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Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Secret Move #1: The Two-Plane Loop

Part of the Route 67 series

It's easy to forget that all the funky swings we see on the golf course -- especially if that funkiness catches on and becomes part of formalized teaching -- got started because the funkiness either solved a problem or simply gave some players an advantage.

The quest for the secret move has spawned all sorts of strange-looking (and frequently criticized) swing adaptations. Of course, there are only a limited number of ways to cheat the physics of the swing, so sometimes we see more than one way of performing the same method.

The first method that became popular involved changing the plane for a portion of the swing. As you'll recall from the secret move post, if you swing the club on a single plane, your wrists will try to uncock on that plane. Somewhere along the line, a bright player realized that, if you moved the entire plane sideways, there would be no force acting on your wrists to make them uncock.

If that doesn't make sense, think of it this way. Hold your hand as if you were going to make a karate chop. If you swing your arm so the edge of your hand would contact its target, you feel "uncocking" forces in your elbow and in your wrist. Now suppose instead that you take the same position but you swing your arm sideways, in the direction of your palm. Now you don't feel those uncocking forces.

The angle of motion makes a difference

That's the idea behind the two-plane loop: You take the club up and cock your wrists, then loop it downward (usually -- Bobby Jones looped upward) at an angle that doesn't cause your wrists to uncock as quickly, and finally hit the ball from a lower plane. The secret move -- the one that keeps the wrists from uncocking before they reach waist-high -- is accomplished by that loop moving sideways between the two planes.

That loop is shown by the dark line in the diagram below. Please note that the loop shows the path of your hands, NOT the path of the clubhead; that wouldn't help you understand how your hands move during the swing at all! You start with your hands on Plane 2; they move onto or just under Plane 1 when they reach the top of the backswing (unless you have a very upright swing), and return to Plane 2 when you hit the ball. (Which means, ironically, that neither plane represents the actual path your hands travel... and yet these are the planes used to illustrate swing plane. And people wonder why golf instruction gets so complicated!)

A few quick notes about the diagram: I've drawn the top of the gray zone (the top of the backswing) slightly above the shoulders at address; most players' hands do go a bit above their shoulders before starting down. This swing looks slightly upright since I used Ernie Els as my model here. And it may look as if the loop goes way behind your shoulders, but remember that at the top of the swing you would have turned your shoulders so your chest would be facing us.

How the Two-Plane Loop Works

Those of you who have been watching The Haney Project (both versions) on TGC will recognize that this is the basic action Haney is teaching his "projects." If you've been thinking that Haney only teaches the Hogan method, it might surprise you to hear that this is not Hogan's technique. (We'll talk about that tomorrow.) This is an arm-swing technique that is actually much simpler, especially when you're looking to make the rapid changes they look for on the TV show. Despite what you've heard, Haney isn't simply a Hogan clone; he may prefer Hogan's techniques, but he obviously uses what he thinks will work best with a given student.

This is only one version of the secret move, but it's probably the oldest; and while the two-plane swing is taught less often these days, it still works for a lot of people. But it works best if you have an arm-powered swing; that's what it was designed for.


  1. I always understood this "two plane" discussion as the distance between the shaft plane at setup and the higher plane across the shoulder line because of how the shoulder and elbow joints work when swinging back and through. The problem Ray Romano was having was that he was getting to the top and then continuing raising the plane over the neck instead of dropping it down towards the initial plane position. Haney has been forcing him to loop down instead of up so he won't come over the top.

  2. That's a common misconception that I also had originally. An "over-the-top" move just means that the downswing plane is above the backswing plane, regardless of its position relative to Plane 1 (in the diagram). As strange as it seems to me, Bobby Jones is described as having an "over-the-top" swing, although his downswing plane is where it should be. "Over-the-top" only describes the shape of the swing, not the degree of the problem. To put it another way, a flat swing is a flaw if it comes at the ball from too low and too much inside, and an upright swing is a flaw if it comes at the ball from too high and too much outside -- but that doesn't mean that a flat swing or an upright swing is a flaw. It's just a matter of degree.

    So you're completely right about Ray's problem, but Haney didn't change his loop simply because it was "over-the-top." (If Ray had been "over-the-top" the way Bobby Jones was, he wouldn't have had the problem.) The problem was how far "over-the-top" he was. Because Ray was going so high with his swing, he ended up chopping down on the ball, which meant he made poor contact, lost distance, and pulled shots. It just happened that the shape of his flawed swing was "over-the-top." Does that make sense?

  3. I think Mike is very close to the solution of the problem of the golf swing. Indeed you have to make a loop in the downswing, but to me this is the only way how you are able to close the club automaticly. It gives you an in-to-out golf swing, but is also helps to close the face.

    1. Thanks, Leo. I think the real key is when you realize that this "rerouting" of the club can be a dramatic loop -- as it is in this post -- or a less-obvious wrist move when the arms don't move as much. I did a series earlier in 2016 called "The Bent Trailing Elbow Drill" that looked at another way of creating the loop with less arm looping.