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The Golf Downswing and The Plane of the Golf Swing

I n this section we analyse the plane of the golf swing.

In the previous section dealing with the check points to a good golf downswing, we wondered why the movements involved are so difficult for many golf players to get.

There are three main reasons for this:

  • The first is that golfers, like other people, want to be comfortable and don't trust themselves to make a big move.
  • The second is the advice, deep-rooted because it has been repeated for so long, to turn or spin the hips.
  • The third is an overpowering impulse to make the golf club head move, to do something with it, right from the top. This we call "the eternal preoccupation with the golf club head".

The first and second of these reasons have been thoroughly covered in this and earlier sections of this site, but the feeling that you have to make the golf club head do something needs elaboration.

This belief stems, actually, from a complete misunderstanding of the golf swing, and there are two reasons for the misunderstanding.

"The average player has the almost overpowering conviction that if he hits the ball from inside this line it will fly far out to the right. He cannot see how anything else can happen."

The first thing people find hard to believe, apparently, is that a golf ball is driven straight by hitting it from the inside.

The average player has the almost overpowering conviction that if he hits the ball from inside this line it will fly far out to the right. He cannot see how anything else can happen.

He also knows that when he takes the club to the top of the golf backswing it is well inside this line. His first instinct, when he starts the club down, is to manipulate the head out onto the line or near it, so he can bring it down along the line and so knock the ball straight.

When the player does this the first movement he makes takes his hands and the club away from his body. The instant they move away they get outside the plane they must be in to hit from the inside.

The Plane of the Golf Swing

Before we go further, let's look at the plane of the golf swing. This is extremely important. If we understand it, learning the right action will be easier for you.

The plane of the golf swing represented by a disk.

When it is held so that it touches but does not cross the heavy black line in the illustration to the left, it is correct.

The club head, following the rim of the disk, would approach the ball from the inside — the inside-out golf swing.

If the disk is twisted a little, as in the illustration to the right, the golf club head approaches the ball from the outside, the bad way.

From the top of the backswing to a point near the end of the follow-through, the head of the club describes what we can call, for convenience, a circle.

It isn't really a circle but that isn't important.

Suppose we liken this circle to the rim of a wheel. Then we cover the wheel with skin, let's say, so it's like the head of a drum — with a hole in the center for our head to stick through. We now have a flat circular surface. That is what we call the golf swing plane.

During the golf swing this plane inclines or leans toward the player from 25 to 40 degrees. The exact amount depends on the length of the club used and on whether the golf player is an upright or a flat swinger.

The bottom of the circular plane touches the line of flight (may cross it slightly) at the ball, then comes back inside and goes on up into the follow through.

Plane of the Golf Swing

The plane of swing in the inside-out swing (above) and the outside-in swing (below). Path of club is traced by electric light on toe of club head.

Note position of body, weight on left leg, and head back for inside-out swing; weight on right leg, with shoulders and head turning, in outside-in swing.

If that plane is twisted just a little (as seen in the picture to your right), the golf swing is thrown outside, and you can see how the club head, following the edge of this plane, now approaches the ball from outside the line instead of from inside.

This might make more of an impression if you manipulate the plane yourself.
Take a flat dinner plate (preferably not the best china in the house), hold it at an inclination to a straight line on the table. Now twist the plate a little, as shown in the illustration to the right, and see how little alteration it takes to bring the swing to the ball from the outside.

It is just this "little bit" that we have to avoid when we swing a golf club.
And when we start from the top to move the club out onto the line of flight with either our hands or our shoulders, we don't change this plane a little bit, we change it a great deal. The result is that we can't help but bring the club in from the outside when we hit.

In this respect it is well to know, too, that at the top a very slight move by the hands forward, or toward the line of flight as they start down, moves the head of the club a comparatively great distance.

A mere two inches by the hands moves the club head out a foot, throwing it outside. It is, as we say, already outside as it starts down. When you realize that this slight move of the hands is instinctive — you don't know you make it — then you can understand how hard a golf pro has to work to cure hitting from the outside.

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