Talking about your swing plane is one thing, but seeing it on video is a whole lot better. Here at the TOUR Academy, we make an effort to film golfers from face on and down the target line so they can see for themselves whether_Ê their swing is on plane or not. The benefits my students get from seeing their swing plane on camera has greatly helped them improve.
What's it mean to be on plane, you ask? Being on plane essentially means swinging the club at an angle that's optimized for consistent, straight shots. In the photo, that angle is the middle one, where the shaft is bisecting my right shoulder at the top of the swing. Many golfers tend to get too steep, meaning they hit a lot of sliced shots, fat shots and shots from off the toe of the club. With the driver, a swing that's too steep is likely to produce a lot of scuff marks on the top edge of your driver–a mark no one wants to see.
On the flip side, the opposite error is swinging on too flat of a plane. This is the kind of mistake I see more accomplished players make. Generally, this mistake comes with the opposite set of errors. Instead of being too steep, the plane is too shallow, causing hands to sometimes easily over-rotate and close the clubface excessively through impact. In other words, the flatter you are, the more likely you are to hook it. Better players can relate to hitting good drives, but struggling with hitting it left with the irons–a common trait of a swing that's too flat.
To get in the right position, first start with a video camera. If you can, have a buddy record your swing from the angle you see here. Then, pause the video at the top of your swing and inspect whether your clubshaft bisects your shoulder as mine does here. If it does, you're on plane at the top, and all you need to do is swing naturally to get the club back down to the ball at impact. If you're too flat or too upright, you'll see immediately what to fix. Practice holding the proper position at the top and ingrain it into your memory. If you find yourself hitting it fat and to the right, you're probably too steep. If you hook the ball too much, remember that you're probably swinging it too flat.
John Stahlschmidt, PGA, is the head instructor at the TOUR Academy at the TPC of Scottsdale, Ariz. For information, visit www.touracademy.com.