The short answer to the headline question is pretty obvious: Any swing plane that delivers a square clubface to the ball at impact. That covers a wide range of planes, from extremely upright to pancake flat.
To accurately answer the question, it's better to start with this one: What kind of trajectory, shape and carry/roll distance do you want to achieve?
Now we're getting somewhere.
Let's say you want to hit your drives high, with a slight fade and maximum carry distance; roll is a secondary factor. (This would be effective on a hilly course with soft fairways.) You'll need an upright swing plane to generate the launch characteristics you're looking for. Why?
- An upright plane is more vertical, making the most of the driver's loft.
- Upright swingers tend to swing only slightly inside-to-out, or straight down the target line, producing left-to-right (fade) spin.
- A fade has more backspin than a draw does, keeping the ball in the air longer and stopping soon after landing.
Conversely, maybe your home course is best attacked with low, running draws off the tee. A flatter swing plane will serve you well, because:
- It's more horizontal, which creates a shallow attack angle and lower ball flight.
- Flat swingers typically hit the ball with a pronounced inside-to-out swing path, imparting right-to-left (draw) spin.
- A draw flies and lands with a small degree of overspin, which gets it onto the ground and rolling more quickly than a fade.
OK, but what if you prefer a low fade or high draw? Or you don't favor any particular shot type, but want the ability to change trajectory and shape based on any hole's demands. That's high-level stuff – few amateurs are skilled enough to play a variety of shots on command, especially with the driver.
Your best bet is to swing on a plane that's comfortable and delivers the standard shot (e.g. high fade) you desire, then use this shot as often as possible. When you absolutely must play a different shot (e.g. low draw), simply alter your ball position and stance accordingly. Watch and read these tips to learn how:
What is the Correct Swing Plane for a Driver?
One of the greatest skills you can have on the golf course is the ability to hit your driver down the middle of the fairway time after time. While no golfer is going to hit every fairway they face, the ability to hit most of your fairways will put you way ahead of the game. Golf is significantly easier when played from the short grass, even if you aren't the longest hitter in the world. Professional golfers are able to shoot such low scores in large part because they do a great job of finding fairways. If you are able to follow their lead, your scores will come down as well.
To hit your driver accurately, you need to swing the club on a consistent, appropriate plane. You can think of your swing plane as the path which is traced by the shaft of the club throughout the swinging motion. It is possible to play good golf using a variety of different planes, but you need to settle on one which works nicely for your game. Specifically, you need to find a reliable driver swing plane, as the plane you use for this long club may not match up with the plane you select for the rest of your bag.
For most golfers, it is going to be best to swing the driver along a relatively flat plane. This is true for a number of reasons. First, you have to consider the fact that the ball is up on a tee. When hitting a driver, you are not hitting down as you would when hitting irons from the fairway. Instead, you are going to sweep the ball off the tee with the club head moving roughly parallel to the ground at impact. Since you don't need to worry about hitting down, there is no need to use a steep swing plane. Such a plane would be effective for a short iron, but not so much for a driver.
Another benefit to using a flat swing plane with your driver is the increased swing length you can achieve by taking this path. It is hard to make a long backswing when you pick the club up high over your head. When rotating along a flatter plane, however, you should be able to wrap the shaft of the driver well around your back before changing directions and heading down toward the ball. This longer swing length will give you more time to accelerate into impact, leading to improved distance overall.
Is it possible to drive the ball successfully while using a steep plane? Sure – it's possible. However, for most amateur golfers, finding a flatter plane is the way to go. In this article, we will explain where most amateur golfers go wrong in terms of swing plane, and we will discuss the work you can do on the range to find the perfect plane for your game. When all the work is done, you will hopefully find that you are producing the longest and straightest drives of your golfing life.
The Backspin Issue
In the content above, we mentioned that using a steep swing plane is unnecessary because you will not be hitting down on your driver at impact. With the advantage of a tee on your side, you can simply sweep the ball off the tee and out toward the target. Being able to play from a tee to start each hole is a tremendous advantage, and it is the main reason why you can swing your driver differently from the rest of your clubs.
There is another point which needs to be mentioned here in regard to sweeping the ball off the tee. When you make impact with the ball while swinging along a relatively flat plane, you will reduce the amount of backspin added to your drives. High backspin rates might be attractive on wedge shots where you are looking for stopping power, but they are nothing you want to find on your driver shots. If you spin your drives at a high rate, the ball will climb high into the air before falling down well short of your distance potential. In order to get the most out of your swing from a distance perspective, you need to keep your spin rate down.
Part of the spin rate battle is related to your equipment. If you use the right combination of club head and shaft for your swing, you should be left with a reasonable spin rate. However, equipment alone cannot solve this matter. If you stick with a steep swing plane that has the club attacking the ball from above, you are always going to generate more spin than you need. Those high, spinning drives are not only going to rob you of distance, but they are going be more difficult to control as well.
Drives with high backspin rates will not carry as far as drives with lower spin because they will waste much of their energy climbing higher and higher into the sky. In addition to that, those drives will lose distance on the ground because the backspin rate will take away much of their bounce and roll yardage. Any way you look at it, it is going to be nearly impossible to live up to your driving potential if you are using a steep swing plane and a high spin rate. Commit yourself to using a flatter plane in order to take spin off the ball and you are likely to love the results you find on the course.
If you are not sure how your current driver swings are faring in terms of backspin rate, the best thing to do is head to your local course for some help from a pro. Specifically, you want to ask about a club fitting session where your swing can be analyzed on a launch monitor. Modern technology has made it possible to measure and track just about every single part of your game, including your spin rate. After hitting just a few drives in front of the launch monitor, you will have valuable data that you can use to make changes to your technique as necessary.
First, the spin rate of the ball as it comes off of your driver will be an important number to review. How does your spin rate compare to top players? Are you in a reasonable range, or are you spinning the ball too much to ever maximize your distance? In addition to spin rate, you can also learn from the angle of attack you are using with the driver. The launch monitor will track the movement of the club through the ball, and you will be provided with path data. This will tell you whether you are hitting up or down on the ball, or if the club is moving parallel to the ground.
You might be surprised to see just how helpful launch monitor information can be as you move forward with your game. Knowing for certain that you are spinning the ball too much, for example, will help you stay motivated as you work toward a flatter swing plane. Or, if you find that your launch conditions are already ideal, you can work on adding a few miles per hour to your swing speed in order to gain distance. Whatever the case, a visit to your local pro to use the launch monitor will be well worth your time and small financial investment. Take the data you receive from this session and use it to guide your practice with the driver in the weeks and months ahead.
Finding a Flat Plane
By now, you are hopefully convinced that a flat plane is the right option for your driver swings. Assuming that is the case, it is now time to work on creating that flat plane on the driving range. As the case with any swing change you make, it will be necessary to hit plenty of shots on the range before you head back to the course. Change is hard to come by in golf, so you have to put in the time during practice before you can enjoy the payoff. It may take some time to see the progress you desire, but that wait will be worth it when you begin to hit the best drives of your life.
So, how do you go about creating a flat swing plane when hitting your driver? The following tips will steer you in the right direction.
- Quiet hands in the takeaway. One of the common mistakes made by amateur golfers is using the hands too actively in the takeaway phase of the backswing. For the first foot or so of your backswing, it is important to keep your hands quiet and out of the action. The swing should start with a simple shoulder rotation away from the target. When you turn to the right with your shoulders while keeping your hands quiet, the club will naturally trace a shallow path. This move will put you in a great position to finish off the rest of the swing on a flat plane. Check on the current status of your takeaway and make adjustments as necessary to keep your hands out of the equation. Pay specific attention to the back of your right wrist, as this is often where the trouble will be found. As long as your right wrist does not bend during the takeaway, you can be confident that things are going well.
- Upright posture. This point might seem counterintuitive, but you can actually flatten out your swing plane by standing up into a relatively upright posture. This part of your stance influences your plane because of the involvement of your shoulders in the swing. If you are bent significantly from the waist, your shoulders will form a steep plane and the club will naturally follow that path. On the other hand, if you stand up straight with plenty of flex in your knees to support the swing, you will make a flatter turn and the club will wind up behind your back. If you are unsure of how your posture looks currently, find a full-length mirror and stand in front of the mirror in your golf stance. With just a quick look at the mirror, you will have a great understanding for how your stance looks currently and what you need to do to get into a better position.
- Make a big turn. There is no way around this last point – if you are going to swing on a flat plane, you are going to need to make a big shoulder turn. Without a big turn, there simply won't be anywhere for the club to go as the backswing continues. You will be forced to take the club high up into the air simply because there won't be space for it to remain down lower. By maximizing your shoulder turn, you will be creating space for a flat swing plane to be used. Although many golfers believe that making a big turn comes down to flexibility, there is actually more to it than that. Sure, it helps to be flexible, but you also need to be patient enough to allow the backswing to finish completely. If you rush the swing, your turn will naturally be cut short. Take your time in the backswing, let your shoulders turn as far as they want before changing directions, and transition down only when you are sure the backswing is finished.
It isn't particularly difficult to make a flat backswing. Sure, this is going to be a significant adjustment if you are used to hitting drives with an upright swing, but you should be able to make the change given enough practice time. Remember, using a new swing plane is going to change your ball flight, so there will be a period of adjustment on that front as well. Patience is required here, but committing to a flatter swing plane is worth the effort in the end.
Turning Either Way
There is some thought among certain golfers that swinging on an upright plane will create a fade, while those with a flatter plane are destined to hit a draw. While there might be some truth buried inside of that concept, it is certainly not true across the board. There are plenty of flat-plane swingers who produce a fade, and there are also upright players who hit a draw. So, regardless of which ball flight pattern you would like to use in your game, you should be able to achieve your goals without leaving the category of a flat swing plane.
For most amateurs, the best plan of action is to allow the ball flight to 'work itself out'. Instead of specifically trying to become a player who favors a fade or draw, work hard to iron out your mechanics and then let the results speak for themselves. Some players are naturally inclined toward a fade, while others seem to produce a draw no matter what they try. Rather than fighting against your natural ball flight, play with whatever comes naturally and make the most of it. You can play great golf while turning the ball in either direction, so don't worry about forcing yourself to fit into one category or the other.
With that said, it is important to make sure you know which ball flight is going to result when you make a swing with your driver. The work you do on the range is important not only to refine your mechanics, but also to help you learn about your shots. Do your drives tend to curve left or right? How much to they turn in that direction? You can only get these answers through practice. You shouldn't have to think much about your ball flight on the golf course because you should have already mastered it on the practice range.
As you gain experience hitting your drives with a flat swing plane, you may be tempted to work on turning the ball both ways on command. This, of course, is an attractive idea. Being able to stand up on the tee and produce either a draw or a fade depending on the hole in front of you seems like it could be a helpful skill. However, for most players, this is an idea which is better left in the bag. Unless you are a professional golfer with hours each day available for practice, you will be better served to stick to one reliable ball flight.
Most of the time, when you take your driver from the bag, you are doing so because the fairway in front of you offers ample landing space. With that being the case, you don't necessarily have to worry about 'carving' many of your tee shots. Instead, you can just let them fly, using your favorite ball flight each and every time. If a given hole happens to be narrow enough to demand that you turn the ball opposite of your usual flight, you can simply go down to a shorter club to give yourself more room to work with. Developing the skill to turn your driver both ways is incredibly difficult – leave that to the pros, and find your way around the course through club selection and picking smart targets.
As you go through the process of flattening out your swing plane with the driver, it is likely that you will run into a bit of trouble along the way. When that happens, you will need to know where to turn for answers. Hopefully, the tips in this section will set you straight before too long.
- Blocking the ball to the right. Many golfers, when they first start swinging the driver on a flatter plane, will block most of their drives to the right. This usually occurs due to poor ball position. You may be used to playing your driver farther back in your stance because of your previously steep swing plane – but that ball plane needs to move to match up with your new swing. Move your ball position up toward your left foot and your shots should straighten out almost immediately.
- Hitting drives too low. Another common trait among those who swing the driver steeply is the habit of teeing the ball down low to the ground. If you have been hitting down on your driver, that low tee height was necessary in order to make solid contact. You don't need the ball down that low anymore, however, and teeing it up low is going to make it difficult to get the ball up into the sky. Tee the ball higher at address and hit up with confidence through impact.
- Hitting a quick hook. If your new flat swing plane is leading to a collection of quick hooks, it is likely a lazy lower body which is to blame. You need your lower body to turn aggressively in the downswing if you are going to avoid hitting a hook with a flat swing. Make sure your hips are turning left from the top of the swing all the way down through impact. With great lower body rotation, the club face should hold square at impact, and you should find that your drives quickly straighten out.
Swinging your driver on a flat plane is almost certain to be the best option for your game. Not only is this type of swing highly repeatable, it also offers a number of ball flight advantages – such as the ability to reduce the backspin on your drives. If you are currently swinging on an upright plane, get to work on flattening out your swing during your next practice session. Once your swing has been flattened, you should begin to see benefits in the way the ball leaves your club out on the course. It may take a bit of time and effort to get from here to there, but you will love the results when all is said and done. Good luck!