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Big Don

Swing Plane

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I had some recent golf lessons where my instructor mentioned that my swing plane was too flat. He suggested that I lift my arms higher at the top of the back swing so that the plane of my arms is steeper than my shoulder plane. I believe that this is commonly referred to as the two plane swing and most modern golf teachers prefer this method.

Since my lessons I have researched the swing plane and there seems to be two schools of the thought. The majority of modern advice seems to concur with my instructor. However, I have come across numerous articles referencing flatter swing planes; in particular those referencing Hogan and Sam Snead both of whom had relatively flat swings and who were giants of the game.

I have a few questions for you technicians out there:-

Why has the flat swing become so unfashionable? If it worked for Hogan and Snead what's wrong with it nowadays? What are the advantages and disadvantages of a flat swing?
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hmmm...it's hard to say without seeing your swing, but one fact about golf that nobody can change is that you have to hit down on the ball to make it go up. if your pro was messing with your swing plane it was probably in an effort to make this happen. if you get too shallow then the only two moves you can reasonably make are two sweep the ball very low and from the inside resulting in a lack of power and spin on your short irons or more likely, it will force you to throw the club out over the top in an effort to clear some space for your arms on the downswing. both of these things are not good. even the guys nowadays that are using a so called one-plane swing do not have overly flat swings...tiger, scott, etc. they also have a great spine angle from bending at the waste. chances are your pro was not lying to you. check and see about getting your swing on tape and then comparing it to some vids on the internet. you might be surprised. good luck with the swing though!
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Advantages of flat:
- better distance control
- good especially when you have good 'core strength'
- easier on the body since the upper body remains stacked on top of the lower body

Disadvantages of flat:
- worse directional control
- bad for players who are tall and have slight stature who have bad 'core strength'
- ball flight may be too low to be controllable
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I will offer this on the subject.

If we agree that there is a swing plane that is too flat, and a plane that would be too upright, then there also has to be an optimum somewhere in between those two.

Something to think about.
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I had some recent golf lessons where my instructor mentioned that my swing plane was too flat. He suggested that I lift my arms higher at the top of the back swing so that the plane of my arms is steeper than my shoulder plane. I believe that this is commonly referred to as the two plane swing and most modern golf teachers prefer this method.

I feel lift your arms is not a good way to describe this change. If you take the club back so that the club initially stays outside of your hands and you maintain good width (extension) and wrist position is not flat then you can turn your shoulders to get the right position. Trying to lift the arms leads to tempo and posture problems and a lot of pulls and slices. If you are to flat then posture, take away or wrist cock is probably be addressed.

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The ball doesn't care how you got the club to the ball and what the club does after its hit.

With that said there are some common sense or conventional thoughts when it comes to pretty much anything. In golf the angle the shaft makes in relation to the ground and club face is visable from the behind/down the line view. Common sense tells me that if you kept the club on that plane the whole time during the swing then it would make it easier to get the club face back to where it started, which is the key part of making good contact on the ball.

Personally I can't see how not being on plane with your swing could have any advantage over being on plane. Can everyone do it, no, is it a requirement, no but again there is something be said for starting and maintaining the path that you want the club to end up in at impact.
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The ball doesn't care how you got the club to the ball and what the club does after its hit.

Bear in mind here I'm not talking about a ridiculously flat swing. My arms and shoulders were basically swinging on the same plane. However, my instructor prefers to see the arms on a steeper plane than the shoulder plane.

I believe that some instructors just don't like 1-plane swings.
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Personally I can't see how not being on plane with your swing could have any advantage over being on plane.

Very easy to explain that.

Think of it this way. If I am not swinging "on plane", that can either be over the top or underneath plane... as I approach the ball, I have to not only time the face of the club but Also the path of the club. If I am approaching the ball from underneath plane (from the inside) and my club face is square to plane, it is WIDE open at the golf ball, so at the instant it reaches the ball I have to snap the face shut to get it square to target, which would be closed to plane. If I approach the ball directly down the target line and "on plane" I now ONLY have to worry about that club face. As far as "one plane" "two plane"... One plane doesnt even really exist, there are "flatter" and "more upright" but a TRUE one plane swing would have you swinging the club around your waist, ie- ON shaft plane. But because of the design of a golf club (the fact the shaft comes out on an angle) we are required to make plane shifts throughout the swing. But that goes back to my original note... if we agree that there is a plane that is too flat, and one that is too upright, then somewhere between those two has to be optimum, for you.
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I believe if your swing plane is too flat you will have trouble consistently getting the ball up. I am not sure if your instructor was suggesting a two plane or one plane swing, but maybe what he was suggesting is that you need to get more consistent height on your ball flight and was encouraging you to hit down on the ball more.
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I believe if your swing plane is too flat you will have trouble consistently getting the ball up.

No not really. The main problem I had was occasionally hitting towards the heel of the club.

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No not really. The main problem I had was occasionally hitting towards the heel of the club.

Sounds like he wanted you to change your swing plane to prevent you from hitting hozzel rockets. If you do not want to change your swing plane maybe you are set up too close to the ball or you are reaching for the ball?

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I think I know what Big Don is talking about with the instructor changing the plane to a more upright plane. My guess is that the instructor is more comfortable teaching the plane he wants you on so he can diagnose problems. Most likely that is what his instructor uses for his swing. It appears to me that golfers who play a lot, tour pros and high end amateurs can do quite well with a 2 plane style swing. It's well grooved and these types of players have great hand eye coordination. Hackers like me don't possess that type of awesome Hand Eye required to square up the face consistently that is required for a two plane swing. For me, my natural plane was closer to the "one plane" style, arm along shoulder plane. With the help of my instructor we moved it to a more upright plane. I think what happened for me is that I started to blend a one plane / two plane. Short story is that I had good times and bad with my 2 plane swing but in the end I've gone back to a full one plane swing, Stack and Tilt, and things are much more consistent. I do have good leg and core strength and would agree that the one plane takes more activity from the legs and core to produce a solid swing. Sometimes when I'm tired I can't swing as well, but with two plane there wasn't a noticeable drop off in performance when I was tired. I also think that if your strength is less than average distance may suffer with the one plane swing. Again it goes to the type of movement required to generate club head speed. I think of 2 plane as having an extra lever of power but that extra lever is also a moving part. That extra moving part for me was hard to control all the time. The one plane uses more big body muscles to square up the club and the two plane utilizes more fine motor control muscles. I was a bit longer with my 2 plane swing but not much.

Bottom line is that you need to find a swing that fits for your body and is comfortable. Also don't blend the styles. If it's a one plane swing you like, make sure your instructor is familiar with all the parts of that swing. They do act a little different.
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Your left hand position on the top of the backswing has NOTHING to do with your swing plane. The club only moves on plane below your hips, on the top, it deviates from the plane, the difference between Woods and Kuchar (or Hogan) is how much the deviation is.

Your plane angle should be determined by the club lie angle, so with the same club you cannot change the steepness of your plane randomly. What you can change is how the club wraps around your body (higher left arm makes it easier to wrap around for more power), thus giving people the impression of "steep" or "flat" planes.  A book titled Decoding the Golf Swing Plane explains these things very well.

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Your plane angle should be determined by the club lie angle, so with the same club you cannot change the steepness of your plane randomly.

TaylorMade lists the lie angle of the SLDR as 59-62°. Can you share with us how that relates to what you just said?

And congratulations on bumping a thread that was seven years old…

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An instructor in Texas of some stature Shawn Humphries shared some information about swing plane that made really good sense to me. Plus I had heard it before from really good local golfer. When asked about keeping on plane, his answer was something like "just keep your elbows level in the back swing". His idea of the importance of being on the correct plane was to not have a club face that was either open or closed at impact.  Level elbows in the back swing would help prevent these two impact flaws. As far as I can remember, he made no mention of a single, or dual plane swing.  Just being on your own plane.  Here is pretty much what he said about level elbows in the back swing.

"If the rear elbow is higher than the front elbow, you might tend to hit a fat shot, a slice, or a weak pop up to the slice side. If the front elbow is higher than the rear elbow you might tend to have too flat of a swing, which could cause topped shots, low line drives, or not taking a proper divot."

You can take Humphrie's level elbow info with a grain of salt if you wish, but it does work. Watch the pros, and almost all of them have level elbows during their back swings. The one's who don't usually don't make the cut. Myself, I don't worry about what plane I am using. I just keep my elbows level in my back swing.

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I dunno about that @Patch . Seems you can do quite a bit… and that the backswing has only some effect on the downswing…


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I can't deny what the pictures are showing. I just wonder if those guys

have to make some compensations in their down swing to get to their

correct impact position. Let's not forget that these guys hit 1000s of

balls in practice, and play. Usually with a swing coach standing nearby

to assign any needed swing adjustments. However, I still maintain that

keeping level elbows in the back swing is not a bad thing. Maybe not all the way to the top, as much as possible. It maintains the triangle of the arms and hands. Too much good can come from it, especially for the amateur golfer. Stuff like the one piece take away,

maintaining a wide swing arc, an easier hip turn, no arm separation, no

flying elbow, and getting to the top in a more correct position that

helps with a better down swing. Maintaining the triangle formed at

address, with level elbows helps to keep all the moving pieces in your backswing working together to help set up a better start to the downswing. Also there is a well known drill where the golfer places a basketball, or some other object between their elbows and practices their back swing. Out of sync elbows would make that drill kind of tough to accomplish. No malice intended. Just my own opinion.

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I can't deny what the pictures are showing. I just wonder if those guys

have to make some compensations in their down swing to get to their

correct impact position. Let's not forget that these guys hit 1000s of

balls in practice, and play. Usually with a swing coach standing nearby

to assign any needed swing adjustments. However, I still maintain that

keeping level elbows in the back swing is not a bad thing. Maybe not all the way to the top, as much as possible. It maintains the triangle of the arms and hands. Too much good can come from it, especially for the amateur golfer. Stuff like the one piece take away,

maintaining a wide swing arc, an easier hip turn, no arm separation, no

flying elbow, and getting to the top in a more correct position that

helps with a better down swing. Maintaining the triangle formed at

address, with level elbows helps to keep all the moving pieces in your backswing working together to help set up a better start to the downswing. Also there is a well known drill where the golfer places a basketball, or some other object between their elbows and practices their back swing. Out of sync elbows would make that drill kind of tough to accomplish. No malice intended. Just my own opinion.

I don't get why golfers talk about this triangle thing. It's basically impossible for the arm position not the change during the backswing. On the backswing the right elbow folds, this helps the hands work "up" and loads the left arm up and across the bend. A few feet into your takeaway your triangle is already "disrupted".

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