The Swing Plane Explained, + 3 Golf Swing Plane Drills 

Golf is loaded with fancy terminology to describe the technical aspects of the game. If you’re a player who gets confused by it all, don’t worry, you’re not alone!

Lots of the complex terms in golf are actually more straightforward than they seem and often refer to something you’re already doing – the ‘swing plane’ is no exception.

All golfers have a swing plane but not all recognize its importance in the success of their swing.

The swing plane is one of the most underrated components of the golf swing. It often goes misunderstood due to the fact that it can be quite hard to tell how well yours is performing without the help of a camera or swing drill.

The swing plane can decide a number of things about a golf shot including its trajectory, distance, and perhaps most significantly, its consistency.

Understanding how your swing plane works will go a long way to helping you play more reliable golf and lower your scores.

In this article, we’ll break down exactly what the swing plane is and share 3 golf swing plane drills to improve yours and hit better golf shots!

Let’s get started!

Swing plane. A golf club cuts through grass while hitting a ball.

What Is The Swing Plane?

The swing plane is the term that describes the angle or tilt of your swing’s arc.

In other words, it is the diagonal line on which your club shaft travels as you perform the golf swing.

The swing plane is established at setup and is determined by factors like spine angle or grip.

You might be familiar with the circular hoop graphic that’s often used to illustrate a golfer’s swinging arc – this is essentially the path that the club shaft takes around the player. 

All golf swings are circular in nature since a player’s arms and club shaft are fixed in length. As the golf ball sits on the ground a yard or so in front of the player at address, this circular swing motion occurs on an angled plane line.

Typically, the golf club is swung on a plane that lies somewhere between the player’s shoulders and hips, spanning up from the point of the golf ball.

If your club travels up and down along the same plane during the takeaway and the downswing, you have what’s called a one-plane swing – Ben Hogan’s swing is a great example.

This is generally the most efficient way taught to swing the club and helps the player get on plane. 

A swing that is on plane will generally follow the same line through the takeaway and the downswing that is roughly parallel to the lie angle of the club shaft at address.

Swinging on plane might look like where the left arm (for right-handed players) intersects the torso at a 90 degree angle at the top of their swing.

Having said this, each player will have different ways to achieve the same goal of consistent contact. Tom Watson famously had quite a steep backswing before shallowing out on his downswing – this is known as a two-plane swing.

A golfer makes a shot.

The Importance Of Swing Plane

A good swing plane in golf will improve the consistency, carry, and accuracy of a shot.

If you’re struggling to make clean contact with the golf ball and watch it fly either side of your target, then it could simply be because your plane is off.

A consistent plane will give you the best chance at a reliable squared contact with the ball that should grant a straight trajectory. 

If your plane is inconsistent the chances of hooking or slicing the ball will skyrocket.

For advanced golfers, the swing plane can be varied deliberately for benefits such as club head speed and spin. However, if you aren’t doing this intentionally you’ll need to develop a good habit of swinging on plane first!

Ultimately confidence is key to playing good golf. By establishing a methodical swing plane, you can develop a strike that you can rely upon under pressure.

Be aware that a swing plane that is too steep can lead to hitting fat shots, whilst a swing plane that is too flat can lead to thin shots.

An aerial view of a golfer making a swing.

Swing Plane Variations

There are three classifications of swing plane: On plane, upright, and shallow.

While a swing that is on plane is generally the most desired and efficient club path to have, the exact angle of the swing plane can vary depending on the golfer and the type of shot required. 

As not all shots are the same in golf, golfers might sometimes vary their swing plane deliberately to offer them different benefits from their swing.

An upright swing plane is where the player takes a steeper takeaway and has a club shaft that swings more vertically in relation to the ground. The club works up to the sky instead of around the body which can trigger hitting down on the ball more and taking a larger divot.

A steep swing is largely associated with an outside-in swing path. If you’re slicing the ball without trying to, it could be because you’re doing this unintentionally and need to correct your plane.

An upright swing plane is also going to give you a steeper angle of attack with more ball spin which is useful for getting out of a thick lie.

In contrast, if your plane is shallow, you will have a swing path that is flatter and more horizontal to the ground.

A shallow angle of attack is known to generate a lower ball flight and less spin, which you might use playing into a strong headwind where you want your ball to have a lower trajectory.

Whatever you do, don’t underestimate the angle of your swing plane!

A golfer at the top of their backswing.

Let’s Practice – 3 Golf Swing Plane Drills

Now that you’ve got an understanding of the swing plane – what’s the best way to improve yours?

Because the swing plane can be tricky to observe yourself, golf swing plane drills are the perfect tools to help visualize your club path so you can practice with purpose.

Whether you need to work on getting your swing more on plane or want feedback on how your swing plane performs: Try these golf swing plane drills!

#1. Alignment Rod In Ground Drill

Do you feel like your swing path has an inconsistent direction? Perhaps you’ve got into a habit of swinging too steep or too shallow unintentionally and your strike isn’t reliable.

Here’s a drill you can try to fix this:

  • Start by pushing two alignment rods into the ground at roughly 60 degree angles pointing towards you. They should be one in front of the other at setup and about a yard apart.
  • Get into your usual address position so that your golf ball or club head lies directly between both rods.
  • Take a series of swings making sure not to hit either rod with your club shaft on the way up and down. 

If you’re hitting the rod in front you’ll know your swing plane is too steep, while if you hit the rod behind you you’ll know your swing plane is too shallow.

Practicing this drill will promote a consistent club path that is on plane whilst also helping you to square the club face at impact.

A golfer makes a swing against the sunset.

#2. Golf Club Extension Rod Drill

The swing plane can be affected when the arms take over in the backswing and become disconnected from the body’s movement.

This drill helps to visualize the direction of your swing plane and correct the club’s path during the backswing by offering you visual checkpoints along the swing.

  • Attach an alignment rod onto the end of your golf club by holding it in your grip along with the club. The rod should form an extension of the club shaft by a couple of feet and trail behind you, resting against the top of your front hip at setup.
  • Take a series of swings pausing at the midway, and peak positions of your takeaway.
  • Observe the direction where the alignment rod points at the different stages in the swing.

A swing on plane should have the rod about parallel to the ground at the halfway point, and pointing towards the line of your golf ball at the peak extension of the takeaway.

If the alignment rod points towards your feet at the top of the swing then you know your takeaway is on the steep side. Equally, if it points out beyond the golf ball then your swing plane is coming in flat. 

Note that the early stages of the backswing should have the rod stay connected to your beltline and brush down your lead thigh during the middle of the takeaway.

This is so the club path doesn’t stray from the body’s rotation affecting the consistency of your swing plane.

A golfer makes a shot with a a clubhouse in the background.

#3. Shoulder On Plane Drill

Lastly, the top of our backswing is a good indicator of whether our swing is on plane.

If you struggle to know where your arms need to get to at the correct peak position in the takeaway, try this simple drill recommended by Sam Snead!

  • Setup in your normal golf address position.
  • Staying in this stance, lift your club up so that the shaft lays on your back shoulder.
  • Now simulate a normal backswing shoulder turn until you reach your comfortable peak rotation point.
  • From here, fully extend your lead arm, pushing the golf club directly away from the body.

This drill finds you in the perfect position to now perform your downswing from and checks your swing is on plane throughout.

Why not give these golf swing drills a try – mastering your swing plane could be the final key to hitting further, more consistent golf shots!

Make sure you’re not practicing wrong with our guide to the most common golf mistakes.

Photo of author
George Edgell is a freelance journalist and keen golfer based in Brighton, on the South Coast of England. He inherited a set of golf clubs at a young age and has since become an avid student of the game. When not playing at his local golf club in the South Downs, you can find him on a pitch and putt links with friends. George enjoys sharing his passion for golf with an audience of all abilities and seeks to simplify the game to help others improve at the sport!

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