We discuss some golf swing plane drills you can use for the two most common types of plane, as well as looking at why your swing plane is important.
When it comes to the golf swing, the list of things that you need to worry about seems never ending. Grip, stance, set up, posture – all confusing in their own right, and that’s even before you’ve taken the club back!
The fundamentals are certainly important but even the best set up in world won’t be able to help you if your swing plane is out of whack.
Today we will be going through a beginners guide to the swing plane to ensure that you have every possible advantage the next time you set up to the ball.
First, what is the swing plane?
Simply put, the swing plane is the path your club takes starting with your transition into backswing and ending with your follow through. If that sounds a lot like a general description of the golf swing itself, that is because it sort of is. While the swing plane is of course not the only component of a good swing, (there is still set up, tempo, clubhead speed, and more to consider) it might be safe to say that it is the most important.
While perfecting your swing plane is crucial if you want to gain more consistency, and ultimately shoot lower scores, that is not to say that there is only one plane on which to swing the club. Were that the case, every good swing would look the same. We know of course, that that isn’t so.
Let’s take a look at the two common swing plane types so that you can determine which applies to you.
The flat swing plane
A flat swing plane tends to wrap around your body on the backswing. If your swing plane is flat you will probably notice that the club only barely makes it over your shoulders at the height of your backswing (whereas in an upright swing, it towers over your shoulders, and even over your head).
An example of a famously flat swing plane would be Ricky Fowler, who has, of course, used his to great success. Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson have also used their flat swings to win some of the most prestigious tournaments on the planet.
A moderately flat swing plane should garner good results, assuming of course that everything else is in place, and you are able to release properly through the ball at impact. In fact, swing planes are trending flatter now on the PGA tour, and the subsequent result has been an increase in accuracy.
Moderate is the key word in that equation. Ricky actually has a dramatically flat swing plane though he is probably more an exception to the rule than he is an example to be followed.
When a swing plane becomes too flat, it can cause a number of problems for the rest of your swing. To start, you will most likely take to standing farther away from the ball to make room for the unique arc of your overly flat swing. When you do that, it brings your wrists into play more in the downswing, which tends to lead to hook shots and other unpleasant inconsistencies.
If you have a flat swing plane and are struggling with it, we will go over a few drills a little bit later on that will hopefully help you find more consistency.
The upright swing plane
The upright swing plane is more indicative of the classic swing type you would see if you watched old footage of say, Johnny Miller, Jack Nicklaus, Arnold, Palmer, Gary Player, or any other golf legend of the pre-Tiger Woods era, really.
The arc on an upright, or vertical swing is similar to that of a Ferris wheel. The club moves straight back, traveling at an angle parallel to the ground, and usually reaches a high point well above your shoulders once the backswing has reached completion.
Due to the height the club reaches on an upright swing plane, it then becomes easier to come down on the ball which tends to lead to a higher trajectory. Taller players tend to favor this swing plane, as it more naturally fits their body type.
We will also be taking a look at drills to help players with an upright swing a little later on.
The good news
The good news that regardless of whether or not you have a flat, or upright swing plane, you won’t need to make any significant changes. Swing plane is generally a naturally occurring aspect of the golf swing. Players don’t generally consciously choose them – they happen organically as a natural response to your body type.
The only reason to make adjustments to your swing plane is if you are getting too flat, or too upright (which happens to everyone sometimes). The key word in golf is consistency. What you want is to develop a swing plane that you can easily replicate on every single shot. The drills that we will now go over are designed to help you do exactly that.
Golf swing plane drills
An important disclaimer before we begin is that, while drills can definitely be good for developing nice swing habits, ultimately your swing is unique to you. Because of that, the very best way to try new drills is under the watchful eye of a golf professional.
The golf pro will be able to cater the drills to your specific swing, and help give you important feedback on how well you are adopting them. This advice pertains to all golf drills, but it is particularly relevant in the case of drills pertaining to your plane, as that is the heart of your swing.
None of these drills should hurt your swing, and if done correctly, all should, in fact, help, but regular lessons will help you to make the most of your practice sessions.
Now that we have that disclaimer out of the way, let’s look at some cool drills!
For the flat swing
Tee behind your tee (or behind your turf)
The goal with this drill is to make sure that your swing isn’t getting too flat. Fortunately, execution is simple. To execute this drill, you will simply mount a tee eight-inches behind your ball on the range. Ideally, as you bring the club back you brush the tee.
This drill trains you not to bring the club too far outside on your backswing. Ideally, your swing will start low and slow straight back. If it flattens as you build to the top of your swing that is perfectly fine but the idea is to build to that moderately.
This isn’t necessarily a drill so much as it is an adjustment to your set up, but it nevertheless something you will want to practice before heading off to your next round.
Standing closer to the ball will naturally force your swing plane to take a more natural path but it might also take some time to find a position you are comfortable with. For adjustments like this, simple though it may be, it is always nice to have a professional present to guide you into a position that best suits your swing.
If you do not have that opportunity, simply set aside some time to play around with your stance at the range. Eventually, you will find a position closer that you find comfortable.
Shorter swing, bigger turn
The nice thing about a flat swing is that it really accentuates your ability to turn into the ball. A good turn will add distance to every swing without promoting the need to swing harder.
Practice this move simply by taking the club back to your shoulder in your backswing, and finishing at your opposite shoulder for your follow through. In the meantime, you will want to focus on turning your body through the ball as aggressively as you can at impact.
Since this is a move that changes the way you swing the ball, it is also a good thing to bring before your teaching professional.
For the upright swing
Back to the wall
For this drill, you will use a wall as a litmus test to see if your swing plane is too steep, or too flat. To do this drill, simply set up the way you normally would with your back to a wall. Swing slowly (so as not to damage the club in the event that your swing is too steep) until you have reached the height of your back swing.
At this point, the club will ideally be parallel to both the ground and the wall. If the club is pointing towards the wall, your swing is too flat. If it points too much away from the wall, it means that your swing is too steep.
This drill will help foster a very moderate swing plane that should combat the hooks and slices associated with overly flat, or overly steep swings respectively.
Take a step back
Just like it is best for the player who swings the club a little bit too flat to take a step up, it will benefit the player that swings a little too steep to take a step back. When you stand too close to the ball, you don’t have a lot of room to bring the club out in your back swing, which can result in an angle that gets a little bit too steep.
Stepping back will naturally force your swing to flatten out a little bit, giving you a slightly more moderate angle of attack at the ball.
This a particularly important piece of advice for the taller golfer (most people who swing steeply fall into this category) because setting up too close to the ball for them can cause a number of other problems as well that lead to inconsistent shot making.
Feel your shoulder move
The shoulder turn in your golf swing should be nice and moderate, but if you are looking to foster a good upright swing plane, you will actually start by moving your shoulders.
To work on this move, you will begin by allowing your left shoulder (or right shoulder, if you are left handed) to dip ever so slightly as you bring the club back.
The early dip in your shoulder will help to start you on that upright swing plane right away. This is another move that you will want to practice extensively before you bring it to the course.
The swing plane may seem difficult to grasp (and perhaps it is) but fortunately, it’s not such a hard thing to fix. Hopefully, you have found the above-listed golf swing plane drills and tips to be easy to understand and apply.
Remember that improvement will take time, but building good golf habits pays off big in the long run, so head out to your local range today to get working on your swing plane!
Good luck on the course!