Many golfers find it difficult to know how to swing on plane, however this drill will help you work out your most ideal swing plane and help produce much more consistent and accurate golf shots.
Fault - Golfers struggle to swing on a consistent plane leading to poor and inconsistent golf shots because the swing plane affects the swing path through the golf ball. The swing path has a huge affect on the direction the golf ball curves when the golf ball is in flight. This can also cause inconsistent strikes as the swing plane can affect the path so much that it travels through the golf ball from such an irregular angle that it produces an off centred strike.
Cure - Here is a great drill to help produce a more on plane golf swing. This drill is only to demonstrate the correct swing plane and is not to be used whilst hitting golf balls. Firstly, you will need an alignment stick or bamboo stick so that you can hold the alignment stick whilst holding the grip of the golf club so that the stick creates an extension of the golf club. Sit the alignment stick by your side that is closest to the target.
Tip - You can use any of your golf clubs for this drill as the principles are the same.
Before setting up to your golf ball, place a marker such as a tee peg or another golf ball about three feet directly behind the golf ball on the target line and another marker three feet in front of the golf ball directly on the target line. Continue to set up to the golf ball holding your alignment stick with the markers in place. When you start your backswing the aim is to point the end of the alignment stick, the butt end of the golf club, at the marker point behind the golf ball at the half way back position. When checking this position in the golf swing, make sure the wrist hinge has already happened and the hands are in line with the body when looking from down the line. The shaft angle should be tilted so that the alignment stick is aiming at the marker on the floor behind the golf ball. Continue to the top of the backswing so that the swing is complete.
During the downswing, the alignment stick wants to aim at the marker to create the exact same position in the backswing so that the shaft angle stays the same. Continue through into a pretend impact position and through to the follow through position. At half way through the follow through, the alignment stick, the butt end of the golf club, should point at the marker that is in front of the golf ball whilst the hands are in line with the body. Notice how the shaft angle is tilted to the same angle that was produced in the backswing and downswing.
Key tip - Notice the feeling and body position whilst the stick points at the markers. Aim to repeat such movements when hitting golf balls without the alignment stick.
How to Create a More On-Plane Golf Swing
As a golfer, you have likely heard the phrase 'on-plane swing'. Even if you don't know exactly what that phrase means, you have probably heard it while hanging around the driving range – or even while watching golf on TV. Swinging the club on-plane is a great way to control your ball flight consistently as you make your way around the course. It is certainly possible to hit a few good shots from time to time when you are off-plane, but you will never be as consistent as necessary to play well day after day. If you strive to become a consistent, steady golfer who posts good scores almost every time out, you want to create an on-plane swing.
Swinging on-plane means you make a swing which matches up nicely with the position of the club at address. Your address position does a nice job of providing you with a pre-set swing plane to use – all you have to do is trace that plane throughout the swing in order to return to the same position at impact. Of course, as you might imagine, keeping your swing on-plane from start to finish is far easier said than done. It will take considerable effort in order to move the club on-plane time after time, but that effort will be rewarded with impressively consistent ball striking.
The importance of the on-plane swing comes back to a desire to take as many moving parts out of your swing as possible. If your swing goes off-plane at any point, you are going to have to make an adjustment mid-swing in order to recover. Naturally, that recovery move will be difficult to execute, and it won't come off the same way on all swings. In the end, your results will be inconsistent because you have to constantly try to fight your swing back on-plane. Golfers who swing on-plane are able to enjoy the advantage of making the same motion over and over again - which is an advantage that will pay off on the scorecard.
To succeed in creating an on-plane swing, you will need to do a good job of paying attention to detail. During practice, you have to focus on all of the basic fundamentals in order to execute your move properly. There is nothing particularly complicated about swinging on-plane, but the process overall can be difficult simply because there are so many variables in play. In this article, we are going to provide advice which will hopefully steer you toward an on-plane swing sooner rather than later. Use the instruction below to guide your upcoming practice sessions and your swing should take a big step forward.
All of the instruction below is based on a right-handed golfer. If you happen to play left-handed, please take a moment to reverse the directions as necessary.
Mastering the Basics
If you are going to swing on-plane, you need to have the fundamentals of your swing under control. These fundamentals aren't directly related to the plane of the swing specifically, but everything in the golf swing is connected in one way or another. By building your swing on a strong foundation, everything in the game gets easier – including the task of staying on-plane.
The fundamentals listed below will look familiar to any serious golfer. Even if you have seen these points before, there is nothing wrong with a little review to make sure you are going in the right direction with the basics of your swing.
- Balanced address position. There are few things in the golf swing as important as balance. When you are balanced, the difficult job of squarely striking the ball with the sweet spot of your club becomes much easier. Of course, to find yourself balanced at impact, it is a great advantage to start out in a balanced position. Take time to make sure you are forming a balanced stance at the beginning of the swing and everything will get easier from there. Not only should you be balanced in terms of left and right, you should also be centered without your weight leaning onto your toes or back onto your heels. Before you work on any other part of your game, make sure to review your balance and make any corrections which may be necessary.
- Flat back from your waist to your head. To the greatest degree possible, you want to stand over the ball with a flat back from your belt line all the way up into your neck. With a flat back at address, you will be able to make a great turn in the backswing – something that will actually help you to stay on plane. There are a couple of specific things you should be trying to do in order to find a flat back position. For one, you should feel like you are sticking your backside out behind you at address. This will flatten out the lower part of your back. Also, you need to make sure you are keeping your chin up away from your chest. With your chin up, your upper back/neck area will flatten out, and your left shoulder will have room to turn in the backswing. If you aren't sure how your back looks at address, find a mirror which you can use to check on your stance.
- A consistent grip. There is plenty of room for individual style within the grip. Some golfers like to have their top hand in a strong position, some land in a neutral spot, and others like to play with a weak top hand. No matter how you like to position your hands on the grip, make sure you do so in the same manner time after time. Consistency in the grip will lead to consistency in the swing – and added consistency is something that can benefit every golfer. Even when you aren't at the course, you can practice your grip simply by picking up a club and taking your grip over and over again. The more repetitions you can complete in your spare time, the better you will be at taking your grip the same way before each shot on the course.
- Square up your stance. At address, all of the various parts of your stance should be working together nicely. From your toes on up to your shoulders, every part of your body should be properly oriented with the target line you have picked out for the shot. Specifically, you want to focus your attention on three areas while forming your stance – your feet, your hips, and your shoulders. If you can get all three of these areas to work together nicely, there is a good chance your shot will be a success. Golf is a hard enough game as it is – you don't need to make it more difficult by having different body parts moving in different directions as address.
Too many golfers take the basics of the swing for granted. In reality, if you master the basics, you really don't need to spend much time thinking about advanced swing theory. Golf is a relatively simple game when you boil it down, even if it is tough to execute great shots on the course. Stick with the basics in your swing, review your fundamentals consistently, and build everything else in your game on this foundation.
Checking Your Plane
Keeping your swing on-plane is something that might sound complicated, but it is actually rather easy to check on your progress throughout the swinging action. Basically, at any given point during the swing, you want to have one end of the club or the other pointing at the target line. So, at address, it will obviously be the club head end which is pointing directly onto the target line behind the ball. As you start your swing, the club head is going to (hopefully) trace that line for a period of time. Then, as the swing develops, you will set your wrists and it will become the butt end of the club which is pointing at the target line (to the right of the ball).
Before you can make any changes which may be necessary to get your swing on-plane, you first need to check to make sure you are off-plane to begin with. After all, one of the worst things you can do is to attempt to fix a problem which doesn't exist in the first place. To check on the status of your swing plane at the moment, go through the following steps.
- Head out to the driving range with your seven iron and a few golf balls to hit. Once you find a place to hit some shots, pick out a realistic target for your seven iron and take your stance. Up until this point, nothing about this quick drill is going to be any different from your usual routine.
- When you are all set and ready to go, begin your golf swing as you would for any other shot. However, this time, you are going to stop your swing when your hands reach approximately hip high. With your hands around the level of your hips, stop the swing cold and hold your position.
- Now that you are 'frozen' in place, take a look at the club and see how you are doing with regard to your plane. Is the butt end of the club pointed toward the target line? If not, where is it pointed? This one position is going to tell you a lot about the current state of your swing and your ability to stay on-plane.
- After you have paused to evaluate your plane, return to address and start the swing again. This time, you are going to swing through as normal and hit the shot. Repeat this process – with one 'false start' and plane check before hitting a shot – as many time as you would like until you are finished practicing for the day.
If you are on-plane at the checkpoint, you can feel good about the fact that your swing is getting off to a good start. In fact, there is a good chance that you are staying on plane throughout the swing if you are in a good position at the halfway back point. It would be a good idea to revisit this check from time to time just to make sure things are on track, but you probably don't need to worry much about your plane. On the other hand, if you find that you are off-plane at this checkpoint, it will be important to make some corrections right away. In the next section of this article, we are going to address the issue of being off-plane during this check, and what you can do to make the necessary fixes.
Solving the Problem
We are going to assume at this point that you are off-plane to some degree in your swing. If that is the case, there are two basic categories into which you can place your swing – flat, and steep. You are making a steep swing if the end of the club is pointing to the ground inside of the target line. A flat swing, then, is one where the club is pointing to the ground on the outside of the target line. It is more common for amateur golfers to fall into the flat category, but be sure to diagnose your own swing problem accurately before moving on.
As you would expect, the fix for your off-plane swing is going to depend entirely on the problem at hand. Below are two suggestions for getting back on-plane, one for each of the two possible mistakes.
- Swing plane too flat. If you are in a flat position during your backswing, it is highly likely that you have 'come out' of your stance. Coming out of your stance simply means that you have stood up out of your address position by straightening at the hips and maybe even losing the flex in your knees. This action is going to pull your upper body away from the swing, and you will lose the tilt in your shoulders as you swing back. The end result is a club which is laid off of the proper plane. Most shots which result from a laid off swing plane are going to wind up slicing from left to right, although it is possible to hit a pull from this position as well. To get on track, focus on staying down in your stance throughout the backswing and into the downswing. Keep your knees flexed, hold your spine angle nicely, and keep your eyes on the ball.
- Swing plane too steep. Players dealing with a steep swing plane frequently are guilty of a reverse pivot in the backswing. What is a reverse pivot? Rather than staying balanced in the backswing, players who use a reverse pivot lean their body weight toward the target (to the left)) early in the swing. By moving your weight onto your left side, the club will naturally move high up into the air – and the swing plane will become rather steep as a result. Don't let this happen to you. Ironing out your reverse pivot should be as simple as focusing on keeping your weight evenly distributed between your two feet. With improved balance, your swing plane will flatten out nicely and your ball flight problems should quickly be resolved.
Of course, it is possible that the mistake you are making will not be corrected by the suggestions above. Every golf swing is unique, so you could be making a combination of errors which will not be addressed in this article. Because of the individual nature of this game, it is recommended that you visit a teaching professional if your off-plane swing is still giving you trouble after some work on your own. An experienced teacher will be able to help you find a good swing plane, and they will be able to explain exactly what needs to change in your current swing to lead you to a better future on the course.
Staying On-Plane in the Short Game
Just as it is important to stay on-plane with your full swing, you also need to keep the club on-plane in the short game. This task is generally easier, since you aren't trying to hit the ball any significant distance, but it is important to address just the same. The short game is an extremely important piece of the golf puzzle, so don't make the common mistake of overlooking this area of your technique.
As is usually the case when talking about the short game, we should start by discussing your putter. Every golfer needs to putt well in order to post good scores, and keeping your putter on-plane is something which will help you roll the ball in the right direction time after time. The best way to make sure your putter is riding the same plane from start to finish is to completely remove your hands from the putting equation. By moving the putter with your shoulders rather than your hands, the shaft of the club should stay nicely on plane – and your putts should leave on the target line more times than not.
Things get a bit more complicated when you move off the green and begin to chip the golf ball. While you still want to keep your motion on-plane, it isn't going to be as simple as just rocking your shoulders back and through. You will need to add some hand and wrist action in order to pop the ball out of the grass and into the air with ease. Many amateur golfers struggle to incorporate their hands properly in the chipping action, instead trying to rely on the same motion they use when putting. This can work okay for a bump and run shot, but it certainly isn't going to succeed out of the long grass.
To make sure you can use your hands and wrists without getting off plane, focus on bending your right wrist back on itself in the backswing. This kind of action, rather than a vertical hinging of the wrists, will keep the club shaft on-plane throughout the motion. As you swing down, you can unhinge your wrists slightly to pop the club into the back of the ball. Using such a technique is going to make it easier to accelerate through the hitting area, and you may even get a bit of backspin on your chip shots as well. It will take some time and practice to perfect this technique, but it can be highly effective once you have it mastered.
The other short game area to consider when thinking about swing plane is bunker play. Hitting shots from the sand is something that intimidates many average golfers, but playing from greenside bunkers can actually be rather easy once you have learned the right mechanics. Unlike the rest of the shots you hit on the course, where you want to stay on-plane, it is actually okay to move a bit under the plane when blasting a ball from the bunker. Swing back on your normal plane, but shift the club down flatter in the transition. With a flat angle of approach, you will be able to slide the club head into the sand and under the ball at the bottom of the swing. In the end, the ball will be lifted up out of the trap and (hopefully) onto the green.
It is important to keep your golf swing on-plane as often as possible as you make your way around the course. Few amateur golfers work on this point, which is why so many players struggle to hit the ball straight. Use the advice offered in this article to work your way toward an on-plane swing, and make this point one of your top priorities during upcoming practice sessions. Whether in the full swing or the short game, being on-plane can lead to great outcomes. Good luck!