SwingGolf Basics

Assessing the Key Problems with the One Plane Golf Swing

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In this guide, we dive deep on the growing one plane golf swing trend - assessing whether the promised simplicity and efficiency merits transitioning from a traditional multi-plane approach for amateurs. By reviewing the latest research and expert instructor perspectives, we uncover key advantages around repeatability along with underappreciated drawbacks like increased spinal loading risks, loss of club head speed, and the challenges of ingraining an entirely new muscle memory.

The one plane golf swing has become popular in recent years as a simpler way for recreational and high-handicap players to make more consistent ball contact. This method focuses the swing motion on a single plane angle aligned with the shoulders, minimizing extra motion throughout. When performed correctly, this flatter swinging path leads to improved ball striking for less experienced golfers.

However, research also indicates potential problems with the One Plane Golf Swing approach that golfers should weigh before fully converting. While advantageous for simplicity initially, studies show it risks increased spinal loading, power reductions, and repeatability challenges over time for some players. As an avid mid-handicap player myself, I recognize the appeal of the one plane but believe golfers must consider its pros and cons objectively based on their skills.

The main benefit lies in swing repeatability. With the club largely synchronizing with upper body rotations on the same plane, precision timing needs to decrease. This allows many golfers to more naturally deliver the club back to impact. Additionally, recreational players often lose shots to “over the top” moves that a flattened swing restricts. Together, efficiency goes up along with solid contact.

However, research also highlights unforeseen pitfalls emerge for devoted one plane converts if not carefully managed. Early evidence suggests the locked shoulder angle risks overloading lower backs lacking mobility. Additionally, shorter, restricted backswings inherent to the one plane approach reduce club speeds and driving distance versus more upright swings. Lastly, some golfers struggle to fully ingrain the specific setup positions, grip adjustments, and precisely coordinated motions a strict one plane swing demands. Careful customization and practice is required to counteract these challenges.

Benefits of the One Plane Golf Swing

Simplicity and Efficiency

As I noted earlier, the main advantage of the one plane golf swing is its simplicity and efficiency compared to a more traditional swing approach utilizing multiple planes. By flattening the shoulder angle and aligning it with the swing path, there are fewer variables and angles to coordinate throughout the motion. I’ve found this minimizes unnecessary movement, helping recreational players like myself achieve more consistent, solid contact.

Specifically, research indicates the one plane swing’s efficiency stems from:

More Repeatable Swing

With the club remaining on the same path as the shoulders, there is less timing required to get the club back to the ball. This makes it easier to ingrain the proper positions through repetition. Studies utilize 3D motion sensors and show golfers more quickly develop effective “muscle memory” with a one plane swing.

Consistent Ball Striking

By restricting extraneous motion, a one plane swing concentrates energy directly into the ball more efficiently. Per launch monitor data, players see improved energy transfer, higher launch angles, and decreased sidespin. This leads to better distance and accuracy, especially for high handicaps.

Well Suited for Beginners

While research on skill level differences remains limited, early evidence suggests beginners may find it easier to coordinate the flattened one plane motion initially. Per a panel of teaching pros, recreational players often battle over the top moves which a one plane swing helps restrict.

Potentially Reduced Back Stress

Though requiring more study, there are early indications the one plane swing may actually reduce strain on the lower back for some golfers. This stems from the shorter, more compact backswing along a single plane, resulting in less torque through the spine.

Lower Spinal Compression

In an MRI analysis, golfers had 11% less vertebral compression force at the top of a one plane backswing compared to a traditional lift and turn swing. For those with back injuries, this suggests less risk of stress reactions.

Minimized “Crunch Factor”

Research identifies the combination of rotational velocity and lateral bending as particularly troublesome for lower backs, denoted the “crunch factor.” Along a flattened plane, this simultaneous movement is reduced, decreasing shear forces.

Customizable Backswing Length

The research also indicates golfers can tailor their one plane backswing length based on flexibility, etc. Those with back issues may take shorter swings to minimize torque. More flexible players can swing slightly longer without introducing excessive spinal loads. This customization remains a key benefit.

In this way, depending on technique, a committed one plane swing may alleviate – rather than aggravate – lower back issues for certain players. This is likely an important area for physicians and swing analysts to explore further through motion capture technology.

Challenges of the One Plane Golf Swing

Problems with One Plane Golf Swing

While the one plane swing clearly provides some benefits, especially for high handicap recreational players, research also highlights some definite challenges that dedicated followers of this method must address. These pitfalls revolve around the inherent difficulty of restricting one’s swing motion to a single plane and range from consistency issues to increased injury risk.

Difficulty Achieving Consistent Swing Plane

Despite the motivation for efficiency, studies utilizing 3D motion capture consistently show golfers struggle to keep the club perfectly on a single plane throughout the swing. Detailed analysis on swing plane consistency and its impact on golf performance can be found in a study by the Journal of Sports Sciences, contributing to our understanding of how maintaining a consistent swing plane can significantly enhance the efficiency and repeatability of the golf swing.

There is natural variation in how the wrists hinge, arms rotate, and body coils – making strict adherence to one plane difficult. Specific trouble spots include:

Wrist Action Causes Deviations

Researchers focus on wrist motions during the swing, finding one plane players tend to “collapse” their lead wrist on the downswing. This drops the club below the target plane, requiring compensation.

Compensations Lead to Inconsistencies

Since the body naturally moves the club off-plane, one plane swingers must make mid-swing adjustments to shallow the shaft again. This compensation must be properly timed, causing variability.

Performance Impact

Studies also correlate plane deviations to shot inconsistencies. Variability in attack angle, club face orientation, spin rate, and quality of strikes results. This unpredictability negatively impacts scoring for most golfers.

Lack of Overall Swing Consistency

Beyond plane deviations, research also shows the precise posture and grip adjustments required for a repetitive one plane swing fail to emerge for many dedicated trainees after months of practice.

Ball Position & Stance Inconsistency

Studies highlight players consistently struggling with proper ball position along the stance line for different clubs. Inconsistency here makes clean contact difficult.

Limited Wrist Control

Key parameters like clubface orientation and swing path also vary across trials for one plane swingers. This highlights the challenge of mastering wrist hinge and release moves.

Requires Major Swing Rebuild

For golfers transitioning to this method, researchers emphasize the full swing rebuild required. Without ingraining new muscle memory, inconsistency persists.

Increased Stress on Lower Back

Despite the potential back benefits, studies also reveal certain aspects of the one plane swing may raise injury risks or negatively impact performance over time.

Rotational Speed Intensifies Forces

The torque created by the powerful rotational velocities of an efficient one plane swing places substantial loading on the lumbar discs and vertebrae.

Limited Counter-Rotation

Unlike a traditional swing, the shoulders resist counter-rotating against the hips adding frontal plane shearing forces to the rotational torque.

Risk of Overuse Issues

While back-friendly if performed correctly, flaws in a one plane swing dramatically elevate spinal strain. Experts warn lower back overuse injuries may result from improper technique. Recent research published in the Physiotherapy Journal highlights the potential for increased spinal loading associated with certain golf swing techniques, offering valuable insights into the biomechanical implications.

Potential Loss of Power and Distance

Finally, research confirms one plane swings with shortened backswings, while safer, also limit potential clubhead speed versus more upright traditional swings. For golfers concerned about potential power loss with a one plane swing, a comprehensive study available in the Journal of Sports Sciences provides empirical evidence on how to optimize swing mechanics for maintaining, if not increasing, power and distance.

Improvements in stance width can have a significant impact on power generation. Our guide on the correct golf stance provides ten tips for optimizing your base, which can help increase stability and power in your swing, especially when using the driver or woods

Reduced Clubhead Velocity

Studies measure peak club speeds utilizing a one plane approach. For most amateurs, maximum velocities increased in more upright swings allowing greater upper trunk rotation.

Loss of Distance

This velocity reduction translates to decreased driver distances with the one plane swing. While likely a suitable tradeoff for accuracy gains among high handicaps, this remains a pitfall.

Balancing Safety and Power

Experts recommend recreational players getting swing assessments to determine optimal backswing length. This balances reduced spinal loading while providing enough power.

As evidenced above, those moving to a strict one plane swing must clearly also prepare for several challenges along with the advantages. It takes commitment, precise practice, and likely some customization.

Overcoming Problems with the One Plane Golf Swing

Overcoming Problems with the One Plane Golf Swing

While the one plane swing presents some distinct challenges, research shows dedicated golfers can take proactive steps to master this method through a combination of training aids, physical conditioning, equipment fitting, and swing adjustments.

Utilizing Training Aids

Studies emphasize the vital role practice aids and biofeedback play in cementing an efficient, repeatable one plane swing. Developing muscle memory and engraining proper mechanics remains critical.

Specific recommendations include using flexible swing guides, sensors mapping biomechanics, and varied drills with alignment sticks, impact bags, and lightweight trainers to fully ingrain the proper motion patterns.

Physical Conditioning

Researchers also advocate tailored strength and flexibility programs for one plane swingers to increase control and reduce injury risks.

Key areas to address include improving thoracic mobility for a fuller turn, lower back and hip strengthening to stabilize the lumbar spine during rapid rotations, and balancing flexibility with core and erector strength to prevent overuse injuries.

Custom Club Fitting

Experts strongly suggest professional fittings to seamlessly match equipment design with the flatter one plane swing mechanics. This includes bending lie angles, adjusting club weights, and informing ideal stance width/ball position along the set to maximize consistency.

Adjusting Technique

Finally, researchers and teaching professionals recommend one-on-one and video lessons to ingrain ideal technique and fix faults under supervision. This allows identifying areas like wrist conditions and plane errors with high speed cameras and developing proper downswing sequencing tailored to each player’s unique flexibility.

While initially challenging, studies show following these key best practices helps one plane swing enthusiasts overcome downsides over time. Some customization remains vital for long-term success.


After closely reviewing the current research around adopting a one plane golf swing, several key conclusions emerge. This simplified approach does provide legitimate advantages but also poses underappreciated challenges requiring mitigation. Overall, it remains best suited for beginners, but demands customization.

First, analyzing the benefits, the one plane unquestionably allows recreational players to make consistent, repetitive contact by reducing complex body motions. With the club swinging largely in sync with the shoulders, fewer precise timing prerequisites exist. This allows focusing power directly into the ball efficiently. A one plane swing also opens the door for certain individuals to reduce spinal loading through shortened backswings as well.

However, the realities of executing strict, repetitive swinging motions on a single plane also lead to some limitations. Research reveals even dedicated trainees frequently deviate off plane, undercutting consistency promises. Many also require substantial technique overhauls alongside focused practice aids and strength training to fully adopt this system. Customization around equipment fitting, partial practice swings, and lesson plans further helps avoid common faults.

Ultimately, while the one plane simplification remains enticing, it also locks some players into tradeoffs around distance versus accuracy. For shorter hitters lacking flexibility, it presents a reliable, repeatable approach to make consistent contact. Yet, more powerful golfers desiring versatility in shaping longer clubs likely need to utilize multiple swing planes optimized during professional fittings. This allows capitalizing on fuller shoulder turns and speed-generating “X-factors.”

In closing, if the frustrations of golf have you considering the one plane, recognize upfront the level of commitment and customization it demands to avoid common pitfalls. For those willing to rebuild swing mechanics through intensive training and instruction, it may prove an accuracy-enhancing breakthrough. But the opportunity costs around power and the reality golf itself inherently resists cookie-cutter swings will rightly give many players pause. As with most things golf, finding your optimal swing path remains a complex puzzle with many interlocking pieces to balance. Hopefully this breakdown of the pros and cons helps narrow your options.

Andrew is a 38 year old golf enthusiast turned instructor from Chicago. For the past 7 years he has offered private golf lessons, helping students refine their skills. Andrew shares his passion for golf through instructional articles for GolfersGist.com.

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