The Perfect Golf Swing Plane No One Teaches [Drills Included]

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golf swing plane

Are you sure you’re hitting the ball correctly? Chances are if you don’t even know what a golf swing plane is, you’re not.

The golf swing plane is one of the most underrated components of a golf swing. For some reason, most golfer’s get turned off when they hear about the swing plane. But, swinging on plane impacts just about every aspect of your golf swing and is key to your golfing success.

Below, you’ll find all the information you need to understand the golf swing plane. We’ll cover what the swing plane is, why it’s important, the most effective swing plane styles, and of course, how to swing on plane. With that said, let’s begin.

Golf Swing Plane & Why It Matters

A golf swing plane is an invisible flat surface a golfer follows during their golf swing to produce the ideal swing path for the clubhead. 

The idea originated from Ben Hogan in the 1950s, with the analogy of a pane of glass extending from the golf ball to the shoulders. The glass pane acts as a flat plane for which a golfer’s left arm should stay below during the entirety of their golf swing. 

Many online sources and instructors misinterpret Ben Hogan’s glass pane analogy, illustrating it as the club shaft that should not break the plane set by the glass pane. This is wrong and creates an over-the-top backswing which can result in a terrible golf swing (with an exception, which we’ll cover later).

Why It Matters

As mentioned, the golf swing plane impacts just about every aspect of your golf swing. Remember those horrible slices, pushes, pulls, hooks? Yeah, those were most likely from an outside-in or inside-out swing as a result of an incorrect swing plane.

You’ve probably spent days trying to fix your clubface through your impact, or have worked continuously to get a perfect body rotation for your golf swing. However, no matter what you try, an off-plane golf swing will result in bad shots.

Identifying Your Golf Swing Plane

There are two types of swing planes that are most viable for golfers. Those are the one-swing plane and the two-swing plane.

The One Swing Plane

The one-swing plane, also referred at times as the flat swing plane, consists of a single swing plane a golfer follows throughout his entire golf swing. Ben Hogan’s glass pane analogy is most applicable here and it focuses on simplicity and consistency. As a result, many golf instructors often use the one-swing plane as their go-to for their students. 

The checkpoints of the one-swing plane are:

  1. Stronger Grip: As your swing is shallower/ flatter, a stronger grip allows for a steeper angle of approach through impact
  2. A wider stance and a more bent-over posture due to the shallowness of their swing path.
  3. During the takeaway, you’ll bring the club with your right arm more inward towards your hips and the clubface will be more closed.
  4. On the top of your backswing, the shoulder turn is a lot steeper and your left arm will be parallel to that shoulder turn.
    1. The club would not be above your head when you’re on top of your backswing.
  5. At impact, your hips and chest are turned much more open than you would with a two-plane golf swing.
  6. At the finish, most one planers have a more rounded finish, meaning the club shaft is parallel to the floor and sitting behind your neck.
  7. Key lookouts: Most one-planers have a more tilted spine angle at address. We want to maintain the tilted spine angle as much as we can so that we won’t end up disrupting our downswing.
  8. Issues that often arise with a one-planer are pushes to the right, hooks to the left, and at times a heel and shanks.
  9. Golfers you may know with a one swing plane are Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Ben Hogan, and Bryson Dechambeau.

The Two Swing Plane

The two-swing plane, also referred to at times as the ‘steeper’ swing plane, consists of two separate swing planes created by your shoulder and your left arm during the golf swing. Although debatable, two planers often are able to generate more clubhead speed and accuracy. The caveat to the two swing plane is that it’s a lot more technical. Hence, it’s usually not recommended for amateurs to start with a two swing plane golf swing.

The checkpoints of the two-swing plane are:

  1. Neutral to Weaker Grip: As your swing is inherently steeper, a weaker grip gives your downswing more width through impact.
  2. More narrow stance, with feet closer to parallel, more flex to the knees, and more upright with the upper body (less bent over)
  3. During the takeaway, the toe of your clubhead will be pointed more towards the sky and the shaft is parallel to the tips of your shoes.
  4. On the top of your backswing, your shoulder turn is a lot flatter with your arms swinging backward at two different planes .
    1. The club is also right above the back of your head when you’re on top.
  5. At impact, two planers look rather similar to how they were at address with a slight collapse inward with the right knee (if you’re right-handed).
  6. At the finish, two planers will finish with the arms more downwards: with the club pointing towards the ground and almost touching the golfer’s back.
  7. Issues that often arise with two plane swings are that the shots may pull to the left or slice to the right.
  8. Golfers you may know with a two swing plane are Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, and Bubba Watson.

Which Swing Plane Style Is Better?

If done correctly, the two-plane swing can generate more distance and consistency. Its main downside is that it’s not always ‘natural’ for most golfers.

Furthermore, a good two-planer is not always a better golfer than a good one-planer. Many of the best golfer’s are one-planers, so don’t settle for a two-plane swing just its potential benefits. It’s totally based on preference and which one fits you better.

How Do You Swing In-Plane?

To swing in plane, you’ll first need to know the ideal swing plane angle. In this case, the angle of the pane glass from Ben Hogan’s analogy should be roughly 60 degrees from the ground. However, this angle will change depending on your height and the type of club you use as every club has different lengths forcing you to swing on a slightly different plane (unless you follow Bryson DeChembeau’s single-length club theory).

Speaking of golf clubs, golfers should take advantage of the lie angle which is often proportional to a golfer’s swing plane.

The lie angle is the angle between the shaft of the club and the ground and is usually between 55 to 60 degrees for your irons and 45 to 50 degrees with your driver. To accurately rely on the lie angle, make sure the bottom edge of the golf club is resting parallel (flush) with the ground.  We’re going to use this to help us feel and get a good sense of the ideal swing plane.

Feeling the Swing Plane 

Naturally, the golf club wants to swing on plane. Just by using the weight of the golf club and its lie angle, we can get a distinct feel and imagery of the swing plane. 

But to swing on plane properly, you need to start the takeaway correctly first. Most golfers struggle with swinging on plane because they mess up the takeaway. If you’re struggling to get on plane with the takeaway, this drill will work you wonders:

Finger Sway and Lie Angle Drill

  1. Get in your golf stance with your golf club in your hand.
  2. Set your club, ideally start with your 7-iron, how you normally would at address.
  3. While still at your golf stance, take a look at your club’s lie angle. Use that lie angle as your reference point for the rest of your backswing (remember, keep the club flush with the ground).
  4. Now, grip the club with the bottom fingertips of both hands with your palms slightly supporting the backend of the club so the club won’t wobble.
    1. This grip allows you to not manipulate the club so that you’re only allowing the weight of the club to do the work!
  5. Begin by gently swaying the club back and forth and focusing on the feel of the weight of the clubhead.
    1. Notice that as you sway, the club will follow the lie angle we mentioned earlier while drawing out a plane as you sway the club back and forth.
  6. Sway the club a couple of times without hitting a ball. Once you get a good feel for the balance and weight of the club, grip the club like you normally would and while following that feeling, make a smooth golf swing.

Add the Wrist Cock

If you’re struggling with staying on plane for the rest of your backswing, you’re most likely not cocking your wrist. Wrist cock is nothing more than downward pressure on your golf club resulting in the club tilting upwards. To do this, let’s continue the previous drill starting from step 5:

  1. After swaying the club for some time, stop at the end of your takeaway.
  2. From there, cock your wrist by adding some downward pressure at the back of your grip and notice the clubhead tilt upwards.
  3. While maintaining your spine angle, rotate with your hips and shoulders to the top of your backswing.
  4. That’s it for staying in plane for your backswing!

Downswing Plane

The downswing does not follow the initial swing plane drawn by your backswing but will stay parallel to it. This means: 

  1. The backswing will draw out the initial golf swing plane.
  2. On the downswing, the swing path will not follow that initial swing plane but will drop below the backswing plane while staying parallel to it.

Driver Swing Plane

Hitting with a driver is not easy. Most amateur golfers struggle with consistent drives even with a solid iron game. We mentioned earlier that the driver has a flatter swing plane of roughly 45 to 50 degrees compared to an iron’s 55 to 60. 

However, even with a flatter swing plane, Ben Hogan’s glass pane analogy is still applicable to the driver. To be honest, you don’t need to force a flatter swing plane for your driver. With the right set-up, club positioning, and address, the length of the driver will naturally create a shallower swing plane for you.

More Useful Swing Plane Drills

Now that you have the feel and a good idea of what the swing plane should look like, we need to check your body rotation. Here are some additional drills to help your golf swing create the right plane.

Back To The Wall Swing Plane Drill

Here’s a swing plane drill that also checks how you’re positioning your golf club with how you rotate your body. All you need is a golf club and a wall.

  1. Stand behind a wall and set up your body how you would for a golf swing.
  2. Flip your club with the grip acting as the club head.
  3. Make your takeaway and pause at the end of your takeaway.
    1. Two things to check here:
      1. At the end of your takeaway, the club should be parallel to the ground.
      2. The club should also be parallel to the wall. If your club is pointing towards the wall, your takeaway is too flat. If pointing away, your takeaway is too upright.
  4. Continue the rest of your backswing until the club touches the wall behind you.
    1. The club should touch the wall at a point that is level to the top of your head or slightly higher. Too high and your swing plane is too upright and too low means your swing plane is becoming too flat.

Alignment Stick in the Ground Drill

Here’s another great drill that not only addresses the takeaway but also the plane of your downswing. What you’ll need for this drill is an older golf club (you’ll know why in a second), and an alignment stick or snow pole, and preferably a pool noodle. To do this drill:

  1. Stick an alignment stick or snow pole 45 to 55 degrees from the ground.
  2. Optional: If you have a pool noodle, slip it into the alignment stick.
  3. Address a golf ball in a way where the alignment stick is just above the ball and on the side of your back foot.
  4. Start hitting shots with an older club with the alignment stick or pole behind you.
  5. Use Ben Hogan’s swing plane tip and treat the alignment stick as the pane of glass we mentioned earlier. For your takeaway and downswing, make sure your left arm does not cross the invisible angle created by the alignment stick.
  6. Most importantly, make sure your golf club does not go above or hit the alignment stick during your takeaway and downswing. If you’re hitting or going beyond the alignment stick, your swing plane is too upright.

Tiger Wood’s Down Swing Visual To Fix 99% of Beginner Downswings

Roughly ten years ago or so, I remember listening to one of Tiger Wood’s downswing tips where the emphasis was on the right elbow (for right-handed golfers). He said that if you’re struggling with getting your swing on plane from an outside-to-in swing path try these two things:
  1. On your downswing try to FEEL that your right elbow is pressed toward your right rib cage. Don’t actually press your elbow in during the actual downswing, but that’s the feeling you want.
  2. Place a camera in front of you or stand in front of a mirror and check your hips during your practice swing. Very likely, you’re arching your hips forward to the left on your downswing without knowing it, instead of rotating it. To fix this, focus less on generating power, and focus more on a relaxed follow-through instead.

I can’t find the video where Tiger said this, but above is a great breakdown by Ian Meller Golf. He doesn’t talk about the elbow trick here, but it’s still a good visual.

Final Thoughts and What Next?

Never underestimate the golf swing plane. Regardless if you’re a one-planer or two-planer, you need to practice swinging in plane if you’re looking for a consistent and good golf shot. 

We’ve given you many references to help you understand the proper swing plane like Ben Hogan’s analogy of a glass pane, a golf club’s lie angle, and three awesome swing plane drills. Now, go to your local golf range and try them out!

If you want to go a step further, check out our guide to hitting a driver and how to properly execute a golf swing. They’re great to follow up with after you’ve understood the whole concept of the swing plane.

If you have any questions, feel free to contact us. We’re happy to help!

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Mark has been an avid golfer for more than 15 years and has reviewed golf clubs since 2015. He is also the founder of the Golf Leap Blog site.

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