Swing Plane And The Golf Swing
Ben Hogan didn't invent the golf swing plane concept, but he definitely popularized it. Hogan credited perfecting his swing plane as a major reason for his success, basically changing him from an inconsistent shot maker and below average tour professional into the best ball striker of all time.
In Ben Hogan's book Five Lessons, The Modern Fundamentals of Golf, there is a drawing of Hogan addressing a ball with an inclined pane of glass resting on his shoulders (his head sticks through a hole in the glass) and the inclined glass extends down to the ball. The purpose of the illustration was to show the ideal path for the clubhead, and Hogan believed that if the clubhead were to stay in that swing plane going back, a golfer's consistency could improve greatly.
However, there is one problem with the drawing, which is that at the top his backswing Ben Hogan's actual swing plane was about a foot and a half below the plane illustrated in Five Lessons, The Modern Fundamentals of Golf. It was not through his shoulders, as the drawing indicated.
A correct, or consistent, swing plane is the result of sound backswing mechanics and depending on the particular type of swing and the golfer's physique, the plane may be anywhere from a flat swing plane to an upright swing plane. The key is that the clubhead should stay as close to a single plane as possible. This is assuming that the golfer cares to have a consistent swing plane. Golfers with artificially upright swings don't necessarily have to be concerned with plane because the arms lift the clubhead above any plane started during the early part of the backswing.
Some instructors confuse the issue by introducing additional swing plane concepts by speaking of such things as the left arm and its relation to plane or they mention shaft plane, to name two, but the only thing that matters is that a plane is 2 dimensional, yet our bodies swing in 3 dimensions. This means that the only thing that can continually be in plane is the clubhead and therefore it is the path of the clubhead, and only that path, that determines if a golfer is swinging in plane.
One needn't, and shouldn't, try to force the club into a swing plane. Instead, use the concept of swing plane to test your swing for faults. Film yourself hitting balls and see if your club goes back in a consistent plane. Unless you're a very good golfer, it probably won't. If it doesn't, this is a sign that your swing has problems and this might be an area that, if improved, could help you to become a better player.
Most people familiar with the concept of swing plane realize that an individual's plane gets flatter as the club shaft gets longer and more upright as the shaft gets shorter, but not many know that the golfer's actual position at the top of the backswing should remain pretty much the same, regardless of what club is being used. Below I appeal to your artistic sense with my exquisite armless stick drawings. The one on the right is the way it should be.
Teaching Ben Hogan fundamentals, which is one golf instruction option I offer, is an uphill battle when it comes to swing plane. The upright swing has been popular for so long that it's hard to find a golfer who doesn't think upright is correct, even though Hogan, with about the flattest plane of any professional golfer, was the best ball striker of all time. The upright swing plane leads to a serious forward swing fault-a block-which requires incredibly good timing (manipulation) for shots to be hit consistently well. For tour players with upright swing planes who practice and play every day and have demonstrated incredible timing and ability, the penalty to consistency is relatively small on a shot to shot basis, but considered over the course of a career, it could mean significantly fewer wins and a lot less money won! As for amateurs making the necessary manipulations to consistently compensate for the upright swing plane problem, the point is moot because so few have the ability to make it happen.
Obviously there has been plenty of good golf played by professionals with upright swings. My point is, tour players with upright swing planes could potentially be even better if they incorporated Hogan fundamentals, which is comprised of so much more than just flattening the swing plane. Flattening an upright swing plane, by itself, may be a good change if done correctly, but it is an incomplete solution so the benefits may be somewhat limited.
When Tiger Woods first joined the PGA tour, I hated to see him win tournaments because his backswing was terrible for someone who could play so well. It was too closed and too upright and, of course, everyone was going to try and copy his swing because he was so good. Finally, after seeing film of his swing during his 12 stroke runaway win at the Masters in 1997, he decided to improve his backswing. The changes he made basically resulted in a flatter and more consistent swing plane with the clubface opening much more as club went back. A year and a half after initiating the changes, and after finally getting used to them, Tiger came back to thoroughly dominate a PGA Tour that no one thought could be dominated again.
There are three points to my mentioning Tiger Woods's experience 1) Tiger became more consistent by improving his backswing. 2) It takes time to make improvements to a golf swing-if it took Tiger a year and a half, it will take you much longer. Develop a multi-year plan, not a multi-week plan, and stick with it no matter how badly you play. 3) If even the best golfer in the world can improve his swing and get significant results, think what you can do.
Tiger still has some other swing faults to deal with, but improving his swing plane was very important! If only other tour players would realize how important Ben Hogan's golf swing contributions are-Tiger's swing changes and the resulting successes are pretty strong proof!
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