Throughout the years, the swing plane has always been one of the most difficult things to understand. Hopefully, I can simplify this difficult subject so you can achieve the proper swing plane in your golf swing.
I like to use the image of a weight swinging on a piece of string to illustrate the swing plane. What would happen if you picked up a weight on a piece of string and started to twirl it? Assuming your hand was on a 45 degree angle in front of you and not tilted left or right, the weight would make a circular arc around your hand causing the weight to swing down the line. If the weight was allowed to swing freely, it would do the same thing on one side as it does on the other. That means it would be swinging on a perfect plane around your hand.
Now that you have an understanding of what the swing plane is, you have to also understand that there are 3 different planes you could have. To imagine the different planes, think again about the weight swinging on the string. We already discussed the down the line plane (hand not tilted) but what would happen if you tilted your hand to the left? If you tilted your hand to the left the weight would swing to the left. Now what if you tilted your hand to the right? If you tilted your hand to the right the weight would swing to the right. So here are the 3 different planes you can have:
1. Swinging straight down the target line.
2. Swinging down to the left (over the top).
3. Swinging out to the right (inside out).
It's important that we keep these things in mind when we think about our swing plane with a golf club. Like the weight swinging on a piece of string, we also have a weight (your golf club) swinging around our body (axis). Your swing plane may also swing left or right depending on the tilt of your body as you hit the shot. So what would cause the club to swing to the left or right of the target line (assuming you were in a stance that was square)? There are a couple of things that will stop the clubhead from swinging down the line:
1. Hitting with your upper body causing it to tilt to left on the way down.
2. The lower body sliding too much laterally on the way down.
Starting Down with Your Arms
If you start you downswing by trying to hit the golf ball you will get ahead of the ball which means that your body will be tilted to the left. This means that the ball will start to the left of the target causing pulls, pull hooks, skyed shots and slices.
Poorer golfers tend to try to hit at the ball with their arms because they have not yet learned how to hit the ball with their legs and body. To eliminate this problem of hitting with your arms, I want you to concentrate on the moment you are about to swing the golf club down. At this precise moment, you must start down by turning your hips not by pulling your arms down. This means you have to go against human nature. At the moment you are about to start down, human nature is telling you to try to hit the ball and hit it hard. This activates your arms which gets your shoulder rotation ahead of your hips and making the club swing down and to the left.
A great way to feel the lower body swinging the club is to hold your club off the ground at knee high and do some practice swings. If you hold the club in the air, you take the ball and any hitting sensation with your arms out of the picture. If you no longer have the feeling of hitting with your arms, you can clearly feel your body making the club swing around your body thus creating the perfect plane (like the weight on the piece of string). Remember this feeling of not using your arms to hit your shots then apply it to your shots.
The Lower Body Slide
If you slide your lower body laterally through your shot you will cause the upper body to tilt to the right too much which, in turn, will make you ball start out to the right causing pushes, push fades and duck hooks.
If you are someone who starts the ball out to the right of your target, you have to learn to turn your hips and body more as opposed to moving laterally. At the moment you are about to start your downswing, don't think about shifting your weight to the left. If you shift too much, you will move too much laterally which will cause your body to tilt to the right too much on the way down. Instead, start your downswing by turning. To get the proper feeling of turning, simply place and object such as a broken shaft, golf bag, chair waist high approx. 3 inches off of your left hip. When you do your swing, try to turn and miss the object. If you hit it, you are moving too much laterally. Once you do a few practice swings training your body to miss the object off of your left hip, add the ball and hit a few shots.
Hopefully you have a new and better understanding of the swing plane and how if can greatly effect the direction of your shots. The next time you go to the practice range you may want to try an experiement to see how your upper body tilt affects the direction of your shots. All you have to do is simply tilt your upper body to the left and see where the ball goes. Then, tilt your upper body to the right so you can see the opposite result. Once you see this relationship between the direction and your body work on the proper uncoiling of your lower body until your shots start straight down the target line.