There seems to be a lot of confusion among casual and amateur golfers surrounding golf swing planes. This confusion can probably be traced back to all the commentary about a PGA Tour player’s swing plane or other comments about swing planes from playing partners. But a golf swing plane doesn’t have to be a confusing topic. Instead, it should be a topic that all golfers are introduced to when they first start to play.
How to Swing on Plane
So with today’s article, we are going to clear up all the confusion surrounding swing planes. Apart from better defining what a swing plane is, we will also identify some golf drills that will teach you to swing on plane. That way you can step up to any shot knowing that your swing will be true.
But before we get to the drills, we first need to examine what it truly means to “swing on plane” in golf.
What Does it Mean to Swing on Plane in Golf?
Imagine that you have just stepped up on the tee box, placed your ball, and have taken your stance with your clubhead just behind the ball. Now freeze that image in your brain and take a “theoretical” step back. You’ll notice that your club head and golf ball are resting on the same plane (ie. the ground). But here’s the kicker. While the ground is a plane, it’s not the plane we golfers want to use during our swing.
Instead, we have focused on the plane that the clubhead travels during your backswing, downswing, and follow-through. Keeping the same image of you standing over the ball, visualize a line that comes out of your chest and intersects with the golf ball on the ground. Now extend the line through your chest and out your back.
This full line that bisects you at the chest is your optimal swing plane. If you’ve imagined it correctly you will notice that this line (plane) is angled and intersects at the ground (ie. golf ball). If you are still a bit confused about this, take a look at a slow-motion swing of a PGA pro with the swing path traced. This tracing will show the optimal swing plane.
Now to finally answer the question of what it means to swing on plane in golf. Put simply, if your swing follows the plane we created in the above step, your swing is considered “on plane”. This means that your swing never deviated from the perfect swing trajectory. In theory, swinging on plane will result in a simpler and more efficient swing.
How Does it Affect Your Game?
Most problems golfers experience are directly correlated with their swing plane. By shifting one’s swing plane just a couple of degrees can have a dramatic change in shot performance. Even worse, you could be changing planes throughout your swing making for an unpredictable shot. So let’s dig a bit deeper into how a swing plane can affect your game.
First, most golfers either have a pronounced outside-in or inside-out swing plane. On an outside-in swing plane, golfers will draw the club across their body resulting in slicing sidespin.
An inside-out swing plane sees golfer’s pushing the club away from their body on the downswing with the result being a hook. Neither of these swing planes will result in consistency, thus a golfer needs to get closer to a neutral swing plan.
Second, changing planes (ie. dropping shoulders, shifting feet, lifting your head, etc…) can have detrimental effects. While you might start on plane with your backswing, a drastic change during the downswing moves the clubhead significantly off plane. Topping, chunking, slicing, and moonshots are all possible. For these reasons, changing planes is significantly worse than just being slightly off plane.
So what does swinging on plane do for your golf game? Most importantly, it brings confidence to each shot. Because knowing where your shot is going before hitting it makes for a stress-free round.
How Important is it to Master?
Mastering your swing is at the core of becoming a great golfer. In particular, mastering your swing plane will create greater consistency. With greater consistency comes lower scores and more confidence in your driver and long irons.
Mastering your swing plane can also allow you to effectively shape your shots. In this case, you can change the angle of your swing to produce higher or lower shots that can either draw or slice. These “tools” can give you a greater edge when you are in a tricky situation and need to control the flight of the ball. This skill can be particularly useful when playing dog-leg style holes.
It should be noted that mastering your swing plane can be a bit of a challenge. For example, even pro players have problems with their swing planes. So while you should aim for swing plane mastery, there is a good chance you may still encounter the occasional problem.
Swing Plane Drills
Now that you know what a swing plane is, what it should look like, and why it’s important to master, it’s now time to learn how to get your swing back on plane. By using three simple drills, you can quickly identify issues with your swing and start correcting them.
- Using Alignment Sticks
- Alignment sticks are by far the most versatile training aid in golf. And for this drill, the alignment sticks will simply be used to map the path of your clubhead right before, during, and after impact.
To start, place a golf ball on the ground and take your stance in line with your designated target. Next, take an alignment stick and lay it horizontally about six inches on each side of the golf ball in line with your target.
Finally, take your stance again and take a full swing. If you didn’t hit any of the alignment sticks on the ground that means your swinging very close to the ideal swing plane! Try moving the alignment sticks closer together to challenge yourself. Remember, the closer together you can get the alignment sticks the better your swing plane.
- Lie Board Drill
- If you have ever been fitted for a set of irons you probably know what a lie board is. But instead of fitting ourselves for clubs, we are going to use the lie board to check our swing plane. While not everyone has a lie board to use, you can also use the ground to check your swing path.
To begin, simply place a ball on the lie board (or ground) and take a regular swing making sure to make contact with the board at impact. The impact will leave a small mark that follows the path of your clubhead through impact.
Examine this mark (divot) to see how straight it is. Poor swing planes will leave a mark (divot) that curves significantly right or left. Other signs of a poor swing plane include marks that are not in line with your target.
After you examine your impact marks (divot), clean off the board and try again. This time, swing a bit slower and try to keep your swing on plane. If your mark is much straighter than the first, you are swinging on plane. Now without the board try to take a regular speed swing while keeping this same plane. While it may feel funny at first this drill can quickly correct your swing plane.
- Shoulder – Push-On Plane Drill
- Believe it or not, the biggest contributor to your swing plane is your shoulders. So making sure to practice keeping your shoulders on plane is a must-do. Thankfully shoulder drills are relatively simple and require no extra equipment to complete. All it takes is a bit of space, time, and the ability to rotate your shoulders.
The simplest way to do this drill is to take your golf stance, raise your hands up to your shoulders, and move your upper body like a golf swing. Keep it slow and relaxed focusing on rotating your shoulders on the same plane as if you were swinging a golf club.
You can also use a golf club to make this drill a bit easier. To do this, simply place the shaft of the club across your shoulders and grab each side with your hands. Then using the same twisting motion, trace the ideal swing path. This technique is also a great way to warm up before hitting the first tee.
In the end, swinging on plane is a very important skill that golfers need to master to have great consistency. Because by swinging off plane, you are inviting a host of issues to plague your game. So get rid of that annoying slice or occasional chunk by simply swinging on plane!
To make the fastest progress in getting your swing on plane, we recommend practicing with a mix of the three drills detailed in the earlier section. Again, some of these drills may make your swing feel a bit awkward.
But after a couple of sessions at the range, this “new swing” will feel a lot more natural. If you feel that you need more help in identifying and correcting issues in your swing plane, reach out to your local PGA professional. They can either give you ideas for new drills or even set you up with a lesson.
Overall, we hope that you found our article on how to swing on plane helpful. If you have any questions, feel free to ask us in the comments below!