You have probably heard a golf coach or a professional reference the steepness of a swing. It’s an element of your swing that can have significant effects on your ball striking, but what does it mean? And is your golf swing swing too steep?
Steep golf swings can produce amazing golf shots, but can also affect your consistency and as all golfers know; consistency is key!
While identifying a steep golf swing is a simple process, rectifying it can be a bit trickier and may require you to spend a couple of evenings at the driving range.
So in this article, we are going to look at exactly what a steep swing is, how to identify when your swing is too steep, how to fix a steep swing and a very successful golfer who made an unusually steep swing work for him.
Let’s get started!
What is a steep swing?
A steep swing is one where the club chops down on the ball from a more vertical angle.
Put simply this means the swing performs more of an up-and-down motion, rather than wrapping around the body in a shallower swing.
During a steep swing, the club will present closer to vertical around halfway through both the backswing and downswing, i.e. making a near 90 degree angle towards the ground.
But what effects can having a swing that is too steep have on your game?
When a swing is too steep it can have several effects:
One is it reduces the amount of time the clubface is square to the ball at the bottom of your swing.
As the angle of attack of the club is more vertical, it comes down sharper at the bottom of your swing, compared to the more sweeping motion of a shallower swing. A square club face helps produce a cleaner strike and a straighter shot.
Another effect is that you can become too reliant on your wrists making corrective action at the bottom of your swing.
Wrist movement at the bottom of a swing is more difficult to master, and so can affect the repeatability of your swing.
So when a steep swing goes well, it can produce a lovely looking, high ball flight but it increases the margin for error in your swing and consequently will have impacts on how consistent your ball striking will be.
How to tell if you have a too steep golf swing
Identifying a swing that is too steep isn’t very arduous and will likely require one evening at the driving range.
You’ll need to set up your phone or a camera to record your swing from two positions. Firstly front on, so the camera is facing you. Secondly from behind, so you can see your downswing fully.
In both instances, you need to record a full video of your swing from start to finish, and if your phone has a frame-by-frame or slow-motion option then use that. The camera needs to be set up so your whole body is in full view. It is recommended to use a mid-iron when recording your swing.
Once you have a full video of your swing, you’ll need to scroll through the frames until your swing is about halfway through the downswing and pause it there.
When paused you’ll need to identify the position of the club, and most importantly the angle it is making to the ground.
If the angle your club is making to the ground is at or close to 90 degrees i.e. pointing nearly vertically upwards, then your swing is likely on too steep a plane during the downswing.
This is the crucial element to identifying a steep swing and steps are needed to alter the club position so it is on a more horizontal plane during the downswing.
How to fix a steep swing
So you’ve identified that you have a too steep golf swing, but how to rectify this?
The list of steps below can help you shallow out your swing. This will increase the length of time your clubface is square to the ball at the bottom of your swing.
It will also help make your swing more repeatable and take away corrective wrist action. Both of these should increase the consistency of your ball striking.
1. Shuffle your feet slightly further from the ball at address
Rectifying a steep swing starts right at the beginning of your shot. While addressing the ball, shuffle your feet 2-3 inches further away, while maintaining the rest of your stance.
If you are standing too close to the ball at address, this has the effect of cramping your swing. As you pull the club away, your arms will naturally lift higher at the top of your swing, creating the pronounced up-and-down motion associated with too steep a swing.
By stepping just a little bit away from the ball, both your backswing and downswing will shallow out and the club will wrap around you more, rather than lifting above you.
This will have the effect of creating more of a sweeping motion at the bottom of your swing, helping to reduce its steepness.
2. Ensure your stance is correct
Getting the basics right is the key for every golfer, amateur, or pro. When addressing the issue of a steep swing, often it goes back to the basics not being done correctly.
When addressing the ball ensure that your feet are shoulder-width apart. It’s probably advice you’ve been told countless times but it is very helpful, especially if your swing is too steep.
Standing with your feet shoulder-width apart, will naturally reduce the up-and-down motion of a swing and create a shallower plane on the downswing.
If you need a quick guide on how to make sure your feet are shoulder width apart when addressing the ball check out the golf guidebook article ‘Is There Such Thing As A ‘Correct Golf Stance’?’, for a quick and easy technique for getting it right.
3. Shift your weight correctly
When watching some of the very best golfers swing in slow motion you’ll notice that they transfer their weight to their front side at the top of their swing.
By transferring the majority of your weight (around 75%) at the top of your swing, it ensures that your lower body is playing a key role in your downswing, and keeps your swing more compact and shallow.
Keeping your weight on your backside at the top of your swing will once again mean your swing is too tall, and that the club is close to vertical on the downswing.
At the driving range, make an effort to transfer your weight to your front side at the top of your swing.
Repeat this several times before hitting a ball, until it starts to feel natural. As all golfers know, practice makes perfect so don’t be afraid of it going wrong a few times before it starts to improve.
Correctly transferring your weight can also add those few extra yards off the tee, by ensuring you hit through the ball.
If you want to see a good example of a perfect transfer of weight, watch Rory Mcilroy swing in slow motion and you’ll see a very pronounced shift at the top of his swing.
Is a steep swing always a bad thing?
This article may sound all doom and gloom when it comes to steep swings, but are they always bad?
The answer is no! No one has the perfect swing and a key takeaway here is the difference between ‘steep’ and ‘too steep’.
A golf swing that is on the steeper side helps to produce a higher ball flight, and naturally generates more backspin.
So in hot and dry conditions during the summer months, a steep swing can be very beneficial to helping stop approach shots on greens that are dry and fast.
Conversely, if you are playing during windier conditions, a high ball flight can leave your shot more exposed to the elements and may mean you have to correct more for wind.
The high ball flight associated with a steeper swing is something several pro golfers aim for, including former world number one and two-time major champion Justin Thomas!
If you watch Justin Thomas swing in slow motion you’ll notice that on the downswing, his club position is more vertical than the typical swing of a pro golfer.
Thomas’s steep swing helps him to achieve a higher ball flight and gain more control over his shots.
However despite his success, if inconsistent ball striking is impacting your golf game it’s probably worth taking the steps above to see if your swing is too steep.
So, that’s our guide to diagnosing and fixing a steep golf swing, however, if you decide that a steep golf swing is for you then who are we to try and stop you?
While some of the pros might opt for a steep golf swing, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s always the right decision for you.
Use your head when you’re out on the links and decide if the shot your about to make needs a steep golf swing or not.
As always, figure it out in the driving range before you try it out in a game!