Anyone can make a good swing. The trick is repeating it. That’s why I spent a decade ridding my motion of needless movements. Why? Because simplicity creates consistency! My biggest epiphany: You don’t have to “drop down” in the transition—two swing planes is one too many. You’ll hit it better using one plane, back and through. Odds are, you make the swing harder than it needs to be. So try my single-plane move. You’re five steps away from great ballstriking and lower scores.
1. GRIP THE CLUB IN YOUR PALM, NOT YOUR FINGERS
Most golfers are taught to grip the club in the fingers, to help create more clubhead speed. But research shows that your hands contribute only 10 percent to your overall swing velocity. Would you trade just a little speed for a grip that lets you hit a lot more fairways and greens? I thought so. (Don’t worry—I’ll show you how to get back those missing mph’s a bit later).
Step one in establishing a single-plane swing: Place the grip in the middle of your left palm, then wrap your digits around the handle (bottom photo, right). Your hold will feel more secure, and the grip will sit higher in your hands, creating the ideal angle for a single-plane swing. In a finger grip, the shaft sits too flat in your hands, adding a needless variable to your motion. To ramp up your control, try a thicker grip, like I have. Using a palm hold on a standard-size grip often makes it difficult to get your left-hand pinkie all the way around the handle. You need all 10 fingers on the club to consistently catch the ball square.
2. USE MY “IMPACT FIX POSITION” TRIGGER
Something always bothered me about the swing as it’s commonly taught: You start in one position (address) but “end” in another (impact). That’s another variable to worry about, and if your goal is to swing on the same plane from start to finish, the starting and end points must match. That’s why I get into what I call an “impact fix position” at address. It’s not a drill. On every swing, I press my hands forward and shift some weight to my front foot in a mock impact position before I start back. I learned about this move while reading Homer Kelley’s book The Golfing Machine as a kid, and it really clicked. Case in point: On Tour in 2016, I was seventh in proximity to the pin from 125 to 150 yards (19′ 3″), and I ranked fourth from 150 to 175 yards (24′ 1″). And those numbers could have been even better! (I only played in 13 events.) A lot of my success is about removing superfluous moves and making my swing more repeatable, and this swing trigger keeps things simple. And let me add: There’s no such thing as “natural talent.” Anyone can do this! The guy who always beats you? I’ll bet he’s simply applied himself more to learning the game. You work hard, too, but hard work is useless if you get bad information. I wouldn’t preach the single-plane swing if it didn’t work!
3. SWING ON A SINGLE – PLANE CIRCLE
Making a single-plane swing is so easy, it feels like cheating. At address, picture a tilted circle around your body—the bottom runs through the ball and the sides arc through your shoulders. (If it helps, think of your move as a “shoulder-plane swing.”) The goal? Swing your hands, arms and club along the imaginary circle from start to finish (photo, left). That’s it! Years ago, my longtime coach, Mike Schy, built a ring for me at his training center in Madera, Calif., and I’ve spent countless hours in it grooving this simple up-and-down motion—never above or below the shoulder plane. On the course, I like to feel that I’m swinging my hands and arms toward my right shoulder and adding a tinge of wrist hinge and forearm rotation. This way, the club stays in line with my hands and on-plane. Then I just retrace my steps back down to the ball. This image isn’t just for full swings, either. “The circle” works on chips, pitches and bunker shots.
4. MAINTAIN YOUR GRIP STRENGTH
Back in step one, I mentioned the importance of gripping the club in your left palm. That’s non-negotiable. But feel free to make your grip as strong (hands rotated to the right) or weak (rotated to the left) as you like. The single-plane swing can work with either one. What’s critical is that you match the angle of your left wrist at the top and at impact to the angle you establish at address. If your grip is super-strong at setup, with a noticeable cup in your left wrist, the cup had better be there at the top and at impact. If your left wrist goes flat at either position, the ball will hook. If you prefer a weak grip, but allow your left wrist to go from flat at address to cupped at the top or at impact, you’ll probably hit a slice. Yes, I know Dustin Johnson starts with a strong left hand and then bows at the top, but DJ is an athletic freak. You and I aren’t so lucky.
I call this “equivalent left wrist,” and it’s yet another way to eliminate unnecessary swing variables. (Less is more!) To practice, make slow-motion backswings, monitoring your wrist position throughout (you can swing next to a full-length mirror, if it helps) and minimizing your wrist action. I’m not big on effortfully hinging the wrists. Rather than making a conscious swing move, let it happen smoothly and naturally.
5. SHIFT LESS, ROTATE MORE
It’s difficult to make a good single-plane swing if you have a lot of lateral motion. There’s no need to aggressively shift weight back and forth when you swing. But you do need to rotate. Simply put, rotation is your swing’s engine. Just make sure to rotate in place, keeping your head in the same position from address until after impact. Check out the photos at left: I’ve merely rotated my body to the right on the way back, then turned it in the opposite direction into a full finish—all while keeping my weight spread evenly in my feet. Removing lateral weight from your swing is yet another example of eliminating a needless variable.
Rotation has two big benefits over lateral movement. It helps the club swing along the plane established by the shaft’s lie at address. And the more you rotate, the faster you swing, so you make up for speed you may have lost by switching to a palm grip. This swing is just as fast, twice as accurate, and simpler than ever. Congrats. Golf is about to get a lot more fun!