Riding the Golf Swing Plane

If the back of a golf club could emit a puff of smoke like those planes that write messages in the sky, ideally, you would end up with a bent circle. This correct path is known as the golf swing plane.

The correct golf swing plane is one of those golf concepts that you hope to master, but that’s difficult to think about as you’re swinging (Just like all the rest, right?).

Before you can follow the right swing plane, you have to know what it is and how to practice achieving it.

Briefly, the swing plane has two parts. As you bring your club back, it follows a three-dimensional plane until you get to the top part of your swing. When you’re “over the top” that plane changes. It’s more upright.

That’s the problem. The body naturally forces you to shift planes when you rotate your shoulders to get the proper power for a shot.

As a result, if you want to get back on the original plane – the one that will strike the ball squarely – you have to shift the plane on the way down. That’s known as swinging “inside of the ball.”

Swinging inside of the ball and correcting the plane is the concept that Ben Hogan famously credits for making him a premiere player. It’s one of the main subjects in his 1950s golf instruction book, Five Lessons, The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. He describes it as a pane of glass resting on your shoulders that inclines upward slightly.

Well, OK. Now you know what the basics of a swing plane. How do you go about practicing the concept?

If you have a naturally good swing, you probably don’t need to practice getting into the right plane. You’re body is already doing that for you. Congratulations.

If, like 90 percent of everybody else, you struggle in the beginning, there’s several ways to find the right plane.

Steve Bishop, a golf pro at Pavilion Lakes Golf Club in Scottsdale, Az., has come up with a cheap way to stay “on plane.” For right-handed players, he recommends placing a quarter on the toes of your left foot. If it falls on the inside of your shoe, your foot rolled too much on the backswing. If it falls on the outside, you fell back on your heal too much. If the quarter ends up directly in front of your shoe, you put too much weight on your backswing and lifted your foot too much. A proper swing with the right balance and the quarter should stay on the shoe.

That’s the economical way to practice staying on-plane. There’s also more expensive options. Some companies actually sell a half circle, made of wood or PVC pipe that guides your club on the backswing and provides a guide on your downswing. Expect to pay several hundred dollars for devices like that.

Whether it costs you $.25 or you’re a natural, good lucking catching that plane.

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