Plane speaking from Jim Hardy

In a follow-up to his article in the March issue on John Jacob’s legacy, Glyn Pritchard has an exclusive interview with Jacob’s protégé Jim Hardy, who explains how his friendship with the great man led to Hardy’s seminal book, ‘The Plane Truth for Golfers’.

Jim Hardy is ranked seventh in Golf Digest’s ‘50 Best Teachers In America’ based on a voting panel of more than 1,100 American coaches. He founded the Plane Truth Golf Institute in 2006 to promote his insights into the one plane and two plane golf swing.

When did you first meet John Jacobs?

That was in 1977 when I was interviewed by John to become a member of his team in the States. We had lunch and he asked me about eight questions and then said, “You’ll do fine.” He gave a clinic that day and he identified the cause and effect of miss-hits in a logical sequence  –  studying the ball flight, relating that to the club face at impact which caused the errant flight, and then understanding the swing path that caused the misaligned club face – basically tracing this all back from the ball flight. I told Cal Brown, who was director of the John Jacobs golf schools, that I always knew someone would figure this thing out and John had it cold. He could help every golfer who stood in front of him. I knew in that first hour that John had come upon the ONLY correct way to diagnose golf and to teach it.

How did this fit with your own experience as a player?

I had come into golf as a player. I was successful at college and had seven years on the PGA tour. You have to remember back then there was no video swing analysis, no swing monitors. Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player, Lee Trevino, they all had different swings but all were highly successful. So swing shape then wasn’t as important as controlling your ball and that was what John taught me.

It was a chance remark about Ben Hogan that led to your own insight into the one and two plane swing?

Yes, one night over dinner I asked John, “Relative to what we teach, that the arms swing up and down while the body rotates, what would you say Hogan did?” And he replied, “Well he just threw the whole mess into the same plane.” That comment made to me in about 1981 started me on my personal search and it took me until 1988 to really feel I had solved the swing plane question. Personally I was a two plane player but I learnt to swing on one plane and one of the things I discovered was that the books written about the one plane swing had mistakes in them. Hogan’s book [Five Lessons: The Modern Fundamentals of Golf] had mistakes in it.

Hogan visualised himself swinging with his head poking through an inclined pane of glass extending from the ball to his shoulders and he had to swing the club under that glass pane. Yes, Hogan swung the club around the right shoulder, but John taught you to turn the right shoulder and swing the club over it.

Jim Hardy with John Jacobs, a man who he describes as his mentor

Jim Hardy with John Jacobs, a man who he describes as his mentor

You published your book ‘The Plane Truth for Golfers’ in 2005. What was John’s reaction?

I sent a copy to John with a long letter, thanking him for giving me the foundation. He wrote back and I still have that letter framed in my office. And then he called me and said, “I scanned your book and wrote to thank you for all the nice things you said about me. But last night I couldn’t sleep and I read it right through. It’s the first golf book by someone else I’ve read in 40 years and I want to tell you, that you’ve written the book I always wanted to write.” Well that knocked me flat because John was my mentor and the greatest genius in golf so I was flabbergasted.

So what did you conclude about Hogan’s swing?

I said, “John every time I asked you about Hogan’s one plane swing you just got irritated,” and he said “That’s because I didn’t figure it out until I finished reading your book a few hours ago. You’ve got it exactly right!”

Your relationship with John went deeper than golf?

He was a father figure to me, because he taught me more than golf instruction, he taught me about life. He was incredibly generous. He taught hundreds, thousands of golf coaches in the States and around the world how to teach and this was at a time when other instructors held onto their insights like they were trade secrets, and that is his true legacy.

I have tried to take that lesson in life which he taught me and to do that myself. My company, the Plane Truth Golf Institute, started a certification programme and we now have over 400 certified instructors around the world. They spread the same fundamental message, that whether you’re a one plane or two plane golfer, it all starts with ball flight and impact. John Jacobs was a great man because of his generosity of spirit in sharing that knowledge.