Every golfer has a swing plane, though not every golfer even realizes that it’s a critical part of their success or failure as a player.
It’s something that television commentators and golf pros talk about a lot, but often forget to go into much detail on.
One of the reasons for that, I believe, is that it can be fairly difficult to know if you’re swing plane is correct and it can be even more difficult to change. I believe that a lack of understanding actually leads to confusion on a, relatively, simple topic.
So, in the article below, we’re going to cover everything you need to know on golf swing plane and how to swing on plane.
I think you’ll find that a proper golf swing plane really is attainable by golfers of all skill levels with just a little bit of knowledge and practice.
What It Means To Swing On Plane
Basically, swing plane is the invisible flat surface that a player’s golf club head travels along throughout their golf swing.
- Imagine a huge pane of glass that sits at about a 60-degree angle and cuts right through the chest of a golfer.
- That pane of glass represents a golfer’s ideal swing plane.
- If a club head travels along that plane, chances are high that the resulting shot will be on the golfer’s intended line.
Now, a player’s swing plane is not always the same angle. I mentioned 60-degrees above just for the sake of example. Instead, because every golf club is different lengths (unless you subscribe to the single-length club theory like Bryson DeChambeau) you’ll be forced to swing on a slightly different plane.
Ideally, a player’s swing plane will be very similar to their club’s lie angle as well. The reason for this is because when a golf club lays flush to the ground, the angle between the ground and the shaft will measure both the lie angle and the swing plane. Standard lie angles are, typically, between 55 and 65 degrees depending on the club.
Next, it’s important to know that a golf swing will not travel along the initial swing plane throughout the entire swing,though it will remain parallel to it and maintain the same angle.
What I mean by that is:
- In your backswing, your club will follow one swing plane.
- On the downswing, a golfer will drop their hands slightly below the backswing plane, while still remaining parallel to it.
Keeping the downswing plane parallel is important to creating solid contact.
Why does being On Plane matter?
This all may seem a little technical for some people, but trust me, it is an important thing to consider when learning the basics of a golf swing. A good swing plane will improve a player’s shot consistency, accuracy, and distance. In short, it impacts just about every part of your golf shot’s look.
Golf swing plane and club head path are very closely related.
A club head’s path is the line that a club travels along through impact. Remember back to when you were a kid and played with sparklers on the 4thof July. Most kids spent a lot of time writing their name in the air with the sparkler and allow the light to, almost, burn an image into their eyes for a moment. That image, the lines of a name written with a sparkler, is the sparkler’s path.
A golf club has a similar path. If your club head were the light, it would draw a line either inside-in, outside-in, or inside-out, through impact. That path will dramatically influence the amount of side-spin, and therefore direction, of your golf shot.
- Too much side-spin in one direction or another will lead to a shot that slices or hooks away from the target.
- That’s also the same with a golf swing’s plane. If your swing gets off plane, you will see shots that miss both left and right of the target, depending on if your plane is too flat or steep.
- Not only that, but a swing plane that is off will also result in shots that are not hit solid.
The reason for this is because the club face does not come through the impact zone with the sweet spot connecting with the ball. Instead, the toe or heel of the club will be in the air, for a steep or flat plane respectively, and you’ll notice that shots are either bladed or hit fat.
A swing plane that is too steep tends to create fat shots and a flat swing plane tends to create thin shots (though the reverse can be true as well).
Checkpoints for Getting On Plane
The first mistake that golfers will do that gets their swing off plane happens immediately at the takeaway.
A lot of golfers who have a swing plane that is off will either:
- Lift the club up away from their body
- Pull it in close to their body for their first move
The problem with this is that it puts the rest of the swing behind and playing catch-up.
It forces a player to re-route the club head in order to bring it back on plane and there often isn’t enough time in the swing or the player doesn’t have quick enough hands to be able to pull that off. So, it’s super important that a player starts their swing on plane because it makes it much easier for the rest of the swing to stay on plane as well.
Next, and perhaps most importantly, it’s important for a golf club to be flush to the ground. This is one issue that I see in golfers all the time who struggle with swing plane. What I mean by flush to the ground is that the bottom edge of the golf club head ought to rest flush (parallel) to the ground.
Since, as I stated above, a perfect swing plane is the same angle as a golf club’s lie angle, you must use that to your advantage. If you don’t set the club flush to the ground with the toe or heel in the air, you are changing the lie angle of the club and, basically, fighting against the design of the club.
The final checkpoint for making sure you’re on plane comes at the top of the backswing plane. This is a really difficult place to check where you’re at because no one can, or should, be looking at their hands at the top of the back swing.
So, in order to check to make sure you’re in the proper spot at the top of the backswing plane, practice the shoulder-push drill and see if it feels the same as the top of your back swing. The “shoulder-push” drill is mentioned below in the “Drills for getting on plane” section.
It’s a fairly simple drill that you can do anywhere and anytime. The reason for checking the top of your back swing is to make sure you’re in a natural position and not constantly fighting, or re-routing, your backswing.
If you do the drill and it doesn’t feel the same as your full swing, then you know that your golf swing is probably off plane.
Drills for Getting your Swing On Plane
There are a couple great, and simple, swing plane drills that every golfer can use to make sure they are swinging on plane.
Lie Board Drill
The first swing plane drill we’ll talk about is the lie board drill. A lie board is a piece of plastic that golf club fitters use to check and make sure a golfer’s lie angles are correct. You can use this tool to make sure you are coming through impact with a golf club that is flush to the ground as well.
- So, once you obtain a lie board simply put a piece of masking tape and put it on the bottom (sole) of your golf club.
- Then, you can hit a couple golf balls off of the lie board.
- After you’ve hit, check the bottom of your club and you’ll notice a mark from the impact. The mark on the bottom of your club ought to be in the middle of the club.
- If you see the mark on the heel side, then that means your club’s lie angle is too upright or your swing plane is too flat.
- The opposite is also true, if the mark is on the toe then your club is either too flat or your swing is too steep.
Make sure you are starting every shot with the bottom of the club flush to the lie board.
Alignment Sticks in the Ground Drill
Next, in order to address the takeaway issues that I mentioned above, practice shots with an old shaft, alignment sticks or snow pole in the ground. To do this drill:
- Push a pole or alignment sticks into the ground at about a 45-degree angle.
- Address a golf ball so that the pole in the ground is outside the ball and on the side of your back foot.
- Then, hit shots with that pole in the ground behind you.
- You ought to make sure that your takeaway come slightly inside the pole in the ground.
- If you hit the pole on the takeaway or downswing, your swing is too steep (which is the most common mistake when it comes to swing plane.
Making sure that your swing plane starts correct with this drill will make your swing significantly more efficient because you aren’t having to catch-up or re-route your backswing throughout the swing.
Shoulder-Push On Plane Drill
Finally, you can check the top of your backswing by using the drill that Sam Snead always used to advocate. It’s very simple.
- Get into your golf stance and address the golf ball.
- Then, while remaining in your stance, lift your club and lay it on your back shoulder (right shoulder for a right-handed player).
- With the club laying on your shoulder, rotate your body as if simulating a normal backswing.
- Finally, push your club directly away from your body and off of your shoulder about 8-10 inches.
- The position you find yourself in right there ought to be the exact position you find yourself in at the top of your backswing.
This is a great way to check and make sure that you’ve stayed on plane throughout your entire back swing. From there, all you have to do is take your natural downswing.
A lot of golfers struggle with swing plane without even knowing that it’s their main issue, but it happens all the time. It normally comes out as shots that are inconsistent, lacking in distance, or miss from side to side.
If that’s you, take a look at your swing plane. Try a couple, if not all, of the drills in this article and I think you’ll see that your golf shots come off with a lot more power, consistency, and accuracy.
Don’t let the topic overwhelm you though, it’s all about keeping the club is a more natural position where the club head can make more solid impact with the golf ball.