A conversation with top teacher Jim Hardy

By Jeff Hopper

When a player comes to you for instruction, are you generally looking for one thing first?
When I look at a student, I first of all am looking to see which swing model they generally fall into. I can see that in one ball. Once they do that, I know the shopping list of items that are going to help their golf swing the most, and I know the shopping list of items that are going to make their golf swing terrible.

OK, so what are these swing models?
Through 20 some years of study, I came to understand that there are two general separations of golf swings. You can call them acme and zebra, but I happen to call them one-plane or two-plane. All golfers fall into it. Just because I say you’re a one planer doesn’t mean you’re a good one—you might be a terrible one—but you’re a one-planer or what I call a two-planer.

What do these look like?
One-planers swing their arms around them while their body turns. That would be like Ben Hogan or Sam Snead or Paul Azinger or one of my students, Peter Jacobsen. Two-planers swing their arms up and down more vertically in front of their body as their body turns, like, Tom Watson, let’s say, or Colin Montgomerie. So they fall into those two general categories. You have a thousand variations in each category. Lee Trevino was a one-planer, but he didn’t look anything like Sam Snead, who was also a one-planer. So they have variations.

How does knowing this help you as a teacher?
I came to find out that items that work the best in one general model are almost the opposite in the other general model. As a one-planner, say, you can go, “That information will help me,” or you can go, “Whoa, that information will kill me!”

The reason our golf swings are not as good as we would like—in terms of we don’t hit the ball good enough, or we hit the ball good enough but we don’t hit it repetitively good enough—is because we still have a lot of information that belongs to the other model. When you apply that misinformation, it makes your swing either totally dysfunctional, or it makes the swing too timing related, and therefore it’s not repetitive.

So how do you sort out this information?
I used to be trying to walk through the maze saying, “Which information is right and which information is wrong?” Now what I’m saying is that there are three piles we can deal into. Most information is right, probably 90 percent of all the golf information is right—how do you like that? Forty-five percent of the information belongs in one-plane swings, 45 percent in two-plane swings, and about 10 percent doesn’t belong in golf. It’s stupid, it’s useless information. And there is some of that out there. But most information that’s out there is correct—it’s just not all correct for you.

Where can I come see you for a lesson in all of this?
I stopped teaching the public on a full-time basis in 1983. I was still teaching several touring pros, namely Peter Jacobsen and Duffy Waldorf. They kept trying to talk me into teaching their buddies, but I kept saying no because I wanted to design golf courses. That’s what I was doing, and I owned a few golf courses and I was designing golf courses. Peter kept saying, “You owe it because you have ideas to clarify golf more than anything else that ever was. And you owe it.” And I said, “Well, I don’t owe anything.” But as I got farther in my spiritual life and started helping more people play professional golf and they all started winning tournaments and doing good I ended up writing the book, The Plane Truth for Golfers, and I ended up doing the DVD, and then I’ve ended up writing a second book.

So, no lesson?
Sure, because a big part of what I do now is teach teaching professionals to teach. It’s not that I’m helping Mrs. Abernathy with my hands. I’m helping Mrs. Abernathy because I do about 15 two-day seminars, and there are 13 golf professionals out there in each one, and I do about 10 PGA sectional seminars, where there are about 200-300 professionals in each one of those sectional seminars. This way I’m able to touch a large number of golf professionals. Each one of them that I touch, if I give them a better roadmap to understanding the correct information to what belongs where, then I’ve touched literally thousands and thousands of golfers. Of course, if you’d like to learn on your own there are also the books and DVDs.

Are your ideas restricted to golf?
Not if you’re talking about getting the right information. I just mentioned my spiritual life, and I see a strong similarity there, because I believe there are only two main issues in life. The first issue we all face is: do we have faith alone in Christ alone for salvation? Are we positive to the gospel? If you’re not, if you hear it and choose to reject it, then you don’t have a second issue. Just go ahead and live your life. I hope you live it with some degree of morality, so you don’t end up in jail or hurting anyone.

If you said yes, that you’re positive to the gospel, then you have the second issue, and that is executing your spiritual life, leading a spiritual life.

I think I need a little more explanation.

Scripture speaks to us in two main ways: either about how I am saved or about how to live my spiritual life. Once I understood that, I could say, “Look, here is Scripture over here that is salvation-related, and here is Scripture over here that’s related to maturing in my spiritual life.” We can really get in trouble when we mix them together. It sure strengthens my life everyday when I remember what Christ did to save me, but we run into trouble when we add our efforts at maturity to His work for us.

How do you pursue maturity?
God has a plan for how I mature in my spiritual life. As I walked along in my spiritual life, I found out that I needed to do one thing always: if I need food, material food, for my physical life, I need food for my spiritual life, and that food is Scripture. If I don’t take that in on a daily basis—for me that daily basis isn’t just a one-and-half-minute homily somewhere, I need to study, I need an intake of that—and if I have an intake of that, then I have some food for my spiritual life. I believe this very strongly. I need that food for my spiritual life.

And that’s different than earning your way into heaven?
Very different. I see and hear people confused about Christianity saying things like, “Oh, with that kind of behavior, you’ll go to hell.” And I just think, You don’t understand the issues. They’re mixing up the salvation issues with the Christian maturity issues. My goal is to let people know that this is a grace plan. Grace is amazing. I hate to say it that way because of the song, but grace is amazing! It is so amazing!

In my own life, before 1994 I had probably all of the wrong information and none of the right information with which to make a decision about God, or what to do with it once I had it. I just didn’t have the right information.

And you do now?
Yes. I found that Christianity is not a religion, it’s a relationship with God. It’s a personal relationship with God. It’s not a relationship with a church, it’s relationship with God. I came to find out that instead of being a claustrophobic thing that I feared, it was the most liberating message I’d ever heard in my life. It was the most liberating message I could ever even fathom, that grace and that God’s forgiveness for us, and that His plan for us, and that it’s faith alone in Christ alone, it isn’t works, it isn’t deeds—all of these things suddenly made me realize, “I’m the freest man in the world. I’m free!”

As the apostle Paul wrote, “I am a slave to my Lord and Savior.” But it’s a slavery based on freedom. I’m free from the horrible sin because I’m forgiven. I’m forgiven not only for salvation, but I’m forgiven daily from 1 John 1:9 – “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”

You see, I don’t think we understand unconditional love until we understand unconditional forgiveness. That somebody loves me personally so much to give me unconditional forgiveness—I now know what unconditional love is.


  • Jim Hardy

    Jim Hardy is respected as one of the world’s finest golf teachers. His students include Peter Jacobsen, Scott McCarron, Tom Pernice, Jr., Duffy Waldorf, Bob Tway, and Olin Browne.

    Hardy’s concept of the one- and two-plane swings has helped many teaching professionals and players categorize the instruction they receive according to what is right for them. In addition to golf instruction, Hardy is a golf course designer and owner. Here he gives us a look at his teaching ideas and how understanding “the issues,” as he calls them, also shapes his personal life.