The Plane Truth (part 1) - Plane Talk - Interview with golf swing coach Jim Hardy
Revered US coach,
best-selling author and
all-round golf guru,
Jim Hardy has
understanding of the
swing plane while
the world's most
for analysing ‘faults and
fixes' available through
his international network
of teaching pros and
soon through a
talks to the visionary
Gi: For those not familiar with your instruction philosophy,
please summarise the basics of your One Plane and Two
Plane approach to the golf swing.
JH: It stems from the basic premise that there are two motors
in the golf swing. The arms and club are one motor, and
the body is the other. The body doesn't move the arms – but
nor do the arms move the body. They are independent. The
key point is that these two motors either move in different
planes – what I call a Two Plane swing, or somewhat in the
same plane – a One Plane swing. Which category a player
falls into depends, I believe, on how they see the challenge
of the game of golf. The Two Plane player intuitively sees
golf as an aerial game with a swing that needs to get the
club ‘down, under and up' to get the ball in the air. But One
Planers don't see it that way. They see golf as a ‘side-on'
game, like baseball, where they swing the club around their
body to propel the ball forward.
Gi But you don't necessarily favour one of these swing plane
types over the other?
JH: There is no correct way, as shown by the success of different
swings at the highest level. The contrast in the One
Plane swing of Ben Hogan and the Two Plane swing of Tom
Watson is just one of many examples; and within each of
these two categories there are probably ten variations that
are all good enough to get you into the Hall Of Fame!
Gi: So there is no ‘Jim Hardy swing'?
JH: Absolutely not. Instead,my philosophy is that it is vital
for all players – and their coaches – to understand the distinction
between plane types because, for any golf instruction
to be effective, it must be tailored in the context of that particular player's swing plane. If not, the advice could actually
be disastrous for your game.
Gi: Your approach finally explains the existence of so many
swing tips that golfers have heard down the ages that seem
to totally contradict each other.
JH: There are indeed many tips that appear to be the exact
opposite of each other and yet which are in fact both correct
– but obviously not in the same swing!
The relevance depends entirely on the type of swing plane.
For example, “Keep your head still” is wonderful if you have
One Plane swing, while “move your head behind the ball” is
great if you are a Two Planer. Similarly we've all heard “Shift
your weight onto your right leg [Two Plane]” but also “don't
shift your weight onto the right leg”.
Then there's: “Shift and turn your hips [One Plane]” and
“Don't shift and turn but slide and thrust your hips [Two
Plane]”. “Keep your arms in front of you [Two Plane]” versus
“let your arms swing around you [One Plane]”. “Turn your
body hard on the downswing [One Plane], “Don't turn your
body hard [Two Plane]”.We could go on.
Gi: You've refined your approach to include a system of
moves that are either ‘Pluses' or ‘Minuses' which you teach to
pros at your seminars. What do they refer to?
JH: These relate to the angle of attack and the width of the
swing through the impact area. Both of these are initially dependent
on the length of club, but a Minus move would be a
move that encourages a shallower angle of descent, while a
Plus would be something promoting a steeper angle of descent.
I like to use an airplane analogy. The short irons are like
the small light aircraft that have a steeper descent and need
only a short runway, or impact area. The driver is like a commercial
airliner that requires a longer, shallower flight path
and a longer runway.
Gi: The Matrix and My Profile online instruction programmes
are very impressive new ventures. Can
they really deliver the instant improvement they are designed
JH: In general, if your golf instructor – of any technical persuasion
– is not delivering a marked improvement in your
impact and ball flight fairly quickly, and you feel you executed
his instructions, then you should be questioning him
and his information.
In our system, based on your impact and ball flight mistakes
and considering your method, one plane or two plane,
your coach will create an individual profile for you and,
using The Matrix, he will be able to pinpoint very precisely
some practical faults and fixes that are designed to work immediately
if you apply them correctly. He selects the relevant
videos and drills for you to work on and e-mails you
the links for you to view and work on anytime, wherever you
are in the world.
Gi: You dedicate your second book to the legendary John Jacobs
who you worked with early in your career. How much
were you influenced by him?
JH: John was my mentor. He was the first golf coach to take a
logical approach that started with the golfer's mistake: the ‘bad shot'. He focused on ball flight and traced it back to what
was happening at impact; then to what the swing was doing
that caused the bad impact; and then finally to what the player
was doing that prompted that type of swing.
Before John, golf coaching was the other way round. Instructors
looked at a golfer's swing against as an ‘ideal', and
if any part of it was unorthodox they would jump in and try
and change it. Whether it was the grip, the stance or whatever.
I appreciated John's scientific logic which helped me venture
out and develop my model.
Gi: But John was also primarily known as a Two Plane
JH: John actually grew up in an era when so many of the golf
swings were rounded,more One Plane, with a lower,more penetrating flight. But then Nelson and Middlecoff came
along swinging more‘up and down' with their arms, hitting
the ball much higher in the air and ushering in the modern
era of the Two Plane, aerial game.
I think John saw more advantages in this method. But he
also coached some excellent One Plane stars, like Jose Maria
Olazabal, with that beautifully rounded swing shape that
John never tried to change.
Gi: Your interest in the technicalities of the One Plane swing
dates back to Ben Hogan, whom you met.
JH: It started when, many years ago, I asked John Jacobs
about Hogan's swing and he replied “He just threw the
whole mess into one plane!” I became obsessed in trying to
figure out all the details.
At the simplest level, I believe that Hogan saw golf as
side-on game, like his great friend, baseball legend Ted
Williams, with whom he would have detailed discussions
about the relative rotation of the hips and upper body –
what today we would call the ‘X-Factor'.
Gi: You have been a notable critic of certain areas of Hogan's
book, The Modern Fundamentals of Golf.
JH: The book has some major flaws that overlook some of
the crucial factors explaining Hogan's dramatic rise as a
player. Particularly the idea that the right elbow should lead
throughout the downswing. Hogan did do that when he was
a terrible hooker – coming into impact with the clubface desperately
open before flipping it desperately shut at the last
minute with extreme hand action.
When he made his great improvement it was not down to
the grip as most people think. It was down to him getting
the clubface more square to the plane much earlier in the
downswing, allowing him to freewheel through impact without manipulating
the hands. It was this breakthrough which
suddenly distanced him from his peers, Snead, Nelson, Middlecoff
and Mangrum, becoming the best player of his generation
and arguably the best ball-striker of all time. That
single, vital leap is not in the book!
Different strokes for different folks:
Jim Hardy believes Tom Watson to
be the game’s ultimate ‘Two Plane’
exponent, his arm-swing notably
steeper than his shoulder plane;
the multi-talented Peter Jacobson
was one of Hardy’s original pupils
in the late 1980s and worked on
changing from a Two Plane to One
Plane swing; Tiger Woods makes a
terrific One Plane move with the
irons and plays his best golf when
he does the same with his woods,
says Hardy. Problems arise when
he mixes both One and Two Plane
elements in his swing with the
longer clubs, believes Hardy.
Rickie Fowler is the
latest young superstar
to display the classic
symptoms of the One
Plane swing – i.e. the
arms swinging around
the body in a rotary
fashion and the left arm‘matching up’ with the
shoulder plane as he
completes his backswing
Gi: You have also been outspoken about tour pros changing
their swings too radically. In particular Seve, some years ago.
JH: It's very upsetting when I hear good players being told
they've been doing it all wrong. For me, the easiest lesson is
a tour pro playing poorly. They are typically only doing one
thing wrong. Their swing has either gotten too narrow and
too steep, or too wide and too shallow. It's usually that simple.
I've just got to add or subtract something to redress the
balance (a Plus or a Minus move) and I can help them. And
being top athletes there's usually no reason why they can't
apply it immediately and see the results within a few balls.
Gi: But many coaches still swear by an ‘ideal' golf swing
JH: Having an ideal is crazy. I believe that if you simply look
at the golf swing and ignore the ball flight, you will fail as an
instructor. Take Jim Furyk, John Daly and Bubba Watson. If
you looked at just their swings you'd say “they need to
make LOTS of changes”! But when you look at just their ball
flight you say “here's a genius”. In my early days I remember
seeing movie clips of the [legendary amateur] Irishman, Jimmy Bruen. He had a wildly unorthodox action that many
people would say violated all the fundamentals of the golf
swing. But his impact and ball flight were not merely‘correct'
they were exquisite and powerful. And the same goes
for rogue swings of every era, Eamonn Darcy and others.
Gi: You've had three players win the PGA Tour Comeback
Player of The Year Award, while your coaching colleague,
Chris O'Connell, has helped Matt Kuchar from a position on
the Nationwide Tour in 2006 to Top 10 in the world.
JH: Helping a player come back from having no career to
having a career again has been the most rewarding thing for
me. But, once again, what's interesting about these comeback
successes is the variety of swings these players have.
Peter Jacobsen,my first success in the early ‘90s, had a classically
great-looking swing. But Olin Browne has a quick
swing that was not pretty, yet he came back to have a great
US Open in 2005, won the Deutsche Bank Championship in
a head to head with Tiger Woods and finished 26th on the
Money List that year. Matt Kuchar also has an unorthodox
swing but Chris O'Connell has done a fantastic job with him.
If my coaching method has a hallmark it is that my players
don't appear to be doing the same thing!
US Ryder Cup player Matt
Kuchar – right now his is the
world’s most successful example
of a ‘One Plane’ swing
Gi: Although you don't preach aesthetics, you must have
some favourite visually-appealing golf swings on tour?
JH: Ernie Els, Hunter Mahan and Rory McIlroy all have very
elegant golf swings – as do some of my players like Scott McCarron and Tom Pernice. But an elegant swing does not
guarantee success. My over-riding goal is for the player to
get a result in terms of his impact and ball flight. Today,
people say that Rickie Fowler won't make it because he has a funny-looking, One Plane swing. They forget that history is
full of successful players like Chi Chi Rodriguez and Lee
Trevino who also had funny looking One-Plane swings.
Rickie Fowler is going to be around a long time and beat the
hell out of a lot of people!
Gi: How would you analyse Tiger Woods' swing in terms of
your One and Two Plane approach?
JH: Tiger is one of the very few players I've ever seen who
changes his methods between his woods and his irons.
With his irons, he has an extremely beautiful One Plane
swing. His body is very bent over, in fact it even drops down
a great deal as he attacks down on the ball while keeping his
arms tight to his body.
But with his driver and 3-wood, he does, at times, display a
very disconnected Two Plane swing. His arms get very separated
from his turn. He hasn't always had this distinction between
his irons and woods.When he was a junior and an
amateur it was all the same – a One-Plane swing. However, he
did have the club slightly out of
position: slightly shut across his
line – which is not bad for a
Two-Planer but it is not appropriate
for a One-Planer (where,
if anything, the club needs to be
laid off). It seems that, over the
years, in the process of trying to
get the club more on-plane with
his driver, they started getting
his left arm very detached from
his body, very separated from
his body. But he has kept it
more attached for his irons,
and this difference is unusual.
If I was as good a One Plane
iron player as he was, I would
try to swing it that same way
with the driver.
Reproduced with kind permission of Golf International Magazine