by Frank Peter
The concept of plane confuses some players. It also confuses some players that come to me for golf lessons. Many are unclear about what it is and what its impact is on your golf swing. Whether you understand the concept of plane or not, swinging off plane is never good.
Focusing on two points - spine angle at address and the position of the left arm on the downswing - clears up the confusion about swing plane and explains its effect on your golf swing and your golf handicap.
Several reasons exist for swinging off plane. Picking the club up with your hands or rolling the clubface open during the swing are two. The most common reason for swinging off plane is adopting the wrong spine angle at address, as I've often pointed out in my golf tips.
The Spine angle forms the natural axis around which your shoulders should turn at a 90-degree angle. The spine angle you set at address is critical because it decides the shape and plane of your swing. It's the reason why I focus on adopting the proper spine angle in my golf instruction sessions.
If a player tilts too far over at address, the flatter spine angle causes the shoulders to "tilt" during the swing. As a result, your left arm comes off your chest during your swing, your backswing becomes upright, and your swing plane too steep. Fat shots, deep divots, and pulls and slices are symptoms of a steep plane.
If a player leans too far back at address, the more erect spine angle causes the shoulders to flatten during the swing. As a result, your left arm squeezes too tightly against your chest, your backswing becomes flatter, and your swing plane too shallow. Hitting behind the ball, thin shots, and loss of power are symptoms of a shallow plane.
Keep in mind that a taller player has a naturally steeper swing plane than a shorter person does, and a shorter player has a naturally flatter swing plane than a taller person does.
While your shoulder turn and arm swing are related, a good backswing requires a left arm swing that's on a slightly higher plane than your shoulders. This arm angle allows your shoulders to have more of a free passage to the ball on the downswing. If your left arm swing is off, you'll automatically be on the wrong plane with your swing will be off.
Here's a test I use in my golf lessons to tell if a player is on plane with his/her swing. Take a club, assume your normal posture, and swing to the top. Hold that position for a second. Now, loosen your grip and let the shaft fall.
If the shaft hits you on the top of the right shoulder, your swing is on plane. If it hits you on the head or neck, your swing plane is too steep. Conversely, if it falls behind your back without hitting your body, your swing plane is too shallow.
Employing a simple move at the top of your backswing ensures that you're taking the right swing plane as you start into the downswing. As you begin your downswing shift your weight onto your left foot while, at the same time, bringing your right elbow back down to your body. Remember to retain the angle of your wrist as you complete this move. It's the seat of power and the key to maximum distance.
As the weight shifts to the left and the elbow drops down, the club falls automatically into the right slot for the correct swing plane. This movement flattens the swing ever so slightly. It's the ideal position from which to swing the club down at the ball, delivering the clubhead squarely to the ball.
In essence you're actually employing two swing planes to hit the ball correctly, one slightly different than the other. The first comes from executing the correct take away. The second from dropping down your right elbow just before the downswing.
That slightly different swing plane is crucial. It runs right through the correct angle of your spine, the natural axis around which your shoulders should turn, enabling you to deliver a clean crisp blow to the ball with a square clubhead and good power. And that's the goal of all golf instruction on swing plane.
I hope this article clears up the confusion about swing planes. If you work on taking the club back on the right plane and on dropping your right elbow down during your swing, you'll see results. That, in turn, will help you lower both your individual golf scores and your golf handicap.