. These days, most golf swings fall into two categories: the one-plane swing and the two-plane swing. They are different but equally effective. You can play good golf with either type. The one-plane swing generally is considered to be simpler and easier to learn to repeat. The most important aspect of both swings is the golfer must not move his head up or down. The head needs to remain relatively still while the arms and body swing and rotate.

The one-plane swing is more of an around-the-body swing, and the wagon-wheel of the swing plane tends to be flatter. Imagine taking the club along the curvature of the wheel and bringing it down to the ball on the same line, then following through along the curvature of the wheel. Everything happens along a single plane. For some golfers, it helps to think of this action as a baseball swing aimed at a ball on the ground. The best example of a one-plane swinger is Ben Hogan, but Tiger Woods has moved more toward a one-plane swing as his golf game has matured. As a young professional, Woods had more of a two-plane swing.

The two-plane swing is more complicated. Most two-plane golfers take the club back above the curvature of the wagon wheel, then drop the club under the plane of the wheel on the forward swing. Some golfers will follow-through above the plane, as well, which creates the famous "reverse C" finish that was popular in the 1970s. Essentially, the first plane of the two-plane swing--the backswing--is steeper than the forward swing, which has to be shallower and more "on plane" to strike the ball firmly. So the arms work on the more upright plane, while the body rotates around another flatter plane. Jack Nicklaus has the most famous two-plane swing in history, but for a vivid example of the upright take-back and the flatter downswing, check out Jim Furyk.

A one-plane golfer's swing will get stepper as the club gets shorter. The driver plane will be flatter, for example, than a wedge swing, which will be much steeper because of the length of the club. But the club still will travel along the same plane going back and through. Two-plane golfers need to be careful they drop back on-plane during the downswing or they can come "over the top" of the swing plane and hit slices or severe pull-hooks. Some players mix one-plane and two-plane swings; they swing more around their bodies with the driver and lift the club on an upright plane with their irons. They do this because they can sweep the ball off a tee with the driver, but they must hit down crisply on the ball with their irons.

About The Author

Matthew DeBord has written about sports, cars, and wine since 1994 for a variety of publications. Formerly the golf columnist for the “Improper Hamptonian,” he has covered major championship tournaments and played some of the best courses in America. He graduated from Clemson University and has a master's degree from New York University.

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