The swing plane is the path traveled by the club shaft throughout the golf swing. Viewed from the opposite side of the ball, the shaft’s path will describe an arc. Ideally, if the shaft created a dotted line in the air during the backswing, you’d see it reverse course and follow the same path -- or very close to it -- during the downswing. Employing a correct and consistent swing plane helps you hit the ball farther and straighter, according to golf teacher Karen Palacios-Jansen.
Planes of Glass
As with many aspects of a golf swing, some golfers will succeed with unusual swing planes. But to visualize a standard, by-the-book golf swing plane, PGA pro Josh Zander says to imagine there’s one pane of glass attached to the tops of your shoulders and another pane fitted around your midsection, with the panes parallel to each other. A good swing plane lies in the area between the panes. The club should move between the imaginary panes during both the backswing and the downswing.
Begin at the Beginning
Palacios-Jansen says it’s much easier to produce a consistent swing if you focus on staying on plane at the start of your backswing. She advises golfers to take a short iron and choke up on the grip so the butt end is close to your navel. Address the ball, then take the club head back until it’s just past your back foot, making sure to keep the end of the grip pointing at your belly button. This keeps the club head on plane. Complete your backswing, then begin the downswing, making sure the butt end of the grip now points away from your stomach. This position sets you on the proper downswing plane.
Test Your Arm Slots
To get a feel for the proper swing planes on both the backswing and downswing, golf instructor Peter Kostis says, place a club across your back (relative to the green) shoulder, perpendicular to your collarbone. Bring your lead arm (the left, for a right-handed player) back as if you were taking a backswing. Your lead forearm should pass just above the shaft of the club balanced on your shoulder. To make sure your downswing travels along the same plane, check your follow through position by moving the club onto your other shoulder. Have your right arm move through a downswing. As you follow through, your right forearm should travel just above the shaft on your left shoulder.
Hands Lead the Way
Golf writer Steve Newell says the key benchmarks to note with respect to the swing plane include the player’s hands. He says the hands should be above the right shoulder at the top of the backswing. The hands should then drop almost to hip level -- with the hips rotating only minimally to this point -- to guide the club along the proper plane during the downswing.