How Golf Swing Plane Works? Peeling the Swing Plane Layers

The golf swing plane is something that is mostly observed from a down the line steep/shallow perspective and most discussion is about the backswing and the downswing but it holds much deeper layers. 

This article isn’t about HOW you create a certain swing plane but it’s rather a theoretical inspiration for you to understand what it means and what influences it. The sole purpose of this text is to aid you in using the swing plane as a diagnostics tool for your swing.

And by the way, my name is Petter Tärbe and I have a history as a decent scratch player, a golf instructor for some years, but first and foremost I’m a huge golf development nerd that loves to pass on what I know. 

With that said, let’s start peeling off the layers and then show some examples of what I mean.

Some parts of this article will get technical so scroll down to the bottom terminology list if you get stuck.

Layer 1 - Planes in Different Parts of the Swing

Normally the swing plane is talked about in one word which I think defeats the purpose from an explanatory point of view. Therefore I’ll use the below variations for a better theoretical discussion:

  • Backswing plane
  • Downswing plane
  • Follow Through plane 

Layer 2 - The Real Swing Plane also have Width

Some people say that there is no swing plane but I disagree. I think it is very real but also quite hard to measure. The real swing plane is a combination of two main components which in their turn can be altered with different factors.

  • Club shaft shallowness/steepness. This is what can be seen down the line in the backswing and downswing.This can be influenced by wrist angles and body tilts (bends, 2nd axis and 1st axis).
  • Swing plane width. If you look at the downswing plane this is about how far away from the body the club is actually traveling . If you for instance extend your trail arm in the downswing you will create width that in itself will be a shallowing factor for your coming strike.

Most people just forget/ignore the width but it's equally important to the shallow/steep component. Together these heavily influence the swing path and the angle of attack on the strike. Both ball striking fundamentals that dictate your ball striking skills.

That’s it. Not so much right? 

Swing Plane Analysis Examples

Before I jump into the examples: For me the goal of my golf swing is to deliver an aggressive follow through from both the club and the body. This creates a less “mechanical hiccup prone” swing and draws me away from movements that can induce injury.

This goal dictates that I come to certain back- and downswing position so I can go ahead and do what I need to do. And for this, the swing plane is key due to its influence on swing path and angle of attack.

Let’s dive into it.

First example: You have a good consistent strike on the ball but deliver a 4-5 degrees out to in path with 2-3 degrees down AOA (angle of attack) with the Driver. The ball flight is solid but you put too much spin on it for optimal distances. If you would like to change that into something like 0 degrees path and 0 degrees AOA, how would you use the swing plane as a guide to fix that? Well, obviously you hit the ball very well so you don’t want to mess with the back or downswing plane too much (you’ve got a solid transition that is not so easy to accomplish). But how could you alter the follow through plane? You need to do something that influences a more shallow shaft plane through the ball. What about the body tilts? If you could start performing your follow through in either more secondary or first axis tilt, what would happen then? Indeed this solves the issue.

Second example: You hit your irons rock solid but have an issue with your longer clubs due to way too steep AOA. What could actually be the issue? Here I would look on the downswing plane. It sounds like your downswing plane lacks width (that you are dragging your hands towards the ball too early to create “fake shaft lean”). In this example I would go after the backswing plane width with a wider backswing top position (that inspires a more shallow downswing plane) or if that is impossible work on releasing the club earlier in the downswing to create a more shallow downswing plane.

A third example: You perform a swing that demands a pretty potent transition. (If you are insecure about what the transition actually is then please read this article too.) You deliver a too steep and out to in path across the bag. The iron divots are too big and the long clubs produce too much spin. Here you likely work on both your back- and downswing plane in unison using transition drills to accomplish it. As you remember I said that certain factors influence the plane from a certain perspective. E.g. the downswing plane in this style of swing his heavily influenced by your wrist angles. Likely bowing your lead and cupping your trail wrist will aid with your shallower downswing plane.

The fourth example: You overhook the golf ball with too much in to out path and an over closing club face producing the occasional snap hook. This is indeed the good player problem since you are accomplishing too much of the good stuff in the downswing. Would you change the downswing or the follow through? From my perspective this is just about matching this shallow downswing with a steep follow through. You would alter your follow through plane via opening your chest more and rotating more aggressively.

Summary and Final Thoughts

The swing plane and its components in different perspectives is a very solid diagnostics tool for your golf swing. It helps you understand the drivers of your challenge. 

  • Identify which swing plane is off (back-, down- or follow through plane). 
  • Alter the swing plane using the influencers of this particular plane.

Easy to just get from one day to another? Of course not but every piece of information that you truly understand will help you become the master of your own swing.

Good luck! 

Wish to Read More? 

Snöleo Golf Academy Overview Page

Early Extension in Golf? A Non-Band-Aid Solution

How the Transition in Golf Works? Different Swings, Different Transitions

Consistency in Golf? The Perception of Control

The Slingshot Golf Swing - The Modern Power Swing

The Hogan Golf Swing - Ben Hogan’s Foundation Explained

The Old School Swinger Golf Swing - Nicklaus then and Scheffler now

The MORAD 86 Golf Swing - Mac O’Grady’s Legendary Swing

Terminology List

Down the line = You stand behind your buddy on the driving range to see his/hers trajectory. That’s down the line.

Body Bends = lateral bends that happens contracting your lats. Normally people involved with this would propose left lateral bend in the backswing and right lateral bend in the downswing and follow through. I’m myself a believer of these bends happening naturally and not altering them.

2nd Axis Tilt = that you bend from your waist. Also called side bend. This can e.g. be used in the downswing and follow through to shallow your swing plane if you have issues with to steep values (e.g. out to in or angle of attack)

1st Axis Tilt = This is that you lean your whole body and not just from the waist. I do this myself in the follow through to create a kinder swing on my body.

AOA = Angle of Attack = In what angle your club is attacking the ball at impact. It’s a value derived from trackman. In general, the more angle you have (striking downwards) the more spin you will put on the ball and likely bigger divots you will take. A driver you normally would want with even positive AOA to generate lesser spin and longer drives

Cupping & Bowing = Bowing is Dustin Johnson's left hand on top of the backswing. Cupping is the opposite. Hold your right arm straight out in front of you with your thumb pointing straight up. Hinge to the right = cupping (or extension). Hinge to the left = bowing (or flexion)

Transition = What is happening behind your top backswing position and your perfect “striking position” in the downswing. Here is the entire article about it.

Fake Shaft Lean = Shaft lean (that your shaft is angled towards the target if you freeze frame impact from a face on perspective) that is created from dragging the handle and hence creating “artificial shaft lean”. True shaft lean is created through rotating the chest through the impact zone and is something that happens dynamically (in my opinion).