Thursday, June 3, 2010

Secret Move #2: The Two-Plane Tilt

Part of the Route 67 series

The two-plane loop is a simple way to accomplish the "secret move" of getting most of the wrist cock at the top of your backswing down close to the ball before you use it. However, it does present a problem or two, as most of these solutions do. (That's why we end up with multiple solutions to any problem. You pick the solution whose problems are easiest for you to live with... in golf or anything else.)

The two-plane loop is primarily an arm movement, which makes it well-suited both for arm-powered swings and for softer-shafted golf clubs. If you aren't a particularly strong player and you use softer graphite shafts, the loop can be an especially good solution. However, the two-plane loop is very much a matter of feel. Planes weren't even a concept with the loop originally, let alone a guarantee of accuracy, which can cause problems for players who are strong and intensely mechanical.

Like Ben Hogan. When the Hawk rebuilt his swing (and I plan to do a post or two sometime about the changes he made) he was looking for a machine that he could set up so he never hit a shot left ever again... unless he wanted to, that is. And the two-plane loop just wouldn't give him that guarantee. Hogan decided to build a leg-powered swing that eliminated all that excess arm movement... which means he had to find some new way to perform the "secret move."

Enter the two-plane tilt. Unlike the flowing curves of the loop, the tilt created a "slot," a sharp turning point at the top of the backswing; put the club into that slot, and you should return the club on the exact same plane time after time after boring time. The following diagram shows the movement of the hands during this move. If you compare it to the two-plane loop, you'll see that the hands cover a lot less ground because they travel in straighter lines, and the up and down planes are very similar. In addition, the "slot" at the top is a bit lower than the top plane; that's because Hogan's elbows stay closer to his body. That flattens his swing considerably.

How the Hands Travel in the Two-Plane Tilt

Of course, that's only part of the picture. Unlike the two-plane loop, where the arms create the path the hands take, Hogan uses his entire body to create this path. His left hip moves a little toward the target and away from the ball -- what some would call a "slide and turn" -- so he ends up with his stomach facing the target. Here's what it looks like from a face-on view:

Face-on View of Hogan's Two-Plane Tilt

Yes, Hogan was tilted backwards when he hit the ball. Remember, he had a problem with duck hooks, so he designed a swing that, unless done properly, causes you to get stuck and hit the ball out to the right. He also used a weak grip to prevent him from flipping his hands to "save" the shot. At worst, he intended to aim down the left side of the fairway and, if he made a bad swing, end up on the right side of the fairway. That's why I rarely recommend Hogan's swing; unless you have a hooking problem (which most weekend players don't), you're already hitting the ball to the right.

As I pointed out with the first diagram, Hogan's hands drop down much more steeply than they would in a looped swing. The plane his hands travel coming down is much closer to the plane they took going up... which means this move shouldn't be as effective at preventing his wrists from uncocking early. However, it works for two reasons, the first of which actually goes against the modern teaching of creating the biggest downswing arc possible!

In Hogan's swing, when he pulls his right elbow down against his side, combined with his rapid hip turn, he actually causes the grip end of the club to pull inward toward the body and forward toward the ball, narrowing the downswing arc. In effect, it prevents the clubhead from being thrown outward as it would in a normal downswing by turning the clubhead (rather than the hands) into a pivot point. I've drawn a circle on the 2nd diagram that shows where a looper's hands would most likely be at the same point in the downswing; but what the diagram can't show is that the circle would not be just farther away from him, but actually more behind him. It really is a brilliant solution, and it's responsible for that amazing amount of shaft flex you see in old swing footage of Hogan's drives.

If you use a lot of leg drive in your swing, this move just might work for you. To avoid that "getting stuck" problem that tends to cause chronic slices, you might want to try feeling as if you start your shoulders turning at the same moment you turn your hips. (I wrote a little about that idea here; check the section called "A Simple Fix Worth Trying.") The most important thing you have to remember in order to avoid getting stuck is not to let your hips slide too much toward the target; that'll get you leaning backwards a little too much, and you'll get stuck for sure.

The other reason it works is that Hogan added yet a second "secret move" to his swing to make sure his wrists stayed cocked as long as possible. Although he intended it to work with this move, some teachers now use it on its own. We'll look at that move in the next post.

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